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Gretchen Bell is a wardrobe and prop stylist based in Seattle. Her client list includes Kraft, Levi’s, Target, Chevrolet, Amazon, Omni Resorts and Tommy Bahama. To see more of her work, visit: www.gretchenbell.com
In some ways, I feel I was destined to become a stylist. As a child, I was always wearing fashion trends before anyone else and modeling in local fashion shows. When I was about 13, I remember reading an article in Seventeen Magazine about the woman who was the stylist for The Cosby Show and thinking that would be my dream job, little did I know!
In college, my major was television Communications, so my career began working in video production as a production assistant and doing graphics for the news at the NBC station in Minneapolis. I then spent several years working as a modeling agent, before taking a job as a studio manager and producer for a successful advertising photographer, Craig Perman. It was there that I began styling commercial photo shoots for many large national and international clients and really learned about all aspects of production. So my whole career has really been about seeing things in a visual way.
In a great photograph everything matters, the color of a shirts, the kind of coffee cup, the style of the shoe, the position of the elements to one another. Everything in a photograph is helping to convey a client’s message or tell a story and that is my job. That is the fun and the challenge of being a stylist. What is going to make a photograph funny or moody or nostalgic and how are my props and wardrobe going to help do that? People don’t realize I might spend hours looking for just the right underwear that will be funny on teenage boys or searching for the perfect feathers for a still life shoot because it all matters. That is why stylists bring so many choices to the set for every shoot, so we can figure out what best helps tell the story.
It is very much a collaboration to tell a great story and it’s not always successful. Everyone is bringing something to the table at the shoot and when we all have a clear and concise vision, I think then it makes for a great photograph. As a stylist, I am coming to a shoot with my interpretation of what my client wants, but also run through a filter of my personal style. If a client wants playing cards, there are lots of playing card options out there. It is really fun to see a shoot come together successfully and see how elements from each member of the crew helped create that moment.
To me being a stylist is really about being part of a team; I can’t do my job without the rest of the crew. My props and wardrobe are only as good as the talent booked for the shoot, the lighting, the photographer, the makeup artist, the vision of the client and the layouts. Again, everything matters.
The only thing we love more than our liveBooks8 platform is the gorgeous work that our clients are sharing on it! Have an image that you are dying for the world to see? We want to feature you! We are excited to announce our first ever summer Facebook cover photo contest where we are looking to feature the #bestofLB8 on our page each week.
To submit your images, please send the original image file to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Facebook cover photo contest” or submit your entry via Twitter or Instagram by tagging liveBooks AND #bestofLB8. We will select u to eight photos to be displayed weekly between July 1 & August 22, 2016.
Submissions are now open! Follow the rules below to have the chance to be featured on our Facebook page.
Please send the original image file to email@example.com with the subject line “Facebook cover photo contest” OR submit your entry via Twitter or Instagram by using the hashtag #bestofLB8 AND tagging liveBooks. Please include your full name, where the photo was taken and the date in your entry. The summer cover photo of the week will be selected by the liveBooks team. Up to eight photos will be posted between July 1-August 22, 2016. Selected photos will be featured on our Facebook page as a cover photo for approximately one week and may be shared on Instagram
Rules & Regs:
1. Photo must have been taken by you in the last 3 years.
2. Photos must be horizontal and fit within the Facebook cover crop area of 851px by 315px. Vertical photo submissions will 3. be discarded.
4. Please avoid heavy filters and edits.
5. Explicit content will be discarded.
6. Smartphone photos are accepted but DSLR images are preferred.
7. By submitting your photo through email or hashtag, you give liveBooks permission to use and promote the submitted image via our liveBooks social media outlets.
Think you have what it takes? Submit your photo now!
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There are many hidden wonders in the world still to explore even for the most adventurous. As a photographer and scuba diver with the love of remote dive-areas, my passport is filled with all kinds of destinations which makes immigration officers at the airports on my return raise their eyebrows. Places like Komodo, Alors and Northern Sulawesi in Indonesia, Papua Guinea and Sudan’s Red Sea waters to mention a few. One of my absolute favourite escapes is located about 35-40 hours of open water travel by boat off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Its name is Isla del Coco, or Cocos Island, at times referred to as the Island of the Sharks.
The abundance of marine life surrounding Cocos island, which is the only emergent island of the relatively minor Cocos Plate, comes with some of the strongest currents you will encounter as a diver. Thus in many ways this marine preserve not only provides one of the most intensive adrenaline rushes but also some intriguing challenges for divers and underwater photographers.
