Birth of a Gummy Bear

When the trend started a few years back where photographers started learning to shoot video, many people wondered how a still life photographer could utilize video and still make it interesting.  Kevin Twomey has shown once again that it is entirely possible to do so by exploring yet another interesting subject, The Birth of a Gummy Bear.  When I asked him about it, here is what he had to say.

“I look at food as a still life challenge, asking myself how I would represent it in a way that stimulates the senses beyond the predictable “mmm, delicious”.   How might I evoke an emotional, rather than salivary, response?

The gummy bear imagery emerged after toying with ideas for a holiday card a couple of years ago, where I explored the after-effects of destroying
candy (mostly by smashing them to bits).  Experimentally melting some pieces, I saw how beautiful they looked as their sugars liquified.  That
led to the microwaving of gummy bears, which then led to my seeking a more precise way of melting: the hair dryer.  As I strategically melted the
gummy bears for my still shots, I noticed how beautifully the thick liquid flowed.  The dynamics were so compelling, I had to film them, not just
melting to their demise, but in a way that celebrates the creation of the beloved candy.”

To see more videos by Kevin Twomey, link to previous blog posts about other videos he created or to his website.

The People Burn Project – An artist works 8 months to create a sculpture just so it can be set on fire.

People Burn Project - Kevin Twomey, paper sculpture

© Kevin Twomey –

Kevin Twomey recently worked on a project that was unlike any other he had experienced in his career.  It was called “The People Burn Project.”  A project created by Fitzgerald + Co. for Bulwark, a company that make flame-resistant clothing.  Their message is powerful, “Because people aren’t fireproof.”

A mere description of the project could never do it justice so be sure to link to the Bulwark site to watch the 8 month time-lapse video, review the  stills from the day of the burn and to watch the video about the project.

Here is what Kevin had to say about the project:

“In April I went to Los Angeles to photograph a paper sculpture, 16’ in diameter, built by Jeff Nishinaka, an incredibly talented, world-renown artist. Taller than me by a couple of feet and as long a van, the structure took 8 months to build, 2 days to piece together, 2 days to photograph in the studio,  but only minutes to burn.

The project was part of a campaign, created by Fitzgerald + Co. for the company Bulwark who makes flame-resistant apparel. The message was wonderfully simple: paper is no less fragile than life.

With a very tight schedule, needing to photograph numerous angles in a day, we decided we would turn the set into a giant 16′ lazy susan and spin it around until we got the right lighting and camera position. It was a perfect and simple solution.

Artist Jeff Nishinaka had created such wonderful detail and character in the figures that the lighting approach for these figures was obvious:  bring these figures to life by bringing out as much detail and dimensionality as possible.

After the still shots of the sculpture were complete it was dismantled and reassembled in a quarry outside of LA. The final step to this project was filming it while it burned into nothing. Watching this was quite extraordinary. As it was burning I glanced over at the artist. I figured he would be sad to watch so many hours of his work go up in smoke but I was surprised to see that he was enjoying the process from beginning to end.”

Kevin Twomey - People Burn project - Paper sculpture

© Kevin Twomey –

Kevin Twomey - People Burn project - Paper sculpture

© Kevin Twomey –

Kevin Twomey - People Burn project - Paper sculpture

© Kevin Twomey –

Kevin Twomey - People Burn project - Paper sculpture

© Kevin Twomey –

Click here for Time Lapse Video of Paper Sculpture Creation

Click here for Video Interview with artist and information about the project

More Essence of Wine by Leigh Beisch

Since I first posted about the series of work Leigh Beisch has been creating for Alder Yarrow’s blog, Vinography, Leigh has created many more beautiful images illustrating The Essence of Wine.

With each entry, the author, Alder Yarrow,  pairs photography with poetic writing to illustrate the Essence of Wine.  Together, he and Leigh, do so in such a magical way.  Be sure to check out the site for the imagery of course, but the words and the wine selection are just as magical.

Some recent entries have included:  Watermelon, Buttered Popcorn, Tobacco, Oranges and Lime.  To see the full collection, please link here.

See why Kevin Twomey connects his shoot with a pelican to The Chaos Theory. Check out the images and video and see if you agree.

© Kevin Twomey

After the success of Julianna Baggot’s book PUR, Grand Central Publishing released the second book in the series, Fuse.  And, once again,  Kevin Twomey had the honor of photographing the cover.  And this time, it didn’t feature butterflies.  It featured a pelican.  When we asked Kevin to share some of his experience with us, here is what he wrote.

“There are times when I become so wrapped up in the technical challenges of an assignment that not until its end do I realize how inspiring it was.  The photographing of a pelican’s wing for the cover of Fuse, the second book in Julianna Baggott’s post-apocalyptic trilogy, was just such an assignment.

From the photograph, you can see the impressive 8-foot wingspan of Neptune, the year-old pelican we had the pleasure of showcasing for this assignment.  The relationship with his trainer, Joe Krathwohl, was heartwarming; the pelican toddled behind Joe everyplace he went, even waiting outside the bathroom door for him.  Joe’s knowledge and passion for his work soon prompted us to bestow upon him the title of “bird whisperer”.

