Season's Greetings

At the close of another year, I am again humbled that making art and messing around with pictures is what puts gas in my car.  I look forward to making more creative and inspiring work with all of my talented crew and collaborators.  Look for my new website to launch in early 2013 at

Click image to enlarge

Wise words for $18.21

1. I just gradated from photography school and need to get a job.
2. I am reaching a successful mid career but wonder if I could be doing something better .
3. I hear that cameras now don't need film.

If any of these sounds like you, you should buy this book.  I mention it because along with photographers Chase Jarvis, Mark Katzman, and Dan Winters, there's an interview with me in this resource from ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers).  Buy it here.

I'm on pages 240-242

Mormon lust

The Tony Award winning play, The Book of Mormon is sold out into April and it's barely open yet.
There's something of a fervor around the tickets to this apparently raunchy tale told by the creators of South Park. (can you tell I've not seen it?)

Time Out Chicago had the idea to shoot a Mormon missionary who's strayed into the theater district into the clutches of ticketless would be theater goers.
A behind the scenes video of the shoot is here.

Pulling a Mormon from Saverio Truglia on Vimeo.
Behind the scenes from yesterday's shoot in Milwaukee.

Film friendly

When Hollywood comes to Chicago for its locations or unique production capabilities, Rick Moskal eventually gets involved. Rich is the Director of the Chicago film office and I photographed him for the CS Mens Book magazine.  We shot on location at Gig Rig where the film and photography industry hires motor homes and production support vehicles.
Rich Moskal. Director of Chicago Film Office.

 I really enjoyed meeting Rich as we're both big fans of the Starz drama series Boss about  a corrupt and intransigent Chicago mayor who's secretly living with a fatal neurological disease.
On a brighter side, Rich and I had a great chat about the direction of the film industry in Chicago and some horror stories about a Bollywood action adventure filming in town that was giving him some heartburn.

Underwear Overlord

When it's character development I'm doing for my clients I usually get a pencil sketch of some stick figure standing against a wash of gray with a sketchy prop or in a vague wardrobe. The rest is kind of up to me and the art director to flesh out.
Jack: Homeowner, DIY guy, is a PC.

 This time in addition to those simple (but color)sketches, boutique Kansas City ad agency Meers gave me a descriptive deck describing the three characters they wanted me to create for their Missouri Gas Energy campaign .  I prefer the vagueness of sketches and descriptions because it forces the conversation about who these characters are and it frees me to define them more specifically. Sometimes good creative takes its own sweet time and although we didn't have the luxury of time, the art director and I had a great exchange about how to interpret the layouts.  Budget was a concern so I made the best use of our money by making some logistical adjustments so to milk our dolla's dry. The choices we made really changed the creative for the better and I'm confident we have a stronger campaign for it.

Agency: Meers
Creative Director: Dave Thornhill
Art Director: Brandon Bennett
Client: Missouri Gas Energy

Interview with me on APhotoEditor

Still Images in Great Advertising- Saverio Truglia

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
As I continue to showcase my favorite advertising winners in this year’s Communication Arts Photography annual, I wanted to showcase the ad by Saverio Truglia for Pan Am accessories campaign.  I was not aware of his work so while doing my research for this blog, it was nice to see his work and how he was chosen for this campaign and others.  I think that is one of the main reasons I am doing this column; I want to show photographers how important some award shows can be for your career.  It is up to you to make sure you do what you can to market it beyond just being in the annuals.

Suzanne:  When I go to your site, it is hard to figure out what is self assigned and what is assignment.  What do you use for inspiration when you are testing for your portfolio?

Saverio: You’re right. I showcase mostly either self-assigned work or redirections of client work. I don’t differentiate the two on my site. All my best images comes from the same passion so if client work is great, then I share it in the same place. My inspiration for shooting for myself is driven by my personal curiosity in the moment. There’s a lot in life that inspires me to check it out more closely. Making pictures for myself usually starts with seeing something in the physical world I want to investigate and repurpose. Like an out of place situation, the way light strikes a surface, or meeting somebody extraordinary. Making personal work is important to honing my instincts. Testing can also be a launching pad to experiment and try new approaches at pushing my comfort zone. I’ll always gravitate to shooting people and I find the camera to still be an incredible access point into people’s lives. When they know my curiosity is authentic and pure, I get invited into homes, businesses and bedrooms. It’s kind of uncanny how they participate and it always leaves me with a story to tell about the experience, not just the pictures. I usually write about it on my blog. When clients reference my personal work as inspiration for their own projects, it often leads to successful campaigns.