In August of this year I made my fifth trip, deliberately choosing the rainy season – and does it rain in Cocos Island! – with the hope of encountering enormous schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks that grace the pinnacles around the island. There may not be a real on or off season for encountering these sharks and we all have to remember that the sea gives you what the sea wants to give you, not what you desire when descending into its depth. My preferred time though is between July and September, which also coincides with the time of the year when in the past I’ve encountered the giant whale sharks. And for this year, my trip truly became the trip of whale sharks.
Even though we saw scalloped hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks, whitetip reef sharks, yellowfin tuna, the enormous school of jack fish that is always present, bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales on the surface, the mantra “May the whale shark be with you” was forever coined among some of us. There are several destinations around the world known for whale shark encounters but most only permit encounters while snorkelling or scuba diving in fairly shallow waters, when they come closer in to feed on plankton. Yes, the biggest shark on the planet lives on the smallest plankton, which is quite incredible in the bigger scheme if you think about it.
Compared to other encounters with whale sharks, what mesmerized me the most diving with them in Cocos was the thrill of mingling with them in the greater depth of the ocean and how gently, gracefully, they interacted with us divers. How they were curious and almost inquisitive, and not anxious or troubled by our presence. The monsoon rain pouring down over the island affected the visibility most times, making lighting quite challenging for photography but it also creating an opportunity to capture these magnificent creatures in the mysterious fashion they suddenly appear from the depth.
See more images from her trip in her series “Gentle Giants of the Deep” and “Galenaea” at www.lifethrills.com.
How does one become a better photographer? To find the answer I decided to ask industry veteran Gerald Ratto. For over half a century Gerald has used film photography to capture the world. Gerald is a former student of Ansel Adams, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston; the list of industry legends he has worked with is extensive. His work has been displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and his client list includes some of the largest architectural firms in the world.
Gerald has worked with film since he was 12 and began photographing with a 15-cent box camera. Many of his most celebrated images (See his Children of the Fillmore and Vintage Collections) were shot traditionally. I began by inquiring about what differences exists between photographing with film and digital.
“Photography is really about seeing. We are in an age where people confuse photography with image capturing. When you hold up your phone or high megapixel camera are you really being a photographer? I don’t know. That depends on how intentional you are in the process. It’s easy to capture a huge amount of space today and then use Photoshop to retroactively tell a story, but something is lost in that process. You can make adjustments in Photoshop but you lose some of the expression because you didn’t really consider the content and the story that is being told.”
Is there any correlation between the physical developing process and the creation of an authentic photograph?
“Developing isn’t really a huge part of the process because of previsualization; seeing the story in your mind before you capture it with a camera. If you are doing it right you already know what the story is once you capture it. Then, it’s about going through a process to bring it from a small format to something people can see and display. Each camera is really the same. Each is simply a different instrument. If your process is the same then you can use different instruments to more accurately tell the story.”
Herein I realized the error of my initial question. The question is really not of whether we gain or lose something using film or digital methods, the question is how we remain intentional in an age where technology removes our limits. What are we doing as photographers to keep our content intentional and relevant?
I ask what advice Gerald can provide for how to stay relevant as a photographer.
“Photography is like discovery; every time you look in the viewfinder you’re closing in on an image that is part of something bigger—a little vignette of the greater world. You don’t want to go into any project with preconceived notions of what you are going to capture because by doing that you impose yourself upon the subject. Authenticity is the key to staying relevant. Allow the subject to tell the story and use your mastery of the instrument to capture it.”
Gerald’s work over the last 50 years showcases many different thematic elements; a testament to the depth of his abilities as photographer. I encourage you to take a look at Gerald’s portfolios and pay special attention to his mastery of light. From architecture models to portraiture, Gerald’s work showcases the breadth of his abilities as a photographer. As we finish up I ask Gerald what his favorite photo is. He smiles and replies, “The one I’m taking tomorrow.”
Gerald Ratto and his wife Marla manage a studio and reside in San Francisco, CA. You can view more of his work on his liveBooks site; www.geraldrattophotography.com.
liveBooks wants to know: how do you view your work as a photographer? What tools/best practices do you use to stay relevant? Share a comment on our blog and start a conversation. “Like” us on our facebook page and be the first to receive exciting liveBooks news and content.
Why do we often assume that art is not functional? On the other hand, why do we rarely view the purely functional as a work of art? Bayview artist Ian McDonald delves directly into the world of form and function in his bright and austere studio. With ceramics as a current focus, McDonald also works with wood, textiles and various other materials that allow for direct manipulation. When asked about his source of inspiration, McDonald revealed that it is the begun process of work itself that serves as his guide on where to go next.