But what really inspired me was the turbulence generated by the powerful flap of his wings.  It brought to mind the chaos theory quote about how a bird (or butterfly) flapping its wings can affect the future course of weather halfway around the world.  It generates the indescribable feeling of being at the source of something simple yet incredibly powerful, and not yet knowing in which direction it will go.

And how privileged I felt to be able to capture that moment, from our chaotic environment of passion and expertise and inter-species relationships, when the bird flapped his wings.”

Have you experienced the Essence of Wine yet?

© Leigh Beisch -

I enjoy subscribing to the blogs of my photographers because I receive the posts at the same time as everyone else.  I do not work with them on their content so it is a pleasant surprise to see what they are inspired to post.  Recently, this one appeared in my inbox from Leigh Beisch.  The project she refers to in the post is so beautiful I decided to subscribe to the blog that features the project - Vinography.
Here is what Leigh Beisch had to say about the project on her own blog:
“Wine blogger Alder Yarrow has a way with words which is why so many people follow his blog.  It is also why Art Director/Stylist Sara Slavin and I decided to collaborate with him on this fantastic project called The Essence of Wine.  The first in the series in the introduction, but to date we have photographed images for three other posts:  The Essence of Wine: Earth and The Essence of Wine: Honey and The Essence of Wine:  Vanilla.
Here is his introduction to the project found on his blog :
“Introducing The Essence of Wine
Many facets of wine contribute to its allure and mystery. But foremost among wine’s most magical qualities must be the remarkable landscape of flavor and aroma to be found in the glass.
That mere grape juice, given time and the workings of the microscopic kingdom, can yield flavors beyond description has doubtless played a central role in making wine mankind’s most historically sacred fluid, beyond our own lifeblood.
With eyes closed, a glass of wine can transport us not only to climes far removed, but also through time. These journeys are provoked by flavor. Our deep sense memories are drawn from their hiding places, and we find ourselves tasting things that a simple liquid ought not to be able to evoke with such unnerving power.

The flavors of wine are magical and beautiful, and worth celebrating, almost as much as they are worth drinking.

It is my pleasure to introduce a new series of weekly content on Vinography called The Essence of Wine.
This writing and photography project has been years in the making. Or more correctly, I have fantasized about it for several years, and only recently encountered the collaborators that I felt could truly help me bring it to life:

Photographer Leigh BeischCapturing the soul of food is more difficult than you would think. Food photography these days is glaringly unoriginal and boring for the most part — often as hopelessly derivative as it is clinically sterile.  Photographer Leigh Beisch’s images of food possess a rare beauty, poetry, and warmth that capture the energy and allure of great food.

Leigh studied painting and photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Moving from New York to San Francisco with her husband, an animator, Leigh opened her own studio and quickly attracted major clients like Williams-Sonoma, making a name for herself by creating stunning photographs for product packaging and cookbooks.

“My work as a painter influences my photography,” says Leigh. “Color, shape, texture and the boundaries of the frame are subjects in and of themselves and I try to capture an emotional response to the subject and the setting, as much ad abstract paintings do.”Leigh’s visions has led to commissions that range from editorials for magazines to store displays. Her work has won numerous awards including several Communication Arts prizes in photography and design as well as awards from Graphis and American Photography among others. The cookbooks that she has photographed have received awards from IACP, James Beard and Gourmand.
Prop Stylist Sara Slavin:
Requiring equal parts sculptor, chef, painter, and engineer, good prop stylists, especially those that work with food, are worth their weight in saffron.Art director and prop stylist Sara Slavin collaborates with photographers, designers and publishers on commercial and editorial projects throughout the country, with a special emphasis on the culinary and related arts.She has co-authored numerous lifestyle books and has acted as art director and stylist for such books as Odd BitsHot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet and Pure DessertSalumiWilliams-Sonoma EntertainingCountry Cooking of France,Southern Pies and Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter.Her clients include Williams-Sonoma, Restoration Hardware, Design Within Reach, Diageo Estate Wines, Food & Wine Magazine, Chronicle Books, Artisan Publishing, Sunset Magazine and 10 Speed Press.Each week, Leigh, Sara and I will be bringing you a bit of visual poetry — an original photograph and some prose — that captures some of wines most essential elements. I hope you enjoy these as much as we are enjoying their creation.

Badges of Distinction – Kevin Twomey shares his experience shooting something unusual.

We always like when our photographers shoot for editorial projects.  They often come away energized and excited about either what they shot or how they shot it.   On a recent shoot for Bicycling Magazine, Kevin Twomey was asked to photograph head badges.  He enjoyed the project so much he surprised us with this blog post.

“One of my recent assignments was with Bicycling Magazine, photographing head tube badges.  Before the project I had never taken much notice because most of todays badges are merely stick-on decals of the company’s logo, like the one on my Gunnar. The attention that was given to creating these badges was quite amazing, as seen in the opening spread of the story.

Most of the badges in the story came from collector Jim Langley, who is very passionate about anything to do with bicycles.  He has been collecting badges since the late 1970′s and now has approximately 600 of them dating from the 1880′s to current day.

