Event Photography Highlights from the 2019 NEA EXPO

Event Photography Highlights from the 2019 NEA EXPO

We recently returned from Scottsdale, Arizona where we were the official event photographers of the National Eczema Expo 2019 Annual Meeting. This is the second year we’ve been asked to cover the conference and it was three full-days of key note sessions, panel presentations, exhibitors, kids’ camp, pool parties and more.

The National Eczema Association is the leading resource for 30 million Americans that are living with eczema which causes the skin to become red, itchy and sometimes enflamed. Though eczema is common and often times mild, in many instances it can become very severe and difficult to manage.

Through the annual EXPO, the NEA brings together a community of medical researches, patient advocates, medical providers, patients and their families in order to educate, encourage and create a safe space for unhiding eczema.



The EXPO greeted the 400 registered attendees with spritzers, plenty of EXPO swag, a fantastic view of the 27-acre resort against a backdrop of the McDowell Mountains and educational seminars by some the leading doctors in the industry. 

On the exhibitor floor, attendess were able to meet with medical teams working on the latest treatment for eczema and check out some of the newer therapies including acupuncture sessions and massage. Of course, to keep the fun going between the support group sessions and the breakout meetings, they threw in a photo booth for those family and friend group shots.


Multi-day conferences can take their toll on our bodies so to keep things on the healthier side, the EXPO offered allergen free snacks, early morning yoga, water aerobic classes, spa treatments and plenty of time to check out the 10 swimming pools, high-speed waterslide and 45 waterfalls.

While the adults attended seminars and breakout sessions, the kids got to hang out at EXPO camp where the little ones had a chance to check out the wildlife and their older siblings took part in vision boarding, skin care tutorials and question/answer sessions with medical experts.

The last night was the closing bash where it was time to play dress-up, grab a cocktail and get on the dance floor to show off some moves. As event photographers, we’re big fans of DJ mixes, disco lights and dancing and love to get right into the middle of the mix to cover the energy.


This years’ theme was #unhideECZEMA which emphasizes body positivity and helped to create a space where attendees were able to share their experiences living with eczema and how it has affected their lives. This was an empowering, kid-friendly, educational and fun conference to photograph and we’re looking forward to photographing the event next year in Orlando!





Environmental Portraits for Velocity Magazine

Environmental Portraits for Velocity Magazine

Today I received the most recent issue of Velocity magazine, the semi-annual publication from the Maryland Institute College of Arts that highlights the latest ideas on campus and about the students, faculty, staff and alumnus. The feature story of this edition focuses on five Chicago-based alumni who have have excelled in their perspective industries and I was proud to be invited to collaborate with MICA in producing the accompanying environmental portraits for their stories.

For our first set of portraits, we headed over to meet Rebecca George, the founder of the Art House Gallery. She’s a painter with exhibition space and a studio practice whose works are in collections around the world. Alex Fuller is the Senior VP of Design at Leo Burnett and is also the co-founder of the Post Family, a creative firm whose members are designers, artists, technologists, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Kelly Leigh Miller is an illustrator whose debut children’s book, I am a Wolf, is being published by Penguin. 

Below are Rebecca George ’93 (General Fine Arts BFA), Alex Fuller ’03 (Graphic Design BFA), Kelly Leigh Miller (11 ’14 Illustration B.F.A., Business of Art & Design M.P.S.)

I’m often asked what kind of projects I like to work on most and editorial assignments, specifically portraits, always rank up pretty high. Typically, with these kind of projects, I’m given a photo brief with specific needs such as dimensions, number of images needed and the licensing required. When it comes to style, composition and demeanor, this can be flexible and I prefer to meet my subjects where they’re at and let them determine what they want to show and express.

The purpose of environmental portraits is to use the places where the subjects work, play and live to tell a part of their story. Photographing portraits of artists in their element leaves plenty of room for playing with light, color, expression and in the case of Aram below…props, lots of props. With the images for Velocity, we did some staging to frame the subject within their work, and used additional lighting to intensify the colors and contrasts within the spaces.

