Author Archives: bswonetz
I grew up thinking the Fonz was the coolest person in the world. When I was five I wanted a leather jacket and a pompadour so badly (the curly hair kind of ruined that dream for me), so when I got the call to shoot Gary Marshall I was pretty excited to say the least.
Gary showed up with his PR and assistants and was the nicest guy ever. He was probably one of the most animated people that I have ever shot which made my job really easy. He really reminded me of my grandfather who grew up in New York at the same time. We had such a great time and you can see that he is not afraid of showing a bit of personality. The interview is great and you should check it out: The Shark Jumper: Navigating Garry Marshall’s Long, Mostly Successful Hollywood Career
Everyone always asks me, “what was your favorite shoot?” I don’t really have one answer for that question, but I do have a few that come to mind and this shoot with the band OK GO is definitely one of them. I was asked to fly to Oregon to shoot one of their videos. I had to sign an NDA and wasn’t told anything about the shoot or the video. I loved their previous videos, so I was really excited to get to see the making of one of them.
My assistant and I got off the plane and drove for a while to get to the location in Corvallis, Oregon. We pulled up to a seemingly abandoned business park. We stepped into what looked like an office building and I immediately thought that we must be in the wrong place. We were met with a cacophony of barking and the first thing that went through my mind was, “why would the gps take us to a dog kennel!” Then I saw a couple of the band members and figured we were at the right place. We met everyone, from the band to the craft services people, and then were led to the stage. There were dogs and trainers everywhere! Jack Russels jumping, Huskies running, Golden Retrievers barking, and more were all being instructed by a crowd of trainers. If any of you know me personally, you know that this is my dream come true. I love dogs, some may call it an obsession, but…
We were to watch a take and get a kind of feel for what they were doing before we started shooting. Anyway, the idea behind most or all of OK GO’s videos are that they get them in one take. They had been practicing this one take for weeks on end. My assistant and I weren’t really sure what to expect, but when filming started our jaws dropped. It was a choreographed routine that included the dogs, band and even a goat. It was perfect chaos! On the sidelines it was even crazier than the stage with dog trainers screaming, signing, and running all over the place. I had never seen anything like it and am convinced I never will. At the end of the take, which was flawless everyone freaked out- screaming, clapping and pure elation could be heard from miles around. Little did I know that it was the eighty somethingth take and they had finally done it all the way through. Here is the video which happens to be the first take that we saw:
The day continued with filming the same thing over and over again to see whether they could get it better. It was amazing to see the determination of everyone involved. In between takes I got to decide what we were going to do for the main shot of the story. I decided that we would recreate the Golden Retriever crashing through the Ikea trash can pyramid. We got all set and ran through the first try. Well what you see above is the first try! Everyone on set erupted as they saw the frame because it looked as though we had retouched it to perfection. It just worked. I still can’t believe it. I love the shot, but also love the circumstances that surrounded it. It is not often that you get something on the first frame, especially something in motion that is not human! Still one of my favorite days ever, period.
Happy New Year everyone! Been out of touch during the holidays, so here’s a new one.
If there is one thing I can definitely say about a career in photography, it’s that there is no shortage of times that you find yourself in very interesting situations. I know that all of you out there have encountered at least one of the “Real Housewives” shows while flipping through the channels. I have always given my wife a hard time for watching these. At the same time that I am explaining my views to her, in a totally mature way of course, my eyes seem to gravitate to the tv and I am trapped. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like watching a train wreck, you just can’t look away
So much for the preface, let’s get to the meat of the story. I was asked to shoot four of the Housewives of Beverly Hills for Life and Style’s Christmas edition. The concept was funny- fighting in front of the Christmas tree, spiking the punch, etc. In the days before, I was preparing myself for the drama that was undoubtedly about to occur. I showed up at the shoot and all of the women were amazingly nice and great to work with. All my preconceived notions about who they were, were due to some great editing! It makes me wonder how bad I could seem if the right editor got a hold of a lot of footage of me.
I particularly enjoyed taking pictures of Taylor (the one with the punch bowl).She was hilarious and didn’t take herself too seriously. I was surprised to hear, from my friends that watch the show, that she was the craziest because she was my favorite to talk to. Maybe that says something about me, but… The women really won me over because they were all about making fun of the fact that they all had a lot of work done. Say what you will about the subscribers to plastic surgery, but I do like it when people can make fun of themselves.
I have recently learned the extent that the name Gloria Allred really riles people up. It seems that people either love or hate her. Whether you agree with her stance on Sexism or Feminism, she happens to be a very nice, cooperative and pretty woman that was a pleasure to be around. Now let me put a bit of a stipulation on that statement. People are usually pretty agreeable with me because I have the power to make them look good or bad, so our encounter may have been a lot different if I met her in court, but the fact still remains that I really liked her.
