I recently revisited some work I did with model Ophelia Overdose a year or two ago. Here are a couple of the results from the return.
Tina and I have traveled to France six times together.
Our first time was on our honeymoon in 2008.
Our sixth time was last December, 2018.
With each visit, it gets better and better.
In 2008, we discovered something about ourselves: that when we travel, we MUST buy art. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive art. But we have to find pieces and bring them home.
In 2013, we returned to France to travel with friends from NYC. While we were in Paris, we met an artist on a bridge named Michel Maurice. He painted in a very distinct way on pieces of bed sheets as canvas. We bought a piece that I think reflected our love and passion (first image below).
Last April, we were in Paris to meet friends again and we found Michel Maurice on a different bridge, smoking a cigarette and smelling of wine. We talked, told him we owned a piece already. He showed us several paintings and he was hoping to get €80 for a piece. I literally didn’t have 80 in my pocket so I told him we’d go get money and come back. Well, he didn’t want to lose me, so he asked for €20. So we bought the above piece.
The art is so whimsical and colorful, and reflects a part of me that I can’t quite put a finger on. I love it. And love what the art represents: our unyielding obsession with buying art where we go.
Not to mention it makes for great stories.
I did a year in review of 2017 projects that I wished I would have vLogged, but did not. So it's a catchup video.
The band MEW stopped in at JBTV last week to play seven songs the morning before their show at Park West here in Chicago.
Above is the portrait I took of them before their performance.
To learn a bit more, here's a bit from their Wiki:
Here are some stills I took of their performance:
On my calendar for July 21, 2017, at 7 a.m. it reads, "street photography | location: downtown chicago."
If I don't book my time, I will not do something.
Lately, I've been charging myself with eschewing social media, the news, and general distractions to concentrate on me, my art and creativity.
I'm trying to build new habits and give up on ones that are mentally or even physically distracting from productivity.
Just like working out, there are times when even if it's in my schedule, I'll almost do anything to trick myself from going. But I was determined. And I went.
Armed with a Panasonic GH5 and a Hasselblad H5D-40, I set out. I drove down, left the Hasselblad in the car and just shot the GH5. I did both video and stills.
When I got back to the car, I thought, "Fuck it. I'll end today. I got some good stuff. I'm headed home."
I text Tina to tell her I was on my way. Then I looked up and saw an image that I needed to take. I reached for the door handle, stepped back out, opened the back door where my cameras were, and pulled out the Hasselblad.
I took this image:
I text Tina afterward and said, "Nix that. I'm headed out with the Hassy."
So off I went.
I took photos for another hour. I met some people.
Like a woman who saw me and yelled out: "Hey, Camera Man!"
She was sitting outside at a Dunkin Donuts across from Columbia college. "What camera is that?"
I told her.
"Wow! What are you a fashion photographer?"
"I'm mainly portraits and interiors."
"You gotta come talk to my class. I teach across the street." She pointed at Columbia.
We exchanged info.
Here's her image. She called herself "The Pope."
After that I took a portrait of a guy. He asked for $10 to photograph him.
We did a short seven or eight frame session.
I said, "What's your name?"
"<unintellible multi syllable word>" he responded.
"<unintellible multi syllable word>" he repeated.
"I'm not sure what you're saying," I said.
"Well, my friends call me: T to the M to the ACK."
"Yes!" He pointed my way.
"T-mack it is!"
Here's his portrait:
I also took more shots that I loved.
You can view those below. Enjoy.
For about a year and a half, maybe longer, I've been in a creative slump. My goal lately has been to yank myself out using the tuft on my neck that you pick puppies and kittens up by when they're getting into something they shouldn't.
Creative slumps suck.
As an artist, it's easy to point at all the extraneous factors that are at fault. Certainly there are external factors that come into play. For example: doctor's appointments, an accident, or any other life moment that may distract from productivity.
I've seen other artists -- people in general -- complain about the current political climate and blame that for certain levels of anxiety and lack of productivity. I share that sentiment completely.
It may be too early to shout out to the world about getting out of this slump, but I'm putting myself on the path. And with hard work and perseverance, I hope to stay there.
