Thursday, July 28, 2011
Old friend and collaborator Jesse James for people magazine. I’ve put the people story here as well as a bunch of other stuff from our long journey together these last 10 years. Jesse and I have a pretty great history of creative collaboration..I first met him on a story for GQ in 2000, he was just starting to blow up as his bikes were getting a lot of attention and the Discovery channel show “motorcycle mania” which was about him and was the highest rated discovery show ever, and I think it still is. That show had everyone, including GQ, trying to find out who this guy was..Jesse and I got each other and got along well then on those 2 days together, and the pics were awesome.. ..some subjects you just click with better…maybe it was our similar ages and middle class suburban background. So Fast forward a few years, we reconnected on a cover story I shot for Popular Mechanics magazine about a flying car he built for the show Monster Garage, a show that was created for him by Discovery as he was so popular, and it turned into a hugely popular show also.. When I met him again on that shoot, we caught up, chatted about the GQ shoot and I brought a few prints for him from that shoot. It was then that he said “we should do something together”, at which I responded, “cool, lets do it. I will have some ideas for you and will stop by your shop when I’m in LA in 3 weeks.” It was a vague gesture on both our parts, but I did stop by his place next time I was in LA and told him of my ideas for a book with him.. And that’s how our best body of work ,“Jesse James and his Beautiful Machines” was born. It was great working on that book as Jesse trusted my vision completely, and its still a creative highlight in my life and career. I’m sure even in 50 years it will still look timeless. During the making of the book, design, edit, writing, etc, I kept asking myself, “will I want this on my bookshelf in 50 years?” very simple guiding vision, but crucial. And the truth is that yes, I will be very proud of it even in 50 years..People always think it’s a book about motorcycles, and while motorcycles are all through the book, they are just the metaphor and object that serves as the real subject of the book, which is mans drive, ability, and determination to make things out of metal with their hands and some tools. That’s how I pitched it to jesse, not a boring book about you and motorcycles, but a book about what its like to bend metal into something beautiful and useful. Still stoked about it. And jesse and I became pretty good friends during the making of it.… So when Chris Dougherty from people called to ask if I would head down to Austin to shoot jesse for a feature, I said yes… he had a book coming out and people had the scoop…I was excited to see him again as I had talked and texted with him since the cheating on Sandy scandal happened, but hadn’t seen him and was eager to hang with him a bit again and just see him. I know he was eager to see me too as he was stoked I was shooting the story and wanted me to get there a day early and stop by his house… when I think about it, I think he was looking for pieces of his past that gave him good and pleasant memories, and I was that to him as our history was always about good stuff, and we did the book during his time with Sandy. I’ve gone through the same kind of thing after a love affair gone bad, and grasped at good pieces and memories of my past during the love affair for comfort, and I’m sure that was part of the reason he wanted to see me…to grasp at what was, and see that not all in his life was completely destroyed, that there was still good there. .the pain he must have been going through was certainly profound, and nothing that I’ve experienced…It was great to see him again when I got to his house. He gave a big hug letting me know he was glad I was still there for him. Our relationship has always been rock steady. We weren’t pals or best friends or anything like that, just a constant good thing. When the Sandy thing broke, I instantly contacted him letting him know that a. I was feeling for him and there for him and b. I wouldn’t throw him under the bus and release bad pictures of him for the tabloids to use (I was getting calls, believe me, as no one has an archive on jesse like me). Ultimately I could have made some money off of pictures I had of him when it all went down, but life and friendship and ultimately my work is just too important to sell it for the wrong reasons for money. I thought about it for a quick minute, but just not who I am… It was awesome seeing him for a couple of days, reminiscing a bit, and just hanging out and taking pics like the old days....He was definitely different than before the scandal, he seemed to lose a lot of the anger and edge that he had deep down, I guess all the therapy he went through and pain of it all helped him let go of it..I actually missed the old jesse a bit as that edge and intensity is what made him so good at what he did, and made you want to be around him and his world. At some point though he had to let go of it all and just try and re-ground, which is what he did..