Archive for the ‘On being a photographer’ Category

Chicks with Guns – Seeing RED

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Photo Assignment: Chicks with Guns

Seeing RED

 

You don’t kill animals. You harvest them

You don’t kill animals. You harvest them

 You don’t kill animals. You harvest them.

Not The Obvious Choice: If you think about it, I’m a very odd choice to shoot a project like this. I didn’t speak the language of outdoor sports, especially hunting! In my experience, affinity matters. For instance, I was once up for a commercial account for a golf accessory business. I didn’t get the account simply because I didn’t golf. Everyone that worked on that account had to be a golfer. In retrospect, that made a lot of sense. How could I possibly add anything to a golf shoot if I didn’t know the first thing about golf?

Now we come to “Chicks with Guns” : I’ve never hunted and have only fished on occasion. I’ve always lived in the city. Truthfully, I’ve never really understood why people liked hunting. It seemed barbaric to me. And based on where and how I was raised, it made sense for me to think that way.

They’re not guns. They’re firearms.

They’re not guns. They’re firearms.

They’re not guns. They’re firearms.

A Different Kind of “Shoot”: I fancy myself a wannabe video producer. Since the middle of last summer, I had been traveling to Maine every weekend, working on a peripherally related spec video project to flex my producer skills. When a client asked me to shoot a calendar for The Maine Sportsman Magazine, I didn’t hesitate! I thought, at the very least, the project would subsidize my gas expenses.

I also knew this type of project is why I got into the business of being a photographer in the first place. I wanted experiences that were both outside my sphere of knowledge and/or outside my comfort zone. And besides, this was the Miss Main Sportsman Competition—“Chicks with Guns”! What could be wrong with a photo-essay like that? Little did I know I was in for the learning experience of my life!

Jodi Jennings Haskell - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Jodi Jennings Haskell – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

I’m A Liberal from Connecticut:  “Hi! I’m Steve Marsel. I’m a liberal from Connecticut, and I’ve never fired a rifle.” Though I never actually said that, those words rang in my head during each call I had with the finalists of the Miss Maine Sportsman Competition to introduce myself for an upcoming shoot. Their way of life was alien to me: hunting, fishing, stuffing. Words not found in my daily vocabulary. But when I opened my mind and put my preconceived notions to rest, what I discovered about these “alien” people taught me a great deal about myself and my world view.

Britt Humphrey - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Britt Humphrey – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

Ballots, Businesses, Bears, Oh My!: This project came at a critical time in the state of Maine. A binding question on the November ballot might have banned the use of bait, dogs or traps to hunt bears in the State of Maine – forever! Animal-rights groups had been streaming in money from out of state for months. The “bear-baiting” question was on everyone’s mind.

Carly Chapman  - Finalist 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Carly Chapman – Finalist 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

I discovered that thousands of people made their living in Maine as registered guides. For those of you who don’t know, a registered guide is “any person who receives any form of remuneration for his services in accompanying or assisting any person in the fields, forests or on the waters or ice within the jurisdiction.” There are more than 4,500 registered guides for hunting and fishing in the state. More people than I ever imagined.

Tiffany Waldron - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Tiffany Waldron – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

Against the Odds:  Old school hunters were dying off, and sporting camps and lodges found it difficult to make ends meet in the modern world. For one, the competition for American sporting activities is staggering, leaving hunting and fishing desperate to keep up. For another, gas prices (until recently) had been increasing over the past few years, which really put a crimp in many businesses. It became harder and harder for sporting camps to remain viable businesses. So many of their customers drive from other states.

Georgette Kanach - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Georgette Kanach – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

What the average person doesn’t understand about the hunting industry is how many people travel from out of state to hunt and, more importantly, the economic stimulus their travels provide. Hunters and fishermen that drive up from other states usually stop along the way at the Kittery Trading Post or L.L. Bean or the like and spend money. Of course, many of those hunters come for the bear hunt.

Barbara Plummer - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Barbara Plummer – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

A registered guide told me that even prior to election day, when the referendum would finally come to a vote, hunters, who would normally leave there trophy bears with taxidermists in Maine, were taking their bears back with them to their home states. “Why?” I asked him. He explained that the out-of-state hunters didn’t know if they would ever come back to Maine. Even before the first ballot was cast, the state was losing money.

