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As I posted briefly, last Thursday we had the opportunity to photograph our friend Shepard Fairey.

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Shepard is in town for his show at the ICA or Institute for Contemporary Art here in Boston.  If you have a chance to come out to Boston to check it out… you will NOT be disappointed!  You can also watch him on the Colbert Report, listen to his interview with Terry Gross of NPR, and catch him on Feb 2nd on the Charlie Rose Show. Shepard’s Obey Giant work can be viewed at his site, and his commercial work can be found at Studio Number One.

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For those who are unfamiliar with his work, Shepard has been influencing pop culture since 1989 when he came onto the scene with his early Andre the Giant screen printing.  Personally, Shepard’s work has influenced my own artistic direction since high school when my good friend Eric Freedman (now at Modernista) gave me one of the early “Andre The Giant Has A Posse” stickers.  Since then, I have followed his work and have purchased several of his original pieces.  Recently, the buzz around Shepard has been associated with his Obama Hope poster, which then lead to a commission and then donation by art collectors Heather and Tony Podesta to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.

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This portrait was very important to me.   I wanted to involve Shepard’s style and artwork, but didn’t want it to be a campy or contrived. It was important to both bring out Shepard’s personality as well as his humble and approachable manner.  To do this, I began the process by calling my good friend Gary of Elefantworks (our in-house designer and creative director) to brainstorm.  Together we bashed around many ideas ranging from shooting Shepard under a highway overpass with his graffiti “bombing” in the background, to shooting him in Cambridge Mass at the Cambridge Pools (local famous skate spot.)

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In the end, time and weather became the driving factor.  Because it was going to be very very cold the day we were to shoot, and we didn’t want to take any more of Shepard’s time than we had to (we were given an hour,) we made the decision to shoot in the studio.

"Phil the Intern," or Magnum as CB calls him

"Phil the Intern," or Magnum as CB calls him

Rich and Greg prep the HD cameras

Rich and Greg prep the HD cameras

Building the set

Building the set

We would plan to shoot him in front of several backgrounds using several lighting implements.  There would be a white seamless shot with the 8′ Elinchrom Octabank, a grey seamless shot using a Profoto ProRing Widesoft Reflector with the Profoto Acute/D4 Ringlight, and a gritty closeup using the 3′ Profoto Octa incorporating his artwork.

Chris and his "Irish Rage..."  Poor Octabank

Chris and his "Irish Rage..." Poor Octabank

Magnum is still confused...

Magnum is still confused...

but not Rabbit....

but not Rabbit....

Richard grabbing "B" roll footage

Richard grabbing "B" roll footage

To solve the problem of including his artwork, I decided to request Shepard’s office to send along hundreds of his now famous stickers.  (you can find them here… they are awesome by the way.)  I had the idea to plaster these stickers on a plywood wall, then distress the stickers much like Shepard had done with the Andre the Giant icon over the years as it evolved.

Greg and Gary discuss the portrait...

Greg and Gary discuss the portrait...

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Set is coming along...

Set is coming along...

Richard and I built the wall the day before, and had it ready for Gary to populate with stickers.

As I posted about earlier, we would not be able to get into Exposure Place on Drydock ave because of the time schedule, so our friend and colleague  Michael Indresano gave us the use of one of his empty shooting spaces in South Boston.

Gary helps with the "sticker wall"

Gary helps with the "sticker wall"

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Images tests using CB

Of course, no propper photo shoot would begin without some sort of drama, and this was no exception.  On this day, it was the weather!  We began the day with a dangerous drive into the studio in a snowstorm.  In fact, once the schools began to close, we became worried that the entire shoot might be canceled.

A "traditional" seamless beard....

A "traditional" seamless beard....

CB losing his mind...

CB losing his mind...

Rabbit downloading video media to the laptop

Rabbit downloading video media to the laptop

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Lighting tests...

We arrived at the location a noon, for the 5 pm shoot.  This would give us plenty of time to get situated, set up, and go through all of our testing.  The preparation would allow us to move through the various set-ups very quickly in order to maximize the time we had with our subject.  As I said above, our plan was to have 3 situations prepared using 3 different lighting techniques.  We would also be shooting different media using the Nikon DSLR, the Mamyia 645 and the 4×5 Toyo Field Camera (both with TMAX BW film.)

mmmmm..... 4x5

mmmmm..... 4x5

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Suffice it to say, we had our work cut out for us.  To accomplish the task, we got the whole team together.  CB (or Chris) would be the camera 1st, Rabbit would set up the video gear for an interview as well as shoot “B” roll of the photo shoot, Gary would help art direct, and Phil the Intern, now officially nicknamed  P.I. (or Magnum by Chris) would fill all the loose gaps.

Our set, fully developed...

Our set, fully developed...

Yes.  Film is NOT dead...

Yes. Film is NOT dead...

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Checking out Polaroids... "Old School"

Checking out Polaroids... "Old School"

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The load-in and set prep went pretty smooth.  By 4:30, we had all the sets built, the cameras loaded, and the lighting tested and ready to go.  All that was next was to wait for Shepard. Because his schedule was slammed (understandably) we got a call from Tina in LA asking if it would be ok to push the shoot till 6:30, and of course we said yes.  We had the studio booked late into the night, so there would be no problem at all.

Rabbit checks out the sticker wall...

Rabbit checks out the sticker wall...

Shooting Shepard on seamless

Shooting Shepard on seamless

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Shepard arrived promptly at 6:30, we sat a bit and chatted, and then got right into it.

We moved through the situations very quickly, and then moved into the next room where we shot some interview footage for film project we doing.

Rabbit finishes up the loose ends for the interview...

Rabbit finishes up the loose ends for the interview...

Wiring Shepard for sound...

Wiring Shepard for sound...

All in all, we captured our images in about 20 minutes, and rolled about 30 minutes of video footage and were finished well under the time we were allotted.

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Shepard Fairey was very gracious and more than cooperative.  We certainly appreciate his time, and we wish him the best of luck with his show at the ICA!

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