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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Peace March

Nick and I had the pleasure of being a part of the silent peace march that Ypsilanti Community High School art teacher Lynne Settles assembled this morning. We pulled up to the Ypsilanti Water Tower a few minutes before 9 am and wondered how many people would participate with the dreary gray, cold weather. By five after, the small patch of green at the foot of the tower was filled with parents, community members and students. We were 200 strong as we silently walked down Washtenaw to Michigan Avenue. Ypsilanti Police escorted us as we carefully made our way through the intersection during green lights. Leading the march was Rhea McCauley, niece of Rosa Parks and Ypsilanti resident!

Our ending point was the intersection of Washington Street and Michigan Avenue. The building at the corner (which houses Mix Clothing and Ypsilanti Experimental Space, aka YES) is the site where Frederick Douglass spoke 150 years ago to the day. I had no idea what to expect.  Artist Mark Tucker from YES had been working with Lynne's students for months and the result blew my mind. I've seen really good video installation done at art fairs before but Frederick Douglass was all at once quirky and historical and right in front of me

With Mark and Lynne's expertise, the students created a sculpture of Frederick Douglass. Then they had Herb Francois, a teacher at the high school, dress up like Mr. Douglass and read the speech “The Perils of the Republic” which filmmaker Donald Harrison captured. This was projected on the sculpture with the sound of the students taking turns reading the speech. It was transportive and eerily cool. As the light of the projection wrapped around the sculpture, you could then see it wasn't a perfect alignment but that only added to the richness of the viewing. For a moment, you feel as if you're watching footage of the real thing, but then you're snapped back into present day. It was, by far, one of the most memorable pieces of art I have seen in a while. 

Next door neighbor and owner of Go! Ice Cream, Rob Hess and his team, made an incredible donation of time and goodies on a day the parlor is normally closed.  Everyone had their share of hot chocolate and coffee (some of us had to have their delicious ice cream treats too) and students got to see their work hung in the new Go education/event space. Nick collaborated with all the students in concept, production and research of the projects. 

From what I witnessed, the day's festivities highlighted multiple mediums including photography, writing, film making, sculpture (and armature building), costume, make up, styling, performance art, video installation, and art activism. 

The march and exhibit highlighted the spirit of diversity and love that exists in Ypsilanti. It was a magical event in a magical place. Thank you, students, teachers and everyone involved. This day has imbued an even stronger sense of what this community is about and I'm so proud to be a part of it. 



November 2014

In the interest of saving time and filling everyone in on the things we have coming up, I'm loading our last e-blast content here. Enjoy! 

Hello! This is the first e-mail we've sent to this lovely list of people since opening our studio. As many of you know, we had the fortune of stumbling upon a perfect little storefront in downtown Ypsilanti about seven weeks ago. Yes, just seven weeks ago! 

It has an open storefront space (for photographing), an office (for art and design consulting) and dressing room/dining nook. We snatched it up and never looked back. 

And since then, some incredible things have happened. 

  1. We attended our first First Fridays Ypsilanti just earlier this month, a circuit of venues with music, art, food, happenings on the first Friday of each tolerable un-wintery month. (There's a short break after the upcoming December 5th event). You grab a map and check out all the cool places that are hosting exhibits and offering specials. It's unique, surprising and wonderful fun for the family.
  2. Our studio opened on 11/11! Even though we're not a retail space selling wares, it was a bit of a hectic day - little sleep and lots of anxiety - about all good things! It seems the years of accumulating furniture were for this space. We just didn't know it. 9 S. Washington is a pretty sweet little spot on a corridor of downtown Ypsi that seems to literally be activating (as someone called it) day by day right before our very eyes. 
  3. On 11/20, three days after we photographed this set up, it was featured in the digital version of the New York Times. In the print version there are both styled photos we took for Skandicrush, this wonderful subscription service that sends monthly boxes filled with beautiful home wares. We're so lucky to be partnered with talented entrepreneurs with such vision. 
  4. That same night we celebrated our opening with friends and locals. It was a riot. Some of the photos can be found on our Facebook page.
  5. Nick has been really involved with Ypsilanti families and students over the last year. He worked on a photography assignment that allowed him to capture almost every family in a housing community and it moved everyone involved. That's how we came up with the idea to offer $10 Holiday Family Portraits on 11/29 Small Business Saturday. There's no reason a family shouldn't have a professional photo. We want to make these important things accessible and fun for everyone. Spread the word and the cheer! Come in with friends, family, students, colleagues...or just by yourself. All the details are here. (Pompom backdrop included)
  6. Once again, we are so excited to support Art Around Town, the business enterprise benefitting participating Ypsilanti Public School art programming. We'll be selling art through preview sales on:
  • First Fridays, Dec. 5th from 5-9 pm **We'll also be offering $20 holiday portraits that evening!**
  • Auction preview and art sale on Friday, Dec. 12th from 5-9 pm
  • Winter Auction on Saturday, Dec. 13th from 6-9 pm. Prints, paintings and sculpture will be sale and we play auctioneer! Bring the family and battle over works of art!