Linda Mercer - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Linda Mercer – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

Both Sides of the Coin: Then there’s the larger issue, which is the really big educational concern for me. Most Americans have no idea where their food comes from, and many just don’t care. They think it’s cruel that hunters bait bears in the woods and shoot them. Perhaps these people think that their meat appears out of thin air on a piece of Styrofoam wrapped in plastic. “Blue-state” Americans (seemingly) refuse to make the connection with the food they eat in restaurants or put on their tables and where the food actually comes from. And I must admit that I was one of those liberal blue-state people. I thought that hunting was cruel.

Bethany Terstegen - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Bethany Terstegen – Finalists 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

Let me make something clear: the bears in the woods have a much better chance of surviving than any animal waiting to be killed in a slaughterhouse somewhere, such as farm-bred cattle or chickens. The animals we line up in narrow stalls without giving an inch to turn their neck—they stand no chance of surviving! I think that my liberal brethren never think of that. The reason they don’t think of it is because they don’t want to.

Alyson Randall - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Alyson Randall – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

Hunting and fishing in America is a birthright. It’s how this country was settled. And it is narrow and shortsighted to think hunting and fishing as simply cruel and unusual punishments. Especially when you consider the slaughterhouses and huge corporate farms that treat animals cruelly as a matter of course day-in and day-out. Where is the uproar for the rights of those animals? No one seems to care.

 

Starley Cashman - Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

Starley Cashman – Finalist, 2014 Miss Maine Sportsman Competition

 

A Look from the Other Side: You’ve probably heard the old saying, “A mind is like an umbrella: it functions best when open.” (Lincoln) That’s how I hope to approach every experience in my life. I want to keep an open mind so that I see both sides of as many issues as possible. True, I am a liberal, from a blue state, but the past few months have educated me. I now better understand where guides, hunters, fisherman and the like are coming from. I force myself to rise above the hypocrisy.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to pick up a rifle and start hunting tomorrow or next year or possibly ever. I’m not sure hunting is for me. But I learned something. I learned that I didn’t understand the issue of harvesting animals from the point of view of the people that were using them. My new friends gave me a new-found appreciation for what those individuals are fighting. I’m glad to engage anyone on this topic and speak on both sides of it. But I think that after this exposure, I’ve been informed and transformed. “Chicks with guns” turned out to be a very educational project for me, and I appreciate the opportunity to have experienced it.

 

 A very special thanks to James Eves for his generous spirit and gifted skills retouching these images.  Thank you my friend!

And to  Rhen Wilson for his superb editing skills.

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All Images on this site are copyrighted material of © Steve Marsel Studio, Inc. & Steve Marsel Studio LLC D/B/A Steve Marsel Studio. Unauthorized Use is Strictly Prohibited. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Steve Marsel Studio . 561 Windsor Street A204, Somerville MA 02143 617.718.7407 | 888.254.6505
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Our Bravest: A Salute to Veterans

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

 My Photo Session with Disabled Veterans from Our Bravest

Our Bravest Composite FullBehind the camera, my own assumptions and comfort zone can be rattled. In honor of Veterans Day, I offer this story about one of those occasions.

 

An Unusual Pitch

The project started out as so many do—a pitch over the phone. In early spring of this year, a long-time client, Theresa Fisher of CCA Global in Manchester NH (whom I really like!), rang me up and ran through the typical pitch I’d heard a least a dozen times. But my ears perked when she mentioned a “public service project.” I’ve made a point over the years to seek out public service projects, but my migration from still photography to television has spread me a little thin.

I was already primed to agree when the client sweetened the deal with a few more details. I can’t recall the entire conversation—my ADD/multi-tasking brain can only absorb so much—but a few choice phrases stuck out:

“—Fourth of July weekend—”  “—see the fireworks—” “—in New York City—”  “—put you up in a hotel—”

Theresa knew exactly how to whet my appetite. What self-respecting photographer wouldn’t say yes to this?

However, it was only after an emphatic “YES!” that I came to terms with what I had just agreed to. The realization hit me square in the face. I’d signed on to shoot portraits for an organization called Our Bravest, a non-profit that builds Smart Homes for catastrophically injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In other words, the types of veterans Our Bravest works with include burn victims and double and triple amputees.  I had never heard of Our Bravest.

As I set the phone down, my heart sank.

Exposing My Discomfort

You might be asking why the sinking heart. What was my issue? To be honest, lack of exposure. I’m not from a military family. No contemporary of mine is or has been in the military. I’ve never even met anyone disabled.

My mind raced, envisioning the injuries, the scars, the missing limbs. I’m squeamish to boot. I’m the kind of person who switches channels and looks the other way whenever I see something upsetting. I can’t even get my blood drawn without averting my eyes.  So imagining the day of the shoot, meeting these veterans…it made me – uncomfortable – to say the least!