I've been seeing a therapist lately, and we've been exploring my fears, insecurities and how they pertain to self-expression.
Like other artists, I allow fear to prevent me from creating something, for fear it's going to turn out shitty. Not creating anything defeats the purpose of the creative.
I recently completed this self portrait.
It is a motion portrait, btw, so look for movement. It's one of many things I hope to do to stay on the path. I'm not saying it's the BEST image in the world. But it's an image. It's an executed idea. I had the vision. I made a version of it. I'm sharing it with the world. I'm moving on.
In a way, it's a metaphor for how I want to grow out of this place of fear and become bigger in the eyes of my audience. Whoever that might be.
I designed the visual with a couple different people in mind as the subject. One girl didn't respond at all to my request. Another one told me she wasn't the one for the job. At least she responded.
The image is a compilation of eight images composited into one. I'm working on a behind the scenes video now to show how I put it together.
Last night, I had the great opportunity to photograph the Orwells at JBTV. It was the third time they've performed at the studio. They brought the largest crowd I've ever seen pack into the intimate space.
These guys embody the essence rock and roll and I was so glad to get the shot above in hero angle with a 20mm lens.
They have a new album Terrible Human Beings coming out Feb 17 and tour dates can be found on their website.
Below are just a few more images that include their sound check and another portrait.
I had the opportunity to photograph singer/songwriter Kevin Garrett last Thursday at JBTV Music Television. I have to say I was pretty damn impressed by his work and talent.
He's traveling with a band right now, but often he seems to perform solo.
Wiki writes this about him:
Kevin Garrett is an American musician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based out of Brooklyn, New York.
Kevin Garrett was born on March 25, 1991, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His debut EP, Mellow Drama, was released on April 7, 2015. Garrett co-wrote and co-produced "Pray You Catch Me", the lead track on Beyoncé's album, Lemonade.
The show at JBTV was at noon, and while they were in the green room before their performance, he and his band were chowing on some salads they ordered in. He stuck his head out the green room and asked, "Portillo's is a big Chicago mainstay, right?"
"Yeah," I said. "They're huge. Everyone loves that place ..." I paused and looked in to see no one had a burger, polish or fries and said, "Wait, none of you got a polish and fries?"
"No," he said.
We both laughed.
Below is the photo I took of him. Facebook hated the treatment I did so I had to do another edit. Facebook pixelated the hell out of the red. To see the other version I did, check my Facebook feed.
Check out some of his work on youtube!
Arkells are a Canadian rock band, formed in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2006, they signed with Dine Alone Records, and have since signed with Universal Records Canada. They have released four albums, two EPs and a number of singles that have charted in Canada. The band has won multiple Juno Awards, including one for their album High Noon in 2015.
As I photographed their sound check, I could tell these guys were super cool, very talented and definitely entertaining on stage. They were cool to meet in our quick photo session backstage and were complimentary of my camera gear.
They did not disappoint the crowd that showed up on their lunch breaks to catch the intimate show.
If you happened to miss them, check out anything you can find online and grab tickets next time they pass through Chicago or your town!
We connected and Tina opened a discussion about a photo shoot featuring some of her designs and styling. We ended up scheduling a quick shoot the last week in June.
And while I'm not a huge fan of photographing outside at high noon, that was what we agreed to. I'm not afraid of shooting at any time if it's approached well. We ended up shooting with a Einstein and a Photek soft lighter for most of these shots, and I couldn't be happier -- given all the factors around the shoot.
I mixed use of a Canon 5D Mark III with a 50mm f1.4 at around f2 to f2.5 using a variable ND filter and a Hasselblad H5D-40 shooting around f4-f6.8 at 1/800th of a second.
Our location was the bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor. It was chosen because it's easy to get to and we didn't have a lot of time to spend running around trying to find locations. It was a Saturday and very crowded. But we make it all work.
Our team was:
Enjoy these photos!
For 2016, I'm taking part in a monthly portrait photo challenge. April's portrait theme is homage.
I interpreted this theme to mean I would pay homage to someone I look up to in filmmaking. The lucky winner was George Miller, the director/mind behind last year's Mad Max Fury Road.
