William Vázquez is an advertising, portrait & documentary photographer based in New York, USA.

Art directing from the other side of the world

Here are some photos from the location part of the shoot. Like my DJ headphones? It was loud at the location so I needed to borrow some headphones. They were a bit over the top.Seoul, Korea is 6885 miles (11080 km in Euro miles ;-), and 13 hours ahead. That is where my clients were while art directing a recent shoot I was working on for Samsung in NYC. It is amazing how technology has evolved where this is possible. For this to work, you need the right technology, most importantly a decent internet connection, which sometimes can be hard to come by, and a good working relationship with your clients. The step up is not perfect yet, but gets the job done. Although I have some ideas on making the process even more awesome the next time.

5 photos in 1 day, 4 in the studio, 1 on location, 1 employee photo, 1 male model, 1 child model, 1 teddy bear, a black turtleneck (you would be suprised on how hard it is find one in the summer) 1 makeup artist, 2 assistants, 1 intern, a ton of equipment, and one long day particulary in Korea where they pulled an all nighter to work with us. Thanks to everyone for pulling this one off with few hitches especially with the monsoon rains we have been having in NYC.

Samsung "What is Beauty" shoot tears

As a followup to my previous post on the production of this story. I finally got the final magazine from the "What is Beauty?" shoot with the man on the street. Also there are a couple of fun portraits, and a stillife no less. There is even a photo of me on the first spread. On the left side in the middle holding the camera looking like I am going to be run over by a truck. Many thanks to everyone on the crew who made it happen, and to my client for the great layout.

Making it work, no matter where you are.

What do you do when you need to photograph someone in their environment, except that's not possible? Not to mention very limited time to actually photograph them? You create the environment and bring it to them that's what you do. We built a wall, put up shelves and furnished the area we needed. The plus side to this is that we can customize it. After we were done it looked like we were never there.

Thanks to Michael Robinson for lending the experienced hand, Lori Rielly for her prowess with tools plus her dry sense of humor, and Ann Orcutt on make-up.

Man on the Street: "what is beauty?"

On a chilly day in December, we did a man on the street shoot for Samsung. One of the fears was will people stop to have their photo taken and answer a few questions. Most people think that New Yorkers are cynical and won't want to cooperate. So I hired Sari Goodfriend, and she proved that theory wrong! Her charm was able to convince almost anyone she spoke to, to have their photo taken. Way to go! Not to mention she interviewed them for the piece. Listen to the statements on beauty as the slide show plays.

The success of the shoot just reinforces the need to have the right people to make a project not just get done, but be spectacular. Not to mention a good time was had by all. Many thanks to Sari Goodfriend (first time people wrangler and a great photographer herself), Michael Robinson (who played the producers role, and organized the shoot also a good photographer), Charley Parden (great assistant and a future photographer), and of course my clients who let me do this stuff.

Geisha the movie: Behind the scenes production video

Ok, the last piece of the project. No more geisha after this! Well unless another project pops up. The art has been installed and has gotten very positive comments. In fact I have been commissioned to make another piece for the client. Thanks to my crew who really, really helped make this happen, and continue to do so for other projects on a regular basis.

Model: Natsuko Koizumi, Photo associates: Andrea Patton, Gabriela Herman,  Wardrobe styling: allyson Vieira, hair/makeup: Nancy Sprague, videographer: David Levitsky, Retouching: Mark Beckelman

Rolling in A.C.

Finally! The Geisha prints are being installed. I went to make sure if there were any questions, like where should I trim etc...So they don't cut the top of the head off...stuff like that. The place was very much under construction with workers here and there pounding away at all sorts of things. The installers John and Randy were excellent, very efficient, and attentive to detail. I could not have asked for 2 better guys. They installed 2 prints, one 9x12 feet, and the other 6x14 feet that were mounted like wallpaper, and a decal 4x14 feet that will be transparent and go on the glass of the wine room. Right now its hard to see it, but once the wine room is lit...Wow! It will look fantastic! It was great to be in control of the whole process from start to finish. It was VERY satisfying and also the client was totally bowled over. Cool.

