Ringside at The Front Street Gym

Front Street Gym

As the sun dragged itself from under the horizon we arrived at Front Street Gym. The gym sits above a north Philadelphia beer store. Its graffiti-covered metal entry is flanked by two signs distinguishing it from the other storefronts on the block. Once the heavy door swung open, the sunshine poured over the worn down steps created by the athletes climb to becoming the next champion. Whitewashed brick walls were layered with 50 years of boxing posters that tell its history throughout the years. The posters serve as inspiration for the younger generation to push a little longer and hit a little harder with the goal to one day join their ranks.


Boxing is a sport that is associated with violence and brutality but what is often overlooked is the beauty that is displayed in the ring. An athlete who dedicates their time and energy to the ancient combative sport learns to dance about their opponent, dodging thrown punches while countering with their own. The bouncy steps around the ring look more like a ragtime one-step than a battle. The precision of a one-two punch displays all of the hard work and dedication did before. This shoot was very much like a boxers creative collaboration of limbs. We wanted an experience that would start with a photograph and finish with video to add more depth to the visually engaging story.

Ezra Migel and Chris

Ezra Migel and Chris have worked together on still-video productions before. So when Chris decided to produce Front Street Gym he immediately contacted Ezra. The two had already developed a rhythm that had worked well. They have proven that together they can make great work and that always begins with a thoughtful plan. After sharing many videos and pictures to nail down the vision, they banged out a rough shot list that would guide them throughout the production.

What is truly special about Chris’ creative process is his ability to make the environment its own character.  In this case, the Front Street Gym had a personality that was larger than life. The priceless charm of the boxing gym existed effortlessly and would be priceless in an attempt to recreate.  Once the athletes step into that space they are transported to a place where there is hope of a better life and honor to be earned. We could not predict how inspired the space would make us feel.

With each shot, Chris began with composing a dynamic scene. While shooting stills, Chris bounced back over to the director role. With Ezra shooting video, he and Chris collaborate in capturing a more evolved version of the initial still shot. This workflow allowed them to knock out their shot list that ended up growing due to the complex dynamic and overall energy from our entire team. Needless to say, we were united and in perfect sync with each other. Working effortlessly together to achieve our goals. I don’t believe we could have been happier with the day. We were allowed to work with amazingly talented people in a magical space where we were able to create something special. I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as we did in making it.

Jesse Eisenberg : NY Observer

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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!

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And of course, some BTS:

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Chris is pretty relaxed on set sometimes.

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And yours truly sitting in for another light test.

Nature Conservancy: The Clean Cut

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Hi everyone! We’re super happy to to announce that the story we shot back in February for The Nature Conservancy has finally been released. Usually when we get the call from TNC, we need to prepare ourselves to go to some far off place and this job was no exception (and neither was the one we just got back from… we’ll be talking more about that in a few months!). This job had us go to southeastern Washington to the Ellsworth Creek Preserve to photograph their operation.

I’m sure a lot of people are wondering why TNC would put a logger with a fallen tree on the cover of their magazine… and that’s a good question. I’ll try to explain things as simply as possible. Back in the day (about 100 years ago), logging companies we’re cutting down everything they could get their hands on. They’d just completely clear cut entire forests – sadly, this is still happening as you’ll see in one of the pictures below. After a few decades pass, trees would grow back but the forest would all be the same height. There would be no diversity in the ecosystem. So TNC is thinning out these second growth forests to allow sunlight to get through to the ground and allow a natural diversity in plant life and wildlife to take hold while also creating jobs in the local community. Here’s a link to the story which is more detailed and explains things much better than I could ever do. (http://www.nature.org/magazine/archives/beyond-the-timber-wars.xml).

I’ve gotta say that this was one of the toughest shoots we’ve ever worked on. It rained the whole time we were there.. which makes sense since it’s a rainforest but rain and photo gear don’t get along. The terrain was steep, slippery, and overgrown. Most of the time I was carrying a Profoto 7b pack and a small octabank through the forest and Chris had the camera and tripod. We were falling all over the place even with the spikes our contact had loaned us, all while trying to keep the gear dry. We took a beating but sometimes that’s what it takes to make great pictures. I’ll let the pictures below tell the story.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, walking up a tree he just fell in a second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

 

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Russell falling a tree in a second growth forest at Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Kurt Bower, log loader, standing on back of logging truck with full load of trees at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Kurt Bower, log loader, standing on back of logging truck with full load of trees at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, overlooking the Ellsworth Creek Preserve , WA on 2/11/15.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, overlooking the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, taking measurments in old growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, taking measurements of an 11-foot-wide western red cedar at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Aerial views of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

The effects of clear cutting seen from the air neighboring the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Landscape of old growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/12/15.

Landscape of a healthy old growth forest. This is the scene TNC is trying to create by thinning the second growth forests. 

Tom Kollasch in old growth forest and with big cedars at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/12/15.

Tom Kollasch, TNC Willapa Program director, in old growth forest and with big cedars at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Darryl Waddle, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/13/15.

Darryl Waddle, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Rober walls, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/13/15.

Robert Walls, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

And here’s a few BTS shots from our time in Washington:

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.02.30 AMA clear cut and the border of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.03.15 AMThis is the machine that pulls the thinned trees out of the forest up to the lumber yard. It’s very heavy. The workers specifically said don’t stand under it…. Chris fell directly under it. 

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Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.03.56 AMWe drove down to Astoria to catch our plane to get aerial shots of the preserve. We had to stop here. 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.04.47 AMLighthawk is a non-profit organization that donates air time to conservancy efforts. Chris is doing business before taking off.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.04.24 AMGetting aerial shots in our Lighthawk flight. Apparently the air is really cold going 100mph and having your hand out there is uncomfortable.

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Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.06.10 AMChris working with the crane operator in the lumber yard.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.02.55 AMAnd lastly, it was oyster season while we were there. These were the largest oysters we’ve ever had. They were the size of our hands. 

The Library Saint

“What am I going to retire for unless I’m sick? I don’t want to just stay home and read a book. Our kids are very needy. There’s a lot to be done.”

At 89 years old, Verne Oliver is not your typical woman. Since retiring in 1987, she’s worked tirelessly to revamp and revitalize libraries in underprivileged New York City schools. An accomplishment for anyone, Ms. Oliver pays no mind to her accolades, instead focusing on the work that compels her, promoting literacy and access to books for children. Keep reading for the rest of our story with the Library Saint herself, Verne Oliver…

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