The movie blew me away on so many levels, namely the art direction and kinetic, non-stop, heart-pounding pace of the movie.
Our studio space is managed by this guy named Dan Stewart. He's a body builder and an expert mechanic. Visually, he could be considered menacing, but he's probably one of the nicest guys on planet earth.
I cast him for the shot, and then I developed a story behind the character that I wanted to photograph for this shoot.
I named him Meady Ogre, and he's the mechanic that built the war rig that Furiosa drives in Fury Road. Meady has pissed off Immorten Joe, another character from Fury Road and now Joe is off to take out Meady. In the photo, the camera is Immorten Joe. Meady and his dog Anarchy are defending themselves.
Of course since they live in the Fury Road world, I wanted to embellish the scene with fire and sparks.
The image that I found to work the best is the above one, but I wanted to show one with Anarchy as well below. Also check out the accompanying behind the scenes vLog.
Around Christmas time last year, makeup artist Stephanie VanHazebroeck asked if I would be involved in a Trade photo shoot or a TF* with a team she was assembling with a look inspired by two 2016 Pantone colors.
I love working with Stephanie. We worked together on her first big shoot, and whenever I can, I make a way to agree to her requests for TF*s. She's amazing at what she does, and she's managed to curate a network of some of the most creative people in Chicago.
So of course I said yes.
At first, we talked about renting a location for this Pantone-inspired shoot. There was discussion of Salvage One, which features some really cool furniture and vignettes that can photograph very well. They quoted us at $200/hour. Which we were all okay with. We'd likely only need a couple hours by doing hair and makeup off site. We scrapped idea when we heard of an old vintage bank that promised some amazing backdrops, but they wanted $1500 to shoot there.
In February, we moved into our new space, and we started discussing using an old car that is housed in our space.
And then I found what I was looking for ... one day I was at the studio and a door that's never closed was closed. It's a sliding metal door with tons of rusty patina and character.
"I'm using that door," I said to myself. My voice echoed in the empty studio. I felt like the door would make the colors in our fashion palette pop like nobody's business. And, wow, that door did not disappoint.
The day of the shoot finally came last week.
You know what I liked about this shoot? Everything.
Apart from Stephanie, I never heard of or met the team before, but once we all gathered, we all seemed to click. I could tell it was going to be a great day. I would go to bat for any one of this team. You MUST work with them!
Everyone was so professional, fun and energetic. The clothes, the hair, the makeup ... EXCEPTIONAL. Our model Angelika impressed me to no end.
I try to print images from my favorite shoots, and I think I'm going to print all of the ones I'm posting here today. Also, enjoy my behind the scenes vLog as well!
The team was:
Model: Angelika Rol
MUA: Stephanie VanHazebroeck
Hair: Mariefel Westa
Designer: Lupita Castaneda
Intern: Ryan Barhaug
Tina did a little consulting at the shoot, but many of these types of shoots are for me and my interest in fashion, which is why they post here at jeremywitteveen.com and not at Wittefini.com.
For the video, I had to put a lot more effort into shooting than vLogging, so I filmed exposition yesterday. I messaged Stephanie to ask her how to say her epic last name, and I still feel like I didn't say it correctly ... but we plow forward ... I'll apologize later.
Special thanks to our landlord Al Phillips for letting us use that big door as part of our shoot!
At the end of February, I had a conversation with our studio partner Bill Whitmire. I explained that a German photographer commented on an image I posted at 500px who had photographed Ophelia Overdose.
Several years ago, Bill told me about Ophelia and I started following her immediately. She's a talented German model who creates very elaborate dresses and costumes, does her own makeup and hair, and often retouches her own images.
Bill's response about the post at 500px was that he hired her for a shoot the following week. Come to find out, he had inquired about a shoot some time ago, and she finally contacted him when she was going to pass through Chicago.
Bill and I often share photoshoots, and it wasn't unheard of for him to ask if I would like to work with Ophelia, too, and share the images. There wasn't a whole helluva lot of time to prepare since the shoot was literally a week away, and my business schedule was jam-packed.
