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Cherry Blossoms

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Three years ago, when I was a relatively new Philadelphian, Paul took me to Sakura Sunday at Fairmount Park’s Horticulture Center.  It was like stepping into another world, with the most stunning display of Cherry Blossoms I’d ever seen.  For someone who always favors photographing darker and moodier images, no one was more surprised than I was at how badly I wanted to photograph a beautiful model in the cherry blossoms.  But the spring display is temperamental depending on the winter, the peak bloom time only days long, and difficult to predict in advance.   For the next 2 seasons, we tried to make it happen.  Models would flake and cancel at the last minute, and assembling a team willing to be flexible enough to shoot with only a few days notice almost impossible.  Models don’t always understand how true magic is photographed.  You have to be patient enough to wait for the perfect light, or in this case, fickle mother nature.

When makeup artist Wendie Heatherington approached us about doing a shoot, we decided to give it another try.  We reached out to dancer Lainey Johnson, who I’d wanted a chance to photograph forever.  Lainey is a true pro with a smile that conveys all the joy that we hoped to capture, as well as beautiful dancer lines that I knew would perfectly mimic the graceful arches of the trees.  We again called upon our friend and super stylist Joey Mason of Philly Aids thrift, who found some beautiful dresses from their racks for us to play in.  Danielle Harrsch rounded out the team with soft, beautiful hair styling, and my love Paul Cofield, somehow embraced my odd need to wallow in pink floral prettiness, and charted our course for several different areas around the city lined with the graceful trees.

And so we spent the next few hours, rattling around in our old truck, Lainey bravely changing dresses roadside, Paul determined to make her climb trees in gowns and pointe shoes, Wendie and Danielle on hand to primp and refresh, dropping in and out of fields of cherry blossoms, and captured Lainey as she danced throughout Philly, and it was absolutely as perfect as I could have imagined.  ‘Cause sometimes, it’s totally worth it to wait for the magic.

Click on individual photos to view full screen.  Slideshow can be viewed at Cherry Blossom Slideshow

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Lost Love in an Abandoned Swingers Resort

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I’m in mourning over the end of summer.  It’s been an insane season as our wedding photography business grows at a furious pace, and increasingly difficult to keep up with our creative, artistic shoots.  One of our primary goals is to constantly be creating art, no matter how busy we are.  So it’s only now that we’ve been able to finish the latest shoot in our ongoing  series of decaying amusement parks and abandonment in “The Last One to Leave” with model and clown babe Rev. Mackenzie Moltov.

There is a sweet spot when shooting the remnants of a word gone by.  A moment in time when there is a still an abundance of light, and when the days are still warm enough that you’re not risking pneumonia to shoot.  The best spots may boast stunning graffiti, but before people who have no respect for the space destroy and loot it into complete destruction.   We are always careful not to damage or take from the areas we explore, but rather our goal is to breathe life and create something new and stunningly beautiful amongst the ruins of locations once filled with love and laughter.

In our last road trip of the summer with Mackenzie we set our sights on Penn Hills Resort.  Founded as a tavern in 1944, the resort grew in popularity in the 1960’s, as a honeymoon resort which catered to swingers.  With over 100 guest cabins, complete with heart shaped tubs, beds with mirrored ceilings, floor to ceiling carpeting, a wedding bell shaped swimming pool, and famous New Year’s Eve parties with the motto “No Balloon Left Unpopped”, the Poconos resort was completely abandoned in 2009 when it’s owner died.  It would have been an incredible time capsule had it not been so completely destroyed by idiots with no respect for the past.

We once again called upon stylist Joey Mason and with an armload of looks from Philly Aids Thrift, we worked quickly and silently, as Mackenzie embodied a lost and lonely soul in sad old rooms once dedicated to love and passion and happy couples.  As we worked our way through the old moldy, garbage filled pools, an office with boxes of paperwork, carefully climbed rotting wood stairways to abandoned cabins and picked our way through a tikki bar littered with shattered glass, we all felt an unease, as if we weren’t alone and dangerously vulnerable.  Since then, the old resort has been boarded up, and remains under intense scrutiny and patrol, as possibly having been a hiding place for fugitive and suspected cop killer Eric Frein.  We may be last to have gotten in, and to have created something incredibly beautiful in those ruins.

Shooting Off Broadway on a Manhattan Fire Escape

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One of our favorite things about our business, is that we’re fortunate enough to shoot a myriad of events.  Several months ago, Off Broadway producer Jennifer Rudolph contacted us about shooting some promo shots for her upcoming project, Brad Frazier’s “Love and Human Remains” in Manhattan.

