Category Archives: freelance

It’s been a while…

So in the past year or so since I last posted, life has moved pretty quickly in the Merritt household. I’ve shot a major in-store campaign for Sharpie pens, my wife gave birth to our second child Archibald, I’ve shot the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach for Bentley Motors, and I’ve even updated Hot Doug Sohn’s head shots for his new book coming out this summer. Obviously these are just the highlights but It’s been a wild ride. And now it’s time to post some images. I plan on doing this more and more this year as I explore some interesting new work, face new challenges behind the camera, and try to decipher where my career is headed. Also, I’ll tell you about the time a $20K piece of camera equipment died in the middle of a shoot with 3 main models and 35 extras dancing in a night club at 11:45am. Long story. Enjoy some car porn in the meantime.

– Ian

world leaders and me.

| currently listening to: Better than Blue, Goner, Rock ‘N’ Roll Never Forgets, 2008 | LINK

the photography:

this past week i found myself placed smack dab in the middle of a scenario i never thought i would ever find myself. i pinched myself awake and realized that in a room filled with people i was forced to choose between photographing a dozen world leaders/celebrities or standing there starstruck and slack jawed like some rube who had just wandered out of the corn field. well… i decided to do the professional thing. i took photos. gobs of them. then i sat there and stammered like a blithering idiot.

these photos were taken while working for the Chrysler Group LLC at the 2012 World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. i spent two days covering famous leaders, actors, and activists. it was, easily, one of the most rewarding assignments of my career. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Lech Walesa, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Jackson Browne, Sean Penn, Petra Nemcova, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Jody Williams, Richie Daley, Muhammed Yunus, and many others passed in front of my lens and within arms length. calling it surreal would be a gross understatement.

but beyond the glitz and glamour, the famous people and the metal detectors, i walked away from the assignment with a feeling i hadn’t felt in a long time. after listening to everyone speak about making a difference in the world i realized that i haven’t done a damn thing for my community in a long long time. it is truly humbling to sit and listen to complete strangers talk about how to change the world and then present you with solid proof that it can be done. and not just ‘change the world’ in that awesome pre-game speech by your high school football coach. i mean ‘change the world’ but tearing down that Berlin wall ‘change the world’. it was a sobering experience to say the least.

enjoy the photos. my favorite is the stand alone shot of Jody Williams and her pink shoes. she was one of the nicest people i have ever met. and a Vermonter to boot. awesome. also, Jimmy Carter’s hands. they are incredibly telling.

i am still in awe that i was given the opportunity to take them. the entire week was so moving that it’s time to pay it all forward, time to give back, time to do something for someone else. get ready chicago, consider me motivated.

the music:

Goner. what can i say about one of my favorite bands? well… i am biased. i did design their third record cover and i did donate to the recording of their upcoming release via a kickstarter project thread.

BUT THAT BEING SAID… they really are one of the best bands that you have never heard of. pop sensibilities via keyboard, accordion, bass, and drums – no guitars (well ok, there are a couple of tracks here and there with 6 strings on them but not really…). harmonizing vocals, incredibly heavy rhythms, and glorious choruses keep these north carolinians on the edge of what makes indie rock / college radio relevant. they make you tap your toes and sing along. joyously.

love it.

Farnsworth House II

| currently listening to: Panic Switch, Silversun Pickups, Swoon, 2009 | LINK

the photography:

As I mentioned in the last post, The Farnsworth House is an architectural legend. Designed and built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the house is, simply, an icon.

In my last post I showed off images from the interior of the Farnsworth House. Today’s images are a mixture of exterior shots of the house and photos from the set of the Japanese commercial shoot. It was a rather prolific shoot for me as there was always something to look at and different angles to decipher. It was such a great experience as a whole and the amount of excellent photos = many.

Not only did I get to hang inside and outside of said icon, I also got to see a RED camera up close and personal. Combined with a SuperTechno 50 crane, the TV commercial side of the shoot was amazing. What a crazy combination of cool devices. A tip of the hat to A.J. Rickert-Epstein (featured at the helm of the RED controls). He’s a fantastic Director of Photography with an impressive aesthetic eye.