But what could I do? There was no way I could reject the client’s offer. Theresa (Senior Vice President,Visual Merchandising and Branding) has always been a great supporter of mine. I’d committed myself to the project, and that was that.

 

Shifting the Focus

On an early Saturday morning in New York City, the day of the shoot for Our Bravest, my assistant Alex Mateo and I set up a studio in a function room in the hotel. I brought Alex because he’d done a tour of duty in the Air Force, and I thought someone on my team should have something in common with today’s subjects from Our Bravest.

When the first man to be photographed appeared, he rolled into the room on a motorized wheelchair. My heart quickened, and my equipment felt heavy and slick in my sweaty palms.

When I’m anxious, I become super efficient. I try to control everything I can, while I can, knowing that at any moment, I could lose any semblance of control I tried to cling to.

As the veteran, a triple amputee, approached, I felt that control slipping away. I hardly knew what to say, but the veteran didn’t need an introduction. As if sensing my nervousness, he introduced himself with an apology. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, slapping the arm of his wheelchair playfully. “This thing only goes about eight miles per hour. So traffic was pretty tough to get through.”

Without warning, I burst out laughing. And so did he. It wasn’t even that funny of a joke, but that wasn’t the point. The point was this man, who had gone through so much, used humor to snap me out of myself.

I had been so caught up in my own uneasiness, I didn’t bother addressing the truth. America’s veterans are us. We’re all the same. I didn’t need Alex to share something in common with them to make the day run smoother. We all share similarities, be it art, family, or a little self-effacing humor.

Any discomfort I had entering the studio dissolved immediately. For the remainder of the shoot, good banter and wit united us, and my empathy for the men and women who sacrifice themselves for this country blossomed. The resilience of the human spirit transformed me, and, thankfully, I will never be the same.

 

Special thanks to Theresa Fisher at CCA Global, Frank Siller and Paola Tornabene at Our Bravest for this great opportunity, James Eves for his great retouching, and Alex Mateo for his steady support, and Rhen Wilson for his superb editing skills.  

 

Steve Marsel Studio | Steve Marsel Stock | Steve Marsel Galleries| Boston Corporate Portraits| ICE HOLES on Facebook

All Images on this site are copyrighted material of © Steve Marsel Studio, Inc. & Steve Marsel Studio LLC D/B/A Steve Marsel Studio. Unauthorized Use is Strictly Prohibited. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Steve Marsel Studio . 561 Windsor Street A204, Somerville MA 02143 617.718.7407 | 888.254.6505
Steve Marsel Studio Blog | Contact Us

 

 

The Best part of being a photographer

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I’ve often reflected on the fact that being a photographer gives me the “poetic license” to call anyone, in any walk of life or industry, at any time, introduce myself, and ask if I can photograph them, or what they do just because it interests me.  As a child, I was fascinated with submarines. I had books, drew 6′ long cut-a-way pictures (lacking any accuracy) and built models.  Early in my career I called a Public Affairs person at General Dynamics in New London, Connecticut asking for press credentials to photograph the launching of a Trident Class nuclear submarine.  I said I was working on a project for Polaroid Corporation , submitted a written proposal and was granted permission.  The shots were terrible but I had an experience.  Being a photographer gives me the right to ask for access for just about anything.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll say yes, but my request is not unusual.  It’s expected.  Only journalists and photographers seem to have this luxury of “investigating” anything that interests them. My accountant can’t get away with it, but I can!  And I think there’s great allure in having a built-in “right to ask” , as part of my job, for whatever fancies me at that time.  I’m rediscovering that luxury at this stage of my career.  Being a photographer allows me to explore my world with some impunity.  It’s all good!

Visit Steve Marsel’s other sites: Steve Marsel Studio, the assignment site and flagship site of the Steve Marsel brand, Steve Marsel Stock, the rights managed digital stock library of Steve Marsel Studio, Steve Marsel Galleries, the private gallery site of the Steve Marsel Studio. Visit one of Boston Photographer Steve Marsel’s other blogs as well: Steve Marsel Studio Blog , the creative blog of the Steve Marsel Studio. Steve Marsel Galleries Blog, Steve Marsel’s blog that discusses the stories behind the photographs, and Steve Marsel Stock Blog, the blog of Steve Marsel’s rights managed digital stock photography library that discusses the stories behind the images on the stock site.

 

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