07
Jul

PDN Faces Opener

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Awards, Tear Sheets

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz is the opener for the 2010 PDN Faces issue.

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz by photographer John Keatley printed in the PDN Faces issue.

The PDN Faces issue is out now, and my portrait of Annie Leibovitz is the opener.  I am very excited and honored to say the least.   This image was also selected in the American Photography 25 Competition last year.  Pretty cool!

*UPDATE* 8/17/2010 – The PDN Faces 2010 Winners Gallery is now online with all of the winning images.  There are some great portraits in there, and a nice note about my portrait in the intro on the landing page.

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14
Apr

Douglas Coupland

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Writer Douglas Coupland at his Vancouver studio.  Photo by photographer John Keatley.

Douglas Coupland decked out in his Canadian best.  I photographed Douglas in his Vancouver BC studio for The New York Times Magazine just before the 2010 Winter Olympics.  He was kind enough to give me a tour of his studio, and it, along with his art collection, is enough to make anyone jealous.  Really impressive.  New York Times Magazine Q&A with Douglas.

As I parted ways with Douglas, he said to give him a call if I ran into any trouble at the border.  A kind gesture, but probably not necessary.  For those of you who are not familiar with crossing the border between the US and Canada, it usually involves waiting in a short line and getting grilled with questions ranging from “Why are you visiting Canada (or the US)” to “When is the last time you got into a bar fight.”  On occasion the officer will ask a series of questions, and loop back around and ask the same questions again, which I always find interesting.  A good way to catch you if you are lying about something.

When I reached the border this time, I was greeted with a standard question, “What were you doing in Canada?”  ”Taking pictures,”  I responded.

It’s important to understand the questions you are asked at the border are rapid.  It is not a conversation, it’s question, answer, question, answer.

“What were you taking pictures of?”

“Douglas Coupland for New York Times Magazine.”

Up until this point it’s all pretty standard, but this next part threw me off.  The officer turned from his computer screen and looked at me as he said, “Ohhhh, Generation X”.  Douglas popularized the phrase “Generation X” with his best selling novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. I wasn’t sure how to respond at this point.  Was that a question, or was he simply stating a fact?  Now there was a pause.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.  He is supposed to ask the questions and I give the answers.  But it seemed he was waiting for some sort of response, so I said, “Oh, yeah, so you know who he is?”  His demeanor instantly changed, and he responded in a harsh tone, “I said Generation X, didn’t I!?”  I nodded my head in agreement, not wanting to get into it with him.

After another pause, the officer began to tell me about an article he had recently read by Douglas Coupland on how border officers are rude and difficult.  He went on for what seemed like several minutes.  His tone was a mix of amusement and disbelief.  To summarize his main points: What!?  Us, rude and difficult!?  How could anyone think that?

Oh, this is bad I thought.  I should have said I was photographing Céline Dion.

Once again, not knowing how to respond, I tried to be real.  ”To be honest, I have pulled up next to some gruff people working here and I can see how he would think that about some of the people who work here.  But you definitely seem to be one of the the nice ones.”

With that, he snapped back into Mr. Man In Charge, and exclaimed.  ”Well, if you think I’m nice, it would interest you to know I have made more arrests at this station than any other officer.”  He paused to let his accomplishments sink in before handed back my passport and I was on my way.  Until next time.

Equipment Used:
Hasselblad H3DII-31 Camera
Hasselblad Wide Angle H 50mm Lens
Profoto Giant 150 Silver Reflector
Profoto White Softlight “Beauty Dish” Reflector
Wescott 45” Umbrellas

Douglas Coupland and John Keatley

Self portrait with Douglas Coupland.

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24
Feb

Sounders FC Goalkeeper Kasey Keller

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog

Seattle Sounders FC Goalie Kasey Keller.  Photo by photographer John Keatley

It’s almost time for my two favorite professional sports.  Lawn darts, and baseball.  Just kidding!  Soccer and baseball.  Although we may be watching lawn darts if MLS and the union don’t come to an agreement soon.  Aside from that, it is pretty exciting to be a soccer fan in the Pacific Northwest right now with how the Sounders have taken the country by storm.  The first game of the 2010 season will be played here against Philadelphia, the newest expansion team to MLS.  And don’t even get me started about next year when the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers will join MLS.  Those rivalries will be amazing!