…it was great hanging with him and his kids and seeing him as a dad too, which I had never really seen. The shoot was great, jesse has always trusted me and done whatever I wanted him to do (which is hard for him), and generally just a couple of good days. It was great seeing his awesome spread in Austin, a far cry from Long Beach. We even talked about a couple of book ideas again…we said goodbyes, I headed back to NYC and even had a text from him the following day making sure I got home ok…I don’t think our history is over at this point, jesse is the ultimate phoenix, he will rise from the ashes of his self destructed previous life, its just who he is….at one point during the shoot, he said something to me that was so profound and pretty much summed it all up, who he is, why cheated on sandy, and where he will be again someday but a better version... As we walked around he showed me his new shop, which was his garage at his new house, he talked about the 40,000 square foot factory/shop that was west coast choppers in long beach but was now closed. That huge world and business totally gone at this point..He said “it’s funny but I’m back where I started. I started in my moms garage welding and building bikes, and now its full circle, I’m in my garage welding and building bikes, just me.” He never was comfortable with all that WCC had become, and deep deep down I’ve always known he was scared and uncomfortable with the success of WCC, you could always see it in his eyes and I had seen him all along the way and it was obvious…and he always made a point to tell me he was “just a welder”….
Posted by nathaniel at 3:00 PM
What can I say…the gorgeous Dylan Lauren for the cover of Forbes magazine…I shot this at Dylans Candy Bar, her legendary candy store on the upper east side. Really one of the more brilliant ideas that in restrospect makes yo u think “why didn’t I think of that?” So obvious that a story like this will do great, and hers is doing great and growing to more and more locations and a truly global brand…sounds familiar for her family right? Her papa is Ralph Lauren, and I know I don’t need to tell you who he is. The cover story was about success, and is it learned? Or inherited in your genes? What made Dylan successful, besides the obvious, which is great connections, you still gotta produce and have the ideas and instinct..So it was a story about that, is success inherited. It was awesome hanging out in her store that morning before opening, we set up a studio downstairs for the cover shoot. And when it was all over she said “take whatever you want”. And of course we had sweets for the week. The funniest thing I saw were candy cigs…I had no idea they still made them, but they do. It brought me back to when I was a kid and I remember buying them and pretending to be an adult.. but now it seems so insane getting fake cigs for your kid. But it is a free country after all still isn’t it??
Posted by nathaniel at 2:17 PM
This one is tough, and even hard to write about to be honest…it was for glamour magazine, a real people story in Denver about a woman named Kristen Stillman and her brother Will. Basically, they are twins who were born to a junkie loser mom, who ended up giving them when they were 8 to an aquaintance guy and his family who was another loser, mean, nasty person. She was raped her whole life, he was beat. She bore children by the man, etc etc etc. They finally ran away when she realized her kids were in for the same life as her.. It really is the kind of story that makes me deep down question being human and not just giving up on everything altogether. I just lose all hope when I hear about stuff like this.. Again, its about having my own child now. I see it all differently now that I have him. Before I would have thought yea, its awful, he’s awful, I hope he gets the death penalty or worse. But I could have let go after the shoot and moved on. Now I see henry and how could anyone do that to a child. They’re all so pure when theyre born. Not winners or losers, just pure. No hate, no racism, just pure. The real tragedy of this story is that the cops, child protective services, etc, were called many many times to the house by the neighboors, who knew something was up, but every time the system failed them. Makes me really upset and not trust the system even more…I honestly don’t even want to write about this anymore, but you owe it to yourself to read their story…I’ve posted the story here on the blog, so read it if you can, or google Kristen Stillman, read about her story, hug your kids, and wonder how in the hell stuff like this happens….
