Stay Tuned for Style!

It may be raining here as I write this, but it was sunny in the studio last month when I was joined by Ani, from Humanity Lowell, a cool little boutique for women on Merrimack Street, my style collaborator Grace, as well as Christa and Monika who clearly lit up the studio with their modeling talents.

We are looking forward to better weather here in Massachusetts that will be allow for another shoot, this time out on location. Watch for our work here in a few short months. Hmm…maybe another studio shoot is in order before then!

A Collaborative Success

This winter, former Mad Man Pete Pedulla and I embarked on a video collaboration. This was in response to a call from the City of Lowell to compete for a prize that would be given to the best 15 second promotional spot for the city. The city decided to give two prizes, to two very different pieces, both of which are linked to in the press release that follows. Ours will be showing in theaters in the area before the feature films. If you see it, let me know. I would love to know that you saw it and what you thought.


City Manager, Special Events Office, and the Department of Planning & Development use the creative economy to create the message

[LOWELL, MA— May 23, 2013] The City of Lowell has been rebuilding itself through historical redevelopment and the creative economy since the 1980’s.  Now home to a large artist’s community, as well as the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Middlesex Community College, Lowell has become known for its wealth of artistic activity and resources.  So this year, when the City decided to create a marketing campaign, it made sense to turn to that local community.   The result  was a campaign of ads, films, and marketing materials that have made it into malls, the backs of buses, movie theaters, and people’s shopping carts, all designed by established and emerging Lowell artists.

“We’ve been talking about how important the creative economy is to Lowell for years now.  It just made sense that we would tap them when we were looking for some creative ideas to promote the City,” said Economic Development Director Theresa Park.  

The campaign first got off the ground when University of Massachusetts professor Karen Roehr approached the City about a grant she had received for her students to design a comprehensive marketing campaign for a business.  Roehr thought the City would be the best entity to promote and approached City Manager Bernie Lynch about the idea. “We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we agreed to work with the students,” said Lynch, “but we are extremely pleased with the results.”

The UMass campaign designed by Jason Taylor, Juliana DeSouza, and Mike Noonan was incorporated into a series of ads promoting everything from dining and galleries to baseball and affordable housing.  The ads have been appearing in the Burlington Mall, as well as in MBTA bus shelters and on bus tails that have been travelling throughout the greater Boston area.  

The success of the UML campaign encouraged the City to reach out again to the community, this time with a pair of marketing contests:  the design of a “Lowell Bag” to be used for distribution at special events like the Lowell Folk Festival, and the creation of a 15-second ad to appear in movie theaters.   

Graphic designer Chase Compton won the bag competition by creating a stylized image of a factory with an entirely upper-cased LOWELL embedded in the design.  The winning picture was screen printed onto bags and sewn by local manufacturer UnWrapped, keeping the whole process “in-house”.  

Three artists shared the award for the best 15-second film.  Former New York ad man Peter Pedulla and local photographer Adrien Bisson teamed up to create a fast-paced montage of “what’s to like about Lowell,” narrated by local actresses Obehi Janice and Jacqueline O’ Kelly. The film is currently being shown at the AMC theatre in Woburn and begins screening in Burlington and Methuen later this spring.  The second film was created by Lowell filmmaker Joey Sylvester and presents a series of scenic vistas of Lowell over which are superimposed the defining characteristics of the City, including creativity and courage.  

While this is the first time the City has created a marketing campaign with local talent, it won’t be the last.  The Office of Economic Development is already working on plans to create a series of films to promote local businesses.  Park had this to say about the decision: “When you have the rich resources that we have here in Lowell, the adage ‘buy local’ is easy to achieve.”

Both winning films, Compton’s bag design, and the ad campaigns created by UMass Lowell can be viewed on the City’s website,

Pedulla/Bisson link

Sylvester link


About The City of Lowell

A crossroad of commerce and creativity, the City of Lowell is a diverse urban environment. Named one of the best places to live by Boston Magazine, the City is characterized by its established arts community, distinct residences and commercial vitality.  The fourth largest city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Lowell is home to an eclectic mix of cultural attractions and events including the Lowell Folk Festival, Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell Memorial Auditorium and the Tsongas Arena.  A leader in urban redevelopment, Lowell offers a variety of residential and commercial space from renovated mills to modern high-rises.  Strategically located at the intersections of Routes 495, 93 and 3, Lowell has established itself as a leading business and entertainment destination throughout Massachusetts and Greater New England.  

Office of the City Manager

City Hall • 375 Merrimack Street • Lowell, MA 01852

P: 978.970.4000 • F: 978.970.4007

Bernard F. Lynch

City Manager

Professional Portraits vs. Happy Accidents - We're Making Photographs, not Taking Them

There's a term that applies to a certain type of photograph that you may be familiar with. The term is "happy accident". It's generally a pretty loaded term. It can be an insult directed at a photographer who may have created an image that is good, or even great, but the person wielding the phrase feels that the good image is an exception rather than the rule, based on that person's perception of the artist's work. It can also be used by a photographer to describe his or her own photograph, implying, not so subtly, that the image in question was acquired by luck, clean living, or some other reason not directly related to skill or artistry.

Hobbyists tend to thrive on happy accidents. I don't mean this as a criticism! If photography is something that you love, just for the fun and satisfaction that it brings, there is nothing at all to be ashamed of! For professional photographers, happy accidents are things that you will certainly take if they make themselves available, but cannot be relied upon to pay the rent. Its a little like winning the lottery; I'll take it, but lottery winning is not a livelihood.

