Details always let’s us do fun stuff. We unleashed all of our balloon animal skills on this shoot. And we now have a lifetime supply of cognitive enhancers.
This spring we did several months worth of images for O Magazine‘s health and wellness section “Feeling Good.” Here’s a small sample of images built and photographed here in the studio.
We’ve been meaning to post these for a while and got behind. Earlier this year we got to create several iconic “O”s for Oprah magazine.
These were truly an honor. As something I’ve looked up to for years, I still can’t believe we got the chance to make them.
Today the White House announced its goal to fund Brain Research, in hopes of furthering understanding of brain disorders and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Two years ago Scientific American magazine sent me to the University of Texas at Austin to borrow a human brain. They needed me to photograph a normal, adult, non-dissected brain that the university had obtained by trading a syphilitic lung with another institution. The specimen was waiting for me, but before I left they asked if I’d like to see their collection.
I walked into a storage closet filled with approximately one-hundred human brains, none of them normal, taken from patients at the Texas State Mental Hospital. The brains sat in large jars of fluid, each labeled with a date of death or autopsy, a brief description in Latin, and a case number. These case numbers corresponded to micro film held by the State Hospital detailing medical histories. But somehow, regardless of how amazing and fascinating this collection was, it had been largely untouched, and unstudied for nearly three decades.
Driving back to my studio with a brain snugly belted into the passenger seat, I quickly became obsessed with the idea of photographing the collection, preserving the already decaying brains, and corresponding the images to their medical histories. I met with my friend Alex Hannaford, a features journalist, to help me find the collection’s history dating back to the 1950s.
Over the past year while working this idea into a book, we’ve learned how heavily storied the collection is. That it was originally intended to be displayed and studied, but without funding it instead stagnated. And that the microfilm histories of each brain had been destroyed years ago.
My original vision of a photo book accompanied by medical data and a comprehensive essay turned into a story of loss and neglect. But Alex continued to pursue some scientific hope for the collection. After discussions with various neuroscientists we learned that through MRI technology and special techniques in DNA scanning there is still hope. And with the new possibilities of federal brain research funding, this collection’s secrets may yet be unlocked.
As we begin the hunt for someone to publish my 230 images accompanied by Alex’s 14,000 word essay, the University has found new interest in the collection. They currently are planning to make MRI scans of the brains.
Below are a few samples from the much larger body of work.
Below are some images from the March issue of Details. Obviously it’s fun to play with a human skeleton and cocktails during a shoot. But for this project most of my energy went into the Elimination Nation story.
We were asked to create images that violently object to certain foods. I had recently acquired some Einstein strobes from Paul C Buff that fire a flash duration as fast as 1/13,500 of a second. Putting Profoto to shame (sorry, a little photo dork talk here). It was a great excuse to give them a try. We used firecrackers to blow up bundles of wheat. In some of our frames you can see the actual fire crackers exploding, and the fragments are nearly razor sharp. I like these little lights a lot! Thanks to the Strobist for a great recommendation.
Here are the rest of the outtakes for the February issue of Details magazine. This story was about a pescitarian diet, so we got a lot of fish. What you don’t see from these pictures are the two little bulldogs that were dancing around just off set hoping something would slip and fall to the floor.
Sometimes the best image from a shoot doesn’t get published. Not that the others were bad, they were fine. I’m just particularly fond of this little guy. I guess that’s the danger of making too many options?
Sometimes a client will ask us to do different variations for a story, but rarely are the variations each so cleaver that we can’t decide which is our favorite. Details Magazine did that to us twice in one issue!
For their story “Panic Nation,” ideas were thrown around ranging from oxygen masks to cracked eggs, to arrows pointing at a head. In the end the mask won, but the other options were so much fun we just had to post the FPOs. Look for the Pescetarian story outtakes in an upcoming blog post.
Really excited to share this project!
Some how we were fortunate enough to have the coolest dioramas ever show up at the studio and got to spend a few days taking video and photographing them. The dioramas were created by artist Tamra Kohl and tell the story of Jarritos soda. In all Tamra created 9 different scenes to cover everything from the creation of Jarritos in 1950 and the fresh produce used in making the soda, to current day Jarritos being enjoyed throughout North and Central America.
Big thanks to the creative minds at GSD&M who brought this project to life. We’re not posting all the dioramas here on the blog, but more can be found on the Jarritos website and their YouTube channel.
Artist: Tamra Kohl
Video Editors: Ariel Quintans at Beast
and Landon Peterson at GSD&M
Starting Thursday and running through the weekend, right here in good ol’ Austin, will be the Texas Photo Roundup. There will be workshops by the likes of one of my Texas heros, Wyatt McSpadden. Presentations by peoples like the infamous Dan Winters. And talks on things like money by people like me. As in me. And other people who know a lot more than me.
I’ll also be attending a lecture Saturday morning by Andrew Hetherington and Monte Isom. I’m hopeful that it’ll be insightful enough to justify me to get up early on a Saturday.
A lot of things are sold out, but some of the things I’m personally the most excited about, and feel are the most valuable, still have a few openings. If you are in the Austin area and haven’t taken a look, check it out here: www.texasphotoroundup.com