This is a picture I recently took of Kasey Keller.  Kasey is the goalkeeper and captain of the Seattle Sounders FC.  From my time with him, he seems like a laid back fun loving guy who doesn’t take life too seriously.  While we were talking on set, he said “I get to play a game and catch a ball for a living.”  It was fun to see that side of him, but going into the shoot, I wanted to capture some of his competitive spirit.  One of the Sounders games I was at last season I spent some time on the grass right behind the goal.  Qwest Field is known for being a loud stadium and the fans can carry on with the best of them.  But as loud as it was in the stadium, I could hear Kasey screaming instructions to his teammates over the crowd.  With that in mind, I asked Kasey if he would yell at me for a few pictures.  I half expected to be rejected, but he said sure and started yelling.  I won’t repeat what he yelled, but it was pretty funny.

Go Sounders!

(Here) is a post with video and pictures from the Sounders billboard I shot last season.

04
Dec

One Year Of Blogging With John Waters

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News

John Keatley and John Waters

Can you believe it?  I sure can’t!  Today marks one year exactly since I posted my first blog entry on the John Keatley Blog.  I think I had 2 subscribers back then (thanks Mom and Dad) but I have been amazed and encouraged by the steady show of support during this last year.  If you are somewhat new here, don’t feel obligated to drop what you are doing and read my first post.  It is less than enthralling, and reads much like the screenplay for Gigli.  That being said, I guess this is as good a time as any to let you know that John Waters has actually been ghost writing my blog for about 9 months now.  Or since whenever it started becoming interesting.  Maybe that is why I felt inclined to leave him in the picture.

I was hoping to take a celebratory 1st anniversary portrait of myself to mark this big milestone, but John Waters kept poking his head into the frame.  As you can tell, I am less than amused.  It was funny the first time, but seriously!

This last year has really been wonderful, and I am very thankful I start blogging when I did.  I fought the blog for a while, but since I decided to take the plunge I have come to enjoy writing and it is something I look forward to each week.  I should sign off before I become too sentimental, but thank you everyone for your support and for taking the time to read.  I am looking forward to the adventures ahead in the next year.

04
Nov

Josh Smith

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Josh Smith plays basketball for Kentwood High. Photo by John Keatley.

Josh Smith basketball.  Photo by John Keatley

Josh Smith SLAM tearsheet.  Photos by John Keatley.

Josh Smith and John Keatley

That’s me on the right side, down in the corner…  I’m sure Josh was standing on his tip toes.  What a kidder.  I am kind of a sports nut if you didn’t know, so I really enjoy working with athletes.  Actually, I really enjoy working with just about everyone, but a small part of me still thinks I might have a shot at the bigs.  I guess the reality of it for me is photographing professional athletes is as close as I’m going to get.  Now that I think about it, I seem to get hired quite a bit to photograph the big guys.  It’s probably because people know if an athlete goes crazy during a shoot or becomes too high maintenance, I can use my size to intimidate them and get the shots I need.  Like when I had to smack around Craig and Paul Pumphrey on the Human Wreckingballs shoot I did last year.  Just kidding Craig!  I would never think about crossing you.  I could probably take Paul though.

Josh Smith is a high school senior at Kentwood High in Washington State.  He stands at 6′ 9” and weighs in at 270 pounds.  Not bad, not bad.  As far as I can tell he is currently ranked as a top 5 college recruit in the country, but I think that changes frequently.

The day before the shoot (which was for SLAM), Josh was in New York playing in the high school basketball All Star game.  I am sure he is excited about what is going on in his life right now, but he seemed so calm and in control.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in high school and get this kind of national attention.  Not only that, but how crazy is it to know that there is a very good chance that you will be pro in just a few years while you are still living a somewhat normal lifestyle.  It sounds to me like he is actually a little tired of all the attention, which is understandable.  Anytime something big happens in a persons life, such as graduation, marriage, having a baby, etc., that event becomes an easy topic for discussion for everyone around you.  It’s the big easy question that allows people to engage you in conversation without having to think about what they are saying.