This entire experience was splendid to say the least.

the music:

Alright. Silversun Pickups is one of my guilty guilty guilty pleasures. They have picked up where various ‘Oceans of Guitars’ styled bands left off. One that comes to mind as far as sonic intensity is the Champaign, Illinois indie greats, Hum.

While garnering quality radio play with this single, SSPU has solidified themselves to have at least a couple more records paid for and released by the underdogs at Dangerbird Records. Hook laden shoegaze is hard to come by but this quartet really knows how to put the elements together.

In most shoe gaze bands, a two guitar drone would lead the attack but the SSPU’s employ a keyboardist who fills in the gaps with gigantic blips and chords. But the secret weapon in SSPU arsenal is their bass player, Nikki Monninger. My god. She belongs in the ‘Female Vocal Hall of Fame’ right next to Kim Deal. Right around the 4:29 mark Nikki’s voice overpowers this song and wrestles it to the ground. She really ties the room together.

hanging in a garage – lifestyle product photos

| currently listening to: Lifted Bells, June of 44, Four Great Points, 1998 | LINK

the photography:
these are some test shots from a print campaign shoot i did a few weeks ago. the client was looking for worn hands and an industrial feel. Scooterworks in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor was the perfect location. rough, dinged, scrapped, scrubbed, metal, wood, oil, grease, you name it, this room had it. i couldn’t have imagined a better spot if i tried.

the shoot was based around an industrial professional who worked with his hands. we made sure to not make it look like he was a DIY’er in his basement but more along the lines of a machinist or a industrial metal worker. the set of hands you see above were from a scooter mechanic who unfortunately didn’t make the final spread but was kind enough to let me test shoot his hands.

the final two shots are of a scooter lift (red metal table top) and of my gear set up around for the shoot. i will always spend money on gear that is unbreakable no matter how heavy it is. my tripod was purchased more than 8 years ago to house my 4×5 portrait camera and boasts aluminium construction. it can extend to over 9′ tall and really fit any job above 2.5′ tall. if i was spending my days backpacking through the Andes i’m sure i’d worry more about a lighter rig but my goodness does this bad-boy do the job right.

and for any of you up and comers out there who are looking to do more studio work, there are two things that i always use… ALWAYS. 1) Photo/Video Sandbags 2) A-Clamps. you’d be amazed at what they can be used for (and even sometimes in tandem). i recommend going to your local hardware store for the A-Clamps as you will save more than $5 a clamp and you should head directly to the photo store/online for the Photo Sandbags. if you can make the sandbags yourself? more power to you. you always want to get the sandbags sewn down the middle that will flop over the leg of a stand to create a solid base for anything you are holding up, especially lights and backdrops. the last thing you want to do is drop a hot 20 lb. light onto the floor or even worse, onto a model. you probably shouldn’t let that happen.

also, if you look closely, you can see a number of dunkin donuts cups littered around the set.

it’s true, ian runs on dunkin.

the music:
“often referred to as the punk rock pirates of the math rock world”
– Touch and Go website

wow. formed from members who were/are in Rodan, Crownhate Ruin, Codeine, Hoover, Him, Shipping News, Rex, Sonora, the band June of 44 truly was a super group made from angular guitar riffs, precise drums, repetition, and odd lyrics. its a beautiful mix of everything i love in indie rock. and c’mon, best band name ever? pretty close.

with a repeated chorus of ‘Take Down Your Art’ these guys really do want you to edit yourself, lest you wreck yourself. i’m guessing i have a ways to go before i can critique the art world at large… you should listen to all of June of 44’s records. do it now!

unique portraits

| currently listening to: Radar Gun, The Bottle Rockets, Brooklyn Side, 1995 | LINK

the photography:
taking photographs is a process. i don’t think anyone would argue with me on that point. and it’s process that is constantly evolving. i can boil it down each portrait session i have worked on to the simple dialogue between subject and photographer. as the photographer, i engage the subject on many levels and rely on my personality, my body language, and my conversation to create the right environment for the subject to feel any number of emotions that i want them to evoke. the more photos i take, the more i refine these conversations so that i can (essentially) get the subject to feel the emotion i want them to feel for the final picture. nine times out of ten i want my subjects to feel relaxed and calm but every now and then i aim for sexy and seductive, angry and sad, mad and unhappy. it all depends on why i’m taking the photo in the first place.