We didn't know what we were missing until we had the studio. Now that we do, we're thrilled to share our ideas, aesthetics and fun times with all of you. You're always welcome here. 

Be well and have a very Happy Thanksgiving! 
Yen and Nick Azzaro



"Just Shoot it on White"

We had always gotten a good amount of requests for a "white background" but lately even more so. It's certainly not easier to achieve than an environmental background. On the contrary, it takes a lot of effort and expertise. (Try to take a photo with your phone or point and shoot and achieve a perfectly white background indoors with no graininess).

Nick's a magician when it comes to getting a seamless white result because he puts a lot into the pre-production, and not so much in post. Minus a little adjustment here and there and an overall cleaning of any "dust", he does little cutting out in Photoshop. What you see is pretty much what was there. He does after all, carry an arsenal of tools and secrets with him — everything from glass panes, black aluminum foil, white boards, rolls of paper, and more.

It's not so glamorous or pretty when you pull back.

But he knows how to get the job done.*

There are various levels of "white" so we always ask if you want a shadow, a gradation, or pure stark white.

If you're looking for a product, food or portrait shoot, give us a call (734-929-2498) or email and we'd love to talk to you about the (endless) possibilities. 

*Products are screenshots and do not show the quality of original digital photos.



Food Cart Deliciousness at XDelica Dumplings

We had the pleasure of meeting Sean and Leeann a few weeks ago to talk about food photos and drawings of one of my favorite things to eat in the whole entire world — dumplings. With fillings like beef with potato curry and even cheese, things at Mark's Carts food courtyard just got even more enticing. 

My dumpling illustration will be used for their logo and branding.

My dumpling illustration will be used for their logo and branding.

XDelica Dumplings is all about quick, handmade and top quality ingredients coupled with delicious sides like pickled salads, sweet sausage and seasonal soups.

Tomorrow's opening day and we can't wait to try their daily combo or any of the rotating dumpling specials. Hope you're hungry because this is the first dumpling joint in the area and we're certain it's going to knock your socks off!



Some Bitchin' Photos: Bronston's Bitchin' Bronzer Tanning Oil

Via a networking mixer and a late, late dinner, Nick and I started hanging out with Nic, the talented and multi-faceted owner of Nolas Underground Salon. (He used to be in charge of teams in the Air Force canine unit for special assignments all over the world. 'Nuff said)! 

He's been concocting his own recipe of oil goodness over the last ten years and recently launched the concept into a full fledged business with product, it's almost good enough to eat. (I've been using oil on my face and hair for a while now, and I feel like I met him at an opportune time).  With ten essential oils including lavender, patchouli and mint, this coconut base lasted for hours on my skin and made it feel softer than my baby's bottom. 

Bronston's Bitchin' Bronzer is 16 ounces of pure, all-natural, tanning oil. Nic is NOT recommending you go out and crisp yourself. On the contrary, he's all about using the product responsibly and sensibly with tons of education to share with his clients. The sun and oil have been used for thousands of years for their healing, therapeutic qualities. We can all agree that we've been missing some Vitamin D this record-breaking winter, so what better way to get some than through healthy, non-petroleum, non-toxic products? 

For now, you can purchase this handcrafted goodness at Nolas (and make appointments with Nic and his equally talented partner Dani) and later it'll be available at southeastern Michigan vendors. Be on the look out for more campaign images as we go on this bitchin' ride with them!



Shots at Two James Spirits

Damn the snow for making me late last Friday because I was anxious to get to Two James Spirits, the first distillery in Detroit since Prohibition. Distilled and bottled right in the heart of the city, Peter Bailey and Dave Landrum are the founders of this small but incredibly high-quality operation. 


Besides a few merchandise pieces I was there to shoot the bottled products, their 28 Island Vodka, Grass Widow Bourbon and Old Cockney Gin. 


And the tasting room with generous hours.


And the unique space at Michigan Avenue and 17th Street, overlooking the train station and down the street from Slow's Bar-B-Q.


If you find yourself looking for an experience and product unlike any other, visit Two James Sprits for yourself.



The Pizza We Couldn't Get In the City: City's Pizza

All the years we lived in Chicago, we never really had a go-to pizza place. We didn't love deep dish and we couldn't find what we came to call a Michigan Pizza. A Michigan Pizza has chewy dough, a crispy yet fluffy crust and toppings on top of the cheese. You'd think these things were easy to come by but time and time again we were disappointed. That is, until we moved back to Ann Arbor. 