In addition to basketball, Josh is playing football this year.  Some might think he is insane given his potential in basketball, but he is doing what makes him happy.  Can’t argue with that.  You have to enjoy life, and live it to the fullest.  Best of luck to Josh in his final year of high school.  I am excited to see what the future holds for him, and selfishly, I would be excited if UW was in his future.  Forget UCLA, Josh!  :)

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09
Oct

Sarah Palin Portrait – "Going Rogue"

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity, Commercial, Tear Sheets

Sarah Palin picture Going Rogue book cover.  Photo by John Keatley - www.keatleyphoto.com.

I am pleased to announce I was hired by Harper Collins to photograph Sarah Palin for the cover of her new book “Going Rogue“.  If you watched even just a few minutes of TV this week, or used the Internet, I am sure you have already seen the book cover.  ”Going Rogue” has not even been printed, and it is already the #1 best seller.  It still feels a little surreal to me that my portrait of Sarah Palin is on the cover of her book.  Just about every television network in the country has been airing the book cover and analyzing what it means.  Why the clouds, why the smile…  My favorite reference so far was on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, but only because he mentioned me… kind of.  He talked about the portrait of her on the book cover, and then quoted “the photographer”.  It was a fake quote of course, and he didn’t actually say my name, but that is pretty close to being on The Tonight Show…  (Here) is a link to the video.  It’s in the first 3 minutes of the episode.

The photo shoot only happened three weeks ago, so this is all still very new and exciting for me.  After much planning and scheduling, I put together a crew and flew up to Alaska for six days to photograph the former governor.  It was supposed to rain the entire week we were there, but we ended up getting blue skies and puffy white clouds the entire time.  After a few days of scouting and prepping, I shot for three days straight.  The last day we went to Hatcher Pass which holds a lot of meaning for Governor Palin.  I had already scouted the pass a few different times, and I knew exactly where we were going to shoot.  Every last detail was in place.  After shooting at the base of the pass near a river, we caravaned up to the top of the pass where we were planning to shoot the final location.  Half way up, I noticed the beautiful light that was sweeping across the valley, and the clouds that were developing on the horizon.  I told the driver to stop, we had to change our plans.  This last minute change ended up being the final setup we would do with her, and it also ended up being the cover image.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on this project.  It is not very often that an assignment comes along to photograph one of the most polarizing figures in our country.  Let alone the chance to photograph that person for her book cover.  I would like to thank Harper Collins and Sarah Palin for working with me.  This was a really big opportunity for me professionally, and I enjoyed it immensely.  I am excited to see what happens next.

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02
Sep

Jake Locker

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Jake Locker, UW quarterback.  Photo by John Keatley.

Jake Locker Portrait, photo by John Keatley

Many people think the animal on the dock with Jake is a husky because that is the UW mascot, but it is not a husky.  It’s a coyote.

When Jake Locker first started playing football for UW, I heard a story that sounded too wild to be true.  It was the kind of story that someone makes up, and as time goes on it becomes wilder and wilder, yet more and more true to the people who tell it.  The story goes like this.  While Jake was a junior at Ferndale High, a crazed coyote wandered onto campus.  Some students thought it was a dog from the neighborhood and tried to pet it.  As they approached the animal they realized something was wrong, but it was too late.  The coyote attacked the students and began a rampage throughout campus.  The entire school was frantic and people were scrambling to hide in the nearest classroom.  There were 5 students who were not lucky enough to find shelter in a classroom.  They were walking through the quad and walked right into the coyote.  They were trapped, with nowhere to go.  Several teachers were watching through the office window, and all they could do was scream.  The students slowly backed up until they were against a wall.  The coyote inched closer and closer, snarling and showing its teeth.

