Where does creativity live?

I am about to editorialize about something that has plagued me for years. It's something that I think everyone in Southern California and NOT in LA has to deal with, and people probably deal with it in other parts of the country too. I am talking about the perception of regional creativity, or more accurately, the ability of a person to be creative when in a given region. The stigma that my hometown of Riverside, CA suffers from, as well as the surrounding areas, is that we AREN'T Los Angeles. 

For the record, Riverside was never LA, nor was it ever a "suburb" of LA. Riverside was founded as it's own city by John W. North in 1870. Riverside has it's own history steeped in heritage, art and culture. But I digress, I don't want this post to be about whiny hometown pride. 

The point of this post is this: The idea that YOUR creativity is connected to your location is ABSURD. Let's also get this out of the way: Yes there are areas that might have more resources, and yes there are areas that have more jobs available, that's just common sense. More populated areas typically house more businesses and so there is more work to choose from. Does that mean anything in terms of the creativity of another cities residents? Absolutely not. These are simply amenities. 

Creative people can be creative anywhere. It matters not where they live or in what building they work. I don't want to downplay the value of an aesthetically pleasing workplace, especially for visual people, but the fact remains: creativity does not live in a building. Nor does any particular city have a monopoly on creativity. There are creative directors and artists out there who will tell you otherwise, but it's a bald faced lie.

My stated goal as a photographer, and a visual artist, is not to flee my hometown and work in the "big city" but to bring the work to me, where I want to be, and show that the artistic world is at least a little bit bigger than LA and NY. 

Photo Studio Challenge - Portrait of a Loved One

A couple of weeks ago the team of photographers, stylists and support staff that I work with kicked off a bi-weekly studio-wide photo challenge (images were posted here). Every two weeks we pick a theme and each person can shoot an image that relates to that theme. 

This week our theme was: A portrait of a loved one, without showing them in the image. So in other words, an object, person (other than the "subject" of course) or place that reminds you of that person. 

Here are the results!

Ashley Paulus

Product Stylist Ashley Paulus photographs her parents wedding rings with her iPhone and natural light. 

Bonnie Warrington - BonnieWarrington.com

Photographer Bonnie Warrington shot this still life with her DSLR ann Natural Light. These items represent her boyfriend Scott. 

Dani Alvarez

Product Stylist Dani Alvarez shot this still life of items representing her beloved dog Schmoopie

Daniel T Jester 

A Glenfield Model 60 just like the one my Grandpa took me to shoot when I was a child. 

Dave Uzzardi - DavidUzzardi.com

Dave Uzzardi's submission to the challenge, a subtle and somewhat abstract image where the subject slowly reveals itself to the viewer after some time. 

Emily Wilkerson

Product Stylist Emily Wilkerson shot this antique rocking chair that has been in her family for years. t's a reminder of her grandparents. 

Karen Utley - KarenUtley.com

Photographer Karen Utley shot this still life in remembrance of her mother

Karyl Alvarado

Studio Coordinator Karyl snapped this shot of a song her and her grandmother played together during their short meeting before her grandmother had to head back to the Philippines.

Kimmy Ann Snow

Product Stylist Kimmy Snow set up this shot of her Father In Law's dog tags and ashes. She never met the man, but he is an important part of her husband life, and feels a connection. 

Lindsay Barker

Product Stylist Lindsay Barker shot this still life installation that represents friend from across the country that she has made in her life. 

Vanessa Celotto - StyleeGrace.com

Stylist Supervisor Van Celotto snapped this to represent the staff of the studio as her loved ones. Awwwwwww. 

Vivian Nguyen

Product Stylist Vivian Nguyen styled and shot this still life that represents her mother who lives in Seattle. 

As you can see, the turn out for this weeks challenge was BIG. It was so exciting to see how everyone interpreted the theme and what they submitted. Stay tuned for the next Studio Photo Challenge, where the theme is Food.

BTS Tuesday - Puma Men's Shoes

Sometimes you have to get creative when trying to be creative. That is to say, you have to look to the unlikely sometimes to find the right prop or surface or background for your image. 

Such was the case when shooting this image for Puma. 

The background for this shot is the concrete floor in the studio, and the platform for these shoes were our wardrobe racks. The colors worked and we had three available to make this sort of industrial looking runner. 

Wardrobe racks providing the platform for these shoes

Product stylist Ashley puts the finishing touch on this set up

The lighting set up for this shot ended up being a single light. Initially I felt like this would be a two light set up, with a small softbox aimed at the floor to the rear of the subject to keep the light from falling off and looking like an abyss, but that ended up being way too hard to manage. All we needed back there were a few reflecting boards to bounce light from my beauty dish back into the scene. Voila! A really nice one light shot. 

Photo Studio Challenge - Round 1

As some readers of this blog may know, I am a full time staff photographer in a product studio for Nordstrom. I work with several other very talented photographers and stylists who all love their jobs. We decided collectively to start a bi-weekly photo challenge, we could be creative and share with each other some work outside of product photography. Every two weeks we will identify a theme, shoot an image or series of images, and then get together and share our images and process. 

Our first round theme was "Street Photography" which we defined as a natural candid moment, shot without posing or any interference from the photographer. Here are the submissions:


Karen Utley - www.karenutley.com

Bonnie Warrington - www.bonniewarrington.com

Jenni Wilson - www.jenniwilson.com

Kimmy Ann Snow

Daniel T Jester