Creative Spotlight : Expressive Interiors by Marietta Calas

Marietta has been featured before in our Creative Spotlight and more than a few of her out standing projects are found in the galleries of our website.  Pictures are always better when their is a story.  And there is always a story.  

So last year I get a call from Marietta Calas of Expressive Interiors.  'Would you mind flying to Florida to shoot a project for me'? Hmm., let me think about that for a nano second. No!  I can't wait!  This one is special exclaims Marietta.  'The condo has such beautiful views and the sunshine just pours into every room'.  Sounds wonderful I thought to myself looking out at my snow filled front yard.

So, we book flights for mid March and we are off for a day of sun-filled architectural photography.  When we arrive, our homeowner host was excited to have us there.  Then she says, 'I can't believe its cloudy outside, it's never cloudy down here, not ever'.  Go figure.  I get one day in Florida and it's overcast.

No matter, the space was beautiful and very well appointed with custom furniture, drapes, carpets, tiles and wall coverings.  Everything you would expect from an exclusive interior designer like Marietta.  Here the transitional setting is elegant, comfortable, and warm.  Below are just a few of my favorite shots from the photo shoot.  Oh and when I left the following day, it was indeed warm and sunny.

Shot on Film: Longtemps oublie' - (Long forgotten)

Again we visit the abandoned Midwestern Home.  This one in central Illinois.  The structure tells us that the home was built in the mid to late 1800's, sitting on hundreds of acres of prime farmland.  Every time I come across a sad home like this I feel compelled to photograph it.  In this instance, I am glad that I did as it was thoughtlessly destroyed days later to make room for the enormous industrial parks that now covers all the land seen before you in a mass of blacktop and concrete.

So who will remember this humble house?  The generations of children who filled the home with memories, tears and laughter are long gone.  We can look at this image and lose ourselves into a way of life that is passing.  A time when things were simple and a life of hard work rewarding and gratifying.

Photographed in January of 2001 using a minolta XE-7 and a Rokkor 24 mm 2.4 lens wide open on twenty year old Kodak Tri-X film.  Film was scanned full frame using a Minolta DiMage 5400 film scanner. 

Shot on Film: Je peux encore e'tre utile - (I can still be useful)

Here in the Midwestern United States much of our history lay in the ruins of our abandoned farms.  The eerie loneliness one feels when approaching a home or barn that was once useful and full of life can be over whelming.  I personally think about the structures age, the hands that worked hard building them because they needed  them.  And they stood strong and proud for years upon years until that fateful day the their usefulness was replaced or they were simply abandoned.  That is the case with our image here.  Large timbers, hand cut are still solid.  The panels on the exterior have weathered badly with time, the roof that once sheltered the animals that lived inside no longer can.  I can stare at this and imagine the men, women and children that worked here.  The children who played in and out of it when the daily chores were finished.  Je peux encore e'tre utile : I can sill be useful if only someone wanted me to be.

Photographed on a cold December morning in 2003, using a minolta XE7 and a Rokkor 35mm 1.8 prime lens wide open on twenty year old Kodak Tri-X film.  Image was scanned full frame using a Minolta DiMage 5400 film scanner.

Random 003 : Joanna K. Roumanis

This fantastic break room was photographed back in 2015.  I was really impressed with how functional, practical and fun the design was.  We have a few of the images from this shoot featured on our website under commercial projects. 

The interior design was done by Joanna K. Roumanis.  We met on site and she took some time to stage a few shots for us.  Joanna was great to work with as she explained the challenges she had to over come to get such great results.

The shoot took place in the mid to late afternoon in late November.  The timing was perfect as the afternoon advanced giving us a powerful shot of cobalt blue through the windows. 

This particular shot was done using a Sony A700 camera with a Carl Zeiss designed 11mm lens at 5.6.

Shot on Film: Louise Harrison

Back in 2004 we were doing a photo shoot with the Liverpool Legends.  Probably the finest Beatles cover band ever.  Our assignment was to emulate a few of the Beatles famous album covers, which we did to such an effect that Sir Paul McCartney sent a somewhat scathing letter to the band.  Personally as the photographer, I was flattered.   They were too.

The shoot took place at Bruce Starrenburgs Light Box studio in East Dundee.  Bruce would do the film processing while we were shooting.  Not quite as fast as digital, but pretty awesome having film processed while you shoot.

When the band arrived, they brought along their biggest fan. Louise Harrison, George Harrison’s older sister.  The band was awesome to work with.  We enjoyed a day of hard work; laughs and great hospitality from Bruce as Louise kept us entertained with stories of the Beatles early days.

The shot below was made using a minolta XE-7 and a Kamero 100mm 2.8 prime lens on Astia 100F color reversal film.  Studio Lighting was three Photogenic Machine Studio master IIs along with an Impact Luxbank 48” softbox as the main light, a Westcott 24” kick light and a 4” tube hair light. 

This image was scanned using a Minolta Dimage 5400 full frame.  No re-touching.

Shooting the GT on Film: Part One

Every now and then we will get a call for an unusual assignment.  Back in 2004, the Ford Motor Company released the much-anticipated Ford GT.  Homage to the legendary Ford GT-40 that won the 24 hours of LeMans in 1966, 67, 68 and 69 reaching a then unheard of top speed of 218mph and embarrassing Ferrari forever. 

