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Urban Metamorphosis

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Urban Metamorphosis

2040 Market Street, Philadelphia.

2040 Market Street, Philadelphia.

To document PMC Property Group’s newly completed apartment building in Center City Philadelphia, I shot from a nearby rooftop at twilight.

The lights at night add drama and color, and the streaks from the moving cars help animate the photo. The building gives off its own energy.

2040 Market Street as a 5 story building.

2040 Market Street as a 5 story building.

The original AAA building was 5 stories and comparably dull. This site used to be the home of the American Automobile Association. The Association’s declining fortunes meant they had to leave their Mid-Atlantic headquarters.

PMC saw this is an opportunity to transform and expand the building, located at the edges of the Philadelphia's central business district. In 2011, they purchased the 5-story vacant building and morphed it into a 13-story luxury apartment with 282 units.

New section of 2040 Market Street.

New section of 2040 Market Street.

The architectural firm, Varenhorst, masterfully enlarged the smaller building into a modern jewel box

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Set for a Devo Music Video?

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Set for a Devo Music Video?

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With bright leather chairs and stark, futuristic walls, the Philips Lighting Application Center looks like a set from a Devo music video or the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The construction firm E. Allen Reeves commissioned me to photograph the facility in Somerset, New Jersey.

Philips uses this space to host lighting seminars for designers and other clients. The room’s unique construction helps demonstrate how different types of light and light bulbs affect our perception of color.

Color is just an illusion.

Color is just an illusion.

In one demonstration, all red wavelengths of light are eliminated from the room. Without red light reflecting off them, the previously loud leather chairs appeared mud brown to my eyes and to the camera.

Mood lighting.

Mood lighting.

In another display, viewers compare two identical office mock-ups lit with different types of bulbs. You get a sense of how something as simple as lighting can alter your workspace and even your mood.

A new perspective.

A new perspective.

The chairs sit on a revolving platform, which rotates throughout the demonstration to show different sections of the room.

New Wave meets wavelengths.

New Wave meets wavelengths.

The strong colors and minimalistic setting gave the room a futuristic feel that made me think of New Wave music videos from my youth.

As an architectural photographer who is fascinated by light, I loved photographing this room.

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Janus

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Janus

Lee and Laurence Tamaccio.

Lee and Laurence Tamaccio.

We’d like to think that things from 2000 years ago don’t impact our modern technological world, but they do. The calendar on my iPhone reads January, named after the Roman god, Janus, a two-headed god who looks forward and backward. Janus was the god of  transitions, beginnings and endings.

In the spirit of Janus, I have been looking back at 2012 and forward to 2013.

In 2012 I had the opportunity to photograph twins, who I have known for many years--Lee and Laurence Tamaccio. They are both architects and I have worked with them each separately, Laurence at Design Destinations, and Lee at Buckl Architects, but I had never been with the two of them at the same time.

Laurence and Lee Tamaccio.

Laurence and Lee Tamaccio.

Having seen and spoken to each of them separately, in my mind, Lee and Laurence were as identical as two people could be. When I got together with both of them for a photo shoot in Center City Philadelphia, I suddenly realized how different they were from each other.

January is the month of new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions. It is a time for reflection on the past, and a time for optimism about the future. While many resolutions are doomed to fail, some will succeed. Good luck in your New Year.

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Philadelphia's New Energy

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Philadelphia's New Energy

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The Pennsylvania Convention Center's recent expansion brings new colors and light to Philadelphia's Broad Street. The building's façade is illuminated at dusk, revealing a web of colored lights, which shift throughout the night in a pattern of different colors.

This stunning addition to the city's streetscape provides a unique challenge for the photographer: how best to capture these constantly moving lights at nightfall? As sunlight fades and the sky begins darken and change colors a longer exposure time is necessary for each photograph. So in order to photograph the buildings moving lights, Greg worked with the building's lighting designer, who slowed the lights' animation during the shoot. The resulting image shows the city as a palette of bright colors, giving a sense of the historic city's constant motion.

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Another challenge in photographing the center was the limited timeframe to take the perfect image. Twilight is a magical time of day for photographs, but it is a very short window of time, especially to get multiple angles of the same building. To catch the building at its best, Greg worked with assistants, stationed at cameras in two additional locations, who photographed the building during that short window of opportunity.

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The image is brightened by the newest Claus Oldenburg sculpture: a "paint brush" standing in the new Lenfest Plaza, across the street from the Convention Center. It wasn't the first time Greg had documented the Convention Center: last year he photographed the building's massive interior expansion. Seen here.

