Sunday, September 27, 2009

New York State of Mind

I just returned from a quick 72-hour trip to New York City and as usual, there were a few "only in NY" moments.

As a child in the early 70s, I remember riding the subway, walking through Times Square and playing in Central Park when these areas were well known for muggings, assaults and other fun things. By the late 90s, the Giuliani regime had cleaned up much of the city and aside from the occasional one-finger salute, tourists can now enjoy most parts of Manhattan unscathed.

One of the most beautiful areas of the city has to be Central Park. There is one area within the park featuring a majestic elm tree-lined path where my family and I enjoyed a few moments of zen over the weekend. And when I wanted to photograph the beautiful tree canopy, I used my mini-triopd to set my camera at a very low, dramatic angle, dead center of the pathway.

While adjusting through my camera, I watched a grey-bearded wizard-type creature walk right up to my lens, mumbling something like "At your service" and "Google my name." (He looked like a KKK member after raiding the wardrobe department on the Harry Potter set.) I turned around but there were no film crews, kid's birthdays or early Halloween parties in the area. I didn't know where to redirect him out of my shot.

In my experience with shooting in other urban areas, I remembered the magic formula for getting people to move out of my So, I offered the wizard guy $1 (expecting him to politely turn it down as not to compromise his holy wizardry) when all of a sudden...POOF! The wizard—along with my dollar—was gone.

When I returned home, I did in fact Google his name "Blackwolf the Dragonmaster" and found not only did he recently appear on Conan O'Brien but has many YouTube videos including this one which will give you an idea of how Central Park's characters have evolved versus 40 years ago.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Play That Funky Music

A Miami-based hip-hop/R&B music promoter is looking for a graphic designer to produce CD covers, posters, banner ads and other marketing pieces.

I'm no graphic designer but above are two quick sample CD covers I did using images I shot a little while ago. It's funny what just a little cropping and typography can do.

Before this week, I probably would have referred them to one of my very talented designer friends. But now, I feel like taking on new and different things so let's see how well this white boy understands the hip-hop market.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Smile, Cupcake!

Now for something completely different.

Lise Ode, a good friend of mine, is starting a wholesale gourmet cupcake business. She's been baking custom wedding cakes for hundreds of dollars each and will now segue into the neglected cupcake market.

If someone would pay $4 for a cup of coffee, would they pay another $3 for a cupcake to go with it? We will see. In the meantime, she needed product shots and it just so happens that I do accept cupcakes as payment.

The lineup above is (left-to-right for the color blind) Pinkalicious, Minty Chocoate Mint and Creamy Lemon Dream. If you're feeling hungry about now, check out

Monday, September 14, 2009

Never Say Never

Remember when Bush The Elder made a campaign promise of "No new taxes" and then a few months later introduced a bunch of new taxes? Well, I always said I would never get back into my former life of graphic design but here I go again.

David Omsky, a 12-year-old amateur tennis player will be having his Bar Mitzvah this year. Since he loves tennis (and therefore loves Rafael Nadal), I asked him to sacrifice his teeth for a really great shot. I used the shot in the above invitation design and voila, I'm back in the graphics business.

If your dog is having some friends over for tea, I might even do an invite for that too. Aunt Gladys having her 200th birthday party? Let me know because I might actually enjoy this job the second time around.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hotel Rwanda: Part II

In the mid-1990s, Rwanda literally could not find a friend to save its life. Now, everybody wants in on Rwanda's prosperity and I guess that's just how the world works.

Back in March, I received a phone call from a man telling me about this 4-star hotel he built in Rwanda and how he wants top quality images to help market the property. He said he liked my work for Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz and others and he was willing to pay for that same quality.

My first thoughts (aside from that movie) were: How could there possibly be a photogenic hotel in a place like Rwanda? Are four Rwandan stars the same as four American stars? Does this man know what American photographers charge?

As it turns out, my impressions of this central African nation were still left over from 1994 when CNN, NBC and a few other media outlets were kind enough to preempt an episode of Seinfeld in order to debate the definition of genocide.

In the 15 years since the horror, this tiny country has experienced an introspection and self-improvement that even "The Greatest Country In The World" would be smart to emulate. Women now make up more than half of Rwanda's parliament. Dubai World has committed to US$4 billion in Rwandan development. There are plans to install high-speed broadband across the entire country and construction is booming. I guess success is easier once you've hit rock bottom.

A small component of this success is the Top Tower Hotel, a short drive from the new U.S. embassy in Kigali. It was designed by a Chinese architect and built by a Chinese general contractor. My client deserves the credit for hiring me all the way from Florida versus a local African photographer. I'm sure my cost estimate was a tough sell internally but he's somewhat of a visionary and an example of the country's new thinking.

I am thrilled to play my tiny part in helping promote the new Rwanda. But I'm also proud to be one of the few Americans to see that Rwanda's sequel is so much better than the original.

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