I spent a lot of time thinking about how I should approach my first shoot with my new hand painted canvas backdrop from Sarah Oliphant. I could do a fashion editorial or shoot an awesome model on it, but when I really sat down and thought about where I am and what I’ve done, I thought it only appropriate to simply… shoot my friends.
When I first picked up the camera in 2011; I shot friends at parties, roommates and random people who must have thought I was crazy. Since that time, I’ve met many talented people who have become close friends and have been absolutely pivotal to my career.I shot a series of portraits; portraits of my friends and those that have helped me to where I stand today. All of these people have made a crucial impact on my career and I only know of one way real way to thank those individuals; that is do what I do best. Deliver portraits that will hopefully last a lifetime and beyond. So, I went out and bought $200 worth of props from Hobby Lobby and set up a studio in my cold dirty garage. I wanted raw, simple, intimate and the real person, not just the person everyone perceives them to be.
This is Gunnar Deatherage; creative director, stylist and fashion designer.
Since I first saw his “Spy-Wear” editorial grace my newsfeed I thought of him as someone larger than life, a fashion rockstar. Then he went off to shine in two seasons of Project Runway. When our paths crossed I was absolutely ecstatic. Gunnar and I started working together a year ago for NFocus Magazine, since then we have shot over a dozen editorials, covers and features in the most unique places all across the city with some incredibly inspiring people. I’m honored to call him a friend.
This is Isidro Valencia; master makeup artist and one brilliant creative soul.
I first met Isidro on a project with friend and photographer Josh Eskridge. Isidro and I tossed ideas back and forth for weeks, a creative collaboration finally happened in September of 2012. From that moment, it seemed the creative force that is “Valencia” took the Louisville scene by storm. Bringing to the table a unique vision beyond the norm he has become one of the most sought after artists in the city. Despite him being in such demand I’m fortunate enough to work with him nearly once a week and I’m truly honored to call him a friend.
This is Joey Goldsmith; photographer and the man I consider one of my closest mentors.
I’ve known Joey for quite sometime now, long before photography was a glimpse in my mind, Joey was shooting the promotional images for my band when I was just 17 years old. I always thought photography as the coolest creative process. I was enthralled with Joey’s work and his masterful lighting. Once I decided to pick up the camera 8 years later it was this man that introduced me to dramatic lighting and it was a shoot of his where I was first informed of the fashion industry. He gave me a shot and I am forever grateful for that. Joey is one of those people that I can depend on for not only a great time, but a very trustworthy opinion. He continues to push and produce inspirational work everyday. I’m honored to call him a friend.
This is Steve Squall. Brilliant photographer, co-owner of the local apparel company Tribe and a very close friend.
Although we are very much freelance, we are blessed with the opportunity to shoot for the same magazines and we are often squandering to see what the next month may bring. Some may say that Steve and I could be in direct competition every month. But, it’s that healthy competitive spirit that has led us to becoming very close friends. When I first stumbled upon Steve’s work I was indifferent, inspired by Terry Richardson and Jürgen Teller, his work was never about the technicalities or the camera; it is and has always been about the photograph. It was work I respected a lot, but had trouble understanding. It all changed when he took a concept with one of the country’s top interior designers, Lee Robinson and flipped it upside down. Steve captured Lee jumping off his couch as well as sliding down his banister… I had to think to myself, what would I have done? Well, certainly not that. It was then where I changed my perspective and set a goal to know my subjects and bring out the real uniqueness of each individual I shoot. It is that aesthetic that changed the game for me and I have Steve to thank for it. I’ve become absolutely enthralled with his work and look forward to seeing what he just might do next. More and more I see a bit of “Squall” everywhere and I’m confident that will continue. I’m truly honored to call him a friend.
This is Micah Severo Ruelas. Masterful makeup artist and friend. I owe much of my creative growth to him.
Micah and I bonded with one unique idea. The idea to create a concept series based upon the music, art, and fashion of Lady Gaga. Over a period of 3 months we shot 7 models, at 7 unique locations, based upon 7 different songs. It was a very stressful time, but we pushed through and created a piece that still remains in my portfolio a year later. Though we never received a response from Gaga herself, it was completely worth the time, effort and money. The Gaga Series has formed the foundation of where I stand today; as many of my current clients hired me because of that very concept. It’s all due to Micah’s hard work, vision, energy and time and I can’t thank him enough for just giving me a chance when I was every bit of unknown in this industry. Since that time, we have created some amazing photographs and continued to push the "glamour” envelope. I don’t get to work with Micah as much as I would like, but when I do, we set to make an impact. I’m very honored to call him a friend.
This is Antonio Pantoja. Business partner (Glass Label), prodigious filmmaker and one of my closest friends. A man I’ve looked up to sometime, not just because of humility, but his ability to simply talk to people.
Where do I start? Antonio and I are somewhat kindred spirits. We started our creative path nearly the same time and since then, as individuals, have exploded on the Louisville market. I first came across Antonio’s work via Facebook some time ago, just like everyone else. I noticed a strong energy to his work and his down to earth heart was fascinating. Coming from a video background myself, I took a strong intrigue to his eye and creative short films. Soon after, I touched base and a strong bond was formed. We meet on a whim and collaborated on a “48 Hour Film Project” titled “Green Glass Door” and the rest is well… history. Since then as a collaborative duo, we’ve produced numerous short films, won many awards and created some fantastic commercial projects for some very strong corporate clients. All this while, Antonio has become one of the most reputable filmmakers in this region and I’m grateful to create alongside him. We’ve been fortunate enough to shoot inspiring people from all walks of life and we’ve grown a lot together as individuals and as a company this past year. With this portrait I wanted to show the very person that many people don’t know outside of social media; the Pantoja that is vulnerable, the gentle Pantoja, and the real Pantoja. The man I’m honored to call a friend.
