Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reno encore

Another series of pictures of nothing or almost nothing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

Coming home

I came across this church on the way into Dallas from DFW. I think it is called Trinity Ministry Broadcasting. There were a bunch of buildings in the complex along with a virtual realty tour and a production facility. I spent a couple days shooting it.

The first day I parked a mile away and lugged my equipment across a series of medians and gullies. I was convinced the church had a ton of security and did not allow any one to photograph let alone park nearby. The next day I just parked in the church parking lot and walked around.

Shooting landscapes means you spend alot of time waiting for light. Often I will have to wait for a couple hours for a shadow to move or for the sun to get where I like it. In Dallas it got me thinking about my own church experience.

As a kid I was in a boys choir for 10 years at an Episcopal church up the street from our house in Baltimore. I was raised an atheist and spent the $10/month I was paid on candy and Dungeons and Dragons figures. My brother and I would go into the church so he could play the massive organ while I photographed him. He went on to get a Phd in Music theory and I can still barely carry a tune. During rehearsals and performance the choir leader would always make wild hand gestures at me to indicate it might be best if I sang more softly or better yet mouthed the words.

Many years later I found myself at a different church: The Oakland Coliseum. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) and I had decided to" take a break" and I was in a world of pain. I was lost and was searching for something to hold on to. I saw a billboard on the highway saying that Billy Graham was coming for a three day revival. In the Bay Area you are more likely to have some one admit to having a special relationship with a farm animal then admit to being born again.

I sat way up high on Mt Al Davis, hundreds of rows above the field and waited for him to speak. I had to sit through Christian boy bands , rock-bands and the worst: Christian rap. Finally way down on the filed I saw a man with silver hair whizzing toward the stage in the passenger seat of a golf cart. The Reverend Billy Graham.

He was an amazing speaker and told the story of his religious conversion as a boy. He told how he found Jesus and how it changed his life. He then invited any one of us 60,000 poor souls who wanted to turn his life over to Jesus to come forward. And slowly like little ants approaching an ant hill I saw hundreds of people moving foreword. And I felt the pull. Here was an answer to all my problems and here were all these other people who seemed to think Jesus was the answer.

But I couldn't do it. I had no connection to Jesus and never considered myself a Christian nor had I ever read the Bible.

So I climbed off Mt Davis, got back on the BART and over time repaired the relationship with my future wife. Years later we have four children and some kind of faith in something out there.

Sometimes when I am driving alone through the central valley coming back from LA I turn on AM radio until I come across a preacher talking about Jesus and I feel the pull and think about those ants heading home to the hill...


There is a fine line between a picture of nothing and a picture of nothing that really works. I often mistake one for the other.

Co-Best In Show

Fellow bathtub photographer Emily Merrill and I discuss her decision to make me Honorary Co- Best in Show (HOCBIS) winner at the APA Show last night. We talked about reprinting the party invitations with MY image on it but fugured the APA bigwigs would never go for it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Better Art Direction than Photography

Here is one of those cases where the art direction was alot better than the photography. Wachovia Bank.

Where's the helicopter?

Got back early this AM after shooting Tostitos for The Marketing Arm in Dallas. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful location. Not a bad way to make a living. Got some personal shooting as well so tune in for that.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Retouching all the life out of it

I worry that sending an image to the retoucher sometimes takes the life out of a picture that is better off left alone. It is not the retocuher's fault. Maybe an image is better the more imperfect it is. Maybe it is more alive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I photographed this comedian this week. He had a big show that night and I asked him if he ever got stage fright and he said no he had been doing it too long. And then I sheepishly asked him if he ever bombed on stage. He said no it had been a really long time since he had really tanked.

It got me thinking about myself of course. When was the last time I made a truly bad image? It has been a while for sure. In fact I remember it well. It was raining. The art director was there and I was working too hard to make him happy and ended up with something nobody liked. Of course it ran as a double truck and it still makes me wince to think about.

I remember when I was 16 working for the local weekly. I had turned a bathroom off my bedroom into a darkroom. In the summer in Baltimore it was so hot that I would process in my underwear. Once I put the fixer in before the developer and ended up with nothing. I felt like I was going to faint. I called the chief photographer who hired me and he said not to worry I could reshoot it for the following week.

Nothing feels as bad as blowing it.

