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.

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?

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.

19
May

American Photography 25

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Awards, Celebrity

ap25

An email went out this past April to the winners of the American Photography 25 silver-anniversary competition, and I am happy to say that I received one of those emails.  This was the first time that I submitted my work to AP.  It all became official last week as the selected photographs were released in an online slide show.  In all, 10,100 photographs were submitted, and the jury selected the 351 best images from 2008 to be published in the AP25 book.  The book will be distributed world-wide in hard cover this November.  My portrait of Annie Leibovitz is the picture that was selected from my submission.  Annie Leibovitz also has work in AP25, including her controversial portrait of Miley Cyrus which appeared in Vanity Fair.

It is a major thrill to have my work selected for this, but what really blows my mind is the fact that many of the photographers I have been inspired by since I first picked up a camera also have work in AP25.  Dan Winters, Peter Yang, Annie Leibovitz, Emily Shur (check out Emily’s blog if you haven’t already), and Martin Schoeller.  I am very thankful for this opportunity.

Steve Wiecking just put up a nice post about AP and me on his Seattle Met blog (here).

annie_leibovitz

28
Jan

Make It Work, Tim Gunn Style

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Tim Gunn Portrait by John Keatley

Tim Gunn.  The man is like a saint.  Everyone loves him.  And I have to say, he is one of the nicest people I have ever photographed or met.  He was kind, easy to work with, and the only person who has ever said to me, “Are you sure you don’t want more time?” at the end of a shoot.  What most people don’t know about this picture is that I actually made his suit out of an old soft box, and the lining from one of my camera bags.  ”Find a way to mitigate that center seam” he repeatedly instructed as I tirelessly worked, rushing to finish the garment.  ”Make it work!”

Talk about pressure.  Thankfully he thought the suit was stunning, and the shoot went great too.  While I was packing up, I noticed Tim in the corner of the room tearing up a piece of berber carpet.  I gave him a questioning look, and he said, “For our next challenge, you will be designing an outfit for a garden party.  You have fifteen minutes to caucus.”

Season 6 of Project Runway, hosted by Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum will be starting soon.  To hold you over, (here) is one of my favorite Tim Gunn video clips.

07
Jan

Portrait of Annie Leibovitz

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Annie Leibovitz Portrait by John Keatley

In the course of a conversation this past summer, it was mentioned that Annie Leibovitz was going to be in Seattle that November.  As soon as I heard this, I was gone.  Blank stare.  Absent from the conversation. I was thinking, “What would it be like to photograph Annie Leibovitz?  Would she let someone else take her portrait?  I don’t think so.  She is one of the greatest photographers ever.  The only pictures I have ever seen of her were self portraits.  How nervous would I be if I got to take her portrait?”  A couple of months later, I received an email from a photo editor at Seattle Metropolitan; “Do you want to photograph Annie Leibovitz?”

I thought a lot about how I would photograph her.  But after dreaming about some grand and sizable production ideas, I decided not to try to do too much.  I would just do what I do best, and keep it simple. We were scheduled to shoot in a private meeting room in a downtown Seattle hotel, with no chance of moving to a different location.  Because of her full schedule that day, I knew she would be tired.  An interview with Steve Scher on NPR (listen here) right before the shoot, and speaking at Benaroya Hall for ‘Seattle Arts & Lectures‘ right after.  I had a small window of time to work with her.

When Annie came into the room, she looked around at the lighting setup, and said,  “Wow, this looks scary.”  My thoughts exactly, but it wasn’t the lights I was thinking about.  We talked a few minutes about photography and cameras before she sat down.  Then I told her about my idea for the portrait, and asked if she would mind taking off her glasses. She said that was fine, and I started to shoot.  It was a balancing act trying to find the line between being in control to get what I wanted, and not being pushy.  I could tell that she was not comfortable being photographed.  She moved around a lot while I shot, and I decided to be flexible rather than push too much to hold a certain pose.  Things don’t always go exactly to plan, and sometimes this can be a pleasant surprise.  It felt like the shoot ended up being a collaboration in making the pictures.  It’s not often that I work with someone who is so willing to be expressive and experiment as she was.  Shortly after we started, the shoot came to an end, and I knew that I had the shot.  I thanked her for her time, and she said, “You did good.”  I’ll take it!  What a compliment.

The article that was published in Seattle Metropolitan, and written by Steve Wieking can be read here.

*Update* – My portrait of Annie Leibovitz was selected in the American Photography 25 Competition (AP25) and will be published in November 2009.  This is a huge honor for me!  The link will take you to a post with more about the award.

22
Dec

Kickin ass and taking names, and pictures…

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Ad Campaign, Tear Sheets

Craig Pumphrey and Paul Pumphrey, photo by John Keatley.  Shot in Los Angeles for the Human Wrecking Balls ad campaign.  Human Wrecking Balls is a new tv show on G4 staring the Pumphrey brothers.

Craig Pumphrey and Paul Pumphrey, photographed by John Keatley.  Shot in Los Angeles for the Human Wrecking Balls ad campaign.  Human Wrecking Balls is a new tv show on G4 staring the Pumphrey brothers.

I wasn’t at all surprised when I got a call to photograph Craig and Paul Pumphrey for the ad campaign for their new show Human Wrecking Balls on G4.  These guys are seriously tough, and they can pretty much destroy anything with their bare hands.  This kind of raw power can be intimidating, and the client wanted to make sure that they hired a photographer who could smack the guys around if need be.  Usually I am hired for a job because of my style and photographic talent, but for this job I was also hired for my size and imposing figure.

Craig and Paul are really some of the nicest guys I have ever met.  Possibly because they are able to release any frustrations and pent up aggression they may have by breaking things on a daily basis.  Like this stack of cinder blocks for example.  My assistant Mike and I flew down to LA for the shoot.  It was a filming day, and the set was an old abandoned bowling alley.  During some of our down time, we threw bowling balls at tv monitors, and kicked things that looked solid.  Needless to say, the experience of destroying a bowling alley created some awkward inner tensions for me when I went bowling for my wife’s birthday party just weeks later.

While I was photographing Craig for the punching ad, we started debating which one of us would loose a thumb wrestling competition.  I also offered to let him kick me in the head if I could punch him in the face first.  Unfortunately this never happened because we were pressed for time due to the long filming schedule that day.  Lucky for him.

Watching Craig throw punches, I realized that his form was completely off, and I gave him a few quick pointers.  This is where my whole world came crashing down.  It turns out that my form was off, and Craig knew what he was doing.  What!?  I have always thought that when you throw a punch you want to spread the impact across the 4 knuckles on your first.  Not true.  It turns out that the correct way to punch is to align your index and middle finger knuckels with your arm.  Like a battering ram.  Those two knuckles are where you should make contact with your target and deliver the impact.  If all of your knuckles were flat on impact, your wrist would not be straight, and you could cause some serious damage to your self.  So making sure that your wrist is straight and just the two knuckles deliver the impact is very important.  And that is how you throw a punch.

These print ad’s are running in Maxim and Rolling Stone.  The online content can be seen on the G4 website, as well as the Zune Marketplace and iTunes store.  I wish lot’s of luck and good health to Craig and Paul Pumphrey!