I showed up at the set of her show and was able to overhear some of the “Wapner-esque” cases while we were setting up. It was like a flashback to doing my homework in 7th grade and People’s Court blasting from the living room as my dad ate half a gallon of ice cream while doing sit-ups or something like that. We had to set up silently because of the sound recording, which is pretty much impossible since everything I bring to a shoot has velcro, zippers, or many metal moving parts. We managed to keep the racket down and get the seamless set up behind the scenes. When the filming was over we got to meet Gloria on the set. She was really down to earth and was up for anything. She wanted to try a couple of outfits which never happens on quick shoots, so I was ecstatic. Her suits were impecable. She was very easy to photograph because of the fact that she enjoyed every minute of it. She danced from hair and makeup to the set. I think that she wanted to be a dancer rather than a lawyer, but I could be wrong. At any rate, she looked striking. Click here to read the article.
Here are a couple of outtakes that I liked. She looks so different when she isn’t smiling. I definitely wouldn’t want to mess with her:
A few guys, all from Encinitas and San Dieguito High School, started a surf shop called Surfy Surfy (an amazing shop if you are looking for a new surfboard) in Leucadia, CA. They decided to open a coffee shop next door and brought in a friend of mine named Dan Scheibe to Roast the coffee and be a partner. The shop is called Cafe Ipe, but known as Coffee Coffe to most. I have known Dan since junior high, but we just got back in touch after bumping into each other on the uncrowded streets of Downtown Encinitas.
Before they transferred all of their equipment to the coffee shop, Dan and his wife, Miriah, had a huge roaster in their garage and started their company, Revolution Roasters. When we bumped into each other we got to talking and they told me all about it and I thought it sounded like a really interesting thing to shoot. I have a bunch of friends that brew beer in their garage, but coffee…
One of the things that I like best about being a photographer is the fact that I get to meet so many interesting people with crazy jobs that I know nothing about. When else would I get to hang out with a woman that gets hired by huge companies to use her psychic abilities to advise them on gigantic deals or hang out with the pilot from Space Ship One. That’s another story that I will have to put up here, but back to the roasting…
Anyway, Dan’s coffe is amazing and the shop is about two blocks away from my wife’s studio, so we frequent it a little too often. I love coffee, but really had no idea about roasting and after seeing the machine, I knew it would make for some great photos. Dan roasts on the weekends, he is a biochemist or some kind of scientist during the week, so we set up a shoot for last weekend. The shots came out great and watching the process was eye opening! The smells that emanate from that machine even makes a non coffee drinker salivate. So who knows what color coffee really is? The coffee bean starts out green and through a process of different roasting temperatures and being spun around a lot, you end up with the brown bean that we have all come to love. It all has to be timed perfectly and Dan charts it all with pen and paper, not an ipad?
It’s really hard to fit in personal stuff between jobs, so I get really excited when I can actually make it happen. It’s always fun to go somewhere with no time restraints or guidelines and just shoot interesting pictures. Thanks to Dan and Cafe Ipe for letting me come in.
Is cycling popular or something? China thinks so, Amsterdam does too. I am not talking about the guys that you see at the coffee shops on weekend mornings brandishing the best neon spandex onesies plastered with sponsors, I’m talking about guys and gals listening to The Antlers new album on their new earbuds, looking like they stepped out of an Urban Outfitters Catalogue. I am not sure what has changed in the past five years (maybe fixed gear bikes? maybe gas prices?), but it really seems that cycling as a form of transportation and socialization has made it’s way up the hip scales. SWRVE is a company that I worked with a few months ago which is bridging the gap between form and function for people that want to be comfortable on their bikes, but still show up somewhere looking good. I am not saying that you don’t look good in spandex because you do!
SWRVE was rebuilding their site and Jon Setzen, the creative director at Something Massive brought me in to help with the lifestyle imagery. We shot all over downtown LA, where SWRVE is based, and ended up on the roof of their studio for the last shot/BBQ. All of the models were actual cyclists and the guy with the handlebar mustache actually co-owns Golden Saddle Cyclery in Silverlake. Everyone was really excited about the shoot and the brand, so it made the shoot amazingly fun. I love lifestyle shoots because I get to run around all day and in this case I had to run even faster to keep up with the bikes!