Read an interesting interview and see more images of his beautiful artwork here.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Jeffery M. Levine was recently featured in the New York Times article, “The Elderly, Through the Eyes of a Geriatrician.” Levine (a liveBooks customer) discusses geriatrics and the combination of art and medicine on his healthcare blog, www.jmlevinemd.com.
As a young doctor starting out in my profession I wanted to stake a claim in academia – doing research and teaching about human aging. What I achieved is something different from what I originally intended when I began my project of visually documenting the process of growing old.
Initially I tried to catalog the physical manifestations of aging. Using Kodachrome slide film and flash, I captured changes of the skin and musculoskeletal system, supplementing my portfolio with x-rays that enhanced understanding of the physiology of growing old. One day out of curiosity I switched to black and white film, turned off the flash, and stepped back to photograph my patients in their natural environment and captured the interactions between me and my subject.
Miki Johnson: Tell me a little about how you first found out about the beauty pageants of Colombia.
Carl Bower: I saw a small article in the New York Times that said there was a pageant there for practically anything imaginable — Miss Sun, Miss Sea, Miss Purity, Miss Pretty Legs, Miss Honey — the list went on. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of these contests with everything else I had been reading about Colombia: the cartels, the guerrillas, the bombings and kidnappings. I thought of how such parallel realities could coexist and the extent to which our popular conception of the country had been a caricature formed by stories of the drug trade.
At the time I came across the article, I was supporting a close friend in her battle with breast cancer. She had been a national champion ballroom dancer and a competitive bodybuilder. Her appearance was something that she took pride in and took pains to maintain even as she lost one breast, then another, and suffered the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Throughout her ordeal, I noticed how her sexuality seemed undiminished, if not stronger. I started to wonder, if a beautiful person gradually loses elements deemed to be part of that beauty, where is the tipping point at which they are no longer beautiful? Is there one?
In my anger and frustration with the cancer and growing obsession with the commoditization of beauty, the story of the pageants struck a nerve. Here was an environment where all the issues I was grappling with were stripped bare and distilled to the point that it might be possible to convey some of them on film.
At first I tried finding the pageants through government records, but most of the information was unreliable or outdated. Through a friend, I met a fashion designer commissioned to create the dresses for a candidate to the national pageant. I photographed her preparation and coaching, learned of regional pageants, and met with judges, organizers, parents of contestants. I visited modeling agencies and schools where girls were being trained to compete in the pageants from the age of four.
When I learned of festivals occurring throughout the country, I went to various towns and introduced myself in their mayors’ offices. I went everywhere: to the national pageants, with their weeks-long round-the-clock media blitz, to high school pageants, to pageants with just three candidates.
I began to see how the pageants were one of the few unifying threads in a country compartmentalized by geography, politics, and social stratification. It seemed that everyone, regardless of social standing, had an opinion about them: not on whether they were good or bad, or whether they should exist, but on who should win. When I returned to the United States, I found that some of the complexity I experienced was missing from the photos, so I went back. I kept finding new layers of meaning, so I ended up going back again and again.
MJ: You said that as you’ve gotten deeper into the story it has gotten more complicated and you feel more ambivalent about the role of these pageants in the culture (something visible in the images). What were some of the contradictions you discovered?
CB: When I began photographing, I felt that the pageants were essentially meat markets. It wasn’t just that thousands of people were scrutinizing the contestants’ bodies; what struck me was the categorical, exhaustive, and unforgiving nature of it. Are her ankles thick? Who has breast implants? Who doesn’t but should? Whose ass is too small, too large, or shaped like melons when it should be like oranges? After the current Miss Colombia was crowned last November, there were months of public demands that she have her nose fixed to better compete in Miss World. More »
Name: Robert & Robbie Bailey
Age: 42 & 41
Location: New York
Kind of photography we specialize in: Portraiture
Personal project name and short description: Faces4Reform – Portraits of America’s Uninsured. According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau, there were 46.3 million people living in the United State without health insurance. This series of portraits gives you a close look at some of their faces.
When and why did you start it?
Towards the end of the summer, we began to pay close attention to the debate over health insurance reform. As small business owners, we personally understand the plight of the uninsured. For years, we worked 80 hour weeks but were still unable to afford the high premiums unfairly imposed on the self-employed. We opted for a reasonable state subsidized insurance plan but that has increased by 65% in the last three years. If something doesn’t change, we could be uninsured again in the very near future.
Aside from our own personal motivation, we felt compelled to respond to the misconceptions about the uninsured. There are those that would like for you to believe that the majority are illegal immigrants or welfare recipients. In contrast, many of the uninsured people that we know are productive, hardworking individuals and families that are simply locked out of a broken system.
