Entertainment Weekly, February 2015, photo by Steve LaBadessa
In 1996 Jewel wrote a song, “Who Will Save Your Soul,” a thoughtful poem about the struggle of life and redemption. The song later brought her national attention as well as a Grammy nomination. On assignment for People magazine I was asked to make a portrait that illustrated her story.
Jewel’s home was located in an urban section of San Diego. On my arrival Nedra, Jewel’s mother, directed me inside. Jewel, raised in Alaska, shared a home with her mom.
I photographed Jewel in three different settings; surfing, painting on a canvas and sitting in her ’67 Volkswagen van. The van seemed the most comfortable location for her. She used the van to travel to gigs and it served as a place for her to sleep for out-of-town performances.
In the Volkswagen Jewel started to sing, “Who Will Save Your Soul”. Her voice was passionate yet soft. I was awestruck by the private concert that transpired. Passersby didn’t seem to notice the chart-topping singer songwriter was performing on this narrow street.
Jewel was unpretentious in every way. There was no hair and make-up stylist. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She didn’t even wear shoes. Photographing Jewel was one of my favorite celebrity shoots of all time.
The van photo has achieved iconic status. Every few months I get a request to use the photo on-line or in a publication. Several months ago I got a call from a photo editor at Entertainment Weekly. She remembered the photo. She wanted to use it as the opening spread for a dedicated issue about Jewel. She said it was a beautiful picture that symbolized Jewel’s humble beginnings. That’s how I remember it too.
A good photograph like a good book contains conflict. However, the conflict in a photo is visual, your eyes bounce off the conflicting elements as they explore the image. To communicate the idea of an IPO, Silicon Valley meeting Wall Street, I found using conflicting elements would be my best approach.
While planning the shoot, I decided that for each high tech item I added to the image I’d put in a corresponding Wall Street element. A cigar is offset with high tech Google Glass, a conservative suit is made new with a pixelation filter, and the model’s youthful face is framed with slicked back hair.
This photograph was turned into a visual soup of props and styling that tell the story.
Wall Street meets Silicon Valley
The only thing worse than a visit to dentist’s office is a visit to the doctor’s office. No one likes being examined, poked, or prodded.
Recently, I had an assignment to shoot a series of wellness exams. The photos were supposed to be content babies being examined. As the shoot progressed, I couldn’t help but notice some of the most interesting photos were the outtakes.
For this shoot I had 3 pediatricians on set. They did their best to gently perform the exams, but these babies they don’t play fair. They squirmed, they cried, and they grimaced. Their overriding sentiment was, “Enough of this. I want my mama!”
My assignment was to photograph 9 wine makers in Northern California. As I made initial contact with my subjects I came to realize they’re all humble men. On the phone several of them referred to themselves as simple farmers who grow grapes.
Over the course of the project I found them to be anything but simple farmers. They’re all very sophisticated men. Collectively they’re some of the best wine makers in the world. In addition, they’re a quirky set of characters. They all have unique backgrounds. As a photographer I couldn’t imagine a more interesting group of personalities to photograph.
David Del Dotto of Del Dotto Vineyards was a surfer in Hawaii when he bought 17 acres in Napa. He purchased the land because he thought it was beautiful. He never intended to be in the wine business. Now, he is one of the most well-known vintners in Napa.
Linda and Lester Schwartz of Fort Ross Vineyard came to the US from South Africa. They strongly disagreed with the government’s policy of apartheid. In good conscience the Schwartzs couldn’t stay in South Africa. In 1976 they bought 970 aces of land in California. Without guilt they grow pinotage grapes and produce wine native to South Africa.
Donnie Schatzberg of Precious Mountain Vineyard lives off the grid in a house he built. His vineyard is perhaps the most isolated of all the wineries I visited. I guessed Schtzberg hadn’t seen more than 4 human beings in a month. He looked like a mountain man out of Central Casting.
Jayson Pahlmeyer of Pahlmeyer is a lawyer turned wine maker. He’s lighthearted and kept me laughing throughout the shoot. He’s a bit less humble than most of the vintners. He insisted he was the best looking guy I photographed on this project.
I spent 3 days driving up and down mountain roads shooting these portraits. The schedule was hectic. Each shoot involved a quick location scout, equipment set up, and then a shoot. I’m sad to say there was no time for even a sip.
To see more images from this shoot visit stevelabadessa.com