Saverio Truglia

Field Museum for Cosmopolitan

I can’t remember ever not having a huge crush on science. As a kid I loved dinosaurs, sea creatures and the like but once I got older, evolution, anthropology, and biology somehow became more relevant to my  grown-up self. Maybe it had to do with an appreciation of my mortality as I began to wrap my brain around the vast concept of planet Earth.

I’m lucky to live in a city with a world class museum in honor of everything natural. The Field Museum of natural history sits handsomely on the Chicago lakefront and is a jewel in the study and exhibition of the natural and anthropological sciences.  Recently I was invited by the Field to photograph Emily Graslie, the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of the Field Museum for Cosmopolitan. Emily is a former art student turned self styled science correspondent and  host of the popular YouTube channel, The Brain Scoop about animals and the function of their [dead] bodies. She’s on staff with the communications department at the Field Museum.

I was fortunate that  morning to sample parts of the museum that visitors almost never gets to see.  Only ~ 1% of the Field’s specimens are on display. The rest of it is in storage or being used in study. As we wandered the maze of hallways and rooms, in no short supply were victorian storage cabinets of all sized filled with say, the skeletal remains of  birds. Orangutans and water buffalo bones hung seemingly discarded in  hallways. Spider collections, and jars and jars of all too recognizable preserved animals from generations ago sit on rows of shelves.  The Field is a living museum. Imagine if the Met could have Edgar Degas live-painting ballerinas in the basement–the collection is constantly being added to, documented and prepared right on site.

One of the most fascinating places I photographed in was the egg room where thousands of eggs, some tiny enough to fit in a thimble lived adjacent to ostrich eggs so  dense and heavy  you’d think they were made from porcelain.  Emily toured me from department to department dropping little pearls of wisdom about the collection and the animals we got to touch and smell.

Read the published story here at Cosmopolitan.com 

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Making the dream home practical for Re/Max and Leo Burnett

I bought my first home during the inflation of the recent real estate bubble. Prices were soaring and the common prophecy was,  ‘Buy now. Double your money tomorrow.’  In retrospect this logic was flawed for millions whose dream homes didn’t align with realities of the future. Fortunately for me I bought a home I loved and could afford. I still live there today. This hindsight is the backbone of an advertising campaign I contributed to for Re/Max real estate and Leo Burnett called, Dream With Your Eyes Open, art directed by the ever optimistic Flavio Pina. A whimsical TV spot art directed by Flavio is posted here.

My contribution were two magically real print concepts about buying a home both unique and  just-right for you.  Like many of my projects, the earliest conversion with the client was about how we were actually going to do it? I saw it required some creative problem solving and wanted to create as much of the image in-camera as I could, adding digital elements sparingly.

Creating “Castle of Cards” was possible with the steady hand of master prop builder Rich Schiller who designed with me the massive structure, which could stack and grow as necessary. I researched photographs of European castles but found that children’s toys were a better guide for how to build ours. Custom cards were printed with tiny Re/Max logos and assembled in sections on set.   The castle and the talent were shot on location in a cozy loft apartment.  A bike ride  through downtown Chicago with my camera yielded the train seen outside  the window, shot at a picturesque location where the elevated tracks tracks turns 90 degrees.

To begin “Dog Door”, my digital tech and I flew to Orlando. After getting our rental SUV we stopped at Home Depot and loaded up on landscaping supplies and shrubs used to style the home I rented. It wasn’t a big job so we just did it ourselves. The next week I brought into studio a custom made dog door and shot it along with the animals I cast. Although I shoot animals of all kinds, Great Danes were  new and I learned quickly how lumbering and slow they are, cautious not to fall. Fortunately we had two dogs on set and the female was more willing to push her limits.  To take advantage of each pass of  the dog, I shot with strobe at 8 frames per second (thanks Broncolor and Canon). By the end of the day I was covered to the elbow in the salmon we used to reward the dog. Again, sometimes you’ve just got to do it yourself.    The only piece of CGI  was the rubber dog door made by Fred Muram at Paradigm color and integrated in post-production by Tim Blokel of Stick Digital.

It was the kind of shoot I love because it was both technical and production intensive, but required a great deal of flexibility and adaption-something I love about photography.  The client trusted my lead on producing each aspect and together we made a nice companion to the larger campaign.

Creative Credits

Client: Re/Max, Agency: Leo Burnett Chicago, Art Director: Flavio Pina, Art Produce: Mariana Perin, Props: Rich Schiller, Retouching: Stick Digital, CGI: Paradigm Color, Producer: Monica Zaffarano, Styling: Courtney Rust, Hair and Make up: Gina Ussel, Location: Levinson Locations

 

 

 

 

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Babies, duct tape, and my own kid.