One one more

Monday, November 26, 2007

Archive Ad

Archive magazine came in the mail today.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thomas Broening: Father of the Year

I love reading in blogs and agent/photographer websites about how devoted these shooters are to their children and how it is all about the kids. I have a ton of kids and unlike my colleagues sometimes I miss the mark in terms of the parenting/ work balance.

This summer I was with my kids at Totland Park in Berkeley. I was trying to land a pretty big job via conference call and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to have the call while at the playground. In my defense I think that was the only time the AD was available but ...

Everything was going great and the client was on the phone as well and the concept was actually cool and something I wanted to do when in the corner of my eye I see my youngest child fall off the swing and land on her stomach. She is 3 1/2 and starts balling. I run over and pick her and see that she is fine. She has had the wind knocked out of her and is just a little freaked out. So I am trying to hold her in one arm and cover the mouth piece with the other. It is not working well and everyone on the call wants to know what is going on and I reassure everyone she is fine and will stop screaming any minute.

I look at her and tell her she needs to stop crying. This of course does nothing but make her cry louder. So here I am in this jam. I want to stay on the phone to land the big tuna but I also have this distressed child. So I do what father's have done since we all lived in caves. I put her down and walked away. And then.... the looks started. The Berkeley moms at the park were so appalled by what I had done that all they could do is look at me with their squinty eyes and hemp baby slings.

Looking back would I do it again? Probably not. I should have just called them all back later or not had the call at the park in the first place. But when you are out in the wild hunting wearing nothing but a bear skin thong your judgment sometimes gets a little clouded.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Shot this building this weekend. I think there is an image here somewhere but not sure I found it. It is a mile from my house and I remember being in the lobby a couple years ago for a meeting and thinkng I should come back here someday. Maybe I have been looking at Jorg Colberg's blog too much.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


It always amazes me to see the process of coming up with an idea, shooting it, editing it and then seeing it makes its way into the body of work that I show.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You never call/Would you please stop calling me!

I never know if I should call after I shoot a job . Half the time the AD/PE has moved on to the next project and the last thing they want to do is talk to me.

On rare occasions they ask me to explain a photograph. As in;"What is that? Why did you shoot that?" If I have to explain something then for sure I have failed. I communicate using images and if words are needed then it obvoiously is not working.

One more

I found another image from the new overpass series. I am not sure if I will end up using 4 (four is an unlucky number) but it is nice to have the choice.

Friday, November 9, 2007

QM2 Outake

Rights Grab down the street from my house

I feel like Doug Adesko shot ths exact image but not sure.

Going it alone

While I look for a new agent I will have to represent myself which seems like a fool's errand. It is one of those learning experiences no doubt. Which is just another word for something that will be hard, frustrating but in the end I will gain some experience which will make me stronger. Like broccoli or going to the dentist. I still feel like I made the right decision but does not mean I have to like the process.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


After 4 years Heather Elder and I have decided to no longer work together. I have nothing but positive things to say about her and there was never a day when I was not impressed by her intelligence, hard work and attitude. She will be difficult to replace.

So now I will begin the long process of finding representation. It should be interesting.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007

For the Next 48 hours I am a genius

I have been working on a new project all weekend and have to wait until Tuesday 1pm before I get the film back. So for the next 48 hours anything is possible. For the next two days I am the next Richard Misrach, I have gotten the cover the CA photo annual and I have landed the huge Nike campaign. Hope Tuesday never comes.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Grenade! Grenade! F11!

in the WWII when the enemy threw grenades into a foxhole a brave soldier would sacrifice his life and smother the grenade with his body. On photo shoots it works the same way. When a snooping PR agent will want to see a polaroid I will call out grenade! and an assistant will dive on top of the polaroid. The key stroke f11 works well when we shoot digital but we still say grenade cuz it makes us sound tough.

Photographer enters contest. Wins!

Three images in APA SF.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I am big in the Ukraine!

I have no idea what this says but I hope its positive.

Photographer Spams 5,000 creatives with one push of a button

I really hate getting spam but have become a spammer myself. My agent calls it an email blast. That sounds nicer.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

BW Spread

Here is a tearsheet from a recent Business Week shoot . Photo Nerds will recognize the use of the Eric Ogden inspired Fresnel Light .

Modernista! did the redesign of the magazine. I know it is sacrilegious for a photographer to say but seems a little light on the type treatment.