Posted by nathaniel at 2:12 PM
Here’s a recent tear sheet from Golf Digest of Roger Maltbie, on course tournament commentator extraordinaire…This dude used to be a pro, and was now on the other side of the game now as an analyst and commentator. I knew he was going to be awesome and he was, in spite of our 7am call time for the shoot in Louisville…I knew it would be a good shoot when I showed up at 7 and he was outside smoking a cig and offered me one… He’s one of those guys that everybody likes, players and fans alike. Roger was never an awesome player or force on the pro tour, but he did win a few tournaments, but no majors. But what he did do is he got to play on the tour during the golden age of golf, in the 70’s with Nicklaus and Palmer and Player and Watson and Chi Chi…before tiger ruined it all and made golfers realize they must be in great shape and awesome overall athletes in general and spend lots of time at the gym, not just time on the course…must have been so much fun in Rogers day…. And Roger was known as a guy that lived life to the fullest, you could always count on finding him in the bar after a round hanging with the guys and caddies. The most notorious story of him happened in 1975. He won a tournament, was celebrating in a bar that night, and lost the $40,000 winners check. True story, I asked him during the shoot and he did indeed confirm. Of course he did get them to issue another check, but so funny that he actually lost it in a bar…and roger hasn’t really slowed down much…when he offered me the smoke, I told him I quit a few years ago and he shared with me a recent story…he was at his doctors office and the doc told him he needed to quit drinking and smoking for his health, as his health isn’t great. He told his doc quitting both would indeed kill him for sure, so he would slow his drinking down but he still needed to smoke, quitting both he just couldn’t do…the idea for the shoot was to get him in as many animated expressions as possible, as he is very animated and has been known to cry on camera during an interview. So we had some eye drops to do a crying shot too… ..for 7am he really went through an awesome range of expression…the crying shot was great too, but it didn’t make the magazine, so here it is for your viewing pleasure…
Posted by nathaniel at 11:32 AM
Friday, July 15, 2011
Its been forever since i've last posted...i've got lots of stuff to post, just hard to get the mojo to do it with a 3 year old in the house...blogging isnt easy for me, as i like to write a bit about the shoot and not just throw up a photo or two...but this recent shoot out now got me off my butt and i have an hour before i have to pick henry up from camp..this shoot of James Harrison i did for mens journal magazine and michelle wolfe, the photo director over there. The other shoot mentioned here i did for them last fall, of NY ranger hockey player Derek Boogaard. I never blogged about that shoot either so will do it here as well. First up is the Derek Boogaard shoot last fall in NYC....I'll start by letting you know Derek passed away unexpectedly this spring, about 4 months after our shoot, which was a big shock to everyone as he was only 30. I didnt even know he died, but got a suspicious email from my agent at corbis, ben hampel, asking me to send a bigger selection from my shoot with him..of course i instantly knew something was up, maybe he was busted for DUI or something scandalous, and corbis was getting alot of requests...it was only when i googled him did i find out he was found dead in his apartment....very shocking when i read it and sad....it really is always a bit of a reality check when someone you photograph dies, having spent intimate time on a collaborative thing like a portrait. ..i touched on that on this blog when gary coleman aka arnold from different strokes died. just a quick gut check and trying to remember the details of the shoot and my time with them. my memory seems to get worse and worse as i get older, ask jess, she will definately concur...but when it comes to the photos i take, all i have to do is look at it, and i remember everything about the shoot..even a shoot 20 years ago, i may not remember it now, but show me the picture and it will all come flooding back in...this photo of derek i really remember the smell of meat in the locker and the sound of hte huge refrigeration units humming...such a cool way to live life and work life especially. so i went and had a look at this take again and it all came back...We shot Derek in a meat locker down in the meat packing district of NYC, in a sort of homage to the famous scene in rocky where rocky trains by pounding sides of beef...derek was known as a bruiser and keen fighter in the NHL and protecter of the talent....but true to any tough guy i've ever met, he was sweet, quiet, and nice. He showed up with his girlfriend, just coming from a charity appearance with kids, and he and his girl had only been in nyc for a couple months as he'd only recently signed