Sleepless and bleary the day following my son’s birth, I got an email about a job. A creative director at the LA agency Mistress had seen a picture of mine and wanted to talk about my shooting something similar. They asked for a creative call.

Unshaven and having slept badly on the vinyl couch in my wife’s recovery room, I looked over the creative brief and laughed. I saw among the reference photos something I had shot – an image of an 8-month old baby duct-taped to a wall, alone and staring off into the distance, maybe about to cry. I made the picture as part of a personal project many years prior to having children.

Mistress was creating a similar shot for Cedars Sinai Children’s Hospital along with some other concepts. The creative was about how we gladly forgive our children’s mischievous havoc, just grateful that they’re safe, healthy and thriving – the essential deliverables of a children’s hospital.

Shuffling out of our room and past the closed blinds of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), laptop clutched in my grip, I turned into a nearby waiting room and dialed in. I thought it somehow fitting that I was discussing a picture I made about childcare long before I had a child, just as my notions about parenting were being drastically rewritten.

On the call I drew upon my 24 hours of parenting experience. When speaking about how I felt about the concept, I kept thinking about the NICU I’d just passed. About all the parents who had sat in this waiting room, unable to touch or talk to their newborn children lying alone in a Plexiglas warmer–waiting for some news from a pediatrician–waiting for when they can all just go home. I was getting horribly choked up-but for good reason. Our son was with my wife in our room. I was feeling gratitude, but also compassion for the audience of these eventual ads, which I realized suddenly, included me.

Gratefully I was awarded this special project and soon after flew to LA to produce the work. The schedule was demanding and working with babies, children and animals challenged my crew. However, then a parent for just 3-weeks, I felt some added license with the child talent I was working with. I approached my role as a director with more than my average patience.  The production as you can imagine took its detours, which needed my solving but the whole experience was more joyful knowing that I’d be soon going back to my own little guy.

 

Agency: Mistress Creative, Art Director: Damien Eley, Client: Cedars Siani, Agency Producer: Emily Brackett, Photographer’s Producer: Megan Sluiter

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Polar Vortex People

The meteorologist said to stay inside. The Polar Vortex has come loose from its mooring and slipped into North America bringing with it snow and record low temperatures. -42F  will cause frostbite to exposed skin within seconds.  Most Chicagoans had no choice but to hunker down in their homes – Many with toilets refusing to refill from frozen pipes below. Definitely, stay inside!   As temperatures plummeted and the snow deepened I defied warnings and went out for a photographic experiment.  Layered in high performance outerwear and wool I climbed into my car to scour the neighborhoods looking to photograph Chicagoans crazy and bold enough to be on the streets.  As expected I found plenty. Some working theit jobs or shoveling out stuck cars. One guy’s van had just caught fire and another had ventured out in slippers to feed her pigeons–a daily ritual. What I’d not expected was the easy rapport I’d have with them all.   The thing about extreme events is that it unites us. When we all experience the same unpleasant thing, empathy towards our fellow person develops. I believe that it’s a human survival instinct – or just misery loves company. So a quick introduction was enough to get them on board. Slipping my business card into their mits, I expressed my gratitude and slid away.   These are a selection of portraits from 4 days in the Polar Vortex during the first week of January 2014.

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The strangest little photo booth in Chicago

Some of my earliest attempts at photographing groups of people was in the mid 90′s creating photo booths for my friends parties. Back then I put folks behind a decorated frame and shot 2, 3, 5 people on Polaroid Spectra film. I sold prints for $3 each. 2  for $5.  Once in a while a scanned copy finds its way to me after being discovered in a box of love letters. An obvious sign of solidarity.

My photo booths have evolved over the years. It’s actually been years since I’ve created one, but when my dear old friend Nate Euhus aka DJ LA Jesus asked me to create one for a party he was producing at Chicago’s new Chop Shop, I said, “Hmmm. Maybe. Well OK!”

I supposed the set could be described as, adolescent boy’s room–circa 1983. Complete with smoky mattress, grandmas afghan, tape deck, Chinese food and a copy of Playboy, party-goers interpreted my art direction in a relaxed and intimate setting.  If you’re in the pictures and want a larger copy or print, just hit me up.

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This is Intense

What if your elderly father died and left you and your two estranged siblings with a southern plantation full of shit, a huge debt to pay-off and a dirty mystery about who he was?  Although I’ve personally experienced something akin to this mess, I’m grateful my family dynamic never descended like  Appropriate –on stage  in Chicago at Victory Gardens Theater  and  concurrently Washington DC at Woolly Mammoth Theater.

Asked by Victory Garden’s [marketing manager Tim Speicher and Artistic Director, Chay Yew] to make a narrative image to sell this darkly comic play,  I quickly sketched up some ideas to share.  The only requisite was that all three siblings be pictured though Bo, the eldest brother had not been cast yet. Once the theater was on board with the drawing and a stand in for Bo hired, I  added something which is never shown in the play–the funeral day.  Knowing well that the story takes place long after the burial, I chose to dress the actors in dark formal wear to address the death and unify them having a shared experience. I turned our stand-in away from camera and concealed his face using  him as a piece of the composition.

