Photography: Portraits of start-up co-founders
Alex Modon and Vikram Tiwari, co-founders of Omni Labs, Inc. in San Francisco, have been forced to open a secondary office in Vancouver, BC because an immigration regulation, the International Entrepreneur Rule, is under threat by the Trump administration. The regulation is supposed to grant a limited stay in the U.S. to certain qualifying entrepreneurs. Two of Omni Labs, Inc. co-founders meet this qualification. Yet, their immigration status remains in limbo.
After speaking with the photo editor and reporter before the shoot, we discussed ways to communicate what is at risk. In this case, it is Omni Labs, Inc. business itself. I asked one of the subjects to send me some shots of the office a few days before the shoot. It was a small, humble office, shared with another start-up. However, in the location shots, I noticed a huge map on the wall, and a small conference room with a huge window. Driving down the freeway, where I get a lot of ideas, I wondered if the map was the right distance to reflect back onto the conference room window, possibly allowing me to use the map as a translucent layer on top of the subjects, a prop to connote immigration in an abstract way.
I got to their office as early as I was allowed, and started by lighting the map with a 10 degree grid. Then I went inside the small conference room where I would photograph Alex and Tiwari and set up another 10 degree grid. The wall behind them was white, so I had to bring the key light up high and angle it down so I wouldn't illuminate the wall as well. In hindsight, I should have brought a 5' roll of black or grey seamless to tape up behind them to create better separation. Nonetheless, having a high, angled spotlight cut enough spill from the back wall to do what I needed it to do. One of the subjects showed up late, and had a meeting scheduled for 10 minutes after we started. Having arrived two hours early, I was able to accomplish what I had set out to do in 13 minutes.
I caught a lucky break with the giant map and glass-walled conference room. I hope Omni Labs, Inc. catches one, too.