We discovered City's Pizza not too long ago and it is by far the best pizza we've had in a long time. Once we started going and noticing how incredibly friendly the entire staff was, we were hooked. Nick went in to their open kitchen to work with owners Brian and Paul on capturing their pizzas as they came piping hot out of the oven. Can't you just see how it oozes yumminess? 

And when we're not in the mood for a pie, we can get delicious BBQ wings.  

Or super cheesy cheese bread.

City's Pizza really does deliver a perfect pizza every time. If you're in the area, you need to try it!

To get some delectable photos for your menu, ads or social networking pages, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or email us now.




Jazzy Veggie, Take 2: Delicious Vegetarian Fare

Jazzy Veggie is a staple on Main Street known for their innovative, vegetarian comfort food (many items on the menu are vegan). And in the last couple years they've become the go-to spot for herbivores and omnivores alike. When we worked with Andy a couple years ago, he was offering favorites like sweet potato fries and veggie quinoa burgers. 

As his customers tastes have evolved, so has his ever-growing menu. Behold the beauty of the beet, brown rice and lentil burger! 



Pair it with a salad of quinoa, corn and garlic roasted red pepper with kale on the side.

If you're not up for a quick bite, take the time to savor a full "meatloaf" plate with mashed potatoes and gravy.  

If pizza is more your speed, try the pesto, artichoke, roasted red pepper - hot and crispy right out of the oven.  

End your meal with a sweet apple treat from Achatz Handmade Pie Co. All vegan and all goodness.  

After the shoot, our stomachs were rumbling from the delightful smells. We had a black bean burger and an agave BBQ chicken sandwich. Each was chock full of spices and flavor.

Andy now has a new inventory of images for Facebook, Twitter and his website! Our food styling and lighting expertise makes all the difference for our clients. 

Give us a call or email to set up a free consultation today. 



Serving up Magic Water at the (espresso) bar

When we heard about the (espresso) bar's new website, we were excited to capture the photos. With its laid back atmosphere (the lower level of a house steps from Kerrytown and Farmers Market) and simple, yet fundamental menu choices, it's one of our favorite places to relax and enjoy an espresso.

Sandy, the owner, goes out of his way to offer each customer an authentic experience with immediate water as you sit down and drinks, like filter coffee or hot tea, brought to your table. 

Some drinks, like the latte and cortado, are as enjoyable to look at as they are to drink.

Of course there's always espresso. The one below is from a coffee from El Salvador called El Borbollon, located near the Santa Ana volcano. It's 100% Red Bourbon variety.

Drinks are available to-go as well AND you have your choice of paper or glass - genius!

Lastly, if you're a die hard summer person who's not frightened by a few very early fall-like days then the iced coffee and iced tea are for you.

To schedule a meeting to talk about how we can make your food pop through styling and great photography, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or email us. 



Our Favorite Spot in Town: Food photos at Mr. Spots

For almost twenty years now I've been going to Mr. Spots, the home of the Philly cheesesteak (served on an Amoroso bun), hot wings and a phenomenally delicious chicken sandwich steps from UM's campus. I had discovered the place with my best friend during high school and continued to go even after Nick and I moved to Chicago on our visits home. 

We met with owner Keith McKendry (he owns one other Mr. Spots locations with his business partner Tim Wojcik) to talk about what look he wanted for his rotating digital menus, but we already knew the product all too well. We had little trouble highlighting some of our favorites like the Philly Original, waffle fries and chicken fingers.

The food is simply top notch American fare prepared in an immaculate and well-appropriated kitchen. There have been a lot of improvements since their first location (just next door) back in 1986 and it shows. Known for serving up the freshest and hottest food on the strip, athletes including Tom Brady and Charles Woodson have made Mr. Spot's their go-to place on campus and later during their professional careers.

But enough said. We'll let the food speak for itself. 

To schedule a meeting to talk about how we can make your food pop through styling and great photography, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or email us.



Local Beauty: Keeki Pure & Simple

We were introduced to Keeki Pure & Simple from our friends at zoey + joey.  All their products are super kid-friendly pthalate, paraben, gluten and petroleum free. Incredible, right? And to top it off, everything's made right here in Michigan and over 90% of their raw ingredients are from the USA. 

Nick shot their products for an upcoming spot on Hautelook, a part of Nordstrom's. (We'll send out a reminder when they launch!) We're so thrilled that more people will be learning about this fantastic company. Their products including water-based nail polishes, sunscreen, lip balm and yummy smelling lotions are high quality and you feel great about using them. Here are a few of the highlights from our photo shoot at their corporate office this week.

Yay for Keeki!