I usually like to start the new year off with a post of my favorite images from the previous year. But 2020 was — let’s be honest — a shit show of epic proportions. So I forgot about my annual image post. Well, not so much forgot as just didn’t care. There are clearly more important things the world needs right now than a random post of random photographs.
Steve O’Grady posted his annual recap over on his blog. It’s a post I look forward to more than my own (mostly for the summer emergency room images). And I thought to myself, self, you really should crank out those images because they just might — like Steve’s — let people escape this modern day version of “The Stand” for a few minutes.
So, my friends, I give you my 2020 in photographs. I thought about putting them into some sort of chronological order, but 2020 chronology was just one long March…which, for what it’s worth, is when I noticed my shooting shifted hard to screencaps of my television, pint glasses to accompany UnTappd entries, and new edits of old photos.
Enjoy the deliberate chaos. We’re all used to it by now anyway.
I had one of my portraits show up on the national political stage. You may recall one of the names in the caption below as one of 2020’s most important defenders of democracy. As Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Kathy Boockvar was instrumental in ensuring the sanctity of a free and fair election in our state. It was an honor to see a portrait I shot during her husband’s campaign for county judge used in news stories highlighting her work.
I’ve discovered a fun niche in my portrait work with the music and theater communities. This is arguably one of the most difficult images I’ve ever created and definitely the biggest group I’ve ever included in one frame. But, here’s the thing: when you’re working with pros like these talented performers from Central Bucks West High School, it makes the job a helluva lot easier.
I kicked off 2020 with an incredible studio session at Watson Creek Art Farm with actress Amanda Livezey. When the pandemic paused in-studio shoots, we took to the cobblestone alleyways of Old City Philadelphia to create promotional images for her upcoming flick.
The more I shoot, the more I realize creating portraits is one of the thing I love most about photography. This session with musician Joe Montone is a perfect example. I absolutely love the technical aspects of what we created together. But making that human connection extends far beyond the glass at the ends of the lens and turns the resulting image into something, to me, that is more than a photograph.
Part of the fun of photography for me is the collaboration with my subjects. Take singer-actress Taylor Ann Mitchell, for example. Each of the shoots we did this year — starting in the studio and then moving outdoors with the longer lens as the pandemic wore on — was the result of a creative combination of joint moodboards, fashion sense, and location scouting. We didn’t always stick to the script during the shoot, but sometimes that’s where the best shots are found.
My favorite shoot of the year is my annual holiday collaboration with Broadway actress Jenny Lee Stern and her daughters. This year’s shoot was a little different, as we needed to get creative working around the necessary protocols, but we delivered. Actually, they delivered. She and the girls always bring such personality and fun to these shoots that the photography is an accompaniment.
A little Patsy Cline and Joe Montone in a small town courtyard before their big community concert. I got a text from Joe. “Hey, I’m pulling together an outdoor concert of old school country music. Any chance you can shoot Jenny Lee and I for the poster?” I mean, how do you say no, right?
To arms! That’s what I should’ve titled this image of actor David Feliz shot in Old City Philadelphia.
Looks like it was shot in a studio, but actually shot in my driveway. My neighbor’s daughter was outside twirling a sunflower umbrella. I quickly set up a v-flat and grabbed this shot.
Had the pleasure of grabbing a couple of frames of Jon Sheairs near 4th and Bainbridge in Philadelphia. He’s the lead guitarist for the band Overcoming Gravity.
Got down low. Waited. Clicked.
The teachers in the music department of Central Bucks School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for VH-1’s Save the Music Foundation. The money is used to establish music programs in other schools across the nation. Teachers from the district’s music department – and other secretly talented teachers from other departments – put on a concert that could easily pack bigger theaters than the 1,000-plus school auditorium they play to for three sold out shows each year. They generously give me unfettered access to the pit, backstage, and rafters to document the performances.
Landscape and nature photography isn’t my favorite discipline, but, c’mon, when Ma Nature throws her awesomeness at you, you have to capture it, right? Like many people, I spent a lot of solo saddle time on my bike this year. I explored new roads, slowed my pace down (as if that’s even possible) to soak in the quiet and beauty of the things around me. And took pictures of it, mostly with my iPhone.
Really no need to explain these shots. In 2020, good people turned out to march, protest, and counterprotest against the atrocities and damage inflicted upon democracy and their fellow humans by a political party whose words, policies, and actions sought to destroy the country.
This is the first time I’m posting these images. They are from a project I created to reflect the nation I saw in 2020. Everywhere I looked, Americans were flying flags. I wondered what it would look like if people flew them to honestly reflect the state of the country. The upside down flag is a sign of distress. And, yes, I understand it has specific — and important — meaning to those in the military. America was clearly in distress this year. (Note: none of these flags were flown in distress; I used Photoshop to recompose the images.)
And there was pasta. Lots of pasta.