We got such a wonderful response to our original 20 Questions post that we’re continuing it into a series! Thank you again for your curiosity, your kindness, and most of all your support. Hope you enjoy this next round of questions and answers…
1. How did you get to where you are now in your career?
My path has come full circle from where I started. When I was 13 and got my first Mac I started creating digital art and animation, but through school I pursued traditional mediums of art, then graphic design which I did professionally for a few years. My real passion has always been animation so it’s not a surprise that I’m doing that as my career, but the path there wasn’t direct.
2. Where do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired when I see something that gives me a deep visceral feeling that I wished I had created it. I recently felt that with Starshift by Santiago and Mauricio. Inspiration comes in waves, but for me personally it’s not something I can just decide to go do, it happens when it happens and it may be from an art book or the dog eared corner of a subway ad blowing in the breeze. It’s also from free association. (Note: as I was writing this answer on our back patio a butterfly flew by and I caught it in a bell jar, and Jamie and I shot this.)
3. How has your life changed since the Cinemagraph?
My life has changed in all the big ways it can – new career, new creative opportunities, building a studio and a business. The most significant thing is having the opportunity to tread unpaved ground and push a new medium that hasn’t been fully defined yet. We can experiment and spawn new ideas which we can integrate into later work. A recent piece called “Nature’s Watercolors” happened when I set the camera down after a lens test and saw these amazing colors through the viewfinder, which we brought to life through moving water. Every day becomes an imperative to see the world in a new way and capture it.
4. What advice would you give someone who is young and wants to have a position such as yours one day?
Find your passion, because you need that as fuel to do whatever it is you want to do. Passion in your work and life is like being on a moving sidewalk, it will always drive your forward even when you’re burned out, frustrated, or blocked. Jamie and I are doing professional the exact things we were doing at 13 for fun, strictly because that’s all we wanted to do. If you can find what that thing is, you’re way ahead of the game.
5. What would be your dream job/shoot?
I want to bring cinematic elements to our work, big things, big sets, explosions. I want to tell an entire movie in a single, animated frame, like the Last Judgement.
6. What has been your favorite job/shoot?
There are some shoots where we get to build a crew – from models, stylist, producer, hair and makeup, to digital tech and assistants, and work for days together, to where it really feels like a special creative endeavor. Riding in a luxury RV throughout southern California on a creative mission makes me very proud to see what we’re capable of.
7. Why do you think the Cinemagraph works so well?
Cinemagraphs work well when they’re executed well, and when the motion lends something to the image. We try to make every bit of movement add life and story to an image, so in this cinemagraph for Saks Fifth Avenue we wanted to highlight the rabbits which have inhabited this abandoned human world, and the spinning compass has something to do with why it might be abandoned.
8. Favorite thing to do in New York?
My favorite thing is to have nothing to do in New York. It seems I’m always carrying bags, gear, or en route to an event but there are times where you find yourself free of agenda in a sea of busy people and you appreciate how special New York City is.
9. Best part of your job?
We get to create every day and talk about new ideas which have never been done before. Exploring cinemagraphs means defining a new genre and a new medium, and that’s an exciting and rare privilege. Even hard or exhausting days are highly satisfying.
10. Worst part of your job?
Forms, paperwork, taxes. It’s a fair trade to be doing what you love and doing it for yourself, but there’s a great deal of non-creative muck we have to work through to reach the good part.
11. Has anything about the job surprised you? Been different than you expected?
The most interesting thing is how affecting one person can lead to huge things. We can trace a multi-year job back to a single person who saw our work and wanted to work with us. This job is for a major tech company and it is all because of that one person who understood and believed in what we’re doing.
12. How do you balance work/home when you live and work with your spouse?
We recently combined our photo studio and home in to one space after having a separate studio for a year. We realized that it’s in our nature to work all throughout the day, so if we also live where we work we get to have elements of life integrated in to work. It’s a fine balance though, and it certainly wouldn’t work for everyone or for every live/work space. We are able to step away from our computers when we need to.
13. What are some of your favorite ways to relax?
Our relationship with relaxing is complicated – on our honeymoon we got restless towards the end because all we were doing was relaxing. We love to work and create, and too much down time can be stressful. We like to try new restaurants find new wines and cocktails as ways of relaxing.
14. Who are some of the artists you admire?
Gregory Crewdson and Franscesca Woodman have been very influential lately. They both occupy almost completely opposite ends of the spectrum of art photography, both in the work they create(d) and their personalities and approach. I highly recommend the documentaries Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters and The Woodmans.
15. What was your first gif?
I started creating animated gifs when I got my first computer, around 1995. I can’t remember what it was, although I always remember I wanted them to be seamless loops, like a 3D object spinning. I remember specifically wishing for a place I could put little humorous animations online where they would be appreciated and it came about 12 years later in the form of Tumblr.
16. What are yours and Jamie’s roles at the studio?
We share a major part of the creative process but we also do much of it independently and collaborate at certain points. She operates the blog and I do the business and financial side, but creating is where both of us are most happy. Recently on a video shoot we shared the directing and cinematography roles, with each of us taking the reigns at different parts of the process.
17. What gear do you recommend?
It all depends on finding the right tool for the job. For Cinemagraphs the RED Epic is ideal because it captures in high resolution raw format, so each frame looks like a DSLR raw image. It’s a professional cinema camera which may be too much if you’re shooting a simple video. when a Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D800 would be completely reasonable. Good lighting and solid camera stabilizing will get you much further than a really expensive camera.
18. What inspired the Fashion Week 15 Second series? Why stick to the format of Instagram?
There are periods where I fall asleep to thoughts of visualizing something new and I was thinking about how to take the simplicity of a still runway photo like Jamie takes with the motion that is so important to a runway show. I shot the series at 150 frames per second on the RED Epic so a model’s split second head turn or leg movement will occupy 1 second of video when played back at 24fps.
When the series started in September 2013 Instagram had recently made it possible to upload your own videos rather than only allowing what you captured on the iPhone. We love to find a platform and do something new and different with it, and the culture of Instagram is so fantastic it just worked out great for timing. It was very similar to using gifs in a new way on Tumblr back in 2011 when we began creating cinemagraphs.
19. What makes Instagram so important in your brand life?
We love how people interact on Instagram and how the community and app demands original content. It has limitations so you have to work within their parameters so there is less wild variance in what you see there but a high level of creative innovation. When brands get traction on Instagram we can create really cool things they can share with their audience, such as a recent piece we created for Armani.
20. Is video becoming more important at Ann Street Studio?
We’ve been interested in telling stories through video for a while, but the platforms that exist have never seemed to match the way in which we ourselves would want to consume content. Instagram’s 15 second limit forces you to get the information out quickly but it also gives enough time to tell a story. So we’re exploring ways to use Instagram to tell stories that go further towards developing a full story.