The locations were great as well. We found a loading dock that you can see above that worked perfectly for a ride by shot. From the washed out color and the perfectly placed garage door to the yellow security pylons that added pops of color, I couldn’t ask for more. Downtown Los Angeles has a wealth of beautiful structures. Until recently, these were vastly overlooked because nobody was living in these areas. In the past ten years there has been a revitalization of downtown. When someone used to say that they lived downtown people would say, “really, I didn’t know anyone lived down there,” but now it is a very up-and-coming place to live, eat, and shop.
As I mentioned before, the last shots were taken on the roof while we had a BBQ. We got some great shots, had some great food, beer, and conversation with great company. The sun dropping behind the buildings made for a beautiful, warm yet urban backdrop that kind of said it all.
What, you want me to shoot Werner Herzog!? Let’s clarify, with a camera not an air rifle, like he was shot with in a BBC interview in 2006. I shoot the Talk section for the New Times Magazine a lot and my photo editor contacted me with this assignment. I was ecstatic to say the least. I grew up watching Herzog’s movies with my dad and have been a fan since an early age. He is one of my favorite artists? personalities? adventurers? around and now I had the chance to take his picture and meet him.
We were asked to show up at a screening of his new movie, Into the Abyss, and set up in the lobby. We only had ten minutes with Werner, so we had to set up well in advance. We were also told that Werner is not at all fond of having his picture taken. I completely understand this and it’s not uncommon for celebrities to tell me this. I absolutely hate to be in front of the camera, so I feel for these people. You would think that because so many of the people that are in front of the camera are great looking, that they would love to be immortalized in photos, but even Johnny Depp hates it. He was quoted in the last issue of Vanity Fair by Nick Tosches while talking about shoots, “Raped. The whole thing. It feels like a kind of weird-just weird, man. Weird…whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like – you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.”*
Back to the story. Werner came out after introducing the movie and we introduced each other. He was such a nice guy and did not show any signs of not liking being photographed. We got right into it because of the very short time restraint and he was great. He told me about Disfarmer who happens to be his favorite portrait photographer and explained him in detail. When he was describing him and his photos it really felt like I was watching one of Werner’s documentaries. He is so descriptive and passionate, in a very mellow way, and I was just overall impressed by his presence. I did try to get him to smile and he just looked at me and, with no animosity, said,”I don’t do that in photos.” Straight to the point. Unfortunately we only had ten minutes, so there wasn’t a long time to talk, but what discussions we did have were very interesting. If you can’t tell I really admired Werner before I met him and meeting him has only added to that admiration.
Here is a link to the story and below are a few outtakes: Werner Herzog Lives Dangerously
Last weekend we had a really uncommon thing happen in California, it rained! It was also cold enough for it to snow in the mountains, so Anna and I decided to take Bear, our 1 yr 3 month old dog/horse (if you follow me on instagram you may think I am slightly obsessed), to experience his first snow day. When we got out of the car bear wasn’t sure what this new white world was. He first put his foot in it tentatively and then went into a full bore puppy fit, we like to call the zoomies. He ran as fast as he could in big circles kicking up flakes like a dune buggy in sand.
After the initial reaction, we took him for a long hike in Cuyamaca. Cuyamaca is a nature reserve just outside of Julian, CA. Julian is a beautiful mountain town that is known for their fresh Apple Pies. Check it out if you are in Southern California. The hike was gorgeous and the company was pretty great as well. Here are some pictures from the journey:
A lot of people have asked about the photo that comes up first on my website, so I am going to tell you. A couple of months ago I was asked to do a shoot for L’Uomo Vogue of a young director/artist named Martin Sastre. Martin is a video artist that has been directing full length movies lately. He’s from Uraguay, but now lives in Madrid and happened to be in LA to scout for his new movie.
Djuna Bel, the very talented stylist, was nice enough to let us use her house as home base to get Martin ready for the first shot at the Hollywood sign. Martin showed up and was a really nice guy. He got suited up, literally, and we cruised up to the sign and started the shoot. The suits were great (Phillip Lim and Burberry) and Martin played the mod role perfectly even though it was unbearably hot to be wearing a suit. At least it was peach and not black, I guess.
After we finished up at the sign we went back to Djuna’s place to get the next outfit and headed to the Griffith Observatory. I am sure all the people reading this in LA have been there, but if you haven’t, you should. It is an amazingly designed place. It feels like you have just stepped into a set for Blade Runner or something. It was finished in 1935 and is one of the coolest Art Deco buildings that I have ever seen. Go! We had to “guerrilla” it because we didn’t have a permit to shoot there, so we had to try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Because we were shooting natural light and not getting in anyone’s way, security seemed to turn the other cheek. So all of that to explain the main shot on my site, Martin walking away from the observatory. All in all, it was a great shoot and we had a lot of fun running around the LA landmark. Below is a kind of timeline of shots: