Max Hirshfeld

Re-Vision: 50th Anniversary of Philip Johnson’s Kreeger Museum

Along with five other photographers, I was commissioned to document The Kreeger Museum in Washington,  Philip Johnson’s masterful work of architecture as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. For my portion, I envisioned a 30′ floating shelf where the 36 8×10 Dibond-mounted photographs (shot exclusively with an iPhone) could be displayed in a structured yet informal way, an attempt to foster the idea that the images might be seen more as sketches than as stand-alone photographs. I wanted them to be viewed in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way, allowing a visitor to move along at a comfortable pace or perhaps double-back should the instinct arise. My hope was that this might highlight some of the subtle, more intimate details of this ‘museum-as-house’ and its world-class collection of paintings and sculptures.

The show runs through July 29.

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Just mailed a great little trifold promotion featuring selections from several corporate image libraries we have shot over the past two years. Big thanks to Justine Hirshfeld for the inspired, elegant design.

 

Like mining for images…

The choice of background can make or break a photograph. And when I’ve had multiple assignments in the same office building the search for something new becomes ever more important. I love shooting portraits on location, but looking for the right setting — akin to rummaging around in a mine hoping to strike gold — is paramount.

A recent assignment for Barron’s unveiled this spot on the 14th floor of T. Rowe Price’s headquarters in Baltimore. This cool perch, complete with the bright blue chair, pops out like a glass bubble offering a terrific view of the skyline without overwhelming the subject. Thanks to Adrian DeLucca and Amber Sexton at Barron’s and to Jeff Rottinghaus for bringing his great grin and easy manner.

Secretary of the Smithsonian

 

Approximately one year ago I learned I had been short-listed to shoot the official portrait of Larry Small, the eleventh Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Nine of the ten prior commissions were oil paintings with the tenth (of I. Michael Heyman, Secretary from 1994-1999) completed by Arnold Newman, the legendary portrait photographer.

I’ve often imagined the gentle give and take between subject and artist when a painting is commissioned; several sittings are often required where small talk and a certain formality are common, and it is not unusual for the final work to be months in the making. But in the overwhelming majority of the portraits I have photographed I am lucky to have twenty minutes with someone I have never met. Homework and knowledge of craft can invariably help in those situations but in this instance (over the course of two generous meetings with Secretary Small) we were able to develop a solid rapport and a real comfort level with each other. Soon after I was awarded the commission and we were off.

Working with the remarkable Leica ‘S’ camera system and a beautiful backdrop from Oliphant Studios in NYC, my crew and I spent a lovely afternoon just before Thanksgiving last year with Secretary Small. The final select, shown here, now resides in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery where, coincidentally, I had my first job in photography.

I am honored and humbled by this commission.

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Niki Boon’s images are a revelation to me, a signpost to an outlier world where innocence and simple pleasures fill children’s lives. Her children are the children of W. Eugene Smith and Sally Mann, of Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man. They are our children of course as well as the us we think we used to be. Documenting this little slice of wonderment and discovery is a gift Niki offers, one that defies the march of technology that has subsumed us but ironically allows us to share it only because said technology exists.

In her own words:

“We live a simple life in rural New Zealand, on a 10 acre property surrounded by rivers, coastline, bush and hills.

My children are unschooled and live without TV or modern electronic devices, a lifestyle that may seem unconventional to some but I am here to celebrate the magical place I choose to live with my family.

I document their days, together, in an environment full of nature and uninhibited play. I photograph as  physical record of their childhood, life as it is… the real …but also as a reflection of a childhood rooted deep in my own past …a most sincere place of freedom.. a childhood I now pass on to my own children. Although deeply personal I believe that others will also connect to some aspect of their own childhood…

I believe my children are right where they belong covered in mud , running and living through nature.

They belong here wild and free and earth connected in a way where the landscape begins and their little souls end.”

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Faneuil

Photography allows me to insert myself into someone else’s world for a short, intense period of time. Whether a traditional office environment, a factory full of dust and noise or the intimate confines of someone’s house, I love relying on my visual instincts to zero in on some of the essential elements that make a strong image.

Recently my crew and I spent one day in one location producing dozens of images as part of a rebrand for Faneuil, a rising star in the customer service sector of big business. On first glance, an office with no art on the walls might appear too stark but when translated into a unique palette for photography we were able to move through the space quickly and efficiently and concentrate on the people and their dedicated focus.

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