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Ann Arbor portrait photographer

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Pop•X: panel discussion and coverage

Image: Current Magazine

Image: Current Magazine

Now that Nick's installation is in place at Pop•X, he can breathe a little easier. The photographs and sculpture came together without too much ado so that was a relief. The festival has been received warmly and we're grateful to Omari Rush and all the artists and organizers for their ardent efforts.

Below are a few places you can read and see photos of the festival if you can't make it. And I'll be moderating the Art for Innovators talk on Workspace Design tomorrow, Monday, Oct 19th. Should be a great time, see you there!

Detroit News

Current Magazine  

Current Mag Facebook page  

MLive  | MLive video

 

 

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#YCS: Your Committed Superintendent

The culmination of the experiences over the last four years has led us to a project that we feel personally vested, more so than any other we've worked on before. We are humbled and happy to announce that Ypsilanti Community Schools is our newest client. 

I met Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, or "Dr. E." as students call him, two weeks ago during the buzz of his imminent appointment as the new superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS). I heard of his no-nonsense but encouraging approach when dealing directly with students and his uncanny ability to remember students' names when out and about.

I was looking forward to telling him about our academic approach to championing the arts including Nick's latest venture, the student photo incubator. Upon meeting, I learned that he was looking to not only change the schools from the inside out, he wanted a complete rebranding of the YCS image. We immediately started brainstorming, citing the recent history of the schools and the community-chosen colors. At our next meeting Nick and I shared our experience as new parents and the gnawing question of where our son would attend school three years from now. 

Ben's ideas are backed up by immediate action. He's making the rounds at YCS schools to meet students, faculty and staff, giving frank talks about his expectations and what the students can do to succeed academically. He also recently attended a City Council meeting to introduce himself to the community and talk about his first 90 days as superintendent.

As Ypsilanti business owners we feel a commitment to making our surroundings not only culturally engaging but socially and economically vibrant and viable for families of all backgrounds. Ben's hope, and ours as well, is to invigorate a partnership between businesses and families including mentoring students after school, donating in-kind services for school functions and more. These are all actions we not only stand behind but have been doing already. 

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Nick and I had the privilege of getting to spend time with his sons this past weekend and they are absolute gentlemen, charismatic and well-mannered beyond their years. It gives me so much to look forward to with our son! 

You'll be seeing more about our work with Ben and YCS, particularly as we near the start of the school year. We joke that we have three years to make YCS a viable choice for us. But all know — that we're not joking at all. 

Here's to the man that we believe will be the energy and leadership the community has been looking for. 

 


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Taste of Ann Arbor + Restaurant Week 2014

Over the last two and a half years, Nick has become the photographer that people trust for gooey, decadent, in-your-face food photos. So when we started thinking about who we wanted to partner with this upcoming season, it made sense to work with Main Street Area Association. Maura Thomson not only oversees the bustling Restaurant Weeks (twice a year in January and June) but she also manages the logistics for Taste of Ann Arbor, a street fair that brings in thousands of people for a daylong food fest.

We're so excited to be a sponsor and the official photographer during both of these events. You'll see Nick out and about capturing the hullabaloo of the dinners and festivities as well as all the scrumptious photos on their website of the participating restaurants. We'll be working closely with chefs and owners to represent their succulent offerings from their limited menus so you know what to look forward to.

Nick will get to use the portable light set-up he created himself (more on that in a later blog) and we can share some our food styling secrets with you along the way!

When you see us out and about, stop and say hello and pose for a photo. (We'll try not to take it while you're stuffing a slider in your face). It's going to be a whirlwind Spring so check back for lots of details on the shoots and food styling!

If you're a restaurant owner or you know of a restaurant in need of professional food styling and photos, contact us now through June 2014 for a special Food Month photo shoot. 

 

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Astro/Ajekt/QP + Aya

Many stories exist regarding the formation of the super group Locus. Some say they're highly trained agents of Naicho created to bring the Yakuza down from within. Others say they crashed to Earth disguised as a fallen satellite. 

I'm here today to tell you the truth about Astro, Ajekt and QP.

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Prior to any written record of Locus, Astro (MC/Vocal) associated himself with hip-hop/rap culture. He was heavily influenced by his younger brother and Dirtyneez, a group of talented artists coming from Detroit, Ann Arbor, North Carolina, Atlanta, and Tokyo.

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After working as an MC and producing several tracks for his first duo, No Future, Astro formed an MC duo with his kid brother, DNA. Playing shows became the norm for the next few years, along with meeting greats like Chance, Baatin, Miss Corona, Yoshi, Black Milk, Elzhi and Spier1200, but something was missing. Astro became aware he needed to excel his skill as a rapper and entertainer. He was looking to change his game. That's when he approached Ajekt and QP.

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Early on Ajekt (DJ/Programming) enjoyed listening to Nine-Inch-Nails, covering Weezer and borrowing style from Rivers Cuomo. The study of audio engineering brought him to the US; Miami to be specific. During his time in subtropical South Florida he developed his eclectic musical taste through deejaying at a college radio station. Tracks from DFA, Domino, 4AD, Ninja Tune, Warp and Thrill Jockey were on heavy rotation and spinning 12-inch UK Breaks/Tech House vinyls at house parties became second nature.

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It was a career opportunity that brought Ajekt to Michigan. Once here he joined a J-Pop cover band, where fate lead him to QP and later Astro at the band's first performance.

Despite doubt, Ajekt did enjoy playing mainstream Japanese music, but gradually realized his true passion for electronic music. When the cover band broke up he got the urge to create his own music at least once in a lifetime (yes, he also loves the Talking Heads). He then asked Astro and QP to collaborate on a project combining rap and electronic music, reflecting the musical culture of Detroit and the diverse musical influences of the three artists.

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QP's (Bass/Programmer) musical carrier dates back to 1999 when he joined/co-founded the rock band called JAM2 in Tennessee. Despite being a young novice band, they were booked to play at a local music festival and attracted a large crowd of passionate rock fans. They left the stage after making a massive impression.

Later he moved back to Tokyo and formed a new band called Rock On and performed at several well known live music venues. Although successful, QP felt unmotivated by the tepid environment in Japan. He was eager to expose his passion in a challenging yet inspirational situation. So he moved to Detroit to fulfill his desire.

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As his roots grew deeper in the state of Michigan, he formed another successful band with local talents called Hoola-Hoop. Around the same time he began recording and producing music for fellow artists through which he met Astro. In addition he also spent considerable time contributing to his community by organizing annual local music festivals and volunteering as a sound engineer for many events. When Hoola-Hoop disbanded due to a key band mates departure, he joined the band where he would meet Ajekt.

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Then.... Locus was born.

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"A collective mind of musicians with different musical backgrounds searching for our own unique sound through trial and error. We've put out various types of music, now creating more danceable tunes and setting fire to the dance floor by experimenting with sounds and collaborating with artists who specialize in their own genres of music. We've had many opportunities to work with talented artists, sharing passion and love for music, yet we're still on a journey to create something extraordinary and new to the listeners. We're trying to establish a fan base in the metro Detroit area, Japan and wherever the internet can take our materials to. The band's music is heavily influenced by hip-hop, rock, electronic, pop and j-pop. The masks we wear represent our alter egos, separating us from the daily life to portray characters more fitted to the image of Locus and our songs. The original purpose of our masks was to have an edge and mysteriousness on stage, as well as hide our faces so the audience hears and feels the music rather than focuses on who we are as individuals. We want to send the message that we all in some way wear a mask trying to fit into our own community like a facade or front. We say that out loud by physically wearing the masks."

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All the pictures were taken during a recording session between Locus and an incredibly talented pianist named Aya Higuchi.

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The group met Aya, the most recent collaborating artist, through Astro's daytime job a few years ago. Last year Locus created a demo track of "Original Message", a song in Japanese to send a goodbye/thank you/good luck message to all their friends and family who've left this state to pursue dreams. In it they recomposed the classical masterpiece "Canon in D" by Pachelbel. Aya heard it and they started talking about collaborating their talents.

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Many thanks to my good friend Astro for providing the background so many have wanted to know.

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Pop Ups: Behind the Scenes + The Next One at The Espresso Bar!

In December we had a blast with our first pop-up photo event at Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, the awesome storefront with all things robotic and fun. It also serves as a "front" for the literacy, tutoring and publishing nonprofit, 826michigan.

