Portraits with Nelson


I shoot so much fashion and dance sometimes I forget what portrait photography is. Last week my friend and aspiring stand-up comic Nelson hit me up for headshots. I wanted to go beyond the classic actor headshots and make portraits that express his colorful personality.


We walked around Tribeca and shot in a couple of different locations. One clean professional look and another more casual. We walked under some scaffolding and he told me he sometimes does pull-ups on them. So I told him to hop on up and snapped this photo, which turned out to be my favorite shot of the day. I feel like it's comedic in the environment he's "stuck" in juxtaposed with a crazy smile. I love when subjects interact with the natural environment—it's fun and clever, and it captures so much personality.


People are so different in the way they express their face and body in real life versus in photographs. A lot of people are very aware of the camera, and put on a smile and pose in a way that shocks me in its contrast to their everyday life demeanor. They look tense, and you can see it in the photographs. It's up to photographers to relax the subject (through conversation, music, walking, dancing, jokes), make them feel comfortable in their own skin, and bring out their best features on camera. I think that's what makes portrait photography challenging, but so fun and rewarding.