Now I have a bit of a tragic love story story involving Manhattan, since moving there over 20 years ago to persue a career in theater.  One failed marriage, a food industry career I hated, and with a pre-teen boy in tow, I escaped the city almost 3 years ago, and in that time never once looked back and never returned, not even for a visit.  So the irony of returning, with the love of my life and my partner in our thriving photography business, to shoot an edgy production currently in rehearsals for their run at the famed Playwrights Horizons wasn’t lost on either of us.

Producer Jennifer Rudolph sums up the show best on the website’s “Notes From the Producer”:

In a nutshell, Love and Human Remains is an edgy, provocative, dark-humored drama about the intertwined lives of seven individuals. In the backdrop is a serial killer who is terrorizing the women in the city which they live. These seven individuals are you, me, your neighbor, that guy who sat next to you on the train today, that woman who you work with who seems to have it all together. Brad Fraser gives us a glimpse into what the human condition can be like – the highs, the lows, the humor, the desperation, the aggression, the longing for love and ultimately…the longing for acceptance. Through his play, we travel to places that are raw and primal – places that we often don’t like to acknowledge really exist.  Together with director  Clyde Baldo, the two have assembled a power house of interesting actors guaranteed to make you squirm uncomfortably, laugh nervously and recognize every single character in this amazingly complex cityscape.

The shoot was to take place on a fire escape outside The Actor’s Green Room in the Madison Square area.  It was going to be tricky.  Everything would have to be shot wide, due to the tight quarters.  Lighting would have to be easily portable, and hand held.  We’d have to look for interesting opportunities to shoot from above, to incorporate all those lines and harsh angles, and while taking care to control the distortion inherent in shooting wide angles.  We needed shots of individuals, entire groups, and small groups and duos of all the various relationships in the ensemble piece. And so we spent several hours on a Friday afternoon, climbing up and down stairs,  posing beautiful and talented actors as they climbed in windows, prowled behind metal, cage-like grids, stradled stairways and each other, looked for lines and angles and created shadows as the sun went down on Manhattan.

We packed up our gear, gave ourselves a high five, and left New York City feeling totally at peace with our return.  We’re planning another trip out soon, but this time, for the opening of Love and Human Remains at the Peter J. Sharp Theater.  Good times.

Tickets go on sale May 21st Show dates 7/21-8/2/2014

Peter J Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons

416 West 42nd Street New York, NY  10036

For more info visit:  http://www.loveandhumanremainsnyc.com/

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Subway Bride

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One of our primary challenges of photographing weddings is our unwavering determination to create beautiful images, while bending the rules of classic wedding photography to create fresh, modern coverage while staying true to our artistic sensibilities. We have an upcoming New Year’s Eve wedding, and they want the big Broad Street shot. You know the one, wedding couple, in the middle of the street, the big romantic dip, City Hall in the distance. It’s a tricky shot to make unique. Shoot it in the day, and City Hall is totally washed out and uninteresting. Shoot it at night, and the lights and headlights make it stunning, but not much different than every other wedding pose shot after dark on Broad Street. We wanted to play with it a little before we got on Broad Street with a real couple in the midst of New Year’s Eve insanity. I wanted to try it with no flash. We wanted to see if we could get away with shooting in the subway. We wanted to play without the pressure.

Enter model, dancer, burlesque performer, and costuming maven Meredith Kimberly.  She’s the ultimate definition of “let’s go play”. We first met Meredith Kimberly at the home of bulesque performer and seamstress extraordinaire Anna Frangiosa (aka Annie A-bomb) at her  fabulous Old Timey Photo Party: Pop Art Edition. Meredith was dressed in a cool green 1970’s jumpsuit complete with plunging neckline and  flowing bell bottoms.   I was smitten, in that girl crush photographer-who-needs-to-photograph-beautiful-women kind of way. She had a cool elegance, part Natalie Wood, part Audrey Hepburn, and our random unplanned photos of her, remain some of my absolute favorites. She can pull of classic beauty with a modern, quirky twist.

When I approached Meredith about going out to play in the street one night, she seemed interested. A few days later, she sent me a photo of her in a gorgeous vintage wedding dress. Rather than having to find her a groom, we decided to approach it as a non-traditional, edgy fashion shoot. Her hair and makeup gave her a bit of a “bride gone awry” look. As she frolicked in the middle of traffic, she easily transitioned, at one moment whimsical and playful, the next moment a runaway bride, followed by eerily other worldly and everything in between. We found ourselves quickly abandoning our wedding practice session, as our edgy bride hailed cabs, waited for buses, ducked into the subway, and fearlessly played on the floor of the underground. Absolute perfection

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