Suzanne:  The interesting thing about this winning image is that it is a combination of your period work but with a fashion flare.  Tell me about this campaign and how much you were a part of the concept to final process?

Saverio: I love working with period styling because of the rich back-story it gives. It conveys details about a character’s circumstance. Fashion isn’t something I’m known for but if the character needs to be dressed well to convey what’s happening to her, then fashion is my back-story and I’m totally into it.
There were no layouts so the creative director contacted me early to share his ideas and to get my spin. He races vintage motorcycles so was tossing around ideas of speed, Pan Am as emblem for the golden age of travel, and something about escape. I brought the idea that modern travel is full of inconvenience and that maybe we could play with the idea of getting f’d at the airport. We had access to vintage transportation like cars, motorcycles, a biplane, etc. It was kind of awesome. I fell in love with this blue Porsche laying about the airport hanger. Its shape was so satisfying to me. So I built a story around this girl who is trying frantically to catch her flight but gets stopped along the way. The afternoon sun was right and I added some light to pop all the surfaces. That month I was into shooting everything from above so I brought a ladder and looking down found all these delicious lines and triangles to play with. The concept that this girl parks her Porsche on the runway and won’t admit defeat made her into this spoiled, space age brat which was appealing to me.

Suzanne:  I was inspired to read your bio because I wanted to see where you grew up.  I was convinced either Europe or South America, so I was pleasantly surprised by the Northeast.  With that being said, where does this inter Euro vision come?  Being brought up on Italian food?

Saverio: My family came from Italy after WWII and settled in coastal New Hampshire where I grew up. My grandfather was a brick mason. He loved geometry. My father had a themed seafood restaurant called the Pirates Cove and Peg Leg Lounge. It was exactly as you imagine. My mother bred very elegant Morgan show horses. As a kid I was obsessed with the slickness of European bike racing and both parents encouraged me to study art early on. I suppose it all got mixed into the soup. My grandmother did most of the Italian cooking.

Suzanne:  While I see the sophistication of European work but with an Americana theme, how do you strike that balance?

Saverio: I’m an American. In fact I live in Chicago and love the bombastic history of this city. Like a lot of Americans I struggle with saying too much. I’m very conscious of it and always remind myself that more is not always more and restraint can speak volumes. So it’s true too when I’m working. My work probably looks American because of my environment and the people and places I can shoot. I gravitate towards the visual abundance of this country but I get pleasure from simplicity, economy and spaciousness. There’s wisdom in economy. I could describe my work as combining both a warm and cool aesthetic. So the sparse coolness may be the European traits you see, and the warm is my American tendency to show it all. It’s like having the devil and an angel sitting on my shoulders whispering in my ear.

Suzanne:  You seem to be able to keep your work with the subtleness that makes it more humorous.  What advice can you give to people who want to shoot humor but not pushing it too far?

Saverio: In photography, punch lines aren’t funny. That’s my advice. Personally I think tragedy can be funny. Not tragedy like everyone is going to die, but a poignant unfulfilled expectation. Farce can also be funny. You can call it black humor when the combination of farce and tragedy rub against each other. I happen to see all photographs as narratives so I naturally make work with an arc and timing to them. Richard Pryor had great timing. I guess I’ve developed a self-awareness or just gut instinct that has me choose where on the narrative arc my picture should exist and just how much information to offer the viewer. It’s important that they get what I ask but to discover it on their own. I call it a gestalt. It’s a great word to look up. My stories present its parts like in a circle, but some large pieces of the circle are never drawn. We automatically fill the gap with our minds to come to the conclusion. It’s actually super interactive because nobody completes the circle in the exactly same way but everyone arrives at a similar conclusion.
About Saverio:
Born on the Atlantic northeast and raised on Italian cooking, Saverio makes Chicago his home with his wife. A competitive cyclist, theater lover, an inspired cook and an equipped home improver; new experiences and challenges motivate his problem solving creativity. His images reflect life’s contrasting moments and represent a world swirling with joy and tension, black humor and light, all organized with thoughtful styling and a singular point of view. Saverio is best known for beautiful concept driven images, off-beat portraits and narrative work that is relatable and universal.  Saverio is commissioned for advertising campaigns and editorial productions worldwide.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her @SuzanneSease.

Please sign for this.

A friend's post on Facebook said  he'd seen a messenger delivering a baby.  I couldn't get this idea out of my head until just now.
Nothing like a self-sufficient child.
Styling and casting: Planet Earth Agency
Retouching: Tim Blokel

Virgin of the waiting room

An update from the Signs of Life files.
Waiting room of community heath center, west side of Chicago.

Break down music

Today I did a little favor for a Under the Radar Magazine and shot the talented R&B musician, How to Dress Well, AKA Tom Krell. His latest album is releasing today and the European press is all aflutter. You can listen to his soulful ambient falsetto here.
Musician, How to Dress Well. ©Saverio Truglia

A silver spoon art walk.

Last month I wrangled 10 of Chicago's premier art dealers to be at a photo shoot for a CS magazine story about the very elite and VIP, Chicago Gallery week. Absent was honorary chair, mayor Rahm Emanuel (though it's safe to say he wasn't invited)  We shot at Wright Auctions on the west side using their inventory of mid-century modern wares.
L to R: Carrie Seacrist, Monique Meloche, Paul Gray, Scott Speh, Dan Devening, Adrew Rafacz, Rhona Hoffman, Jim Dempsey, John Corbett, Ellen Alderman
 A shoot like this with so many art world illuminati requires a light touch.  Naturally they'd want to talk and ignore the fact that there's a camera on them, so I let this happen. We brought a little wine and kept the shoot loose and unconventional. 

I knew many of these folks from my early days as an artwork photographer. I cut my teeth shooting ads for Art and Auction magazine of David Hockney flower painting installed beside  Giacometti bronzes for Paul Gray, and scrolling Jenny Holzer texts for Rhona Hoffman.  Those days are long past but like from my father's restaurant business, learned a great deal from these folks about how to treat your customers and run a small business.

No guts, no glory.

Occupy Shakespeare

Guy Fawkes, better known by the masks worn by the occupying 99% is credited for the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to blow up the House of Lords. A true domestic terrorist, though back then simply a rebellious bloke whose attempt to make a point was foiled.
Marketing image for Victory Gardens production of Equivocation.
I did my historical research to art direct  and shoot this new image for the upcoming production of Equivocation,  at Victory Gardens Theater. The play was written by Bill Cain and is directed by the incomparable and always surprising, Sean Graney

 In London in the year 1605, a down-and-out playwright called Shagspeare (yes, it’s him) receives a royal commission to write a play promoting the government’s version of Guy Fawkes’ treasonous Gunpowder Plot. As Shag navigates the dangerous course between writing a lie and losing his soul, or writing the truth and losing his head, his devoted theater troupe helps him negotiate each step along the way.
~Victory Garden's

Photography and art direction: Saverio Truglia
Victory Gardens: John Zinn, Tim Speicher
Actor: Marc Grapey
Wardrobe: Aly Amidei
Retouching: Tim Blokel
Hands: The Witches of Intern

Learning from Failure

Failure is part of success and you can't have one without the other. Failure is also the abbreviation for a new play  produced by Victory Gardens Theater opening this fall.
Failure: A Love Story written by Philip Dawkins traces the lives, loves, and mysterious deaths of the Fail sisters, immigrants to Chicago in the early 20th century. It's a dark comedy that I'm looking forward to seeing as directed by Seth Bockley. The script is so great. 

I recently shot the advertising image for this play with some of the cast. It required historical research, vintage styling  and magical illusions; all of which I love. This one successful project had me thinking other projects I do for profit vs those I do for passion. About when the process is amazing and fun, and contemplating how it could always be so.

This image is an outtake from the advertising shoot for Failure: A Love Story

A wonderful aspect of shooting imagery for theater is that the play itself often does not yet exist.  As we're often working months outside of rehearsals, the production design has yet to be established. All we have is a script. Some would find this infinitely frustrating to get an assignment without so much as a sketch, though it's an opportunity I'm rarely given in consumer advertising shoots.   

In theater I get the time to study, explore and parse a script, arriving at essential concepts that illuminate the heart of the story.   To honor the story in theater is vital because  a "story" is exactly what we're selling.  As an art director and photographer I can borrow from cues in the script to reflect and create metaphors. The story becomes my creative guide. I compress and rearrange the beginning and arc with the end, to make a new moment independent of the play's timeline, yet all about the heart of the story.

I find that most advertising, especially print doesn't honor its story because it often doesn't have one. Maybe its story is borrowed from the broadcast version of the same campaign, or from a  brief written for the client but both are only reflections of a story, not the story itself.  The best creatives understand that a good brand story takes time to develop but once done well, there becomes infinite ways to visualize that story.  It makes the director or photographer's job more fruitful when engaged in the narrative being told.  There's often too little time or care in the advertising process for this to happen correctly, leading to rip-offs and duplication of existing ideas.

 In the era of instant gratification and shorter attention spans, the best advertising creatives understand that now more than ever, knowing your story is the heart of good communication. Every ad competes with distractions like scrolling status updates in the palm of our hands providing us with LOTS of instant gratification, but precious little story and no context.  What if we bothered to make things that are both instantly gratifying while long lasting enough to engage our intellect? Something that actually offers an idea we didn't already know about the world, in context.  To do this, you need more than a headline writer adept at witty tweets. We need conversation, thinking, and time for process by inspired artists and creatives.

Art direction and photography: Saverio Truglia
Victory Gardens marketing team: John Zinn, Tim Spiecher
Wardrobe: Aly Amedai
Hair: Katarina Jestrovic
Makeup: Laura Weathersby
Retouching: Tim Blokel

Swingin' in the Wind

I have a slight discomfort with heights. It's not debilitating though it just takes me a minute to acclimate to anything over 15 ft,  not to mention 150 ft.  After a while my inner ear cooperates and I'm good.  This was put to the test when shooting print ads for Navy Pier with the agency TwoxFour.

Navy Pier is an amusement park and convention center jutting out into Lake Michigan from Chicago.
The whole project was shot over a couple days at Navy Pier on the rides with some additional shooting around the city for backgrounds.  After many dozens of rotations, have an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of  the Wave Swing and Ferris Wheel.

The view from the Ferris wheel is truly spectacular but let's just say that it's not a good place to be in a freak wind and rain storm at night... 

Agency: TwoxFour
Creatives: Aaron Weinstein, Adam Von Ohlen
Buyer: Ruben Gomez

#landantwin #landantwin2

Hanging out by the East Bank Club pool you might encounter these two entrepreneurial brothers known collectively as the Landan Twins. They're kind of the twin, male, Midwestern version of a Nicole Richie with yellow toe nail polish.  The brothers are scenesters with a dedicated Twitter following who's business is to freshen your lifestyle.

 They were surprisingly energetic and professional arriving with a stack of expensive watches (attended by a security guard),  and their own stash of vodka delivered by liquor messenger. I shot these guys in my studio for the cover of Time Out Chicago as they leapt deftly as miniature gazelles wielding with cocktail glasses. Not a drop of Gray Goose was spilled.

Styling: Heather Brooks
Make up: Morgal Blaul
Retouching: Tim Blokel
Photo Editor: Nicole Radja
On-set art director: Carrie Ferris

Director Anna Shapiro for CS.

I get the opportunity to work with and direct some extremely talented stage actors for magazines and theater marketing. It's less often that I direct the directors, who because of their trade, are even closer to my heart. Great directors clearly communicate their vision to an audience through the performances of their actors, and do it in such a way that the performance may grow and change over time. No two performances are the same. It's the opposite of anything one can do digitally.

One such director is Anna Shapiro, the Tony winning collaborator of Tracy Letts and director of Steppenwolf's August Osage County. She's back at the Steppenwolf collaborating with Letts, directing Chekov's Three Sisters. I shot her for Modern Luxury's CS magazine at Steppenwolf.

Signs of summer

Not much to say here-just summer eye candy. Maybe there's a connection...

Dirty bedtime story

You've had your bed for too many years  and it's seen a LOT of action. You need better support for your night moves so you order a new mattress. It shows-up, gets set-up and the old one is taken away.  Though have you ever wondered where your old stained and tired mattress goes?
I don't have the perfect answer but I do know that there's a thriving secondary market for mattresses. Like, have you ever seen a mattress roped to the outside facade of a dollar store? Or a pile of plastic wrapped twins stacked 12 high for sale at a bodega/ furniture store? These are not new Sealy's.  They've been reconditioned.

 I'm not sure if mattress resale is clean a clean and legal business so I won't disclose this location. At the "mattress factory" old mattresses are stripped (I hope) down to their foundations and built back up with new fabrics and foam.  I stopped in yesterday to spend a sweaty hour relishing in pattern, piles and plushes. 

 I've always been attracted to mattresses because of their colorful and gaudy patterning but have been disappointed that all the floral fabric and colors are a thing of the past. But at the mattress factory history lives on, at least for the moments before they go under the knife for another go-round. Personally, I'll pony up for the Serta and pay retail.

Stressful Skies

Why do people brag about how the they're all, "flying out to L.A." or have to "catch a flight to Dubai" when we all know FLYING SUCKS?  Almost nobody flies first class which may be something to brag about if you can afford it. I mean you get a meal and all the warm rolls you can stuff down your shirt but it's basically like going to IHOP with less leg room.

But imagine that flying was your life!  Yeah, the pilots get to be up front, barricaded from the throngs of passengers, but the flight attendants are in the trenches with us authority defying bathroom goers and Words With Friends addicted celebrities. 

We shot this cover for Time Out Chicago to encapsulate all hell and anxiety born by our always cheerful flight attendants. Trust me; this isn't your fathers PanAm anymore.

