Do you want to know what I did last summer?

I’ve always felt connected to trees. I grew up surrounded by them and being an only child in a relatively remote area, I will always call them my friends. We heated our home with wood throughout the duration of my childhood. The interesting part of that is that we never cut down a living tree. You see, my father had the responsibility of managing a large forest parcel adjacent to our land which was owned by a family that lived about 300 miles away from us. They chose to have this land logged twice during my upbringing. When a tree is harvested, the loggers are usually only interested in the stock of the tree. what’s left behind is a normally a very significant part of the tree consisting of a variety of small to large limbs.

Titusville, Pa

In the spring of 2016, I was back home visiting my folks with my son, Calvin. One afternoon, Calvin and I decided to go on a long walk of exploring on my parents’ property. The great motivation for my son was to search for salamanders near our creek, Indian Run. On the way back from the creek I saw what I thought was a large fallen tree in the distance. We navigated closer to find an enormous Red Oak that had rotted near its base and had been forced to the forest floor by a significant wind storm.

Fallen tree and Calvin for size

My first impression of this fallen giant was its sheer enormity. It really was quite big and it appeared to have taken down another dozen trees in its descent. Another thing I noticed quickly was how beautifully clean it was for about the first 20 feet from the ground. After a few minutes of admiring the tree and of course taking some photos of the monster,  I decided to head back home and engage my father on our find.

Dad and Calvin examining the Red Oak

My dad was certainly interested in the tree and had a vague recollection of hearing an enormous crash in the woods a few months prior. He journeyed back out with us to examine the tree and he realized that this was the largest tree on his property.

Dad next to a cutting of the Red Oak

Fantasizing for a moment, I told him that I thought this tree could be preserved and given a second life through milling and repurposing the slabs, boards, or any other way you might want to craft it. He agreed and we wasted no time in beginning a process that one could only describe as a labor of love.

Fallen giant

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you a story about cutting up a tree.  Well, over the past decade I’ve found that diversifying my creative outlets has always led to growth in my photography and it’s creative expression.  The clearest example of this was in 2008 when the economy went through the great recession. Business slowed and instead of sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring, my wife and I chose to renovate our kitchen and the first floor of our house. Through this process, I was forced to make design decisions in a creative realm that was quite foreign to me. With my wife as a guiding light, I was forced to have an opinion on everything we chose to create in that house. I began to reflect on how those decisions could influence my photography and the design that it was packaged within. The tree milling process is quite similar and will force me to learn and grow in a creative space that is foreign to me.

Julianna

Back to what we actually did this summer. In a perfect world, this tree would have fallen on level ground that was easily accessible by a log skidder. In reality, this tree was on a hillside and if I wanted to drag it out of the woods I would at least need to take out a dozen healthy trees to drag it out of the woods. I hated that idea. Being someone who is willing to compromise, compelled to follow through on a goal, and always up for a challenge I decided to find a way. The solution was a chainsaw with a very long bar and a contraption known as a Granberg Alaskan Mill.

Alaskan Mill Starter Kit

As you can see, this device looks something like a metal shop experiment gone wrong. It really was the right solution. 

Handling this machine is nothing short of grueling. It took me about an hour to cut each of the 8 slabs you see. My body was wrecked after just one cut and I made a number of mistakes along the way. 

After milling the last slab of the first of two major chunks of the tree, my father and I still had to get the slabs out of the woods. Fortunately, my father has always owned a reliable tractor and a much more reliable trailer. Gravity helped us the most at this stage of the game and after about 5 hard hours of difficult labor, we finally got these 14’ beasts out of the woods.

Dad with his trusty trailer

The process has been quite rewarding. I still have a long road to go in finishing the conversion process, but when it happens I will surely be proud to show off the results.

Calvin and the 14′ cuts of the Red Oak

To be continued…

Meejin Yoon – Architect and Designer

Women’s Work began with a suggestion to Chris while out to lunch in NYC with an Art Buyer friend of his. She suggested that he meet this interesting woman named Heather. Heather Marold Thomason, the infamous butcher, was the first subject for Women’s Work. This is how many of the subjects we have included in this project have been introduced to us. Someone approaches us with “I know someone who would be perfect for Women’s Work”. That is just the way we were introduced to Meejin Yoon.

Meejin Yoon

We are in a perpetual search for more women that would be inspiring additions to our ongoing project. Sometimes someone is found when you ask the right questions to the right person. Neri Oxman was the connection for us to finding Meejin Yoon. Neri is an architect, designer, and professor at the MIT Media Lab. We had the pleasure of working with her in 2012 on a cover shoot for Wired UK Magazine. During a back and forth email exchange regarding her interest in working together again, Neri suggested her friend Meejin. As an architect, designer, the first female head of MIT’s Department of Architecture, and on January 1, 2019, she will be the new Dean of Cornell University College of Architecture. She will be the school’s first woman in that position in its 122-year history. Meejin is a dream candidate for Women’s Work. She first hit our radar in 2010 with her Light Drift installation. The project placed temporary interactive lighting along Schuylkill Banks in Philadelphia. The installation could be seen from blocks away and the illumination drew in the public like a moth to a flame.