Maxed to capacity

The studio is operating close to maximum capacity with client, crew, props, and wardrobe. We have had to rearrange all sorts of stuff and get more space. Its been a good way to get rid of those props that we haven't touched for 5 years.

This is just a small portion of the wardrobe that Jessica Zindren the wardrobe/prop stylist extrodinare for the shoot picked up. Its a bit messy at the moment, its all my fault though, I had everyone digging through stuff looking for something that I thought I saw. I realized that it got returned. Oops! sorry Jessica. Great to have choices, lots, and lots of choices.


More painting

Andrea, and Charley are painting more walls for the last 3 sets we have to do today. Not to mention sharpening up their painting skills! It is amazing how commercial photography is so much more than taking great pictures. Its how the situations are created to take great pictures. Its just products today no models we got those done the last 2 days. Now if only the paint would dry faster.......

A Casting.

Wow! We have been super busy here at the studio, and I haven't had time to post. We are in the middle of a last minute, lots of production, make it up as you go shoot, with an out of town client. That's Charley Parden by the way all the way from Alabama. Photo assistant, painter, builder, driver, mover of stuff, and all sorts of helpful stuff that has been popping up on this shoot.

Here is a sample of a shot I did while casting for a model Jessica Silverman from Wilhmenia models nyc. I can't divulge too much yet until we are done with the shoot, but its hectic. Just how I like it! Not to mention a good project full of challenges.By the way this model was awesome!


Last Geisha image

The top image is the final image that will be printed for the Borgata project in Atlantic City, N.J. It is an extreme crop from the original file you see below it. This shot was unplanned in the sense that we didn't know where it was going to go, and what feeling we were trying to give. So I had originally wanted to use an image where you can see the nape of the neck. The nape of the neck is considered to be very sensual. Also traditionally Geisha's don't show too much skin. I took a few liberties with that in my photos. Anyway in order to enhance the sensuality there is an area on the neck left bare with no makeup. I just couldn't find a shot that had all the elements in it when I did such a vertical crop. I do feel great about the one that was finally chosen, its going to look awesome. It will be 4 wide x 12 feet high and printed on a translucent material that will be applied to a glass wall in the wine room. Its a good thing I used a Leaf 75s back with a Hassalblad H2 camera so the quality is there. I must say this project has taken quite a bit of time. Besides all the research on Geisha costumes and makeup. I have had to manage all facets of the project from conceptual, production, retouching, printing, and will go to Atlantic City to supervise the installation. I want to make sure it doesn't get ruined in the end. Its refreshing as well as apprehensive to be able to have total control over the whole process. Thats what makes the work exciting! This is the reason I became a photographer to be able to do what I love. By the way any one looking for medium sized Katsura? Katsura is Japanese for the wig I bought for the shoot and would love to not have anymore.

Old School Skills..still got em

I never thought I would have to be doing this again...spotting whats that?

So the prints come they look all fabulous then you see it....Oh no! whats that! You see that in transit the prints were scratched. Grrrrrr. Well its a good thing I was a great print spotter back in the day of the wet darkroom and the prints had all sorts of dust, and scratches on then.


Ok I wasn't going to post a photo from the "Vegas" art shoot until they were retouched, but I like the photo so much I just had to show it off. There is no retouching or anything done to it. Although I don't see too much to least not yet...if you stare at it long enough you always find something to tweak! The production stills really don't do the final images justice though as you can see in the above photo.

I am posting a slide show of the behind the scenes. I didn't have time to do anything super involved like a video or a time lapse video...I do love those though, and I miss that for this project. I want to say though that advertising photography is not just about taking pictures. As you can see in the slide show, there are many other skills involved some basic some specialized. First and foremost a good crew to work with. That makes the production go smoother when you are working with people you can trust. Here is the break down....