Ad in NY Times Magazine

My youngest kid is almost 4 now so I have time to read the Sunday NYTimes. I came across this ad we shot last year this morning in the magazine.

This campaign was one of the rare times in my career that an agency ( Firewood SF) came to me without a concept and actually involved me early in the process of coming up with an approach. We spent a few weeks brainstorming (Just like on that old show 30 something) and settled on this idea of hiring dancers as models and having Shannon Amos build the sets.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

At-Edge Spread

At-Edge came in the mail yesterday. I started shooting my family with an 8x10 camera this summer and these are a couple of the first succcesful images. I have tried to photograph them in the last couple weeks but everytime I bring out the big camera the kids run away screaming.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Good Art Direction/Bad Design

I ran across this final ad we shot in the current issue of Time. Boy there is alot going on in the page. Is it just me or is that chocolate bar as big as her head?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Direct TV Finals

We had to call an audible and change the concept to a night time shot even though we shot the campaign at dusk. Not great but Michal Horevaj the retoucher did a pretty great job given the last minute change.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Self Promoting Photographer Promotes Self Promotion

Here is the image I used in archive this month. I feel like it is a pretty good commercial image but does not fit in well with the rest of the copy stand series. I wanted to capture the chaos of the street and this is pretty orderly.

Me and Dick

Richard Avedon said;

"A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is not longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

I shot this guy for a magazine last week and not sure if he is going to like it. He does not look particularly heroic nor am I sure the editor will run it. It is a lie and it is the truth. It is the truth in that it happened and it is a lie because I am not sure if it is a true represnatation of the subjects chararcter.

Beta TB website

I am not sure if this is a good idea but here is a beta version of my new website and looking for feedback. Could be a disaster but here it goes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ride or Die

This week I photographed a guy who used to be the editor of a major daily newspaper. He still reads four papers a day even though he retired 10 years ago. We were talking and both agreed that the idea of printing information on a piece of paper and then delivering it to someone by hand was a pretty primitive way to communicate. Newspapers and magazines are struggling and a smart person might find another way to make a living than making pictures that go in them.

There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that I am qualified to do nothing else. I have no skills outside of photography . I couldn't even work at Starbucks. When I worked at the country club I was known as the surly bartender.

The good news is that I am qualified to do nothing else. I will have to ride this all the way down or learn to adapt. I have no other choice.

Larry Fink

Photo/Larry Fink

I saw this ad of a couple dancing yesterday in The New Yorker and thought of Larry Fink. The picture of the couple kind of creeps me out but in a good way. The woman looks a little maniacal. I am amazed they used it in the campaign and doubt any of the potential customers got the Fink reference.

It was 4 o'clock in the morning in the middle of the Atlantic when we made the picture. I had not seen Social Graces since I was a kid but it made such an impression on me I was able to recall the work even though I was half asleep. His work has been part of my vocabulary since I started.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pot of Gold

Last week I went to see a consulant speak. They say a consultant is someone who takes your watch and tells you what time it is. She was fine but it got me thinking about all the people I have gone to see over the years and all the wrong turns I have made.
Once I paid one consultant 250/hour to provide me with some direction in the hopes of getting ad work. I would come to her apartment at the appointed hour. Invariably she would come to the door in her bathrobe. "I will just be a minute" Then I would here the shower running. A half hour later she would pop her head out, "I just need to change the cat box" and on it went. Two hours after my appointment was supposed to start we would sit down and talk about the photographs. I wish I could say that it only happened once. I wish I could say that I never went back to see her. Or that our meeting was an aberration: the next time she was on time and professional. The sad part is that I was so desperate for someone to tell me what to do that I went through this over and over.

It has been my experience that the only way I have learned anything is through making mistakes. In this business these mistakes tend to be expensive.

Years ago I sent out a bunch of promo cards, took space in Blackbook and Workbook and still had no ad career to speak of. I talked to a rep in LA and she said she liked the work and to stay in touch. A year later I sent her a portfolio full of new photographs. She said I was going in the wrong direction. She said I was wasting my time because my pictures did not look like advertising. It was a 10 minute conversation and it changed my career. I wasn't paying her anything and she had nothing to gain but for some reason she was willing to tell me the truth.

I created a bunch of new pictures that looked more like ads, they started getting some attention and I got a rep with a national reputation. The rest is history: cocking rocking and rainbows.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007