Light Drift – Photo from Philadelphia Mural Arts

While chatting about the project we learned that Meejin also needed some personal photos done for a mid-July deadline. After some discussions of schedule, we landed in Boston for a day trip on July 17th. Planning on a one day shoot in Boston with multiple possible locations would require us to get out the door extra early. The team met at Philadelphia International Airport at 5:15am and by 6:45am we had boarded, waiting to take off. The only concern we had was the weather. When you plan on shooting outside it truly is a roll of the dice as to whether or not you will have beautiful skies.

After a short sleepy flight we arrived at Logan International airport and once bags were loaded in our rental car, we were ready to meet up with Meejin. Our first location was at Höweler + Yoon Architecture firm. In 2005, Meejin and her husband, Eric Höweler, founded their design-driven architecture practice and creative studio. They believe that design is an instrument for imagining and implementing change – social, cultural, technological, and environmental. Located in Boston’s Chinatown, their office, which was formerly their home, has been through some changes since they started. When we arrived they were in the midst of growing and expanding their space again. It is always a pleasure to enter a new creative space. The walls were covered with past and future projects, while 3D models sat on communal tables. An entire wall of shelves, filled with colorful books, laid waiting, ready to inspire. To avoid being too much of a distraction to the quietly working staff we got down to set up for some portrait shots near the front open area of the office away from everyone. With a straightforward concept, we were able to bust through the shot list. We were ready to move onto our next location at the Collier Monument in MIT’s campus in hopes of beating the inevitable rain.

Mike Ryan, Meejin, and Chris

Collier Monument was completed by Höweler + Yoon in 2014 in memory of Officer Sean Collier. Three days after the Boston marathon bombing the 27-year-old MIT patrol officer was shot and killed by the two suspects while on duty. The Collier Memorial is located at the site of the tragedy and is composed of thirty-two blocks of granite that form a five-way stone vault that resembles an open hand referencing MIT’s motto, Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand).

Meejin

With an impending grey sky looming above us, we built our necessary equipment and began to shoot. The Collier Memorial is an inspiring space. What we learned was that it was even more mystical when the rain pours onto the dynamic structure.

The sky literally opened up and dumped buckets of water on our heads. We rushed to Ray and Maria Stata Center for shelter.

Chris

Once the rain transitioned from a torrential downpour to a light drizzle, we headed back out to shoot a bit longer.

Noel Pattani, Meejin, and Chris

As everyone knows, cameras do not work well in the rain. So even though the precipitation had slowed down it was still a risk. To help keep Chris and his camera dry, our producer Noel held an umbrella over him for protection from the elements.

Noel and Chris

Meejin was a complete delight during this difficult portion of our day. To ask someone to sit in the rain and look as if they aren’t getting rained on is challenging. We could not have asked for a better subject and after a few different shots, we called it.

We had a third location which was also outside at the construction site for Meejin’s newest project located on the MIT campus. We decided to break for lunch in hopes of the rain would pass. Coming to the end of our meal the rain only got heavier and unfortunately, Meejin had to return to work. We thanked her for spending most of her day with us and parted ways.

When we headed to the airport there was a palpable a sense of accomplishment for such a productive day. We had a successful shoot even though we weren’t able to fit in the last location. After checking our bags and clearing security we headed to our gate. Once we arrived, we snagged a few lobster rolls. As we sat there enjoying our tasty treats an announcement was made declaring that our flight would be delayed due to the unfortunate heavy rain. The initial delay stretched out to four hours. Our long day had now evolved into a never-ending marathon. It wasn’t until around midnight that we heard the sweet sounds that our flight was boarding. With tired eyes and a mild buzz, we gathered our bags and made our way onto the plane back home. We don’t love same day round trips but sometimes you get the opportunity to work with someone so special that it is clearly the right call.

MGM: Rivea Restaurant & Chef Bruno Riou

There are very few moments that a restaurant kitchen is quiet. It is a living thing that thrives on high-energy, passion, and creativity. A highly functional kitchen will feed many people delicious and memorable food every night with each plate prepared with care and love.

In the heart of Rivea Restaurant is where you will find Executive Head Chef Bruno Riou. With a decade of experience working with Alain Ducasse in London, he seized an opportunity to run is own kitchen in Las Vegas at miX and then in 2015 at Rivea restaurant.