  • Copious amounts of research on what the look should be. Good thing I have seen a few bullfights in Spain
  • Props from all over the US were located and shipped. Thank God for Ebay and the internet!
  • The right type of dirt was found locally (that was harder that we thought)
  • Get the dirt delivered. They only deliver by the tractor trailer load. we only needed a pickup truck full.
  • All the necessary dirt grooming tools procured.
  • Figured out how to make our 1/4 bull look more like half a bull.
  • Lots and lots of garbage bags.
  • 33 megapixel Leaf, Aptus 75i back

Still trying to get rid of the dirt in a green way and not throw it out. So far no luck.

Not to mention..... We moved 1800 pounds of dirt not once, not twice, but 4 times! grrrr. Anyone got a need for yellow clay...hardly used.

Many thanks to my assistants Andrea Patton, Zack Callahan, and Manjari Sharma. Also Allyson Vieira the über fashion/prop stylist who really made something out of literally nothing. My client Rafael Alvarez of Alvarez/Brock Design who just keeps raising the bar on what he keeps inventing. We did earth and water....whats next? Applause to our model the muy sexy Bridget who really got into the role! I will post the final retouched images once they are done. No animals were harmed in this production! Ole!

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Samsung: Somewhere in Europe

I recently did two advertorials for Samsung for the European market. One that talks about Samsung's mp3 players with Ken Pohlman who is an absolute guru on digital sound. That one we shot in Atlanta, Georgia at Big Studio last summer when its 100 plus degrees outside. Thank God we were in a studio! The other advertorial was shot in NYC and it was about Samsung's Series 6 HDTV's. That advertorial featured Karim Rashid who is a master of product design. It was really great working with these two masters in their fields. It is always great to talk to people who are at the top of their professions. It gives a better insight on what is behind the ideas that they come up with.

This is the first advertorial with Ken Pohlman. Check out the Samsung DNSe site and hear what Ken has to say about the technology.

Here is final Samsung Series 6 HDTV advertorial with Karim Rashid.

Here's a little production info on that shoot. First we had to find a gallery space in NYC that was just right in size and configuration. That was much harder than you would think. Richard Hobbs the location scout did some exhaustive research and pounded the pavement to find the perfect one in record time. Even though it was perfect there is never enough space to fit everyone so it was pretty crowded with crew, equipment, and clients.

Lighting and photographing Karim was much easier than getting the TV just right. We had to shoot the TV in studio in order to get the perfect lighting on it. Although a blend of the studio version, and the gallery version were used in the final  ad

Overall the final shot is probably composed of 5 different shots to get it just right. I had a great crew, and great clients who really worked hard to make it a good project and fun experience for everyone. Next time though we have to all go Salsa dancing.... Client: Samsung Agency: Agenda Creative Director: Dan Koh Art Director: David Rodriguez Account Exec: Rich Lim Photo Assistants: Este Aladroo, Andrea Patton, Gabriela Herman Fashion Stylist: Allyson Vieira Hair/makeup: Kim Do


Pool Building

The client wants a model standing on rocks in water. So I had to build a 12' x 16' pool in the studio to make that shot a reality. My client then asks for rain in the shot. Oh oh that would require a studio with drains in the floor and our budget going out the window so that idea is nixed. Here is a small super fast movie of the pool building and shot. Its kinda rough with no sound, but you get the idea. I will have a much slicker behind the scenes movie posted soon. Thanks to my assistant Andrea Patton who helped put it together.

Geisha "in process"

Here are some more behind the scene shots for this project. The final images will be enlarged to 8'x12' and will be used in a high end restaurant in Atlantic City. I learned quite a bit about Geisha's in the process of producing this shoot. Thankfully I had Allyson Viera the prop/fashion stylist to make it all happen and guide me. Not to mention the model Natsuko who kept her good humor with about 25 pounds of makeup and costume to became our Geisha.

As you can see almost every square inch of the studio was taken up by the sets. Notice the pool in the foreground? More on that in the next post