Jewelry and Flutes

Jeweler Robert Williams was kind enough to let me photograph him a few Saturdays ago in his Lowell studio, for my artist series. I learned that day too that he also makes high-end flutes - I think he said he is a master silver caster - in Boston, which he told me is where the best flutes are made. What I do know is that he makes amazing jewelry and is a super-nice guy. You can see a few of his pieces on his web site (, as well as on a video done by Howl Magazine here: 

His studio is at Western Avenue Studios, in Lowell, Massachusetts - Studio 208.

Locally-Grown Fashion

Last week Diana Jaye Coluntino stopped by my studio for a photo shoot. Diana, who studied fashion, metalsmithing and sculpture at Mount Ida and MassArt, ultimately teaching at MassArt, spent a decade designing in Venezuela and ended up in Lowell, Massachusetts as the Artistic Director of the Revolving Museum. A number of years ago, Diana founded New Vestures, where she is the Creative Director. 

New Vestures provides “support, space, resources and classes related to the creation of fashion and textile projects”. Located in Lowell, New Vestures recently moved out of their Merrimack Street location into a temporary one in the beautifully renovated 110 Canal Street building, which houses the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub. What a cool location!

I visited Diana yesterday to get a tour of that space, where she is working while waiting for the buildout of New Vestures’ new location to be completed. That new home will be just up the hill, still in the growing Hamilton Canal District, at Mill No. 5. That space, on the building’s 5th floor, just above the city’s cool new retail space on the 4th, will give New Vestures 3000 square feet of work space, not to mention a bunch of big windows overlooking the district.

So here are some of the shots during my tour and the portraits we did in my studio. Thank you Diana and best of luck in your new location!

Style... On the Cover

For this month's Merrimack Valley Magazine, I was part of a small army of creatives that were assigned to produce the magazine's fall fashion cover and cover stories. It was a fun day, with stylists, hair and makeup artists, creatives from the magazine, as well as photographer Meghan Moore and myself all working together with our two models to create something beautiful, interesting and hopefully informative. I'll show my cover shot here, but to see the rest of the spread, you will have to check out the magazine. Here though, are some of my favorites, both posed and unposed from that day at historic Coburn Hall, at the UMass Lowell campus in Lowell, Massachusetts.



Audiobooks, knitting and Shutesbury

Many of us who live near Boston think of places like Amherst as western Massachusetts. I don't know…I thought Worcester was. Actually, Shutesbury, which is very close to Amherst, is in central Massachusetts. It is surprisingly rural, but also surprisingly close to the city. On a beautiful, very warm (no, I won't start up that discussion again) June day, I visited knitting designer Gudrun Johnston and her family to do a photo shoot for AudioFile Magazine, which I love. The magazine sounds like it would be about audio gear, and something in my long, lost memory tells me that it once was, but its charter today really concerns audio books. The slowness of life reading, listening and the mellowness of people with whom the articles are concerned appeals to me.

Gudrun, who has a really interesting profession, and is a celebrity in her niche, is married to David Anthony Durham, who is a novelist and a celebrity in his own right. I would encourage you to check out the magazine, which is fairly easy to find in B&N and similar venues. The piece on Gudrun is short, but the photo is awesome[;-)], and there are lots of other great articles. 


Everyone Loves a Dog on the Cover

Before the premier of the Home issue of the Merrimack Valley Magazine is gone from the shelves, I thought I would post of few of my images from the pages of the magazine. Among other things, it features an extreme makeover in Andover, decorating ideas ranging from antiques to framing, beautiful lofts in Lawrence and a really inspiring Habitat for Humanity project. Oh, did I mention that these shoots were mine?



Self-assigned photo shoots are really a necessity. Shooting for yourself keeps things interesting and on your own trajectory. When the paid jobs are not where you want to be or where you want to go, it's doubly rewarding. Sometimes, for one reason or another, those shots may not be ones that you can use or ones that fit precisely into your portfolio, and your portfolio needs to represent exactly the kind of work that you want to attract. This latter point took a long time to sink in for me, but it is one of the most important things that a commercial photographer needs to learn. We all want to show work that we are proud of and that shows the world we are versatile and capable. But you need to ask yourself if any given shot in your portfolio is the kind of work that you want to continue to do, and further, if it is consistent with a focused message. Who are your ideal clients? What do they look for? Show them what they are looking for! Chances are, if they are looking for that specific thing, they probably don't want someone who does that thing along with all sorts of other, unrelated kinds of work. I'm sure this is not news.

For photographers, as well as many other disciplines, self-assigned work is really magic. It's an avenue that is freeing, useful and necessary. If you're building a new portfolio, especially one that is heading in a new direction, or if you are unhappy with the alignment of the work you are shooting for pay with your goals, self-assigned work is the answer. It's freeing because the what, when, where, who and how are all up to you. It's your chance to create a world from play-doh, to appropriate a phrase that someone used last week who I unfortunately cannot recall.

But here's where it gets tricky, for me at least; that clean slate. Which way should I go? And when I choose, who will give me permission? There's that word: permission. I used to be a professional musician, and there was always an undercurrent of guilt when I was practicing or working on something that wasn't income-generating. That's a pretty debilitating way to be if you are an artist. I'm not sure what made me like that, but as a musician I was always wary of the people who I would encounter who had “real jobs”. Well, I am older now, and my coping mechanism has grown from the unwavering support of my wife and the fact that I have seen the other side, and I know now that I have it so much better. Now I can give myself permission to work on something that has no practical value at this moment and is not generating income. I can do that because I know that what I am working on is part of what I want to do to be where I want to be, so that I can be sought out by clients, to do that thing.

The essential factor in giving yourself permission to do self-assignments is structure. Where do you want to go? My friend, photographer's consultant Selina Maitreya, talks consistently about “vision”. Without that, where are you going? I am reading David duChemin's new book and he has almost the  identical message. In order to get where you want to be, you need to figure out where that is. Once you have done so, make it happen. And if you don't have enough work that leads you in that direction, create it. I find it very useful to get myself into a situation in which I must create such work. For me, it has been taking the form of art shows. I create the kind of work that I want because no one is really dictating content, and it gives structure and permission to do so. But whatever form the structure takes, make sure that it leaves you free to create the work that you want to keep creating.

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!