All posts by Thomas Corcoran

Halloween 2014

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Halloween is my favorite Holiday. From the start of its retail season in August, the items at Walgreens and my neighbor’s lawn decorations, I love it all. But I especially like the Trick or Treaters. The ones that come to my neighborhood are usually creative and stick to the spirit of Halloween. You know, traditional, scary Halloween themes. But they are always really cute.

This year it was very cold outside, about 30°. Most of the little monsters had to wear coats. These Trick or Treaters however, sported their costumes sans outer apparel, despite the temperature. I was impressed.

 

Cindy Rae

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The cloud, the stillness that must part
The darling of my life from me;
And then to thank God from my heart,
To thank Him well and fervently;
From “On the Death of Anne Brontë” by Charlotte Brontë

On August 29, Cindy Rae, friend and colleague, died from a short but brutal fight with cancer. Our friendship and professional relationship spanned almost 3 decades. The world will seem a little less without her in it.

I had just started my photo studio when I met Cindy. She was working for a modeling agency as an instructor. She brought many of her classes to my studio in downtown Minneapolis. She was an excellent make up artist working in the commercial, advertising, corporate, fashion and film industries. As you can tell she got around. Cindy was well known and highly respected.

We worked together on many personal and commercial shoots for years. Whenever I had a shoot that required make up Cindy was my very first call. I could depend on her to deliver high quality in a very professional manner.
Some of you may know this but a lot really don’t – a make up artist is more than just that. On the set a really pro make up artist is a collaborator with the photographer. She is the person who soothes the subject during make up. She is the second set of eyes during the shoot, catching fly away hairs and make up touch ups. She also contributes aesthetically through out the shoot. Working in so many studios as she did, Cindy was the most valuable make up artist of all to me.

As I wound down my career as a commercial photographer we worked less and less together. However she would have me shoot an annual Christmas family portrait for several years in a row.

In recent years we saw less and less of each other, talking on the phone now and then and of course liking and commenting to each other on Facebook. It brightened my day to see her posts.

The last time I saw her was at a Starbucks. We had coffee and visited for a couple of hours.

Cindy not only worked with me and befriended me, she supported me during ups and downs. Whether it was about drumming up business or personal issues. She would always make time for me. She made me feel she believed in me. I don’t think I could ever repay all the goodwill she showed to me.

Like everyone else I will miss her terribly and regret that I didn’t make time to see her more often in recent months. Her exuberance, commitment, kindness, respect for me as an artist and photographer and her friendship will live forever in my heart.

I spoke about my trust with Cindy. Cindy honored me with the trust to take a prenatal photo when she was pregnant with her first born, Luke. I have never seen a woman wear her pregnancy so beautifully.

Cindy, you will forever have a special place in my heart!

Third Annual Internet Cat Video Festival

August 14 was the Third Annual Internet Cat Video Festival hosted by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

The frist year was a phenomenon because nobody, including the Walker, knew how big it would become. That year saw 10,000+ attendees all seated on a hill to watch a sampling of cat videos from thousands that were curated. The festival made national news.

The next year was held at the Minnesota State Fair. Grumpy cat even made an appearance.

This year the festival returned to the Walker and as in the first year about 10,000 people attended donning cat regalia.

Here are a few images I took.

Cat video crowd and screen
Cat video crowd and screen
Cat video attendee about to be interviewed
Cat video attendee about to be interviewed
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Cat activity
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Cat crowd
Cat Video Attendees
Cat Video Attendees
Cat Video Attendees
Cat Video Attendees
Cat Video Attendees
Cat Video Attendees

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Cat Video Attendees
Cat Video Attendees

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High School Self Portrait

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If I were in high school today I don’t know with what tribe I would be associated. Geek? Nerd? One of the bullied? We didn’t have the current set of labels there are now, so hence, not many tribes to choose from. In our local colloquial lexicon there were Jocks, Preps, Greasers, or the general nondescript. It doesn’t look like it but my look somewhat blended in with the times. Hair was ugly and fashions either very specific or deconstructed. I think I was in the hazy gray of nondescript. No real way to describe except through behavior.

I was a high school newspaper photographer. Through my camera lens I was able to float between the different groups at my school. I was pretty much accepted as the guy with the camera. And when my pictures appeared in the school newspaper, I got more attention and to some degree acceptance.

I discovered art photographers pretty early. There were photo magazines available on the newsstands that even a minor could buy that all sort of adult, intellectual photo content – from nudes to social commentary. These magazines influenced me more than anything. They got me out of pubescent malaise and showed me a larger world of photography, art and thought.
The idea of a self portrait was not new to me, I learned about them in art class. But making one with a camera was new ground. Even in the 1970s, photography was not universally accepted as fine art. Despite all the art being created by photographers at the time it was tough time sledding for art photographers. Self portraits were a genre that would be in a controversial area. After all, isn’t all art (and photography) in the end a self portrait?

When I took this photo of myself I had already done a lot of self portrait drawings in my art class. My art teachers were cautiously supportive of my photography interest. It was an emotional and painful time in my teen years. I was in the prime time of discovering myself,  unsure of myself, doubted my artistic integrity.

I took this picture as an experiment. But as a lot of experiments in art they become and insight or statement. I think the pathos of this self portrait captures the stoic countenance of a callow teen on the way to the long road of self discovery.

About this Image

At the time I co-owned a Twin Lens Reflex camera with a close fiend. I used lager film and had a built-in self timer, so I could take pictures in private.
I used Tri-X film.