Above  are Sergio Salgado ’07 (Digital Arts MA), Madeline Murphy Rabb ’66 (General Fine Arts BFA) and Aram Han Sifuentes ’11 ( Fine Arts Post-Bacc)

Sergio Salgado is the founder of Furnace FPS as well as the lead director and cinematographer. His firm specializes in visual storytelling through commercial films and branded content. Madeleine Murphy Rabb is renowned for her expertise in identifying and showcasing artwork created by established, mid-career, and emerging African-American artists including photojournalist Gordon Parks. Aram Han Sifuentes is a fiber, social practice, and performance artist who works to claim spaces for marginalized communities. 

This was a fantastic project to be invited to work on. One that offered so much creative freedom to produce environmental portraits that helped to tell the story behind several accomplished artists. Looking forward to the next round!

Building A Park In A Day

Building A Park In A Day

It was a super sunny and warm day in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago.  6am and the volunteers start to arrive.  Putting together the tents. Laying out the t-shirts, water bottles, name tags.  All in preparation for the community and its’ partners to come together to take a once neglected park and turn it into a playground that the whole neighborhood can be proud of.  

Peace Park as it is now called sits at the corner of 104th and Corliss.  KaBoom!  a national non-profit dedicated to bringing play to children, especially those in underserved communities, teamed up with several partners including the Chicago White Sox, Paschen Construction and Chicago CRED.  The former Secretary of Education under President Obama, Arnie Duncan who now serves as the Managing Partner of CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny) noted “when I asked the young men what they wanted from us in return for laying down their guns, they said they wanted a park for their kids. It was incredibly powerful. It also is symbolically important as it is a park that has been neglected. This playground will honor the leadership and commitment to peace that these young men have made.” 

Kids never played there. They weren’t allowed to but today there are a lot of kids at the park, excited to be there and helping in any way that they can. The mountain of mulch starts getting smaller as the day goes on. Kids make signs, painting the sun and smiling faces that will decorate the fence that runs along the border of the park. Weeds are pulled. Trees are trimmed. They bring in wheel barrow after wheel barrow of cement to secure the swings. And the whole time, the DJ spins. As hot as it is, no one ever slows down. 

 Being an event photographer in Chicago for close to 20 years, I’ve been just about everywhere in the city and covered just as much. This though, was different. It felt like that “Hope & Change” we all used to refer to a few years ago. The park was built on the idea of a truce between rival gangs and with the neighborhood kids’ designs in mind. This galvanized a community. As a mom who recently moved to the block with her young daughter said  “when you’re a part of something, you don’t want to tear it down.”  

Corporate Lifestyle Photography for Praxis Life Sciences

Corporate Lifestyle Photography for Praxis Life Sciences

We were recently invited back to Praxis Life Sciences in Lake Forest for a full day of business headshots, corporate lifestyle photography and coverage of their annual meeting.  Our morning involved setting up for the corporate portraits on a white backdrop to replicate the headshots we’ve done for Praxis in the past.  I’m a big fan of using a white backdrop since it’s such a clean look and it feels less formal to me as well especially with the lighting scenarios we use.  Cross lighting with a parabolic umbrella as the main, medium softbox as the hair light, 2 reflectors on the backdrop and the Westcott Eyelighter as a front fill.  This handy tool creates such a beautiful wrap and spectral highlights that I use it whenever possible, even for environmental portraits.  After wrapping up the corporate portraits, we had some time before the start of the meeting, so we staged a few corporate lifestyle shots in the hallway and in the lobby as well.

