Tuesday October 8th, 2013
By Karrisa Olsen
This is a phrase Francesco Ridolfi learned early on in life, as his father taught him the game of chess at a young age. Francesco has always had a fascination with the game–playing with friends and on his free time. The concept of humanizing the pieces of a chess board came to him a few years ago, and has been brewing in his head since. He finally began bringing it to life recently, as he researched costume ideas for his cast of characters: the King, the Queen, the Bishop, the Rook, the Knight, and the Pawn.
The most interesting part of the project, he says, was creating those personalities twice, in black and in white:
“Highlighting different and sometimes opposite parts of human nature, often coexists in each of us. As a portrait photographer, I’ve always been interested in these differently feelings that could emerge in the subjects in front of my lens.”
Casting calls were time consuming, as Francesco had to select models that would appropriately mold into each character. His team worked tirelessly designing and creating the wardrobe, extensively searching the region for the perfect fabrics. Francesco’s behind-the-scenes video, which can be seen below, shows the significant amount of detail put into each portrait.
After a seven month process, Francesco can now bask in the final results. Since launching the project site, he has started promoting it in Italy and around the world with the hope of getting a gallery exhibition.
Take a look at the video below that documents the process of the chess project, and view more of Francesco Ridolfi’s work here.
Monday July 8th, 2013
by Maria Luci
You must live in a city. You must have a board. You must be wearing your gear. You must be ready by 6 a.m. These are Philadelphia-based photographer Chris Sembrot‘s requirements for the subjects of his new urban surfer series, “Dawn Patrol.”
The initial idea for “Dawn Patrol” can be traced back to a natural source of inspiration: an attractive woman. Chris explains,
There’s nothing quite like the motivation of a beautiful woman to get you to try a sport. This is the motivation that I felt three years ago when I first met the woman of my dreams—a woman that would one day become my best friend and wife. I always knew my friends surfed but I never really knew what that meant. Being from Philly, I knew people surfed at the Jersey Shore, but didn’t know of the culture and passion that drives these individuals to wake up at 4-5 a.m and drive an hour plus each way just to get a couple hours in during a swell; I was basically clueless about what surfing really meant to them.
It’s not the easiest thing to live in a city and having to drive that far just for a couple hours of fun in the water. Not only is it an early rise, it’s also money spent on gas and tolls. But these surfers all agree that it’s an important part of their lives. It’s something they love and need to do, no matter the distance or money.
This project is directly inspired by three friends of mine: Adrian Castillo, Chris “Cakes” Savaiano, and Jim “Hammer” Hammell who took me under their wings and suffered with the humiliation of helping a newbie. Their dedication to teaching me and insistence that I go with them whenever they went surfing, helped me confidently say to that beautiful girl that, “I surf.”
After learning to surf himself, and becoming a part of the local community, Chris decided to document these dedicated wave riders. It took just one Facebook post to get things started. With over ten responses in five minutes, Chris found his first subjects. From there, word of mouth propelled his project forward to the point where he now has no shortage of board-toting volunteers. Using only available morning light and environments within one block of each subject’s home, Chris’s ongoing series gives an honest, raw peek into the world of urban surfers.
Chris now plans on showcasing the series in a First Friday Philadelphia gallery show next May. View more of his work at chrissembrot.com.
Monday March 4th, 2013
by Maria Luci
Rick Wenner likes to keep things simple. His photographs are clean and insightful, with little in the way of distraction. This style lends itself well to strong and emotional portraits. And it’s the approach he took on his “New York Fighter Project”—a series of portraits of mixed martial artists (MMA), created in support of legalizing the sport in New York.
Rick first conceptualized the project at the end of of 2011, while looking for a meaningful series that fit his style and interests. Rick has always been a huge MMA fan, and finds it extremely disappointing that professional mixed martial arts is still illegal in New York. He believes that much of the opposition comes from misunderstanding—especially of the fighters themselves. Decided on his cause, he set out to create portraits showing MMA fighters in a new light—not as they animals they’re often portrayed, but as the humans they really are. His resulting portraits show tough exteriors while also revealing the emotional interior.
So far, Rick has shot almost 70 fighters from gyms in Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and upstate New York. He found his subjects to be “well mannered, intelligent and generous people”—a far cry from the stereotype of the “barbaric fighter.” To get access to his subjects, he had to reach out to many gyms to see who was willing to get their fighters together for shoots. Rick adds, “I decided who I wanted to photograph, which was notable high ranking fighters in the MMA world as well as respected/well-known fight gyms in New York. After I made my list, I started making a ton of phone calls. Just about every gym that I called was interested in the project, which was no surprise because of the mission statement behind it.”
Scheduling ended up being his biggest challenge, since most of these fighters have jobs, families and other responsibilities, leaving little time for photo shoots. But when he was able to coordinate a shoot, Rick was not only able to create interesting portraits, but collect meaningful stories as well, saying,
I had extended conversations with each and every fighter I photographed, so there are a lot of stories. One that sticks out is of a Marine who has been on three tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s an amateur MMA fighter, but full time soldier, husband and father. He told me about what it was like to be in gunfights, to see his friends be blown up by mines, and all this crazy stuff over there. He didn’t show much emotion in that he didn’t cry or get anxious, but you could definitely see the hurt in his eyes.
