We are so excited to share the recent work by ASMP Connecticut member Aaron Kotowski, photographed for Forbes JAPAN. Aaron has been photographing for Forbes JAPAN for a little over three years, and his images have been on three covers. He’s also photographed seven assignments for Forbes US.
For his most recent Forbes JAPAN assignment, Aaron captured compelling images of Mr. George Inagi, an influential digital PR consultant.
We had a chance to learn more about the experience from Aaron, and here’s what he had to say:
– Subject : George Inagi aka George Root
– Client : Forbes JAPAN
– Mission : Shoot November Cover of Forbes JAPAN and make it cool
– Deliverables: shoot the cover, double page spread and inset image
On editorial projects there are more opportunities for creative execution than advertising shoots. However, there are always wild cards that need to be dealt with. I never know how the subject will perform in front of the camera because editorial subjects are rarely professional models and can have tight time constraints. Another huge concern is that locations are not always visually engaging — the ceilings might be really low (cursed drop ceilings) or the environment could be really flat (not another conference room)! Often, I do not have an art director on-set for editorial projects, so it is important to try and anticipate the creative requirements relative to the magazine’s aesthetic. Lastly, crew is always really limited on editorial projects. On this assignment, my crew was just myself and my first assistant, Nicole. Luckily we have shot all over the country together for various clients and campaigns, so we are pretty in sync.
The subject of this photo shoot is George Inagi, aka George Root. He is a young, vibrant influencer, an entrepreneur with an artistic flair, indulging in luxury brands, and likes to honor self expression. Social media research informed me that he had a great look, but you never know how a subject will perform in front of the camera. First wild card.
The shoot was to take place at George’s NYC apartment. Wild card, number two. I had no idea what his apartment would offer.
I knew that I wanted the cover to have the gravitas worthy of being a Forbes cover and I hoped to be able to create supplemental images that were a bit more playful in the fashion genre relevant to my subject. My ethos compels me to treat every photoshoot as if it is a portfolio shoot. This obviously adds a lot of pressure and can be really challenging when dealing with time constraints, environmental factors and production limitations, but I am lucky enough to work on great assignments and owe it to my clients to do all I can. I plan as much as I can but I am always prepared to throw everything out the window and run with whatever evolves from the shoot.
Since I did not know how George’s apartment would lend itself to the assignment, I arrived at the location four hours early to scout alternate outdoor scenes. A few spots were in line with what I wanted to achieve creatively. Once I charted the sun path with Sun Seeker, I was able to confidently settle on what would be my secondary location. I now knew how the sun would track six hours later, my anticipated window of time to be at my secondary location. Knowing the sun position was critical as I needed to decide how much lighting I was going to use and if I would need gobos, scrim jims, NDs, etc. I decided I would used a Westcott Rapid Beauty Dish for the street photos. This modifier would let me create more punchy images and allows a faster recycle on the Profoto B1X (my location light of choice, I always travel with at least three heads).
When I finally got into George’s apartment, I found that it is very tastefully decorated with multifarious artwork ranging from Tibetan ceremonial skulls, oversized fine art portraits and even an original Irving Penn print. George’s home was like a museum/art gallery imbedded in a huge, cool, wildly eclectic NYC apartment and was able to be comfy and serene at the same time. Another wild card neutralized and I knew my primary location was going to be perfect. This is a huge relief, people are more comfortable in their homes, and I knew I was going to get deeper and more meaningful engagement.
My approach for shooting magazines covers requires me to find an interesting, yet minimal background. In creating the primary imagery, I would forego the great art on display. I was able to utilize an interior wall that had a fascinating patina. I relied on dynamic, directional lighting to add gravitas. Stealing the gigantic woolly mammoth tusk from his personal collection had to be done. Nine times out of ten I like to use Elinchrom Octabank as my key light but I felt that the Progoto RFI Octa was going to give me the dramatic weight that my artistic hero, Carravaggio, would hopefully approved of.
I was fortunate to have my editor Fumiko Iwatsubo on set which is not always possible. She and I have collaborated on several projects for Forbes JAPAN. We have a great understanding of each other and she indulges me when I try to speak bad Japanese. Fumiko-sama is a tremendous art director. She signed off on my treatments and collaborated on visual strategy and we were able to decisively lock in our shots. Another wild card gone.
Once George got through wardrobe and sat for the shoot, he was able to really engage and take direction. Last wild card off the table. George was great in front of the camera, and was very generous with his time. The shoot was on fire. We were vibing and creating awesome photos. Portrait photography is always a collaboration and I was lucky enough to have excellent collaborators.