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Convention Center Exteriors

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Convention Center Exteriors

My photographs of the interior are here.

The new expansion to Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center adds a dramatic facade on Broad Street near City Hall.

Photographing in a busy urban area is a challenge. Cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians crowd the streets, creating visual distractions. Minimizing their presence allows the building to stand out.

As part of my preparation for photographing the center’s exteriors, I received permission from the Philadelphia Film Office to mark the 1300 block of Arch Street as a “no parking” zone for the day of the shoot. This enabled me to take photographs of the south-facing facade without parked cars distracting the viewer’s attention.

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Convention Center

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Convention Center

The new $700 million expansion to Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center brings the total size of the center to one million square feet. I was selected to photograph the new spaces for the two construction companies, the architect and the owner.

My photographs of the exterior are here.

The soaring atrium on Broad Street has a ceiling ten stories high.

During two days when the Center was unoccupied, I photographed the spacious interiors with three assistants and a client representative.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 4

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 4

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This is Part 4 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 5, and Part 6.

IV. Networking and Marketing - 1 of 2

Answer this question: What is the one thing no business can do without?

Answer: Customers.

In the spirit of perpetuating your business, this section deals with finding and retaining customers.

1. Network with your peers

Networking is a fortunate side effect of interacting with your peers, clients and colleagues. You should work to cultivate a large and diverse network. When a peer is called for two jobs on one day, he or she can refer you to one of them. Return the favor. And through the grapevine you may learn who is great to work for and who is difficult to work for.

2. Network within your industry.

Go to an ASMP meeting. I’m focused on the still photography world, but I know there are equivalents for other professions.

3. Have a 30-second elevator speech in your brain

When you meet people – possibly in an actual elevator, but more likely in a networking situation – you will need to explain who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. Prepare a short speech for any situation. An example: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe. I’m agraduate of the Acme School of Art and I work as a photo assistant. I recently got to fly to Los Angeles and assist on an annual report shoot. It's amazing how long it takes to create one photo."

Practice your short speech with your roommate so that when you run into an important person that you’ve been dying to meet at a film screening, you don’t mumble and sound like a sophomore on a first date.

4. Ask for someone's business card.

If you meet someone and cannot get a card, jot down their name in your phone or in a notebook as soon as possible. It’s not too difficult to later use the Internet to gather their contact details. Put that information in your contact database. It is potentially very valuable, which is why one of the leading client relationship management (CRM) programs is called GoldMine. Once you have contact info, write the person you just met an email – then friend them on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

5. Volunteer at your alma mater on phone solicitation night.

Meeting and connecting with older people who went to your college is one way to network, and giving back to your college can be a positive experience.

6. When you meet new people, remember Dale Carnegie.

Dale Carnegie wrote a book in 1936 called "How to Win Friends and Influence People". The Big Idea of this book was that people love to talk about themselves. So, when you meet someone new, focus the conversation on what that person is interested in. Pretend you are Terry Gross on Fresh Air and interview them. Listening is better than blabbing.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 4 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 5.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 1

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 1

My daughter graduated from art school last year and is pursuing freelance work in the video and photography industries. While this is not a letter to her specifically, her decision inspired me to write about starting out in a creative services business. I am a still photographer, and I have worked as a freelancer for most of my career. Some of these tips are specific to photography and video production, but many apply to all freelancers in the creative professions, whether graphic and web design or other fields.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

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I. Basics to be in business

1. Be reachable

Have a cell phone that receives email. If someone can’t reach you, they will contact the next person on their list. Return emails, phone calls and text messages promptly.

2. Record a legitimate voicemail greeting

Include your name and speak clearly; you want a person with work to want to call you back.

3. Use an email address not tied to a specific ISP

Have your own domain name, or use Gmail or an equivalent. This will allow you to keep your email address when you switch internet providers.

4. Maintain a web site

Nowadays a web site is as important as a business card. Make sure your phone number and email address are visible on every page. If your site shows up as “under construction”, you fail. A home page is enough to start, but to maximize impact include great examples of your work.

5. Have a business card

Make it creative but readable.

6. Create and use a contact database

It can be as simple as Address Book on a Mac, Microsoft Outlook on a PC, or Google contacts in Gmail. I use Address Book and salesforce. Whether it’s simple or complex, have a place in your computing world where you keep people’s names, phone numbers and email addresses. It’s also helpful if the database syncs with your phone.