One of the challenges a photo crew working in a kitchen is that a photo crew isn’t supposed to be in a kitchen. The space is created for the chefs to work as efficiently as possible. To successfully work with each other like well oiled machines is a requirement for a kitchen and photo team alike. With that in mind we danced about the stainless steel maze photographing Bruno at work.

But what is better with a meal than a perfect pair glass of wine. Somellier Matthew George manages one of the largest wine cellars in Las Vegas that consists of 8500 bottles of 1700 different label selections.

Same as the kitchen, a wine cellar is not meant for a photo crew. There was once again a need for creative collaboration to capture the grandness of the space.

With a few climbing of ladders and Chris wedging himself in an automated sliding door. At the end of the day, we made beautiful photos, worked with great people, and had a wonderful time in Las Vegas

Jesse Eisenberg : NY Observer

cc2015022_0118_ZA_FINAL

Hi everyone! Short and sweet post for you today. Back in July we got another call from the NY Observer. We love getting their calls because you never know who they’re going to have for us to shoot. They’ve given us Kevin Spacey, Henrik Lundqvist, Kevin Kline, and a few others in the past. If you haven’t seen them, there are posts for each. Check them out!

This time it turned out to be Jesse Eisenberg and we were super stoked on this one. I LOVE movies. I’ve seen every movie ever. So yeah.. I celebrate his entire catalog… He’s been in a ton of stuff. He played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Zombieland is probably my favorite of his but Adventureland was great too. He’s also playing Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (!). Can’t wait! Anyways, back to it. He was great to photograph. Super generous with his time and very easy to talk to. The shoot went smoothly and we’re all very happy with the pictures. Many thanks to Jesse, the Observer, and the Library Hotel in NY for letting us use their roof. Enjoy!

cc2015022_0051_ZA_FINAL

cc2015022_0057_ZA_FINAL

And of course, some BTS:

_94A0091

Chris is pretty relaxed on set sometimes.

_94A0064

And yours truly sitting in for another light test.

Fresh off a reboot.

cc2015013_0942_ZA_2

It’s been awhile.

2014 was a whirlwind. My family and I moved just outside of Philadelphia, we left our studio in the city, and we added another Crisman to our clan. On top of all that, I had my best year ever as a photographer. We shot 8 out of the last 12 weeks of the year and the smoke didn’t clear until January. I’m grateful for the all the wonderful changes, and excited with all aspects of our growth.

The world of commercial photography is changing. Because of this, all of our roles and respective responsibilities are constantly in flux. Over here, we have some new faces and new voices. Over the next few months I’ll let them introduce themselves. My hope for this blog moving forward is to let whomever is speaking be more honest and a bit less concerned about being a media outlet. This profession can be challenging, but also so rewarding when you’re really in it. I hope that hearing some unfiltered perspectives here will be of benefit to anyone reading.

We’ll consider this our first step into the new frontier.

Carry on.

Heroes of Conservation – Bill Anderson

cc2014027 - Conservationist and Fisherman Bill Anderson photogra

We are honored to be involved in the 2014 Field and Stream Heroes of Conservations project. For the third year running, we have had the opportunity to travel all over this great nation meeting and photographing the six conservation finalists. Since 2005, the magazine has been recognizing these outstanding individuals who work tirelessly to promote, improve, or protect wildlife and their habitats all across the country.

This year we received the call from our editors to hit the road and photograph all six of the subjects. The journey lasted weeks and took us from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, Minnesota to North Dakota, and Washington to Idaho. As with all of the years before this, we were humbled by the generosity and efforts of the finalists – we took a wild tour of the country and have plenty of stories and photos to share. Our forth story took the Crisman team right into our own backyard of Pennsylvania to spend the day fishing and photographing with conservationist Bill Anderson. We may have been shooting close to home, but that didn’t stop the adventure. Keep reading to see more…

(more…)

Kevin Kline Portraits

chris crisman kevin kline portraits photos

A few weeks ago, our editors at the New York Observer called with the opportunity to photograph none other than the actor and comedian Kevin Kline. A true professional, Mr. Kline was an amazing subject who was generous with his time and open to some of our crazier ideas. We owe a big thank you to our editors at the Observer as well as Kevin and his team for making this possible.

chris crisman kevin kline portraits photos

chris crisman kevin kline portraits photos

chris crisman kevin kline portraits photos

We shot a handful of options, both studio portraits and environmental setups. We had the luxury of shooting in the rooftop bar at the Archer Hotel, offering us beautiful views of midtown Manhattan.

chris crisman kevin kline portraits photos

chris crisman kevin kline portraits photos

And at this point you’re probably wondering where the cookies and milk came from. No this was not some clever prop that we had planned all along – it was a request of Mr. Kline’s. When we explained we were shooting him sitting at the bar and asked what he wanted, the answer was simple “milk and cookies.” Genius.

Questions? Comments? Let us know below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!