To help brand PF Flyers sneakers as an icon of “Authentic American Style,” Adam Larson, principal and founder of the Boston design firm Adam&Co., hired Brooklyn, New York, photographer Josh Goleman to shoot still portraits and video interviews of young and creative people who look cool in the old-school sneakers.
“He wanted to spotlight people who are in the right spot—not super famous, not completely unknown—but with an individual style and an individual perspective,” Goleman explains. Larson had originally conceived the video interviews as simple, straight-on shots of the subjects talking, but Goleman suggested making each video a little different by documenting each person’s daily routine and incorporating footage he shot with a more raw, “run-and-gun” approach. Until recently, Goleman worked for music photographer and documentary filmmaker Danny Clinch, first as an intern, then as an assistant, digital tech and, eventually, director of photography. Like his mentor, Goleman enjoys shooting from “a documentary perspective.” For PF Flyers, Goleman told Larson he would like to shoot with a handheld DSLR as well as a 16mm film camera, and “just let stuff happen.” He notes, “Considering that I’m shooting the video and stills, we don’t have time to get a tripod and lock everything in and light everything.”
Goleman landed the PF Flyers job after he photographed Larson’s wedding last year. Goleman, who shoots a few weddings each summer while working with The Wedding Artists Collective, says this is the second advertising job he’s gotten as a result of photographing weddings. “I don’t really go into weddings with the mind-set that I’m going to make a friend, but it’s worked out that way a few times, which has been cool.”
Initially, Larson wanted Goleman to shoot one or two videos and accompanying stills but very soon the assignment grew. By the end of this year Goleman will have shot 12 subjects. The third video, an interview with comedian and writer Nick Thune which Goleman recorded in early April, shows how their approach has become “a lot more loose and free form.”
Logistics: Goleman works with an assistant, and a sound person and a production assistant he hires locally. The sound people he hires typically use both a wireless lavalier, which the subject wears, and a boom mic for backup. A groomer and a producer were also on all the shoots.
The day before each shoot, Goleman arrives on location—usually in the subject’s home—to look around. “I would come up with four places, interesting places, to shoot, and then try to work the video around the stills,” he says. To plan his video shooting, he would first decide where to place the subject while he asked a handful of questions Larson had given him. Over the course of the day, he would shoot B-roll footage while following his subject.
When he began photographing Thune in his home in Los Angeles, Goleman asked the writer and comedian a little about his daily routine. “He said, ‘Every day I go to the dog park,’ so I said, ‘Let’s go.’” When Thune mentioned that he typically writes in his bed because it’s quiet, Goleman recalls, “I said, ‘Can we do the interview in your bed?’ He said it would be hilarious.” During the visit, he also shot Thune getting out of the shower, sitting and talking in his backyard, and skateboarding.
Larson attended each shoot, and previewed the shots and footage Goleman captured using a Canon 5D Mark III. The DSLR has slots for both a CompactFlash and an SD card. By putting an Eye-Fi card into the SD slot and a 32-gb card into the CompactFlash slot, he was able to set up the camera to transmit JPEGs to a laptop, letting Larson preview them from anywhere in Thune’s house, while he simultaneously recorded his RAW files to the larger card. “No digital tech, no cables,” is how Goleman describes the set-up.
Gear: “I like to use natural light as much as I can,” Goleman says, and as needed he uses bounce cards for fill or he drapes Duvetyne to block ambient light. The footage shot in Thune’s bathroom, for example, was lit by a skylight; the streaming sunlight bounced around the shiny bathroom tiles. He says, “I’m a big believer in: Don’t mess with a good thing.”
He also brings along two four-foot Kino Flos, each with four light bars. He likes the Kino Flos’ soft light when mixed with other light. “If you like shooting using ambient lighting inside, Kinos are great to use as a key light because they make soft light,” he says. “You turn off individual bulbs and cut light down without changing the color temperature [as with] tungsten dimmers.” He shot most of the video interviews with one Kino Flo. At times, he would set up a second one further from the subject, dialed down low.
He has been shooting all the stills and most of the video footage with a Canon 5D Mark III, typically relying on prime lenses. “If I’m running around, I’ll just shoot 24-70 so I can quickly shoot close-ups and wides.”
To add an element of roughness, however, he also uses a 16mm, hand-cranked Bolex. “It’s a Swiss-made camera from the 1950s, and everything on it is manual,” he explains. In shooting Thune with the 16mm camera in his backyard, Goleman captured light leaks and sun flares. “There are little tricks you can use to mess the film up. You can shoot slow motion or undercrank it to make things sped up. The lenses are older and softer, and a little hazy, so the edges are a little blurry.” He tries to use the Bolex on all his video assignments, and he says Larson was happy to let him try it out. “It’s so satisfying to shoot, and everyone responds well to it. When they see it, your subjects become more engaged in the process.”
Post Production: Editing was done by Christian Simmons, a longtime collaborator of Goleman’s who works in New York City. For the Thune video, Goleman gave Simmons about two hours of video and about 45 minutes of 16mm footage, which he had processed and digitized. He also provided audio, which the sound assistant recorded to a sound recorder. Goleman told Simmons which clips he liked while Simmons took notes, which the editor used as a guide as he made cuts. Then he sent Larson and Goleman drafts of the video to view.
Three of Goleman’s videos are currently running on the PF Flyers Web site, and his stills have been used in brochures and catalogues.
Watch the Nick Thune PF Flyers video below: