Washington Post Magazine: Greg Glassman Cover

photographed by Andy Batt

It’s a good day when the photo editor from the Washington Post Magazine calls to ask me to create a COVER IMAGE for the publication. Crossfit founder Greg Glassman lives in Portland, and the Post wanted a punchy vibrant image to accompany a story about Greg taking on “big soda”; his campaign wants to get soda out of the school system, and he’s not talking about soda machines. The biggest in the industry are setting health and nutrition policy and influencing actual classroom lessons; e.g., there’s an emphasis on physical fitness, but very little on sugar. To be clear, Greg’s fight isn’t with the existence of soda, or sugar—it’s about their overreach and lack of accountability in the rise of obesity, pre-diabetic and diabetic statistics.

My instinct was to pitch a “reverse Godzilla” idea—I’d have Greg standing in Soda City as a heroic giant, ignoring the attacks from Soda City—soda tanks and soda plane ineffectively trying to stop Greg from stomping all over their city. It was a ‘punchy’ metaphor—nothing subtle about it, but it felt fun and eye catching.

I remember watching Godzilla and King Kong movies on after-school TV. You sometimes rooted for the people—it was their city being attacked and their friends that were being stomped on, but kinda secretly, you always were rooting for the monster.

My goal was to flip the script—make our hero of gigantic proportions, facing impossible odds and yet winning. After all, Soda City is HUGE—they have more money, more lawyers, more resources—so you definitely need to be equally huge, in some way, in order to fight this fight.

My editor greenlit the idea right away (!) so off to the cash-&-carry we went, to buy hundreds and hundreds of cans and bottles of soda. My art director Ron, producer Therese and I spent about 3 days building our view cityscape, and first assistant Galvin killed it doing double duty building our pop fighters.

I decided an very ‘real’ look to our set—I wanted to be anti-CGI, to have some rough spots where the boxes had some wear and tear, imperfections in the materials and build techniques; very wabi sabi. Not sloppy, just hand made looking. Leaving in things like the fishing line on the pop fighters, or the flare on the boxes, the ‘dents’ in the 12 pack boxes from the cans—all of that stuff added some needed grit to the image.

On the day of the shoot, after everything had been nailed to the floor, lit, and ready, we go word that Greg had decided that he couldn’t break away from his office across the river, to come to the studio. We were, however, invited to come over to his place and get our shot. A very very fast scramble ensued! We quickly documented the camera placement, distances and angles, and lighting direction, packed a studios worth of gear in the Xterra and whipped across the river. We built a studio in Greg’s driveway, and recreated our lighting and camera setup on the fly, so that I could composite the portrait with our studio shot. Pack and back to the studio to shoot some new plates with a few lighting tweaks to make the shadows fall correctly, and then directly into an intense composite session to merge it all together.

I’m pleased with the result—it’s solid idea that comes together nicely, and there’s nothing obvious about the composite. It’s punchy, striking and eye catching. Mission accomplished.

-andy batt

Esperanza Spalding

photographed by Andy Batt – October 2018

This is project that took a few years of scheduling and relationship building—but in October I was finally able to get Esperanza into the studio for an incredible portrait session. She’d been touring for a new album, but was going to be in Portland to visit friends and to be part of a gala night for the nonprofits; Bienestar, an amazing group that creates housing and opportunity for the Portland latino community. The event was “An Evening of Esperanza”, with a performance & silent auction. I was asked to create 2 portraits of Esperanza, one to be auctioned and one to be printed and placed in the “goodie bag” the VIP ticket holders would get.

I dug in to Esperanza’s back catalog, getting a sense of the incredibly diverse range of her music. I did a bunch of “coffee shop sessions”, sketching mind-mapping and just daydreaming. I began to have a glimpse of an idea—I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, or where it would lead, but decided to follow that ghost.

I ended up building a tiny tiny setwall box, and painted it with metallic silver paint—I wanted to create a compressed space to put a big personality—to create some visual tension and allow for her to express a physicality with movement or pressure. I used a very specialized lighting technique to create a hard, defined circle of light—I felt that the clean geometry of a circle would make a connection with her.

And because I’m me, I also wanted to create a classic B&W seated portrait, beautifully and simply lit. Something similar to the way I photographed Senator Jeff Merkley.

It was a great session—Esperanza gave me a generous amount of time, and enjoyed the experience; she’s a wonderful collaborator. I look forward to our next project together.

-andy batt

A shout out to Pro Photo Supply – who generously sponsored the printing of the framed auction print and the gift bag portraits! Get your printing (and cameras and media and lights and all the good stuff) at PPS!

The cinematic world of Bad Choices

Andy created a dystopian world inhabited mainly by strong/interesting/dimensional female characters. This project is called Bad Choices—which is also the name of the town at the center of this conceptual story.

He set his goals high: “I was tired of photographing happy people holding
happy products and pointing at happy screens. I wanted to challenge myself, get outside of my comfort zone”. 

One of Andy’s shots from a shoot for Best Buy

He went well beyond any comfort zones. Andy’s photography always tells a story regardless of the assignment, but to create a personal body of work that he could really sink his teeth into he needed something bigger. Many of his personal tastes and inspirations comes from the world of sci-fi, so he decided to start there. The project began as a character study with 12 different actors, and quickly became a full blown dystopian screenplay with overlapping story lines.

Early stages mind map

From each actor study, Andy started by painstakingly concepting and creating the key poster art for each character. One by one, the story has slowly revealed itself. He’s taken the project through 2 artist retreats on Anderson Island— using mind mapping, film research and creative brainstorming, all funneling in to the creation of the conceptual photographic scenes.
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He knew he couldn’t attempt this project by himself, and so he reached out to a crew of talented artists to ask them to contribute to the project. He first reached out to Hair and Makeup Stylist Terri Lodge to help flesh out and design FX driven makeup to represent each of the characters.
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Costume designer Rebecca Therkelsen was then quickly brought on to collaborate with Andy on the costuming, digging into the backstory of each character, to create a unique wardrobe for each of them.
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Art Director and Prop Master Ron Skrasek jumped at the chance to play in a post-apocalyptic world. His ability to transform words into key prop and set pieces have been critical to the visual storytelling.

Location scouting for our very first scene of Bad Choices.

Camera Assistant Galvin Collins was brought on as a key resource, contributing to all areas of production, including prop-making.

 

Naturally, Therese was responsible for logistics and project management, with critical help from Production Assistant Misty Post, who also worked as a prop wrangler and prop maker.
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Designer Adam Murdoch also gave significant time and guidance to Andy and the project. His combination of graphic design and brand experience gave the project an immense amount of focus. Adam’s unique process created an amazing brand story and design for Bad Choices.
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What’s next for Bad Choices? 

We are very excited to announce that in less than 2 weeks, we are shooting a new phase of the project, this time with the support of Lensbaby. Andy will be shooting with some of their top secret gear, and we’ll be taking the talent to the location. We can’t wait to add to this project. Until then, you can see all the images from the world of Bad Choices here!
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6 of 7 completed character portraits from the series. 5 more to go!

And now I have a treat for you. Because you just read the entire post! That deserves a bunny!

Bunny don’t F around! You’re welcome.