From the archive: Gothic Beauty Pageant

In time for Halloween, a post from the archive:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for some people, that includes leather, studs and a whole bunch of creativity. I live nearby Numbers nightclub in Houston, which hosts an annual Gothic Beauty Pageant. I decided to set up a photo booth to photograph some of the contestants. Tom Phuckery, below, won first place in the men's competition.


Memories of a Chris Buck photography workshop

In the process of cleaning out our attic, I came across the notes I took during an Austin, Texas workshop with portrait photographer phenomenon Chris Buck. I eagerly reread my notes and thought I'd share some of the wisdom passed on that weekend. Interspersed are a few photos I made on the first day, which were unlike anything I had previously made.

His guidance and take-no-prisoners approach motivated me to stretch my creativity. We were provided a model, whatever we could could find around the studio we were working in, and the pithy thoughts of a master photographer.

You can’t be careful all the time. Otherwise, you’re just someone’s bitch.
  • Use a light test as a way of manipulating a subject into off-moments.

  • Your job is not to make the subject happy but to make great pictures.

  • Set the vibe on the set to say "This is MY shoot!"

  • I have to follow my instinct. If I want to make dark, introspective photos, I'm going to do it.

I’m more afraid of my client than my subject.
  • Make your lighting as undistracting as possible.

  • Solve problems in a simple way.

  • Connection to subjects is overemphasized.

  • I love working with props. People relax and engage with props because they have something to do.

I just focus on what I want and do what I can to get it.
  • I come in with talking points beforehand and generally speaking, I don't talk about work.

  • (To subject) I can ask anything I want and you can say no to anything you want.

  • To ask permission is to seek denial.

  • Photographers aren't frustrated videographers.

On Assignment: Science Fair advertisement for Shell Oil

It's taken a while, but I was finally able to get my hands on some tear sheets for an assignment from last year. I really enjoy photographing children (I'm somewhat a big kid myself). Their humor and energy can really bring an image to life. For this shoot, we hired a team that puts on science shows for grade school kids. They brought the colored liquids and dry ice, the kids brought their spirit, and I brought my camera. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I do.

Billboard advertisement

Magazine advertisement

On Assignment: Dr. Erlanger Turner for Monitor on Psychology

I'm honored to have been tapped to make the first portrait for the newly redesigned trade magazine Monitor on Psychology, a publication I've been working with for years. I'm super-happy with the results and look forward to working with them on their next project.

On Assignment: Kyle Martinez for Pro Sales Magazine

I'm really happy with recent this tear sheet from an assignment for lumber trade magazine ProSales. The editor wanted something "other than a person standing in front of a pile of lumber." The subject, Kyle Martinez, is 31 years old but already owns and operates a sizeable lumberyard in rural northwest Louisiana. I decided to ask him to do some pull-ups inside one of the warehouses. What's more youthful than showing how many pull-ups one can do?  All involved were very pleased with the results!

On Assignment: Cover shoot for The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Amy Lampi, a development director at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas, is using analytics to help boost fundraising for the organization. The Chronicle of Philanthropy asked if I could shoot the cover photo for the feature on Lampi, and had a great idea that I was excited to be a part of.

The publication wanted to see Lampi seated in the theatre, with individual, random theatre seats lit up around her to symbolize potential new donors. A great idea, but it was now up to me to carry it out. My initial solution was to use grids on strobe heads planted on stage and pointed toward individual seats. I got a wakeup call, however, when I noticed that the light spread, even though I was using 10 degree grids, became too wide once the light made it to the individual theatre seats. To solve this problem, I decided to turn the power down on all the lights and position them right in front of the seats I wanted to illuminate. This created a new problem, that I could now see the top half of the lights in the frame. A quick search backstage and I came back with black(!) towels to put over the tops of the reflectors. With three lights balanced on seats and camera cases, and a reflector with a three-degree grid on the subject (positioned from the stage), we were good to go.

In post-production, I photoshopped out the tops of the lights by copying the top of the seat next to which ever one was illuminated. The editor later also wanted an extra seat illuminated. Again, a layer here, a quick mask there, and voila! - an extra illuminated seat.

August 2016 cover of The Chronicle of Philanthropy



On Assignment: Link Ermis for AARP

AARP, one of my newest clients, sent me to Huntsville a couple of months ago to photograph Link Ermis, a military veteran whose social security benefits have been turned upside down. Ermis is "one of 1.5 million public employees nationwide, including teachers, firefighters and police, who face a big reduction in benefits because they worked jobs in which they and their employers did not pay into Social Security."