The new GT was a hit.  Production was sold out. Cars were on back-order; dealers were limited to maybe one car, if they even qualified to receive any at all.  When a local dealer learned they were to receive a GT, they requested that we come in and photograph the car for the purposes of creating some canvas wall art for the dealer offices and showroom.

As with most assignments, there is always a hitch.  The car was located in the dealership showroom.  We were not allowed to move the car to a proper studio with a seamless sweep.  Additionally the client didn’t want the photos to show any of the showroom area walls, which were mostly glass along with a rigid iron ceiling and hard fluorescent lighting.  We could move the car, by engaging neutral and gently pushing it around the crowded showroom. Gently being the operative word here. The engine was not to be started under any circumstances.   

With digital cameras in their infancy and limited to a few measly megapixels, we were not confident of obtaining a wall-art worthy file from which to print.  We decided to shoot with a Hasselblad 501 medium format camera and Carl Zeiss lenses as well as a Minolta XE-7 35mm camera and Rokkor prime lenses with both cameras using Fuji Astia 100 color reversal film.  Lighting consisted of four Photogenic Machine Studio Master II’s, powering two bank lights and three soft boxes.  The only indication of proper exposure was using our trusty Sekonic light meter.  No shooting then instantly checking the camera-back to look at exposure.  We have become a little spoiled with digital instant feedback.

Film grain wasn’t much of a concern, since we were using Fuji Astia and the images would be printed on canvas.  Looking closely on screen, the grain is evident as is the intentional over exposure of the film.

Our challenge furthered, when the client wanted the car on both black and white backgrounds.  We had a weekend in which the dealer agreed to close and allow for us to set up, shoot and have the showroom back together for business on Monday.

We of course had a blast and were able to create eleven 20x30 wall art canvas prints from the shoot. Some day soon, I will post a continuation with some behind the scenes photos of our weekend mobile studio set up.

Film Cameras: Minolta X-570

Continuing here in my second post on film cameras. All of you camera addicts out there remember the cameras I write about I have actually used and have extensive knowledge of and experience with. Therefore they are my favorites for good reason. But stayed tuned, as I will also share with you some popular cameras that I have owned and used which proved to be a major disappointment.

I bought this Minolta X-570 back in the summer of 1985. One of the reasons for choosing the X570 over the X700 (the later of which I ended up purchasing four of) was that one could see the selected shutter speed, the suggested metering speed along with the aperture without removing your eye from the viewfinder. Amazing. The then top of the line X700, had all of this except the selected shutter speed, which means you have to remove your eye from the viewfinder and look at the shutter dial.

The X370, X570, X700 (X300, X500 in other countries) are often dismissed in the professional world as ‘cheap plastic cameras’. Not true. While the top of the prism is plastic, it’s very intentional. Something Minolta had been doing for decades. The resin used is a ‘high impact’ polycarbonate that is nearly impossible to destroy, I say nearly because mine is actually cracked and broken after the camera fell thirty feet onto hard concrete. Factor that the next time you look at a Nikon or Canon with a dented prism. The rest of the upper body is all-metal, with paint over brass for heavy handling and finger acids.

You will notice that Minolta cameras and lenses almost always retain their original paintwork whereas other top brands i.e. Nikon, Canon, Leica, brass easily. The paint protects the body, and Minolta paintwork is top-drawer. The finest and most robust you will ever see on a camera.

This particular X570 has seen years of personal use, decades of hard professional use. It has been dropped, thrown down (long story), knocked down (from a two story balcony during a photo shoot), hit hard enough to dislodge the lens (drunk groomsman).

It has experienced hard rain, extreme heat and severe cold. It has shot hundreds of weddings, models, musicians and portraits all without complaint. The internal meter is the most accurate of any camera I have ever owned and the super bright viewfinder is a pleasure to use.

These days it sits quietly in an aluminum flight case, battered, tattered, covered in gaffers tape waiting for its next assignment. With the exception of a routine CLA the camera has never been in for repair. The rubberized cloth focal plane shutter curtains are as tight and taut as when new.

I have an extensive collection of lenses but mostly use this with it’s original super sharp MD 50mm f1.7 prime lens (noticed the dented filter ring) along with an incredible Vivitar 100mm f2.8 prime for portraits and models. The camera is almost always mounted on a Minolta MD-1 professional motor drive, which is another indestructible piece of gear.

If you are serious about 35mm film, this is an excellent choice.


Creative Spotlight: Holloway Studios

Earlier this year we received a call from Letitia Holloway, artist and interior designer.  Letitia needed a few images of her interior design work.  I met Letitia and her colleague/artist Anthony Dunn at the first location to photograph.  Walking in, I was struck at  how the home had a museum-gallery like appeal.  Everything was minimalist.  Spaces were large and open, never crowded.  Fine furnishings complimented the gallery like atmosphere with well appointed art as its centerpiece.

Walking the project, Letitia and Anthony explained that all the art pieces were either commissioned or restored by their studio.  In fact, creating art is the main focus of Holloway Studios.

Letitia and Anthony collaborate with interior designers who are looking for that special wall art as the final touch to their design.  After seeing the interior space and talking with the client, the team at Holloway will design and create a custom one-off art piece that perfectly compliments the space.  This process not only saves time, it really elevates at lot of stress and frustration for the interior designer.

That being said, interior design work is secondary to Letitia who prefers to create custom art for other interior designers, architects, high-end builders and the discriminate home-owner looking for that perfect canvas.

Below are a few of my favorites from two of Letitia's projects.  In each space, Holloway Studios was responsible for the art, interior design and custom furniture.