© BRIAN MARANAN PINEDA
"Staying Safe in a Toxic World" for Parents Magazine.
I’ve worked with Brian Maranan Pineda for years; he’s a technical lighting guru who’s best known for his portraiture of athletes. It’s beautiful stuff; he manages to freeze a moment when the athlete is larger than life, skin shining while poised at the height of a jump or in the middle of a punch. He’s also a pleasure to collaborate with, always keeping a sense of humor (very important when working with athletes and celebrities or—as when he shoots for me now—small children).
When I first came to Parents, I wondered if Brian and I would still be able to work together. The magazine’s look is concentrated around airy and bright lifestyle imagery—and he didn’t have any photos of children in his portfolio. But once our creative director saw his work, she agreed to try pairing his style with our content. So we’d already teamed up on a few fun projects (think a neon sign reading “Up All Night” above an infant’s crib) by the time I got text for a story that I knew he had to shoot.
The assignment: illustrate a feature about hazardous toxins found in everyday household items. Not the most photogenic subject. We decided to focus on the theme of “protection,” since it’s something mothers reading our magazine can identify with. I only had to say “We’re thinking about shooting an entire family in hazmat suits” before Brian said, “I’m in! Don’t give this project to anyone else!” I knew he could make the potentially scary-looking suits appear humorous.
The shoot day started off with a bang–literally. Our RV was hit by a car, so we arrived on location two hours behind schedule. For a complicated shoot that can be nerve-wracking, but once we set up, Brian decisively framed up a terrific shot in the middle of the living room. Utilizing the large glass walls and metal frames of the modern home to capture as much light and greenery as possible, he kept the scene friendly, not antiseptic or alien.
Brian explained to the models (an actual family) that we would shoot them in pairs, then compose the finished image later. He got the kids comfortable by asking what they liked to do at home (no easy task, considering he was talking to them through the plastic face panels of the hazmat suits) and wrangled the baby by making goofy faces. In a moment of inspiration, he led the homeowner’s dog onto the set, then gently placed a pair of safety glasses over the pooch’s eyes. He managed to scramble back to his camera and snap off two frames before the pup pawed off the goggles. The final resulting image was quirky and attention grabbing. This is still one of my favorite shoots.
Since then, Brian has expanded his repertoire to include many photos shot using only natural light, as well as stellar travel photography. A recent email from him read, “When I’m back in town, remind me to tell you about the 32 nomads I’ve been hanging out with in the Gobi Desert.” That’s Brian: friendly, humorous, and making amazing pictures.
See more of his work on his site: http://www.brianpineda.com/. Brian's blog also offers an insider perspective on what he’s shooting: The full story “Staying Safe in a Toxic World” can be seen in Parents magazine here.