Dairy Farm & Rancher portraits, Tennessee

At 81 years old you wouldn’t expect to hear that Gerald Hitchcock is still working his ranch. But ask him anything thing related to his farm and he’ll smile and answer proudly.

Gerald is actually my step-dad’s father. So, this blog is a bit more personal since I don’t typically post a lot of family related things here. However the fact that he’s 81 and still gets up every day to work his ranch is just an awesome story in itself.
The portrait I shot of him is quite simple, really.
“I have the ranch cuz I had the tractor (bulldozer)” he told me when I asked about the large piece of equipment. He pointed out that over the years it was the the tractor that made the money to allow him to get the farm and feed the family. Mrs. Hitchcock, his wife who still hosts family gatherings at the holidays cooking tons of food for everyone, even told me “Oh that’ll be good (gettin a photo with the bulldozer). That tractor has been the backbone of our economy (for the family).”

I wanted to keep the image simple and straight forward. And while I originally thought of just having a standard shot with his ranch/property in the background, it quickly became obvious how integral this piece of machinery was to the family.


As I’ve gotten older and progressed in my career as a photographer since my college days, I’ve realized more and more how important personal images are to me. And, with that, the importance of photos of my family. I’ve since started a personal project of creating portraits of my family members, starting with my own grandparents. I will probably share those in a later post. But, when talking to my step-dad about his parents, I knew his father would be an awesome portrait to take simply because he’s still working and doesn’t seem as old as he is when you talk to him.


Jim Grissom is the nephew of Gerald Hitchcock (above).
Jim was born and raised in Tennessee; he owns and operates Mountain Farm Dairy in Van Buren County.

I met up with Jim on a hot afternoon when he was busy working to repair one of the farm’s tractors. He was covered in dirt and laughing at the idea of me wanting to take his portrait. But, that was exactly what I was hoping to capture… him in his element.

Dairy farming is a hard job. A 15-16 hour work day, seven days a week is something that most people would never do. Jim and his family are proud farmers though – he and his sons have degrees in Agriculture and all returned to the farm after completing school.

Jim, while calm in these shots, was actually laughing quite a bit at my choice of location for the photos. But, being a very bright day I needed him in the shade so I could capture a nice shot of his face and eyes.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for farmers. I think it’s one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the US. So meeting people that are proud of what they do like Jim and Gerald – family or not – is humbling. So when you start whining about your office being too hot/cold, or complain that you have to put in an hour of overtime one day… remember that there are people out there working twice as hard. And they’re proud to do it.

I’ll be continuing this series over the next couple weeks. So check back those of you who are enjoying these portraits.

Also coming up will be more modeling photos. So, I may shift over to a different extreme in photography and be posting beach model photos in the next week. Haha. We’ll see…

VJ Michael Benz, Sergeant Trevor Scott, DJ JJ Dunlap

VJ Michael Benz, event host; Infantry Sergeant Trevor Scott, veteran; DJ J.J. Dunlap, musician. All three men are the newest additions to my portrait series – and with less than two weeks til the art show in Hollywood, they’re great portraits to add to my collection.

As I’ve said before, each of my shoots is meant to be telling about each subject. And each one of these shoots came out pretty much exactly as I envisioned them.

I’m going to introduce these in the order they are in the image above – not the order I shot them, haha.

Michael Benz is someone I’ve known nearly the whole time I’ve been in Socal. We met at a club one evening and I introduced myself because I liked his wild style contrasting the model he was there with that night. We’ve worked together many times since then.
When I hit him up, I knew exactly what  shot I wanted to create. And, leave it to Michael to call me 30 minutes before our shoot to say “Hey, by the way, I got us exclusive access to KRESS nightclub to shoot in. We have the whole place to ourselves.”
Michael is an event host in Hollywood, and pretty recognizable to anyone who has ever met him. I definitely wanted him in my series, and he rocked the shoot just as I knew he would.

 

Infantry Sergeant Trevor Scott, veteran. Trevor is an old friend from school. He served five years in the Army and has since returned and is now in school. The idea and concept behind his shoot was something I’ve been wanting to shoot for a while. And it worked out perfectly to not only photograph someone who already owns the gear, but that with Trevor, it’s real gear, and he’s an actual veteran who has served. Truly an accurate portrait rather than me creating this image with a model.
Adding Trevor to the series was  great because it also gave us a bit of time to catch up. I actually haven’t seen him since high school – and it’s crazy how fast all that time has flown by. We created a couple different images. But the flag image was what I was really hoping to capture.

 

JJ Dunlap, DJ and musician. JJ is someone I met through my friend Samantha – a makeup artist I’ve worked with multiple times in the past. With JJ’s music background I wanted to create an image using his amps and speakers as the backdrop. About half the images I’ve shot have something to do with environment that adds to the shot – this was one of those concepts.
JJ yelled/screamed and posed for one particular shot right as I was testing lighting and working on settings. These typically are the best chances for really original shots. I got the screaming shot just in time, and while all the other images we did were good, I kept coming back to this one.