The project has received nice reactions, and Rick says that “people really seem to enjoy the portraits—it’s not something they’ve really seen before with these types of fighters. I know I’m not the first photographer to create something like this, but it’s gratifying to know that people enjoy my work.”
He’s already began showing the portraits to a few magazines and ad agencies, with good responses. He plans on making a photo book of the project to send to prospective clients as well as politicians who oppose legalizing MMA, saying “I think this project has a chance to make a difference.”
View more of Rick’s work at rickwenner.com.
Wednesday January 23rd, 2013
by Wesley Kays-Henry
Chicago-based photographer Kristyna Archer creates photographs steeped in psychology. Her work reflects the everyday contradictions and idiosyncrasies of life, which results in thoughtful portraits that explore intangible feelings. She describes her photographs as “colorful and bold, with dark undertones,”—deeply thoughtful body of work with tongue-in-cheek humor.
TimeOut Chicago Kids contacted Kristyna after receiving a promo of her beauty portraits. The print mailer had featured four portraits each visually describing a different “red” emotion: euphoria, elation, rage and fury. They connected with her style and reached out to see if she’d be interested in photographing two young boys who’d started charities to help young people work through hardships.
The boys have gone through hard times themselves, so their charities aim at helping other children focus on positivity. Acey Longly, 8, lost his father in a pyrotechnics accident before he was born. Acey’s dad was in a popular band, and playing the drums gives him a feeling of connectivity with the father her never met. He found so much joy in music that he began donating drumsticks and various instruments to children in the oncology floors of local hospitals in Illinois, calling the project B.E.A.T.S. (Bringing Everyone A Tremendous Smile). Jack O’Neill, 9, was born with kidney and spinal abnormalities. His time spent in-and-out of hospitals inspired him to donate toys to hospitalized children, giving them a distraction and the warmth of knowing someone cares. His charity, Little Hands Make a Big Difference, donates Build-A-Bears, hosts summer lemonade stands and even raised $10,000 last year as part of a 5K/Kids Fun Run.
Kristyna had photographed children on a number of occasions, but had never been given the task of making them look heroic, mature or serious before. She was thrilled at the opportunity to work with these introspective and altruistic young people. The scheduling with two active young boys and their families was tough, considering she had to set up the shoots in their houses. But after planning to work around school and sports schedules, the shoot went smoothly. Kristyna found it interesting, and even inspirational, to see these kids saying the most insightful and honest things, making themselves completely vulnerable, and then turning around and making fart noises with their armpit. “It’s as if they are only capable of functioning in the extremes,” which goes well with Kristyna’s over arching theme of the work. She goes on to compare the children’s self-awareness to the rest of society, and concludes that, “the best way to live is completely carefree”.
According to Kristyna, the hardest part of the shoot was capturing the “decisive moment” of honesty and maturity with kids who naturally just stand up straight and smile when a camera comes out. She got some great portraits, which were used by TimeOut in print and online. She was very inspired by the story and took the project further by asking the boys to write out why they started their charities, and what it meant to them, which she then displayed beside their portraits on promo pieces. Kristyna wanted to not only show these amazing kids, but to also show their story in their words, making it much more personal than it would be otherwise. This assignment was special to Kristyna, who says that it reminded her of the saying, ‘the more you give, the more you receive’—”we all need subtle reminders of why we love what we do,” and this job was it.
View more of Kristyna’s work at kristynaarcher.com.
Tuesday January 22nd, 2013
by Maria Luci
After moving to Nashville last February, Robby Klein met with Country Music Television (CMT) to share his portfolio and meet their creative team. The meeting went well—so well in fact, that he was recently brought on to shoot key art for the new CMT realty series, Big Texas Heat. The show follows fun-loving police officers from the small town of Trinity, Texas—a group Robby was excited to photograph.
The shoot was scheduled to take place just north of Houston, so there was a good deal of travel and rental arrangements that needed to be dealt with. Robby soon found that the equipment rentals would be the trickiest part of the entire shoot. No one rental house in Houston carried everything he needed, so he ended up renting gear from two locations in Houston and shipping even more gear in from San Francisco as well. “Each rental house had a different process and it was just one those times were each place had a hiccup that needed to be straightened out,” Robby says, “but in the end, we had exactly what we needed, when we needed it.”
Once all the gear issues were ironed out, Robby and the crew headed to Texas where they met up with the gregarious Trinity police force. The personalities of his subjects more than made up for any rental drama. Robby says the cast was “incredible to work with, ” adding, “they aren’t actors, they’re real police officers, but they were game for anything. It was a long day but they never complained, never needed a break and did anything we asked with a great attitude. And they kept us laughing the entire day—they’re hilarious people!”
For the shoot, CMT brought in “fantastic ideas” which Robby was able to incorporate—and since the day went so smoothly, he also had time to bring in a few ideas of his own. This included having the officers walking and riding Segways down the middle of the street “Reservoir Dogs style.” (The art director loved this shot, but it has yet to be released, so we can’t share it yet.)
The clients were very pleased with the final images, especially the variety of set-ups Robby was able to produce in just one day of shooting. The photos are now being used in advertising and press images promoting the show
View more of Robby’s work at robbyklein.com.