Matt Lauer, one of the amazing volunteers at the Robot Supply and Repair doing what he does: fixin' things.

Matt Lauer, one of the amazing volunteers at the Robot Supply and Repair doing what he does: fixin' things.

We were so thrilled and honored when they agreed to let us hold our pop-up in their writing center and the results were colorful and lively, thanks to some stand in robots (courtesy of our talented friend Dylan Strzynski). 

Photo by Art Azzaro

Photo by Art Azzaro

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Aren't they adorable?!

Which brings us to. . . our next pop up! This time we're partnering with our friends at The Espresso Bar, where highly crafted espresso drinks are doled out by the expert hands of proprietor Sandy Bledsoe. Bring your mom, your dad, your best friend or your crush for a coffee date unlike any other. Once you're settled with your drinks, we'll get you ready for a professional portrait of the two of you.

You don't need to sign up and we're hoping that it'll be a fun-loving day of caffeine and warm fuzzies after this crazy deep freeze we've experienced. And oh, did we mention it's on Valentine's Day? :) See you there!

If you know of a venue or organization that you think would be a great partner, let us know

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Wife Interviews Husband: Getting to Know Nick

We talk about art and photo and business. All. Day. Long.  Sometimes we need to take a moment to stop and appreciate all the incredibly cool things we've worked on. For today's post, I interviewed Nick and asked him a few things about his career and inspirations. Prepare to be surprised. I always am. 

We started the company two years ago this month. Photo from October, 2011.

We started the company two years ago this month. Photo from October, 2011.

Y: Where was your favorite location shoot and why?

N: My favorite location shoot was going to Singapore, although it didn't matter it was Singapore. It was the first time I really left the country and went somewhere that far from home. I was with Sciortino, but felt like I was all by myself. I've gone on other shoots I've really enjoyed, but the excitement of seeing how people on the other side of the world live and seeing how different landscapes can look was really humbling. The funny thing is I almost faked ill to get out of it because I didn't want to leave home...and you.

Y: Who was the most famous person(s) you've been on a shoot with? 

N: The most famous people I've worked with are Brett Favre, Stacy Keech, Louis Farrakhan. 

Y: What do you enjoy shooting the most?

N: I like shooting people that are aware of themselves.

Y: What sets you apart from other photographers in the area?

N: --------silence-------- 

Y: Where do you get your inspiration from for your fine art photos?

N: My work is usually based on something I've seen or experienced. Everything has a story or a control, for lack of a better description. I like my work to say something, whether people understand it or not. None of that "let it happen" bullshit. Photography is about control. Even the stuff that you can't control takes a good amount of control to achieve. 

Y: Who are your influences?

N: Arthur Fellig (Weegee), Chris Marker, Art Azzaro, Arnold Newman, definitely, definitely not ________, Jeff Sciortino, David Bowie, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and many more.

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Straight Outta Composition

90% of the time I'm talking about how important lighting is to photography. Today I'd like to spotlight something that's necessary in every well lit (and even some not so well lit) photographs: composition. 

Composition gives the photographer the ability to guide the viewer through their work. Composition also allows for infinite possibilities for any one subject. For example, nobody else in the world sees things exactly the same way you do (so take the picture!).

Sometimes it's as simple as shifting the camera up to cut off the parking lot below the lights. 

Or it can be a collection of existing objects that create interesting and/or abstract shapes.

Sometimes it's mathematical, like dividing the image into even parts (halves, thirds, quarters, etc). 

Yet another example is the coming together of many elements, like bright street lights, moving clouds and cast shadows.

There are endless ways to compose amazing photographs, so stop reading and go shoot. 

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Couples Photo Opp: Jason + Joe

Our dear friends Jason and Joe visited us over the weekend and mentioned they needed a photo of themselves for a family project. N jumped at the opportunity and brought along lighting since we were planning on shooting close to dusk and it had been cloudy most of the day. As we walked back to their B&B, it started to drizzle and we took cover on the front porch. Moments later, the clouds parted and rays of light splayed across the "set." Foregoing the lighting, he was able to catch some great snapshots with natural light. Here are a few of our favorites of the handsome couple. For portraits, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or info@chin-azzaro.com

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