After the shoot, I decided to use an image of Ophelia as my March Photo Challenge image with the theme "Stranger." I felt like it was such a cool coincidence that I was able to finally work with someone I had a long-time affinity for. She's someone I never figured I'd meet. And now that we worked together, she's no longer a stranger.
The shoot itself was a great experience. She's every bit as talented as I assumed she was. Her personality is fun and jovial.
On site, I got a bit star struck, I admit. When I gave her the cash I counted out for the hire, I counted out an entire $100 less than the needed. When she figured it out, she shyly approached me to let me know I shorted her. Oh man, I was embarrassed. It's hard to make such a silly mistake, and I've been beating myself up for about a month now about it. :(
We ended up primarily photographing her with my Hasselblad. Unfortunately, none of the lighting setups were mine. But the image I chose above was the closest to something I might have setup, so I ran with that one.
The outfit she's wearing was one she constructed. She had with her a white and black wig. Bill and I leaned toward the black one.
For the lighting, there are images below that you can take a look at. There's a key camera right and a fill below and camera right. Camera left there's a beauty dish with a green gel on it and above her there's a highlight with a blue gel, which I darkened from its out-of-camera strength.
I completed the image as a composite. I wanted to give her more of a story than just shooting her on a gray backdrop. So I shot plates in the studio with a very dark feel. So you wouldn't know exactly where she is, but it would be somewhere. I felt like she looked like some sort of thief or ninja intruder, like a Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment.
That I know of, Bill hasn't finished any of his images of Ophelia either. We were going to post at the same time, but I wanted to make sure I posted my Stranger portrait in March. So it's going up today, by the skin of my teeth on March 31.
Take a look at the Behind the Scenes images below. Share any questions you have with me on Facebook or here.
At this point, several other folks have entered into the challenge.
February's theme is Ice. My immediate idea was to reach out to local Hair and Makeup Artist Kasha Rodig to see if she'd like to collaborate on some ideas. Tell a makeup artist "ice", and they are filled with ideas. Tell Kasha "ice" and her cup overfloweth.
One huge point of this challenge is to explore creativity that we don't often get hired for on commercial jobs. And I have full confidence in Kasha's bag of incredible tricks that she'd come up with something not only classy, but stunning.
Our first task was casting talent. We found Wilhelmina Model Haley Berge, and she jumped on board.
We then roped in Lisa Gombert to style the shoot, and of course Tina was there to art direct.
On set we had our assistant Luis Marin and our intern Nicole Siuda.
On my end, I tried the shot on white background and on black. On black I used some Atmosphere Aerosol to give it a sense of place. I wanted the image to be painterly, cold, and piercing. Haley nailed the look right away, and I took very few frames after this one.
I used two Paul C. Buff Einsteins for lighting. For light modification, I used a beauty dish without diffusion camera right for the key and a large softbox with grid for a rim up high to camera left. We used my Hasselblad H3DII-31 with a 80mm lens set at 1/800th, f9.5, ISO100.
It's amazing to collaborate with other folks and to surround myself with such talent. This is art. And it's such a feeling of heaven and gratitude when people work together like this. Thanks to all involved and thank you for taking time to take a look.
Enjoy a couple behind the scenes shots below.
The first month theme is Levitation, and above is what I came up with.
The story behind the image is not exactly fleshed out. The image is kind of documentation in a way. You see, we've decided to leave our studio space for another one, and this is a way to honor our current space with a going-away hurrah.
We move into our new studio on February 1.
For this image, I worked with model Danielle Maddox. I've wanted to work with her for about a year now, and finally got up enough nerve to ask her to be a part of this project. I knew I wanted someone athletic, as the process here is having her jump in the air and land on an air mattress.
Plus, I love Danielle's sense of humor that comes across in a lot of her work. She's got that sassy, fun, somethin' somethin' that shines through, and I love working with people like that.
She really hit this one out of the park and was incredibly thoughtful in her approach. We landed the right shot early on which shows just how professional she is. Kudos to her and I can't wait to work with her again.
I bought and used Atmosphere Aerosol for this shoot, but the way I did my lighting ended up overpowering it, so it doesn't read in these images.
I lighted the scene using a large stripbox over head and some front fill and a light in the rear left-hand corner to embellish the sun rays.
