My photo crew and I arrived at an empty Warner Brothers soundstage, where a build team was unloading a box truck filled with platforms and seating to arrange for the Hollywood Reporter cover photo: a 30-35 person group shot of LeBron James’ staff from his companies SpringHill Entertainment and Uninterrupted.
Our concept for the Hollywood Reporter feature focused on LeBron’s business ventures and rise in Los Angeles. A few days before the shoot I scouted the Warner Brothers Back Lot for locations and discuss the lighting with photo editor Kate Pappa.
When I first got the assignment, I dreamed of making an incredible portrait of LeBron solo, but as we moved forward in discussing the project, I realized it was less about him, and more about showcasing his diverse Hollywood team and their combined efforts. In basketball, he is a huge star, but also a team player on and off the court. One can see how strong the team mentality is in his companies. After reviewing the group photos on the computer, he said: “As long as they look good, I’m happy.”
This was my first time photographing LeBron. He is someone I’ve watched grow from a young basketball star to a man of many creative and business talents. I could feel that this was a special photo shoot and an amazing opportunity, so I brought out the big guns: my trusted large format 8×10 camera to continue my On White series. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to shoot 8×10 film on top of an extensive shot list, but it’s important for image-makers to give themselves space to work on projects for their heart and spirit. For me, that’s continuing On White, a personal project that grew into using portraiture as a study of gentrification that occurred in Venice Beach. The only downside to shooting 8×10 film is the time it takes to get into the flow of shooting large format, but once you’re in that meditative moment, the magic happens. The beauty of large format is the shared experience between sitter and photographer, and their connection of working together to create a portrait.
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Using the app Sunseeker to track sunlight:
Thank you to the team:
SENIOR PHOTO PRODUCER: Kate Pappa
ASSISTANT PHOTO PRODUCER: Kayla Landrum
PHOTO ASSISTANTS: Brittany Smith, Braden Moran, John Cizmas, Kristi Neilson
DIGITAL TECH: Sara Swaty
SET DESIGNER: Ward Robinson
SET ASSISTANTS: Abimael Linares, Luis Gonzalez, Gordon Ball