As a professional portrait photographer, your goal is to 'create a photograph'. I really prefer that phrase to 'taking a photograph'. The difference is one of mindset. Am I showing up, putting up some lights so that the subject won't be in the dark and then snapping away, hoping for some kind of intervention? Not a chance! You need to walk into the studio or onto a location with a frame of mind totally focused on making a great photograph. You are creating a work of art, no matter how mundane or commercial the assignment might be. The location is sized up. A series of shot options is internalized, discussed with assistants and possibly the subject, any lighting that is necessary is set up, furniture is almost always moved(*). Then, photographs are made.

There are so many things to take in and consider when you are about to create photographs at a professional commercial level: how subjects or models will be portrayed, composition, lighting, style, props, distractions, etc.. You can't just walk in and start shooting, hoping for some happy accidents. You need a concept, and an ability to execute it. Once things are starting to fire on all cylinders in a given context, the shooting can commence in earnest. I make a lot of shots when I am creating portraits. But the activity is directed and intentional. Often, when discussing an upcoming shoot, the subject may ask, "how long will it take, a few minutes?". It's important to explain to the subject that this takes preparation, must look great, both for the client and the subject, and while accidents happen, both happy and otherwise, we are making photographs. Really good photographs. Which is my job.

Just Some Photos that I Like!

When I blog, I like to write something that readers will hopefully find interesting and will compel them to read and look further. It's often a challenge, as I don't feel like a writer. As photographers, we communicate with our images. Ultimately, that's what I hope will draw people in. I know it won't be my words, but I hope that my words will serve as an introduction to my work.

This time, I only have my images. As a commercial photographer, I spend a lot of time creating photographs that are not strictly artistic. While artistry is involved, their role in life is largely utilitarian. That is true in a business sense, but the discerning client knows that they are more than that; they serve to evoke an emotion in the viewer. The esthetic value may be subtle, but it's there. That's why I can only shake my head in disbelief when I see a cell phone self portrait or a red cup party shot used as a business headshot. People! Potential clients are judging you, possibly unfairly, based on an initial impression. You've heard this rant before, I'm sure.

So since I have nothing to say today ;-), I thought I would post some business portraits and some actor headshots that I did recently and that I really like.

The first bunch of shots are of a young actress and dancer.


I also had the privilege of photographing this Boston attorney, who also does legal commentary on a TV network. She really understands the value of good images!

Not Just Academic Marketing

I spent most of this summer working with the excellent web team at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on their web site redesign project. As a location portrait photographer I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to create environmental portraits of a wide spectrum of administration, faculty members and students for the web site's many profiles. Here is one of several :

Academic marketing has changed quite a bit since the days when you would request a catalogue in the mail that would contain five or ten year old generic photos of happy students. The landscape today is very competitive and the UML team members take their jobs very seriously.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from this summer.

UMass Lowell


I spent most of this summer working with the excellent web team at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on their web site redesign project. As a location portrait photographer I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to create environmental portraits of a wide spectrum of administration, faculty members and students for the web site's many profiles. Here are a few of my favorites.


The Portrait Conversation

Melissa said that she was nervous. I couldn't tell. But we talked about all kinds of things as I arranged lights and modifiers. Melissa works in health care, and her friend Matthew, who came with her to the shoot, works on a sustainable farming project, so we had lots to talk about. She even asked about me, which was really nice, so for a while we talked about music and photography. I was hoping that her nervousness had dissipated by this point, and I was happy to hear her say a little while into it that she was enjoying the shoot.

I think sometimes that a subject's nervousness is actually excitement. Excitement about the event, the process and the whole idea of being literally and figuratively, the focus of attention for that short time.

There are times when you get a chance to photograph someone who is really excited to be photographed. I think this was the case that evening because in these shots of Melissa her personality and beauty just jump out at you. When I do studio shoots like this I rarely photograph two people the same way. After we interact for a while, I start to develop a direction in my mind of the way in which I want the shoot to go and how to capture that person in images. With Melissa, I knew somehow that I just wanted a simple, almost monochrome theme, and that I was working with someone with whom I could use relatively hard light, and would absolutely glow, contrasting with the starkness of the scene in a really significant way.

Andrew - Playwright, journalist and general writer

As you might have guessed, I am working on a project to capture images of people that I meet around the Lowell and Merrimack Valley area of New England. I asked Andrew Wetmore if he would sit for me several months ago, but time has a tendency to slip away if you aren't attentive. We finally got to it during the recent holiday break at my studio. Andrew is a playwright, journalist, high-tech nerd (and I mean that in the best possible way - I was one myself ;-), and Canadian, in no particular order. As you will see, he has a very interesting and character filled face!

David - The Artist

I photographed David Barton, a mixed media artist, recently. I set out to capture a side of David that is not often apparent in the photos that I had seen, or taken of him in the past. A fascinating personality, David creates sculpture that he calls 3D Paintings. I'd give you his web site, doesn't have one yet!

Not just another corporate headshot

...It never really is. Who wants to just paint by the numbers? Every subject is unique and you need to approach every person and their shoot differently. You want to get a special look or gesture that seems to be the special thing about that person.

I recently worked with the excellent graphic designer, Geralyn Miller on one such project with Anthony, a finance guy. It was a lot of fun! Anthony is a great guy, and I think it comes across in the shots. We worked in the renovated 19th century mill building where Geralyn works, and Anthony was very patient as we dragged stuff from place to place looking for just the right atmosphere.


Geralyn took her own shots between holding light stands ;-) Got to love shooing on a staircase!