I used our Hasselblad H3DII-31 with a 35mm f3.5, at f8, 1/800th, ISO200.
Below are behind the scenes photos taken by Bill Whitmire.
Over the last few years, I’ve attempted to vLog a little. They’ve always been intermittent attempts to do some kind of behind the scenes or show a snippet of our lives.
When I slowed and basically stopped blogging here, it left a large hole in my, um, spirit, that I’ve since wanted to fill.
In November, I decided that I would produce a weekly vLog — at least — for as long as I can do it.
I’ve been somewhat successful with it, even though the vLogs themselves are far from “professional” video productions. They’re pretty gorilla really. Things I’d never include or do on a pro job, I let slide with these vLogs.
My goal, first and foremost, is to document my life as a professional photographer, a husband, and friend to about two people. :)
I’m not getting any younger. And as the years pass and I look back, the only road I’m paving comes in the form of work for clients with a spattering of personal work. But I’m absent in my own life, because my face rarely shows up in front of the camera.
In full transparency, these vLogs are incredibly influenced by YouTuber Casey Niestat. I’ve even lifted some of his approaches to telling stories from his playbook.
What I like about Casey is that he’s an incredibly creative and prolific content creator, but he does it in a way that’s true to his personality. Love him or hate him, he’s a positive guy and goes out of his way to present himself with a sense of lovable neutrality.
This blog certainly started as a divisive voice and it ended up dividing parts of my personal/familial life that I wished it didn’t do. It wasn’t that I wanted to be anonymous, but I also didn’t want familial interaction to influence my views.
My views regarding the supernatural remain the same. Those views are largely kept quiet except during short discussions with Tina.
Recently, Casey included a quote that means a lot to him. It was, “Never let perfect be the enemy of good enough.”
This is a perfectionist’s conundrum. When I release something to the world, I’m endlessly critical of it. I’ve had to learn, through my career, that nothing I do will ever be “perfect” per se and that when clients and others like something, it’s okay to let go of self criticism that leads to self deprecation, insecurities and even creative paralysis.
The way I see many creative people -- including myself at times -- is that they/we are paralyzed by fears and insecurities, even perfectionism. They have a zillion ideas and even criticize those who create, while their own work is minimal or prevented thanks to those fears.
I’m not sure anything ever gets any easier in this regard.
My next goal is to really push my personal envelope. Put myself out there with more gusto. More Oomph. I think there’s a formula of likability + crazy that creatives must have to set them apart.
I don’t define that crazy as a pejorative. I think there’s good and bad crazy. It’s that je ne sais quoi of likability and anomalous something something. Or maybe I already have it and I just need to keep plowing forward.
The other reason I’m doing it is because I want to be a content creator.
I’d much rather make something for someone else to consume than to consume something.
That’s why I love cooking. That’s why I love photography. That’s why I love making motion pictures. That’s why I don’t like sitting absently in front of a TV.
I haven’t seen a movie in the theater in years.
That’s right. I haven’t seen Star Wars yet.
And it’s killing me.
Before I forget, Happy New Year, to you and you and you.
Let’s do this #2016.
For years, I've intermittently vLogged our experiences. I stopped all together when we re-branded our company with a new identity and name. I'm talking about Wittefini, in case you didn't know.
I'm late to vLogging with regularity game, but I decided that I'm going to at least vLog once a week for as long as I can and as often as I can.
Right now I'm still in an experimental phase. The videos are down and dirty, and I'm taking time away from any downtime I have to produce and edit them. But once I set my mind to something ... I give it my damnedest.
Below is vLog #009. Probably my favorite so far.
Go to my YouTube page to view past episodes or to subscribe if you'd like to follow along. I'm hoping to also start mixing in other personal projects as well as pro work.
After yet another hacker attack on my jeremywitteveen.com site, I'm having to rebuild it yet again.
Below you'll find a photo of the band Phantogram that I took last year. It's one of my favorites of all time. Go here to review more photos I've taken of musicians.
DreamHost is quite possibly the most insecure host of all time.
This is the third time I've rebuilt Jeremy Witteveen.com and it's the fifth website I've rebuilt because of compromised security issues with DreamHost.