lots of times, great photos are the karmic explosion known as ‘dumb luck’. but hey, as a photographer, you had to be in the right place, at the right time, with your camera to your eye, AND with your finger on the shutter. it’s never really cut and dry but you can give yourself the best advantage by knowing how/where/and when those moments are going to be captured.

the more photographs i take, the more i learn about myself and my personality. looking back throuhg my nearly ten years of getting paid to take photographs, the more people i meet and shoot, the more i catch a glimpse of how i act and react to strangers and friends alike. each portrait sitting is a lesson in manipulation and control, in creating a sense of comfort or a sense of uneasiness depending on what reaction you are looking for from your subject. if you know what outcome you want to achieve, then you should always be ready to set the subject in motion to get there. sometimes, it’s a strange ride.

each shoot is a learning experience. i’m not the photographer who blows through 15 head shots in a day so my favorite question to ask myself after a shoot is, ‘what would you have done differently?’. to be completely honest? i answer that question a dozen different ways every time. ‘i could have asked the subject to move slightly this way’ or ‘i could have chosen a different lighting technique’ or ‘i could have dropped my point of view about three inches to hide that gigantic forehead’. bottom line: photography is a business where i will never be completely satisfied with every shoot. i AM a perfectionist in my head but i MUST BE a realist in my output. the client wants it one way, their budget allows for it to be a different way, and it’s raining out, so make it work (thanks Tim Gunn…). as long as everyone is happy with the final outcome, i have done my job and i can lay to rest the over-amped OCD voice in my head. or i can at least drown it in beer.

the music:
when i was 17 years old i couldn’t decide if i wanted to be in Uncle Tupelo or The Bottle Rockets. it was a toss up between the band that would define the great mid-90’s movement known as ‘Y’all-ternative’ (Uncle Tupelo) and just another band from the St. Louis bar scene that kicked total ass (The Bottle Rockets). amazingly, i never got into either as Uncle Tupelo famously imploded and, well, The Bottle Rockets are still an amazing bar band from St. Louis. but my goodness does this song rip. 15+ years into their career, the Rockets still get up there and extend their brand of midwest grit to our ears. love it. bob yer head. raise a shot of jack. enjoy.

freelance portraits

Exposure: 1/160 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 400 – Focal Length: 35mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/100 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 400 – Focal Length: 28mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/100 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 500 – Focal Length: 63mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/160 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 500 – Focal Length: 65mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/160 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 500 – Focal Length: 43mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/125 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 51mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/400 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 45mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/80 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 200 – Focal Length: 42mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/250 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 28mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/160 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 200 – Focal Length: 40mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/200 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 55mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

Exposure: 1/200 sec – Aperture: F2.8 – ISO: 500 – Focal Length: 55mm
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Camera: Canon 5D

| currently listening to: Your Old Love is Dead, Stars, Set Yourself on Fire, 2007 | LINK

the photography:
i have been filling in my days making ends meet with various freelance jobs from here and there. the largest of these projects is a bit of work that i am doing with the MFA creative writing department at Columbia College in chicago. i’ve been taking portraits of various contributors for the student run Fictionary magazine. it’s a great opportunity to take portraits of people i have never met before and it’s a great opportunity for me to hone my art direction as I need to put all of the portrait-ees into places and positions from scratch. each of the writers and editors that i have met have been so relaxed and pleasant about the entire process that i wish the rest of the client side of the world would be so kind. the only real guideline that was set before i started was that the images be in black and white. so i’ve been playing a bit with trying to find some really diverse natural (and unnatural) places to shoot. it’s been fun. up next? more portraits. enjoy.

the music:
i absolutely love watching and listening to bands that have fun when they make music on cd and in a live setting. montreal’s Stars fit so nicely into both of those categories. ever since i heard their breakout first record, heart, these kids from canada have been killing it abroad and slowly gaining fans in america. it helps that they are indeed a part of the greater collection of canadian artists known as the “broken social scene”. those crazy socialists in canada actually give money to their artists because it’s a way to progress as a society. society, socialists, communists? while you sit on your hands and try to make a case against socialist tendancies, i’m moving to montreal to get paid to make stuff…