Sorry for the wordiness of this post, haha. But I had three very different shoots to introduce in one. So, now, on to the photos!

This was the image I pictured created with Benz. Came out exactly as I wanted.

Rooftop of KRESS, Hollywood in the background.

Again, a moment when the subject wasn’t actually posing, but his attitude in the shot is real and works better than any posed image we did after.

Tighter crop. You can see more detail of Michael’s face here.

This was a shot I really wanted to create. You almost never see Michael’s eyes. So this was a bit of an unmasking.

Michael and I, rooftop of KRESS

The main image I set out to create with Trevor
NOTE: The flag is NOT Photoshop. This was shot in-camera this way.

A much softer, friendlier image.

Full, uncropped version

Screaming shot of JJ. Love how much detail I was able to get with his mouth, even down to the saliva in the shot. Really, his mouth makes this whole image.

Wider version, more detail with the background with the speakers.

JJ isn’t actually missing a tooth, but the shadow makes it look that way. Haha!

I feel like I need to go back and be a bit more generous with the editing of this shot. It’s a little too much of a headshot, I like the image with his eyes, but the editing style isn’t close enough to my other photos.

Behind the scenes pics that Samantha took.
Thanks Samantha!

JJ looks bored!

Hope you all enjoyed the images!
That was one of the longer blogs I’ve done in a while. Sorry, but I’ve been swamped running around shooting and preparing for the show in a week and a half. I hope you guys can try and come to it!

Check out more details here: http://www.rawartists.org/hollywood/unearthed/?artistid=10284

David Esquire, Esquire Photography – portrait shoot

David Esquire, of Esquire Photography.
Talented photographer. Memorable personality. Truly an artist. And great friend.

“I don’t like it.” laughed David when I showed him this image while shooting. “What?! Why not? That’s a great portrait. That’s YOU!” I responded. “Because… I look vulnerable.” he said. “Exactly, that’s why it’s good!” I laughed back. “Yeah, I know, and that’s why I don’t like it!” David said laughing.

David did actually like the photo everyone. He was laughing because he’s not used to having images taken of him that are somber, calm, and actually give the viewer a bit of insight to him and who he is.
I met David two and a half years ago. It’s safe to say he was actually one of my first friends I made down here in LA. We met while working on million-dollar Beverly Hills weddings – because that’s just how we roll… Ballin. Haha, but really, we met while working with Cherie Steinburg, CherieFoto of Beverly Hills. It was a ridiculously busy and massive wedding at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  David and I spent our lunch break chatting and learning about each other and their work. Turned out we had many commonalities and David could appreciate how I quit my old job and life to pursue photography full time in an area I had never lived. We’ve been great friends since.

David is someone I’ve been able to look up to, someone to confide in (which is difficult in our business to have close friends you can talk to about photo-related things). He has been a major source of advice, wealth of information, and MASSIVE supporter of me while I’ve tried to carve out a space for my work in the over-saturated Southern California market.

I’m not sure how much of that I’ve ever actually told David in the past, but I’ve really valued his friendship these last few years. So, when I started going through ideas of people I wanted in my Portrait Series, David was at the top of that list. Now the hard part would be making our schedules match up. He’s a busy guy, let me tell you… not many people can balance three or more weddings in a week and still give each bride the world – but, he can.

Now, onto the images… and I’ll share a bit more through the rest of this blog:

“Photography is like sex! Seriously, think about it. You’re focused, in the moment, completely oblivious to the world when you’re shooting… that’s sex!”
That’s got to be one of the greatest comparisons I’ve ever heard about photo.
For those of you who have had the chance to meet David, you can probably picture him saying it, too.

David brings an energy, with personality and style, everywhere he goes – I don’t think I’ve heard him give the same name twice at Starbucks for his drink… ever.
That same energy and attitude is what I was hoping to capture during our portrait session in Huntington Beach the afternoon we went shooting.

We created a great variety of shots, all different, and we did it in a short amount of time. Really the afternoon was much more about catching up  and chatting than shooting – again, our schedules never seem to match up.

I decided to bring out his eyes in this shot to humanize it rather than have straight attitude from solid shades.

Here’s full shot of the first image at the beginning of the post. A very simple portrait, but, when cropped in tighter as I did above, it becomes a much more intimate look at a side of David most may not get the chance to see. But, David gave me the chance to photograph it.

Cell phone shot by David when we started. hahaha!

David’s Twitter feed: HERE
David’s website: Esquire Photography

David will be one of my featured images at the RAW Artists: Hollywood showcase on April 7th at Playhouse, Hollywood. I hope you guys can all come by and check out my work! You’re going to want to pre-order your tickets online, they’re $10. Lounge attire required, 21+ only. http://www.rawartists.org/hollywood/unearthed/?artistid=10284