This is where the story gets a little confusing because I have heard several versions of what happened next, but I will stick to the version I heard from Jake.  Jake was in the gym during the attack, but he heard the screams of the students who were trapped in the quad.  Without hesitating, he took off his football pads, and ran out of the gym toward the sounds of the screaming.  As he entered the quad he walked directly up to the coyote with his arm held out in front of him holding his palm up as if motioning to stop.  He said a single word, although no one remembers what he said, and instantly the coyote relaxed and allowed Jake to pick it up.  He tucked the animal under his arm and walked out of the quad.  Since that day, the coyote has never left Jake’s side.

I wasn’t quite sure if I believed this story when I first heard it, but I decided to bring it up on the phone with Jake before our shoot.  I asked him if the story was true, and if he would bring the coyote with him for a few pictures.  He said that wouldn’t be a problem, and I was able to shoot a few frames with Jake and his coyote.

College football starts this weekend.  Go Huskies!!!  And go Jake Locker!!!  I’m a big fan.

I also posted a number of outtakes from this shoot on my Facebook page if you would like to see more.

30
Aug

Dennis Haysbert

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Portrait of actor Dennis Haysbert.  Photo by John Keatley.

It has always been a dream of mine to photograph the President of The United States, and now I can cross that off my list of things to do.  David Palmer is the first African American president in US history.  Well, in TV history I should say.  Dennis Haysbert played President David Palmer on Fox’s 24, and he talked about playing the president at our shoot, “A lot of people considered me to be the first black president – which is ridiculous, but that’s the power of TV.”

Speaking of the influence of TV.  I am seriously considering switching my auto insurance to Allstate.

I photographed Dennis while he was in Seattle working on an upcoming movie called “The Details“.  Toby Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, and Laura Linney are also in the film.  It is being labeled as a dark comedy, and there are rumors that the plot revolves around a married couple dealing with a raccoon problem.  That might just be a rumor though.  Dennis said that you could get 30 different answers as to what the film is about depending on who you ask.  We will see…  (Here) is an interesting story about the home the movie is being filmed in.  Sounds like the project hit some rough spots, but they are back on track now.

Conan recently ran a pretty funny sketch on The Tonight Show called Twitter Tracker.  The sketch quoted several celebrity tweets in an attempt to convince viewers of the value of Twitter.  The grand finale was a tweet by Dennis Haysbert.  ”Just saw the new Star Trek movie. Wow, really good.”  I was hoping to go to his Twitter page after our shoot and read about how he just worked with the most amazing photographer.  It turns out the whole skit was made up, and Dennis doesn’t even use Twitter.  Can you believe that?  Conan, making stuff up?

19
Aug

"How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz?"

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz by John Keatley.  An honest look at the great celebrity photographer.

As you may already know, last November I had the privilege of photographing one of the photography greats, Annie Leibovitz.  (Here) is an earlier post about my experience photographing her.  Then just a few months ago, I found out my portrait of Annie was selected for AP25 (American Photography 25 silver-anniversary competition) which is a selection of the best photographs from 2008.  The selected photographs will be compiled in a book this coming November.  Having already written about this, I don’t want to be too repetitive, but Annie Leibovitz is in the news again.  This time, it was not because she offended someone, or got a celebrity to pose nude.  New York Magazine came out with an article this week about Annie, and the hard times that she has come into.  Not to make light of a difficult situation, but I am pleased that one of my portraits was licensed for this article.  Here is a link to “How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz? The $24 million question” written by Andrew Goldman for New York Magazine.  It is a fantastic story, and definitely worth reading.

With all of the news flying around about Annie, I decided to take a look at my portraits of her again.  This picture in particular has always pulled at me.  I have thought about showing it in the past, but there was something that always seemed to make me leave it alone.  Looking at it again now, in light of what is going on, it seemed to take on new life.  This was one of those moments that came and went in a split second.  I had shot several frames already, including the one I have been showing.  There was a moment where she didn’t know what to do with her hands, and maybe felt a bit self conscious about being photographed.  She quickly rubbed her eyes and pulled her hair back from her face and the moment was gone.  I can’t say I captured this image because of some magic of my own.  In all honesty, I’m sure it was an accident I caught this.  But in this portrait, I see so much honesty and vulnerability.  Something not easily captured, regardless of the subject.  A good lesson for me: a great portrait isn’t always created by controlling my subject, but rather capturing an organic moment in a controlled setting.