Photograpy: Saverio Truglia
Styling: Courtney Rust
Hair and make up: Karen Brody
Retouching: Tim Blokel
Talent: Heidi J. -Stewart Talent
Photo editor: Nicole Radja 
Blue tray: State of Illinois building food court.

Alone with Teatro Vista and Collaboraction

Without much planning or any concepting for that matter, I improvised a series of images for my friends at Collaboration and Teatro Vista for their upcoming, Yo Solo Festival of Latino  shows. We shot 4 of the performers in partial silhouette with the plan to have a designer cobble something together using them all. That was until this guy arrived, took off his shirt and kicked out a days worth of work in 20 minutes.

Two days of Tony

Both yesterday and today I ran into Tony; a smartly dressed Chicagoan on his way to "class".

Tony first captured my attention with his flowing orange scarf and cream cowboy hat.

Asking what course he's taking, he tells me he's taking the bus to class, gestures down the street and repeats that he's going to class. Tony graciously let me photograph him both days while we talked about his birthplace, Acapulco and what he's got going on here in the states. I gather that he's invested in real estate both here and in Mexico, and that he's enrolled in some classes right now.
Today I saw Tony again wearing a cobalt blue scarf and a shirt on which was printed KBB. Kelly Blue Book I wonder? Very coincidentally I bought a used car today.

American Sushi

Doritos come in 22 delicious flavors, but not yet in "fish".  I say go for it. It's a great way to get some Omega-3 into our crappy American diets.  

Art Director-Saverio Truglia
Make Up- Gina Ussel
Retouching-Tim Blokel
Talent-Anna Nowicka

At Home with Adult Performers

Very recently I've been shooting a personal project about adult performers at home. It's a subject I was inspired to follow after having met and shot alt porn performer Phoenix Askani for an assignment. Usually only known in cyber space, this project explores the intersection between the public and private lives of internet based adult performers.  In the process I'm collecting interviews and their insights about their industry and personal relationships.
Ruby Paige

Veruca James
Follow this project on Tumblr and Twitter
Note that depending on where you make a living, these pictures may be NSFW. (Not Safe For Work)

Staged Portraits: Victory Gardens Theater

Over the years I've been fortunate to work with wonderfully talented stage theater companies. Included among them is Victory Gardens Theater. Now headed by artistic Director Chay Yew, the company has become one of the most cutting edge companies producing today.

Working with Marketing Director John Zinn, we created a series of 4 dynamic and intimate portraits to promote the 2011/12 season which are now on display in the theater's historic lobby. Just today I was at the Biograph for a concepting meeting for next season and was honored to see the pictures on display, hung side by side like some weird family.

Victory Gardens 2011/2012 play posters.

Famed Bank Robber John Dillinger was killed here by police in 1934.

Hats off to my Victory Gardens collaborators John Zinn, Director of Marketing and Communications and Tim Speicher, Marketing Manager. Creative retouching my Tim Blokel and Paradigm Color

Rubber Angel

Angel's Tire Shop. Open 24 hrs on the unfashionable end of 18th Street in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

Angel waits for customers atop his zero emissions hog.

Faces of Obamacare.

Love it or hate it, Obamacare is on. (at least until the Supreme Court has it's ruling) The US government has funneled $6 million to a wide range of heath care professionals charged to develop innovative ways to economically serve health care in America. Fast Company Magazine assigned me to shoot 2 of these innovators for their April 2012 issue.

Stevie Riel provides affordable prescriptions to the un or under insured.
Photographed in Benson's pharmacy, Muskeegon, MI.

Dr. Skrikant Iyer has developed an emergency room triage system to serve both seriously ill as well as mildly ill patients in separate spaces creating a huge cost savings. Photographed at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Marian Barragan:
Photo Editor
Leslie Dela Vega: Managing Photo Editor
Florian Bachleda: Creative Director

Coupon Punk

I recently received this totally illegible magazine in the mail. I wish I could have simply read the magazine I contributed to but the pictures give the gist. Business Punk I gather is a risky German magazine dedicated to Jerky Boys style business culture around the world.  When thinking of America's daring and controversial business leaders, Andrew Mason eventually floats to the top.

Discount leader, Andrew Mason. CEO of Groupon.

Celebrate Shrinkage

Over breakfast of warm biscuits and coffee my wife and I decided to experience the Chicago Polar Bear Plunge at Oak Street Beach in Chicago....I know what you're thinking. No way! We stayed on land, but I wanted to see what sort of people wouldn't mind a 35 degree bath in the morning for charity.

The most appropriate pair of trunks.