But, don’t ever ask for a death-shot, it’s dangerous.
This is Chris Miske. The jack of all trades and a master at many; visual effects artist, game developer, carpenter, cook, an endless supply of bizarre trivia and the man I call my roommate. You probably don’t know him, but many in the industry do.
I’ve always told Chris, If I had the chance to reenact the film “The Cell” in real life; I would want to spend a day inside his brain. I met Chris, by chance, many years ago, back when I touring across the US in my musical outfit “(intheclear)”. Chris’ depth of knowledge and design skills impressed me… we immediately became close friends. Over the years Chris and I have worked on many projects, not only for my old band “(intheclear)”, but also collaborations in graphic design, video and photography. When I first started taking on commercial graphic design work it was Chris who tagged along and assisted in photography. When I first picked up a DSLR in 2011 it was Chris who tagged along and assisted in lighting. I owe much of my early success to his labyrinth of knowledge and I consider him a strong mentor through those initial months. Although, Chris is contracted freelance, he is a crucial piece to the puzzle. I shoot a lot and I do mean a lot, which means I always have a plethora of post processing and thankfully I’m able to farm out much of my complex image editing to Chris. Many of the images you see in my portfolio have been touched and corrected by Chris in some way. I can’t thank him enough for his value in my career and I’m truly honored to call him a friend.
This is Casey Neel. Mother to a beautiful daughter and very much my model muse. You may just recognize her.
For whatever reason, we clicked. Fate brought us together one afternoon to shoot an editorial on the under-construction Big4Bridge, a walking bridge spanning Kentucky to Indiana. Casey had won a possible modeling contract and I had just recently started shooting for NFocus Louisville. It was both fairly new to us, but the energy was high and excitement was in the air. The images proved to be some of my favorites that remain in my portfolio today. The second time I worked with Casey it was natural, the images came easy. Since then, we have stayed close and worked together on several occasions. No offense to the many other incredibly talented models I’ve worked with, but if I had only one model and one shot left, it could be Casey. Not because of her gorgeous look or personality, but simply the energy we are able to create. When I inquired with friends about this project, when I mentioned “model” they said “Casey”. With one 2 year old child at home and another one on the way, it all takes a very strong woman and Casey is just that. I’m so honored to call her a friend.
Special thanks to Cassie Lynn Young for the hair and makeup.
This is Josh Eskridge, close friend, photographer and a man I owe much of my success too. He alone and above all has played a significant mentor role for me.
The first time I met Josh, he was hauling a light stand and beauty dish over his shoulder with a swarm of gorgeous women crowding behind him waiting to be photographed. I thought to myself “who is this guy?” I wanted to be him. Suddenly, when I realized who it was, I was nearly star struck. I had long known Josh’s work and even stalked his page quite a few times. I really didn’t know the real Josh, I only knew the perceived Josh. Our first conversation was brief, but it sparked a friendship and respect that stands strong today. When we started collaborating I quickly saw a kind-hearted individual that shoots for the love and creativity, not the money. Although Josh takes his craft with the utmost respect and sincerity there is a playful aesthetic to it, nothing is predictable and that is what is so highly intoxicating about his work. One moment he may be shooting natural light then the next breaking out a mirror and 6 lights. It is and has always been inspiring. Through our collaborative efforts, Josh not only taught me studio lighting, but opened my eyes to the power of natural ambient light. It’s hard to put into words what this man has done for my path and it just can’t be summed up in a few small sentences. I can only say that he has been one of the most inspiring people in my life, his professionalism and eagerness to create is addicting. I’m honored to of had the opportunity to share many sets with Josh and I’m honored to call him a friend.
This is Chris Caswell. Commercial stylist, interior designer, creative director, local celebrity and for about one month of the year, as Chris would put it, we’re pretty much married.
Chris has opened so many doors for me; “Louisville Magazine” to “The Voice” to “The Kentucky Derby”. I really can’t thank him enough. The entire month of April (and May) we are contracted to document nearly every party for the Kentucky Derby festival and for “MyDerbyLove”, an online Derby blog. This past year, we formed a close friendship and respect. I saw Chris almost every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. Now, I’m always excited to work with Chris and his team, because of that creative bond. And when I say team, I mean it. For this shoot, he made sure to have his personal assistant and a personal makeup artist by his side, never a dull moment! In this entry for the “Oliphant Portraits” I wanted to show Chris’ quirky attitude, fashionable attributes and his “married to the job” work ethic. If there is one thing I love about Chris, it’s his ability to multi-task, get work done, but also have a carefree and fun time doing it. We all seem to constantly laugh on our shoots, raising moral, which is a crucial element for any photo shoot. I’m looking forward to taking on Derby 140 with Chris and I’m truley honored to call him a friend.
For those that know me personally know that my life was completely different just over two years ago, things have changed 180 degrees. I went from “content” to “alive” in a matter of months. I’ve just scratched the surface of people that I owe my success to, however the people that I’ve featured in this series are people that define who I am as an artist today and for that I am forever grateful.
This particular project was mind-blowing. To have such talented people together in one room isn’t a rarity, we are actually all good friends! But, to have everyone under my roof was an honor.
To Gunnar Deatherage, Isidro Valencia, Joey Goldsmith, Steve Squall, Micah Ruelas, Antonio Pantoja, Chris Miske, Casey Neel, Josh Eskridge and Chris Caswell… thank you for giving me your trust, thank you for all that you do and please continue to inspire. The world is indebted to your talent.
Meeting Sarah Oliphant was surreal. The talent that has been through her studio and the images she has helped create is unfathomable. Most don’t get it, but many photographers do. It’s brought such dimension to my work. A special thank you to Sarah for working with me and customizing this canvas, the art you create inspires imaginative people every day.