with the rangers..i wrote a list of my fav restaurants down for them, with 32nd street (close to garden) and korea town bbq's as my fav for them to try..and he said any time you want tickets, just give a ring..the shoot went great, we all loved the pictures, and had a generally great time...a fav shoot for sure last fall....and i ended up getting 4 tickets to a game over the winter at the garden, first time seeing the rangers, and henry loved it....very sad when i heard he passed, but another reminder that every day is awesome no matter what....it was very cool shooting in a meat locker too,,,we had to wear winter coats on this warm september day as it was 35 degrees in the cooler...and the guys working at the meat packing house there said "anytime you need a good cut, just stop by", which i havent but a nice gesture....RIP derek, thanks for the experience of meeting and photographing you......now on to my shoot with James Harrison of the steelers, out on newstands now, also for mens journal....this shoot and story is BLOWING UP HUGE right now...and it wasnt a surprise to me as i read the story on the plane to pittsburgh last mont....i instantly knew as i read him say "if roger goodell was on fire i wouldnt piss on him to put it out, thats how much i hate him." Roger Goodell being the boss, the NFL commish...James was fined a ton last year for hard hits... with all the new rules out now to lower injury and brain injuries specifically, the NFL (no fun league), has basically been trying to reign in guys like james who's life passion is to run full speed into guys and hit them as hard as he can. Its awesome to watch....not sure how they can really enforce it as the nature of football is violent....its like when i hear about people or countries complaining during a war that the other side isnt fighting fair....like there should be rules for how you kill people...just absurd...we as a country tend to call them terrorists...gee, thats exactly what england called the colonists back in the 1700's.."those guys arent fighting fair! they're hiding behind trees and shooting and not standing in a line in a field!" duh...dont get me started.... anyway it was an assignment i was a little bit tepid to accept, as it was a reshoot...yes, the dreaded reshoot...not mine though...MJ had sent another photog there the week before to shoot him (note to mj, next time hire yours truly first), and lets just say he didnt come back with pictures the editors were in love with. and in true dont jinx it anymore, i didnt want to see the pictures he took, or even know who took them, too much bad juju....dont ask dont tell.....i told my assistant johnny that this was a classic "sucker" job...going back to photogrpah a professional athlete (notorious "are we done yet" guys), and one as big and angry as james, who had already dedicated alot of time to the other photoshoot...and hes thinking "wtf, cant you mo fos do it right the first time?" But he agreed to let another photog come back, and michelle thought of me...in our pre pro meeting, she finishes with "oh yea nathaniel, we also hear he has a bunch of guns, can you get him to hold one?" great. thanks for making me almost throw up there in your office michelle....of course i said "yep no problem, i can pretty much gaurantee i can get him to hold guns." and in truth i really believed it...i've been doing this so long now, i know how to make stuff like that happen. No secret really, you just dont ask, you tell. i can tell pretty much anyone to do anything, although i do get a no occasionally..I didnt ask james if he minded holding a gun or two, i TOLD him i needed him to hold a gun... So it really wasnt that hard like everyone at MJ thought it would be. I just didnt give him a choice, although he could have said no or looked at me like i was insane, but he was fine with it. And So the photographs came out awesome...once again, the big mean guy couldnt have been nicer or more chill...the magazine FREAKED when they saw the shoot (i knew they would), and the story looks awesome, but i feel bad for james as hes getting hammered in the press for those few sentences out of hundreds that people are latching on to...he did have a some great points though....my favorite was about goodell himself....whats a white rich dude from new york (goodell) whos never played a down of pro football or even college football running the league for?? He has no perspective of what a player needs and wants. good point james....Another point...he says theres an unwritten policy amongst nfl players to hit high on purpose and not tackle below the waist, cause you can keep playing if you get your bell rung a little by a hard hit, but tear an ACL or achilles, and your career and earning potential are OVER. makes sense.....so i think in the broader sense of the story, James will be fine as he has valid points and reason to be so mad. Now lets hope these knuckleheads end this lockout soon, cause fall aint fall without football.....
Posted by nathaniel at 9:07 PM