Before shoot day I built a simple set with some furniture, wallcoverings, trim and props I rented. Since the chair rail was so high, I resolved to raise up the furniture on dozens of apple boxes. This posed a real danger for the actors whose chair legs rested precariously on the edge. So I set an assistant to watch the chair legs. Happily not a single collarbone was nicked.

This was a particularly cool shoot for me. One, because I love telling a complex story in single images and two, because it shared some similarities to my own experience when my dad passed away in 2010 and how my two siblings and I felt afterward.

By the time multiple rounds of retouching were complete the brother on the right– the hired extra–was cut from the scene focusing on just the two. Needless to say I assembled my “directors cut” for my website. You can see the image on busses throughout Chicago. BTW I do recommend this play but get ready for a very bumpy ride.

Directed by Gary Griffin Written by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins

 

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#30SecondPortraits

Last Friday was the second of this year’s open studio parties in my building with over 800 guests! I advertised in advance– for lack of a better word– “Free Selfies”.  A misnomer of course. I was actually inviting them to make a new profile pic with me, not a selfie – you wouldn’t see my arms. (I recently learned of the term “Profie-P” but thought the term too…tween UK)  This wasn’t the first time I’ve offered portraits at my parties (or shot a casting) and have learned from experience to do them fast.  So over the din of the DJ, I barked out simple posing direction then let them go for about 30 seconds. Not a lot of time but in the context of things, enough. So here–between cups of IPA and too brief conversations with friends–are people who gave me face time for the length of a toilet paper commercial. If any of these are you, click and drag the small thumbnail to your desktop, post, tweet, InstaG and share. Please just #30SecondPortraits #SaverioTruglia. Thanks for letting me shoot your picture. Thanks for coming to my studio and please stay in touch. saverio@saveriotruglia.com

Im also building a new section of my site with my favorites from this night  HERE.

 

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Sunday through Sunday: A muse on the Chicago Marathon.

This sunday was the 108th running of the Chicago Marathon. 40,000 people descend on the city to run it each year. Most of the time I watch it on the 9pm news but Sunday I felt compelled to get close–to get someone else’s sweat on me.  My wife has run this marathon twice and I see her face every day, but I wanted to experience who else runs in this annual spectacle of humanity?

I rode by bike to Chinatown and among the dim sum diners and tourists, I found a low spot on the inside of a turn where the runners cut the corner and run close to the curb. This is where I crouched for an hour shooting the runners as they strode out of the bright sun into a cool open shadow, and I loved the light there. To the amateur, open shadow is boring light but it is alive with random ambient reflection and color especially on dark, sweaty skin.  In the blur of movement your eye can’t see this quality of light and its cumbersome to create in the studio. It takes 1/500th of a second and the right over exposure, but it’s there.

I also enjoy seeing people in unguarded moments. At mile 22 in a marathon, your about as unguarded as you’ll likely get in a given year. At this point runners are turning inward, looking for strength to make every last meter. I was fascinated by  the range of feeling I could read on their faces – from grimaced determination to hazy-eyed focus, it kept me crouching there longer than I had time to.  The next day as I edited these, I thought about people who run marathons. Why do it? Who are these people? In the end  I had a theory that satisfies me.  I think people who run marathons are generally exceptional people with exceptional integrity.  I’m not talking about the Kenyans –although they are exceptionally fast. But I mean the regular people,  like these 21 folks  who were going to finish well past 4 hours. No record setting here.  I think they operate in an elevated sphere of integrity most others don’t. Many run selflessly for a cause to raise money or awareness to  benefit someone other than themselves– Cancer research, Ronald McDonald House, Child Lymphoma Society, whatever.  I think others run for their legacy, for their children or to make sense of their existence on the planet. Maybe it’s something that brings them closer to the people they love or closer to the feeling of death, which in turn makes us feel more alive! Whatever it is, these people were on a journey. A marathon is a beta of an ideal life lived. A long hard slog on a road you can’t  step from until you’ve fulfilled every promise you’ve made. Imagine if this were how we all lived our lives, Sunday through Sunday.

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Your work is easy.

Rubin has been in the US legally for over 40 years. He and his family owns a storefront flower shop in the mostly Mexican immigrant Chicago neighborhood of Brighton Park. On weekends he sells roses at the end of an off-ramp of US Rt. 55 at California Ave. He’s got a rhythm about his work. Deftly timing the lights and drifting effortlessly between the oncoming traffic –much of which are cement trucks heading the the nearby factory.  If you listen carefully, you can hear his whistling. He makes bird songs the entire time he’s out there.

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