New York Magazine “How Could This Happen to Annie Leibovitz?” http://nymag.com/fashion/09/fall/58346/

*Side Note*  Thank you to everyone who has written me about the comments not showing up properly in Safari and Firefox.  It looks like the issue has been resolved, and I apologize if you felt that I was ignoring your questions.  I may have actually responded, but the comment just didn’t show up properly.  It turns out that white text on a white background can be hard to read.

29
Jun

Vince Mira Live in Seattle

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity, Tear Sheets

Vince Mira Portrait.  Tear Sheet from Seattle Metropolitan.  Photo by John Keatley.

Vince Mira Portrait at the Gum Wall in Post Alley.  Photo by John Keatley.

I have really been looking forward to posting these portraits and videos.  I had so much fun working on this assignment with Vince, and as an added bonus, the story is one of those rare page turners that doesn’t come around all that often in a magazine.  For me, it’s right up there with the Wired article on Dan Kaminsky which I worked on last year.  Here is the intro for Vince’s story, which is in the July 2009 issue of Seattle Metropolitan.  The link to the entire article is further down.

Billed as the Second Coming of Johnny Cash, a teenager from Federal Way wowed rock stars, morning news shows, Ellen DeGeneres, and the Cash estate.  There’s just one problem: Vince Mira is done parroting the Man in Black.

There was a moment in September 2007 at the Cash Cabin, the studio built by the late Johnny Cash outside Nashville, when everyone froze. In the room were musicians intimately tied to Cash and his music—his son John Carter Cash, his bass player Dave Roe, and Jamie Hartford, who played guitar in the Cash biopic Walk the Line. Vince Mira, the Federal Way teen flown in for the recording session, had just crooned the last line of his “Cold Hearted Woman,” a twangy harangue against a cruelly apathetic succubus (“…as far as you are isn’t far enough for me”), leaving his audience speechless.

Finally, Hartford, who’d been scribbling music dictation in a notebook, dropped his pen and paper and turned to the producer. “John. Carter. Cash. Does that freak you out?” John looked up, “Yeah, that freaks me out.”

John Carter had just heard a familiar voice pour from the mouth of the teenager. The producer had agreed to record an album with the talented teen—already making a name for himself with Cash covers—on the condition that “We don’t just record a bunch of my dad’s old songs.” Now, here was Mira performing an original, but his voice, a haunted baritone, was spot-on Johnny Cash.

- James Ross Gardner.  Read the entire article (here).

Before this assignment, I had heard stories over the past couple of years about Vince Mira, the young teenager who was discovered playing Johnny Cash songs on the street.  I had seen the YouTube videos from Ellen (here) Good Morning America and a few others, but I didn’t become a fan until I heard him perform live.  Wow.  This guy is talented.  He is the real deal.  There are a lot of people out there with a gimick, or who sound like someone famous.  But Vince has huge talent, and he can stand on his own.  His similarities to Johnny Cash provided him with a great start, but it’s exciting to see him head out on his own now and show people what he’s got.

The first video above is Vince Mira performing an original song, “I’m a Goin Back Home”.  The second video is a Johnny Cash song, “Folsom Prison Blues”.  Both were performed at the gum wall in Post Alley, Seattle.   I asked Vince to play one of his songs so I could film it, and it didn’t take long at all for a crowd to gather.  After he finished the first song, someone yelled out, “Play ‘Folsom Prison Blues’!”.  Even though he is trying to get away from that, he didn’t seem to mind.

Vince has an album out now, called “The Cash Cabin Sessions“.  It was recorded at the Cash Cabin Studio by John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son.  It’s a great album.   You can also catch Vince every Tuesday night at the Can Can in the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  For now at least.  I don’t know how much longer he will be playing there, as he has already toured with Pearl Jam, and played on some pretty big stages.

Vince Mira – Folsom Prison Blues from John Keatley on Vimeo.
Vince Mira – I’m a Goin Back Home from John Keatley on Vimeo.

* If you are using a blog reader, you may need to visit my actual blog to see the videos show above.