Moving on to the meeting coverage my initial intention was to bring in some lighting for fill.  But as the day moved along, the sun made an appearance and we had plenty of available light to work with between the daylight streaming in and the overheads which worked out perfectly since the use of strobe would have proved distracting.  When covering smaller meetings, it’s critical that I’m unobtrusive and ideally, I’d like my subjects to forget that I’m even there so that I’m able to capture the candid and genuine moments and we certainly managed to do that on this round of images.

A shout-out to my Assistants Whitney and Chris who once again proved to be invaluable!  And of course to everyone at Praxis, especially Jamie who helped to coordinate, schedule and prepare so that our day went so smoothly!

On the Road for Manheim Auto Auctions

On the Road for Manheim Auto Auctions

Recently, I wrapped up a multi-day assignment for Manheim Auto, photographing several locations throughout the Midwest, East Coast and much of the Southern states.  Working with our Art Director, the goal was to illustrate a day in the life on the auction floor as well as the fast-paced action that happens during each sale day.  Manheim has locations throughout the North America, Europe, Asia and Australia and is the largest wholesale auto auction in the world.  Each location differs from the next and the goal of this shoot was to emphasize their innumerable offerings and personable customer service that is available at each auction.

There is so much going on once on the auction floor, from the drivers making their way into the lanes, auctioneers talking a mile a minute,  buyers competing for the best deal, the middle men and women mediating each sale.  It’s loud, it’s busy, it’s totally entertaining and the personalities are as big as the sale itself.

Photographing these assignments for Manheim is a contrast to any event I have ever covered and the corporate marketing materials I have worked on but the end game is similar.  Capture the overall vibe including the non-stop action and collaboration.

The Best-Ever CNA Textbook Photo Shoot

The Best-Ever CNA Textbook Photo Shoot

I know nothing about nursing.  Wait, not true.  My exposure to the medical field is limited to what I’ve learned from Grey’s Anatomy and my experience having surgery to remove some pieces and parts that weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing.  So, really, its a mixed bag of melodrama and what is probably most accurate: practical care.  I had a few overnights at the hospital and surprisingly, it was a very relaxing stay which may have been in part due to the morphine drip I was enjoying but for sure, it was the wonderful nursing staff that made sure I was comfortable, fully hydrated and they threw in the bonus of keeping me entertained when dropping in for a blood draw.  How fun!

 What I had imagined would be a few nights of impatiently waiting to get the hell out of there turned out to be a relatively decent mini-vacay from the world.  It’s really the nursing staff including CNA’s that can make or break patient care.  So, that much I knew when I was asked to jump on board as the photographer shooting a textbook written for high school and community college students about being a CNA.  

Chicago-based publisher Goodheart-Wilcox had been searching for stock-based images for the book and simply could not find the shots that accurately illustrated the techniques they needed to demonstrate and in some cases the available imagery was simply too generic for their purposes so they chose to take on quite the project and go with brand new photography. Not an easy task considering that we needed to shoot at a location that was or at least looked like a long-term care facility, required access to all of the equipment that CNA’s would use on a daily basis, would need to recruit and schedule the talent and of course, you’ve got to feed people.  Although this was their first time shooting custom photograph locally, GW pulled together the project like absolute pros as no detail was left to chance.  This kind of planning allows us to focus on doing what we do best and in turn the shoot turned out to be incredibly productive and an absolute pleasure to work on.



We covered everything possible.  How to make the bed.  How to turn a patient.  How to brush a patient’s teeth, wash their face, help them dress, the list goes on and on.  Of course, after a few days hanging out with people, you get pretty comfortable, ease up on the formalities and then the funnies start coming.  I love me a good out-take and my library is filled with many a classic moment.  For me, there’s nothing quite like knocking out hundreds of styled shots while giggling along the way.  



Many thanks to the team at Goodheart-Wilcox including Bob and Serg who brought me in on the project, Diane who managed the whole show and made it run smooth like butter, Mallory and Sue who know their miter corners like nobody’s business and my assistant Josh who handles all the other photo-related stuff which allows me to focus on taking pretty pictures.