After the shoot, I went online to do a little more head tube research and found some people filling the void by creating their own badges. One bicycle shop in Maryland, The Bicycle Escape, created badges out of bottle caps.  Another was a Star Wars Stormtrooper with what looked like a Hello Kitty bow.
So now when someone pulls up next to me on a bike, instead of checking out their components, I’ll be looking for a nice head badge.”

© Kevin Twomey -

The Power of Public Works. Kevin Twomey participates in Art in Public Places.

In early 2009, there was a call for artists from Emeryville to submit work for a public arts project based on the theme of Flora & Fauna.  Artists, including Kevin Twomey, were awarded grants from the city to create imagery for Emeryville’s Art in Public Places.   The idea  of this project was to display imagery of the artist’s work in bus shelters, normally reserved for commercial advertisements, bringing the exhibition space to the public.  The exhibition started in October 2009 and runs through September 2012, giving each of the 9 artists four months to display  their work individually in the bus shelters around the city.  Kevin’s photographs are now exhibiting through January 2012. 

The following is a list of the additional artists involved in the project:  Nora Pauwels, Catherine Courtenaye, David D’Andrea, Robert Ortbal, Lenore McDonald, Dean Hunsaker, Laura Anderson, Exhibiting Feb-May 2012, Shawna Peterson, Exhibiting June-September 2012.

When I asked Kevin to share with us what inspired his submission, here is what he had to say.

“I had collected specimens for this project during my many weekend hikes in Marin, covering the beloved Dipsea trail, the trail from Muir Beach to the Marin Headlands and the trails from Muir Woods up to Mt Tamalpais.  My first attempt to bring a dandelion back to the studio was somewhat a naive and comical experience;  trying to protect the fragile flower in its post blossomed state from the wind while attempting to hike a couple of miles back to the car. I think I barely made it 100 yards before I lost the flower head.  The dandelion problem was easily resolved by modifying a small cardboard box that kept the dandelions standing straight up, safely during the hike.

Given the luxury of 6 months to create the images for this project, it allowed plenty of time for the flora to cycle through to the right stage for the photograph.  Such a contrast to the timelines we are given for commercial projects.  Thank you to the City of Emeryville for their great support of the art community.”

Email statistics are more than just numbers

Recently we began contributing to the Agency Access blog;  The Lab.  It has been a great experience and provides us with an opportunity to share more of our ideas and philosophies with our industry.  The blog is a wealth of information for everyone at any level and we highly recommend taking a look and even subscribing.

Our first submission posted yesterday.  Be sure to link directly to The Lab to see what other topics were featured.

Here was the question we were asked.

Question: How can email marketing fit into an overall marketing scheme in terms of mining data from email responses to generate proper and targeted mailing lists for cold calls and mailers? From opens? From click-throughs? What are effective rates and statistics on this?

Email marketing is an important part of an overall campaign and if done well can be very effective in not only achieving “top of mind awareness” with your target market, but for refining your lists for future marketing needs as well.

The most effective campaigns are both relevant and respectful to the recipients. That means first making sure that the work you are sharing could possibly fit a need for the person receiving it. Then it means understanding that your email is one of many that the person will receive so be sure to limit the frequency in which you send them.

Keeping your campaigns effective also means evaluating your results properly. By evaluating we do not just mean noting your click-through or open rates. While those are important, it is just as important to adjust your campaign according to those results.

As well, we like to remind everyone email blasts are now one of the only ways that you can see who is looking at your work. It used to be that art buyers and creatives would call in your portfolios and you could then ask questions, gauge their level of interest and find out whose book was on the table next to yours. You no longer have that insight so be sure to pay close attention to what your email stats are saying to you and evolve your marketing accordingly.

Here is what we tell our photographers to do with their email campaign results:

1)    Look at your click-through and open rates. Opinions vary on what successful open and click-through rates are so we suggest that instead of looking at just one set of results – compare your results over time. Are those rates increasing or decreasing? If they don’t increase that is not necessarily bad. But, if they decrease, the recipients could be sending a message that your work is not relevant to them. If people continue to not open or click-through to your link, you should seriously consider removing them after a few attempts.

2)    Take a close look at who is clicking through to your site. Those people are very important and should be noted as such in your database. By clicking through, they are showing an active interest in your work. It is very important to add these contacts to your direct mail list. As well, if you have a short list of people who you would like to show your portfolio to or meet with in person, make sure you add these contacts to that list as well.  And, we know it goes without saying but these people were interested enough to click-through from your email to your site so please remember to be respectful of the frequency with which you contact them.

Here are two examples of successful campaigns within in our group:

Leigh Beisch is a food photographer and she sends emails to a very targeted client list one time per month. Therefore, we like to send emails that link to different sites of hers to offer a variety. This particular email linked to her new blog and received some of the highest click-through rates she has seen.

© Leigh Beisch -

Kevin Twomey had recently created a video and since people do not often suspect a still life photographer to share video, this particular email received a lot of attention. His click-through rates were well over 20%.

© Kevin Twomey -