 

Noire Moment – Michelle

Noire image of a woman lit by venetian blinds
Michelle

Watching movies and Tv throughout my life I always noticed strong light and shadow that emanated from windows. Especially light filtered through venetian blinds. I often thought it was funny on Tv shows that had this kind of splash of light from venetian blinds but no reference to a window. Sometimes they would appear in a room that couldn’t have windows. It must have been a lighting designer’s joke to see if anyone was paying attention.

From the very beginning of my photo career as an independent commercial photographer I gravitated to what I then referred to as Hollywood Style lighting. Not for my corporate work but in my personal approach to portraits. I felt that this style. I am returning to that style of lighting but now I refer to it as Noire.

Hopefully in the future I will be able to create images that evoke hazy, dark rooms with streaks of light that reveal the subject matter in a a mysterious Noire way.

This is Michelle. I met her through a makeup artist, which happened a lot. Michelle had a really cool studio full of vintage stuff. At the time I was often carrying a long set of venetian blinds and a faceable spot light to shine through them. It was hard to get believable light if there wasn’t enough room to work. This time it worked out.

 About this Image

This was shot on daylight Ektachrome. I liked shooting these type of images with tungsten lamps and daylight film to get a certain warm color. Now, in Photoshop, the image can be desaturated and controlled by me, not a lab.

 

 

7th Street Minneapolis Cityscape 1984

7th Street from 1st Ave to Hennepin Ave
7th Street from 1st Ave to Hennepin Ave

As I have mentioned before on this blog, between 1983 and 1986 I had a studio in downtown Minneapolis. I was a stone’s throw from the night club First Avenue. From my window I could see the intersection of 7th street and 1st Ave. I also got great light in my studio from the reflective buildings as the sun would set. It was pretty dramatic sometimes.

This is a view looking South-Eastward down 7th street to Hennepin Ave. –  into the heart of downtown.

On this side of the street there was a liquor store, a Japanese restaurant, the Schubert theater, some other restaurants and an abandoned movie theater. Shinders was on the other end of the block.

The source of most of the light that bounced back into my studio can be seen in the IDS tower.

 About this Image

At the time I had a Nikon F3. This was on Plus-X and I metered for the bright spot of the IDS to get a dramatic shadowy effect.

 

 

Throwback Thursday – 1999, Sabra and the Shubert Theater

Shubert Theater in process of moving

 

Having a studio in downtown Minneapolis during the 90s sure had it’s historic moments. My studio at the time was in the Butler North building, 1/2 block away from the Target Center (it was being built during my first year in that studio). There was a lot of urban development going on between new buildings and remodeled older ones. One of the big changes was a so-called blighted block (Block E) was slated to be razed and re-developed. It took almost a decade to get it even razed. Then development took another good part of a decade. There was an historic theater on that block, The Shubert Theater.

The theater was moved from it’s spot on Block E to the next block north on Hennepin Ave. The story of the theater and how it was moved can be found here.  Another earlier view of the Shubert from my first studio can be found here.

I had moved out of my studio when the Shubert was moved but I was downtown a lot for business and my daughter’s ballet classes at Minnesota Dance Theater. I got to capture this shot of my daughter with the Shubert in the process of being prepared for what turned out to be the first relocation of a building of this size in history.

 

About the Image

Not much to say. Nikon F3, Tri-x film

 

Portrait of Zimmi

 

Zimmi

In 2004 I went to Stockholm, Sweden  for a very short trip. A friend of mine, Mercies May, concocted a way to get me there on the cheap for a weekend. I left on Thanksgiving evening and was there till the following Monday.

I met Zimmi during my short trip through Mercies. Both of these guys were/are performers but Mercies was working with Zimmi (or Simon as Mercies liked to call him) to help him with his career. My contribution was to take some urban images of Zimmi that he could use for promotion.

As I recall, Zimmi had lost his entire family and had to flee Uganda when he was very young. He came to Stockholm and was taken in by an aunt. Uganda is a multi-lingual country. Zimmi could speak his native Ugandan language, Swedish and English very well. In fact everyone I met in Sweden, immigrant or not, could speak multiple languages could speak beautiful English.

 

About the Images

Mercies found a really cool looking futuristic subway tunnel which offered some very good reflections, The lighting was challenging so I had to shoot with a tripod and at a high ISO.

Zimmi - B&W
Zimmi Tunnel
Zimmi _ vert
Zimmi

 

 

Dance Photography With Minnesota Dance Theater

Ballet dancer on point
Anna Leghetza

Much of the 1990s for me was taken up with being a ballet parent. My daughter was in Minnesota Dance Theater’s school and was eligible to be in the companies’ wonderful presentation of The Nutcracker. As a volunteer parent I had the opportunity to take photos of the students and professional dancers for press release. That lead to some interesting opportunities for great images as well as other opportunities to work with dancers.

There were a few non-Nutcracker shows that I photographed as well.

I feel honored and lucky to have worked with some really wonderful, talented dancers and to be able to work with MDT’s creative director, Lise Houlton.

 

About the Images

All of my dance shoots were done on film because these were shot before digital was available. This meant anything you shot had to be planned and needed more deliberate intention, including timing. You couldn’t just keep shooting like you can with digital. I used both 35mm and medium format 6×7 to shoot these images.

Bend over ballerina
Bend over Ballerina
Alexa young dancer
Alexa