7. Be ready to talk money when somebody calls with a job

Know what you charge for a day’s work. Do not say “Yes” without talking price. If you don't know market rates in your city, ask others. Know what you normally charge, but don't be afraid to ask the photographer what his or her budget is. The same photographer may have some jobs with an editorial budget (lower) and others with an advertising budget (higher).

Read the other parts of this series.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3,  Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Look for Part 2 next Monday.

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8 Tips for a Successful Architectural Shoot

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8 Tips for a Successful Architectural Shoot

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The AIA provides an exhaustive checklist to help their members prepare for photography. The list was compiled with help from ASMP and is definitely worth reading if planning a large shoot, with a lot of interested parties. This list is our executive summary – a “greatest hits” of what our past experience shows are the basic, most important points.

1. Make a Shot List

As it is with most pursuits in life, good photography depends on good planning.

If you provide your photographer with a list of specific rooms and areas to be photographed, it will help him or her better plan for the shoot and provide an accurate cost proposal.

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2. Discuss photos' ultimate use with the photographer

How the images are to be used will have an effect on the scope of the licensing, and on the licensing cost.

Also, the ultimate uses of the images will affect how the photographer chooses to create each image. For example, photos intended strictly for web use may need to be shot in landscape mode and may not need the exact detail of a photo meant for a large display print.

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3. Determine if the building is ready for photography

The shoot may have to wait until all construction or renovations are completed. Additionally, for exterior photographs it is best to shoot when the landscaping looks best, and when there is no scaffolding visible.

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4. Provide the photographer with an on-site contact

This person may be in charge of the facility, the building’s engineer, or the manager or owner of the business. The contact should be familiar with the building and be able to balance the photographer's needs with the building's occupants' needs.

It is essential that the photographer has this person’s phone number and that they be able to talk ahead of the shoot to make arrangements and learn about where to park and, if the shoot includes interiors, how to move gear into the building. This person will be invaluable if during the shoot it becomes important to be able to turn certain lights on and off.

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5. Make sure the occupants know a photographer is coming

This is a specific issue for office or retail space. When the photos are commissioned by the building owner or management company, it is important that they inform their tenants and obtain tenants' permission for photography of their space.

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6. Provide a site plan.

Buildings are like people; they look their best when light flatters their features. We use as much information as we can get from our clients ahead of time to identify the best time of day to photograph a given building. Site plans, satellite images from Google Maps, and information from people familiar with the location are all helpful.

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7. Plan for a scout or walkthrough with the photographer

The walkthrough, and ideally a separate scouting day, will answer any questions that could not be answered with site and floor plans, or discussing the location over the phone. Also, scouting allows the photographer to pre-visualize possible angles, lighting, and identify things that may have to be moved in or out of each shot.

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8. Determine if props are needed

When the space is either unoccupied or recently constructed, the interior will often be a series of empty rooms. While it may be appropriate to photograph an empty warehouse as is, a completely bare living room or bedroom is not likely to sell any condo units.

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Best Time for Interiors

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Best Time for Interiors

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Every interior space has its own set of scheduling restrictions. A photographer must find a balance between quality and convenience, which means choosing a time when the space still looks its absolute best while not interfering with the business of its occupants. The guidelines for scheduling the shoot can seem like a series of contradictions:

  • Shoot too close to the completion date and the construction crew may still be racing to deal with unfinished punchlist items;
  • Shoot immediately after construction and you run the risk that spaces are devoid of furniture and equipment;
  • Shoot too long after construction and you may find that high-traffic areas are already beginning to look worn.
  • Also, once the space is open for use, the shoot can prove to be an unmanageable inconvenience to a 24/7 operation.
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There is no steadfast hard rule, and no one-size-fits-all answer. The best time for photography will be different for every project. Previous planning and discussions between the client, the occupants, and photographer are critical to getting the best interior photographs.

For example, photographing a restaurant requires scheduling a time not during service, but after the tables have all been dressed and the cleaning staff has had a chance to tend to the floors, windows, etc.

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When Greg photographed a series of new additions to the Morristown Memorial Hospital for Buckl Architects, we had the benefit of working within a perfect time window for each phase. For this project, the ideal time to schedule the photo shoot was after construction had completed, furniture had been moved in, and most of the equipment and computers had been installed – but before those portions of the hospital opened their doors to patients.

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The last aspect is probably the most important. People are usually glad to be accommodating during a photo shoot, but it might be inconvenient for an ICU patient to leave their room just so the photographer can set up his shot.

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On all the projects we have worked on for Buckl Architects they have always been actively involved in the process, and have done a great job providing and styling plants for each of the spaces. Lee Tamaccio at Buckl is a kick-ass stylist.

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