The editor asked for live photos as well as some portraits. Things were going to be tight. Ermis drove a school bus to school and had less than 10 minutes to sit for a portrait before he had to begin his first period history class. I used a small Quantum strobe for some outdoor portraits, then we hustled inside so he could start his class. He used my presence as a quick lesson to his class about what he was contending with personally with his social security benefits. I also got a refresher on the start of the First World War as he explained it to his students while I made pictures.

Digital tearsheet

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano for the Financial Times Weekend Magazine

I travelled to NASA again recently for the Financial Times Weekend Magazine to photograph European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano. Sometimes when I shoot or assist at NASA, it can be a hassle. There are layers of bureaucracy at the federal agency that can be a challenge to navigate: ID's are checked, public relations people assigned and hovering, places that are off-limits, etc.

This time, things were pleasingly different. Parmitano arranged for us to meet at Rocket Park, which houses a collection of decommissioned rocket ships. Even better, it sits just outside the fence line at NASA, so it's easy in, easy out. Also, it was a weekday, in the morning, so there were no crowds.

The only problem? Strong winds off the gulf and no assistant.

No assistant? No problem!

Nonetheless, once Luca showed up, I knew we'd make pictures. He's statuesque with chiseled features and looks good in a flight suit. He was also very friendly and easy to work with. Best of all, he didn't bring anyone with him (i.e. a handler). It was just me and a guy who's been to space(!). Pretty cool if you ask me.

Stay safe up there, Luca!

Tear sheet from the July 9/10, 2016 issue of FT Weekend

Arcade Fire for the 2014 Reflektor Tour show program

One of my most relished assignments was to photograph Arcade Fire 's 2013 two-week warm-up tour for the band's Reflektor album. We traveled to New York City where they played two nights at 299 Meresole, a night at the Mekka in Miami, and another at the Haiti Cultural Center. And finally two shows in Los Angeles: one at the Palladium and the other at the Capitol Records building. 

Many of the images I made during that time, as well as the work of other photographers, were included in a program for the Reflektor tour. Some of my favorites from the program are below, followed by a video tear sheet of the program.

The program for the Reflektor tour.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias (deceased) for recently published a feature on deceased sports heroes and how they still get visitors. I think my assignment was the control group, since I didn't see much evidence that the gravesite of Babe Didrikson Zaharias saw many visitors. And this is a shame. One of the first pro women golfers and 1932 Olympic gold-medal track star, the woman was a legend in her own time. She broke the gender barrier as well as world-records that still stand today. Read more about it here and check out a few images from the shoot below.

On Assignment: Laura Jo Degan for Newsweek

Read More

Tuija Kalpala for Ekonomi magazine

Back in March, I got a message on my Blink app notifying me that a photo editor in Finland needed someone to shoot a cover photo for Ekonomi, a Finnish publication for economists. I had the pleasure of photographing Tuija Kalpala at Neste US, a company that produces bio-diesel. A pretty sweet gig, and all just for having an app on my phone.

On Assignment: Travis Arnold for MD Anderson Cancer Center's Conquest Magazine

I'm proud to have another great-looking tear sheet from an assignment I completed for MD Anderson Cancer Center's Conquest Magazine. Travis Arnold, a 17-year old from Spring, Texas, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia - a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells. With the help of the doctors at MD Anderson Childrens Cancer Hospital, a half-match bone marrow transplant was performed. Travis recovered and is now a top-rated golfer on Klein High School's Bearkat golf team.

Page 28 and 29, Spring 2016 issue of Conquest magazine

JLabs at the Texas Medical Center for Houstonia Magazine

In a former Nabisco cookie factory near the Texas Medical Center stands a futuristically decorated science and technology incubator called JLabs. The project, "part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LLC, is a network of incubators providing emerging companies with many of the advantages of being in a big company without the capital investment. Residents have access to turnkey, state-of-the-art infrastructure, including singular bench tops, modular wet lab units and office space on a short-term basis." -

An assignment from Houstonia magazine that began as a request for interiors for a quarter page turned into a full-page portrait and multi-page display after ad pages were added to the magazine near the end of production. Working with the talented and versatile art director Tanyia Johnson, we turned out some tear sheets I'm quite proud of.

Recent Assignments: Portraiture for

This week I completed an assignment for, an online news organization based in Los Angeles. The story deals with the difficulty of reversing drug convictions later found to be based on faulty evidence in Harris County (Houston), Texas.

Harris County has a high rate of these drug exonerations because of the actions of Inger Chandler, chief of the Conviction Review Section at the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Along with Harris County Assistant Public Defender Nicolas Hughes, both are working to get a backlog of drug tests resolved and up-to-date, along with helping to speed up the process of reversing convictions.


The story is a great read. Check it out here.

Inger Chandler, chief of the Conviction Review Section at the Harris County District Attorney's Office

Harris County Assistant Public Defender Nicolas Hughes

Not arguing, just chatting.