Sadly, political lines have been drawn, the spin-masters are hard at work, and the American public is once again at the mercy of entertainment journalism and those that specialize in misinformation. When that happens, those most affected get lost in the discussion and politics takes precedence over people. This series of portraits hopes to humanize the ongoing debate and encourage participation in the political process. As artists and small business owners, we obviously don’t have the money or influence to affect polices in Washington but we do possess a creative power that can be used to inform and inspire.
Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
The power in this particular body of work lies in seeing the images as a collective.
What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
Finding the time to do it.
What has been the most rewarding thing about it? More »
Name: Josh Maready
What kind of photography do you specialize in?
I shoot mostly fashion and portraiture, but I feel really connected to photojournalism and documentary. I like capturing pieces of history that otherwise might have been lost or forgotten.
Personal project name and short description
Pic-A-Pet: This is a slideshow and interview with Mr. Madonna, the owner of a small plant and pet store named “Pic-A-Pet” in my hood in Inwood, at the very top of Manhattan.
When and why did you start it?
My old apartment was right above where the super put all of the trash overnight before he put it out on the street, and because of it there were always some stray flies that found their way in. I got pissed and went on a search to find some Venus fly traps that led me to Pic-A-Pet. I loved that place ever since I first walked in.
I have soft spot for old stores — the dirtier and more cluttered the better. Those places are so full of stories and have so much soul, you know? I instantly wanted to take pictures of that place and hear some of those stories, so I grabbed my camera and voice recorder and sat down with the owner, Mr, Madonna. Sadly, he had Stage 4 cancer and died a couple of weeks after our interview. It’s pretty amazing to think that because of the interview I did, a few of his stories will always be alive. That’s powerful stuff.
Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
From this story, I like two images the most: a portrait of Mr. Madonna smiling and a picture of his cluttered cash register that he told me he hasn’t used since the first day he opened. In the portrait, maybe it’s the smile he’s wearing, even though I knew he was in pain, or maybe the sunlight hitting the dust on his glasses. The register, to me, is a perfect summary of everything I love about old stores.
What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
The most challenging part was the editing. I sat down and talked with Mr. Madonna for almost an hour and a half. So taking all of those stories and condensing them into 10 minutes was tough.
What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
Just what I said earlier — to know that I was a part of keeping someone’s legacy alive is a huge honor. Mr. Madonna was loved by so many people. And even though this is a small and unworthy tribute for such a good man, at least it’ll give people a taste of what he was like.
In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
I hope this ends up in front of the eyes of people who appreciate the stories of the unknown heros of the world as much as I do.
Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
Totally. I try to find time to fuel the creative fire by shooting things that really mean something to me. This project was time consuming and finding free time is hard. Freeing up time is usually hard to justify. But to look back and feel like I’ve done something good for the world is worth it.
Wow – you wanna hear something weird? Right now as i’m writing this I just got an email from someone who had known Mr. Madonna. They told me they just watched the slideshow/interview and then poured their heart out about Mr. Madonna and told me a few of their own stories about him. That’s it, man! That’s why I love this stuff! That’s good fuel for the fire and motivation for the next few stories I have in mind…
Name: Lisa Wiseman
Location: San Francisco
Full-time job: Photographer
Personal project name and short description
The New Polaroid — This project is shot completely with my iPhone and is an exploration of iPhone as the new Polaroid. As the iPhone is becoming a ubiquitous and trendy accessory, on-the-go picture taking is now the norm. I see people using their iPhones to take spontaneous photos in the same carefree way that cheap Polaroid has been used in the past. In concept and ideology, the iPhone mimics Polaroid; however, it pushes the aesthetic forward by utilizing a new non-film (but technologically infantile) medium. Just like traditional Polaroids had a specific size and unique look, iPhone photos are unmistakable because the technology limits them to a fixed size and resolution and imbues them with a unique chromatic aberration that says “iPhone” and nothing else.
When and why did you start it?
I have been shooting with my iPhone since I got it approximately two years ago. I started showing The New Polaroid alongside my portraiture portfolios on my website and in my book in June, 2008, along with other personal work including a project shot on traditional Polaroid film. It was important to me to show my potential clients another side of my shooting personality — I wanted creatives to have a feel for what the world looks like to me and what I photograph when I’m not shooting portraits. With a wider breadth of work encompassing still lifes and interiors, I wanted to show that my vision carries through everything I shoot. Showing personal work has directly led to jobs, and when I show my work in person my work seems to resonate more with the viewer because it includes the iPhone images and traditional Polaroids.
Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »