Brad Ziegler Photography
Mickey Alice Kwapis - Taxidermist and Juxtapostion
Back in the doldrums of winter, I heard about Mickey Alice Kwapis: a twenty-something jewelry maker. Unlike most jewelry artisans that use ordinary materials in their craft, Mickey is unique. She makes her art with taxidermied animals - yup, you read correctly. I immediately contacted Mickey and a week later she was in my studio.
This was exactly the type of project I needed to kickstart my convergence of still and moving imagery. Mickey is a living juxtaposition; she’s sweet, soft spoken and fashionable and not at all what you would expect to find under the title “Taxidermist.”
For most of my photographic life, I’ve sought juxtaposition or a certain texture in an otherwise digitally retouched and perfected world, constantly searching for something out of the ordinary and unique. I like the idea that this texture separates reality from falsification. It’s life’s subtle imperfections and originality that keep me interested.
We all have little quirks that make us individuals. As you look at the photographs and then watch the interview, I’m sure you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Mickey is a living juxtaposition.
Check out the interview on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/63203228
A few years ago, I photographed an article for HOUR Detroit magazine; I pitched the idea of bringing four WWII Vets up in a B-17 for the first time in over 60 years. The idea came to me after meeting Bill Rosnyai and three of his Flyboy buddies. I was surprised at how excited they were about the prospect of flying in a B-17 again. In my past experiences, WWII Vets, like my Grandfather, wouldn’t talk much about the War and might emotionally drift off while I attempted to interview them. This time was completely different however. ”Could we climb around the plane?” asked Burt Miner, a former pilot. They were beyond excited. A week later, I got a call from Burt asking if he could FLY THE PLANE! I was hesitant to answer; the production of this piece was complicated already. I had facilitated a free flight worth several thousand dollars, and I didn’t want to push it too far. ”I can ask Burt, but I can’t guarantee anything,” I said. He responded saying, “I don’t want to land the damned thing, I just want to take her for a few turns if possible.” I laughed and promised I would check into it for him.
The day of the flight/shoot arrived, and as we stepped out onto the tarmac, the Yankee Lady loomed above me, and instantly, the guys wanted in. The crew agreed to let Burt and Bob Stauffer get a few minutes to fly the plane. The next hour was one of the greatest of my life. I watched these WWII Vets transport themselves back to a time that they had nearly forgotten. They were spry, lively, and full of life. Burt was about to haul his 84 year old body into the nose hatch of the plane when I reminded him that he may not be as nimble as he once was. It seemed he had forgotten his age.
Six years have gone by since the shoot, and we still have lunch together every two weeks. The group has grown from four to 23 informal members and I have been granted “honorary flyboy status” complete with the call-sign “Sparkplug.” They seem to think this was all my doing: the growth of the group and the notoriety that came after the stunning article was released in HOUR, accompanied by a display in New York City and winning a Gold Ozzie Award as well as a Fox news story. I was only exploring a curiosity and trying to find some closure from my grandfather’s death. This experience ignitied something else in me though. My goal became to photograph as many WWII Vets as I could to hopefully spark a conversation between a younger generation and the still living WWII Vets that we have so much to learn from. I truly hope we can learn the lesson and live our lives as well as they have.
My Grandfather passed away in 1999. He didn’t know that a National WWII Memorial was being built, and he always felt slighted that his generations’ contribution had been forgotten. He joined the Navy on December 8, 1941, and I never quite understood why. September 10, 2011, I was on the roof of the World Trade Center photographing a client. 9/11 was my Pearl Harbor, and I suddenly understood my Grandfather in a whole new way.
As a board member of Honor Flight MIchigan, I helped facilitate trips for around 1800 WWII Vets taking them from MIchigan to Washington DC, free of charge, to see their memorial. I documented all of the trips I went on, and this has been my way of thanking my Grandfather and his entire generation. Yesterday was Veterans Day. Please thank a Vet the next time you have the chance.
The flight on the Yankee Lady will forever be etched in my mind. It instantly transported these four vets back to their youth. I had never seen anything like it in my life.
www.HonorFlightMichigan.com has information about the planned WWII Memorial in Royal Oak.
Check out www.BradZiegler.com to see additional images of vets.
Recent Work - A Test with Valerie Landwehr and the importance of creative freedom.
A few Years ago when I tested for agencies like Wilhelmina, Click, Ford and Elite in New York, I learned how important it was to shoot new material all the time. It’s critical to work freely in order to exercise your creativity, without project constraints.
When I met Valerie Landwehr a few months ago, she immediately struck me as a cross between Christie Brinkley in 1978 and Kate Upton. This chance meeting immediately took me back to the time when I lived in New York and was actively testing for the agencies. I called on style guru Kate Bennett of DetroitVogue.com to whip together some wardrobe and Mona Batayeh to handle makeup and hair. After approximately three days of scouting and prep work, we headed up to a beautiful residence on Indianwood Lake for the shoot.
I experimented with different lighting styles and gave Kate free range on styling; she’s a wizard, so I knew with very little direction she’d come up with great looks. When you have talented creatives working along side you, my philosophy is to let them stretch their legs and not over manage a set.
Kate, Mona, and I touched on vintage fashion from the 70’s (the turbin), some simple, current lifestyle/swimwear and even some east coast prep. It was a fun and eclectic shoot with no agenda. In the end, I let the location, weather, and surroundings guide me for a change. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to to control everything on a shoot, but sometimes that can take away from the wonderfully unpredictable and insecure world of reaction and uncertainty.
In my constant search for authentic products, people, places I came across a very cool guy named Tim Suprise. I heard him speak at an event revolving around Michigan Made Products and how they could coincide with the PURE MICHIGAN AD CAMPAIGN. I was impressed by his passion for his product and his drive to succeed at craft brewing. So I gave him a call and told him about my project entitled “Authenticity” - he fit it perfectly. I made the hour and a half drive out to Battle Creek about 6 weeks ago and spent the day in the Arcadia Ales Brewery (www.arcadiaales.com) learning about Tim, his staff and sampling his outstanding product! So far my favorites are the IPA, Hand Pulled Ales and the Scotch Ale. Tim, his controller/wife and outstanding brewers were perfect subjects. Enjoyable to work with but most importantly they were directly involved in the entire process of brewing. Tim has weathered his fair share of storms through difficult economies in both Battle Creek and the entire State of Michigan. Today Arcadia Ales is growing and evolving and yet Tim remains active in the day to day operations and has his thumb on exactly what’s happening at the brewery.
He continues to use vintage bottling and canning equipment and keep an eye on growth of the company and the actual brewing process at the same time. The building feels like it’s 150 years old and tells quite a story all on it’s own, it’s a major part of the charm of being in a craft brewery. At the end of the day I had a pint with two of the staff including brewer Stacy Block.
We sat on bags of hops and malt and talked about beer and how important it is to remain passionate about what you do with your life. It’s no often you find a woman brewer, this is traditionally an industry that is dominated by men. I can’t say enough for the beer, it’s excellent and indicative of authentic British Ales and a spectacular Michigan made product. It’s another perfect example of how to be successful and not lose touch of your product as it grows. Thus remaining as authentic as when you first began the journey.
Don’t forget to watch my site for new work at www.bradziegler.com Slainte!
Ty Stone album release and a pleasant surprise…
Let me start by saying I am NOT a concert photographer nor a music critic in any way but I did shoot a concert recently. I’m not going to spend alot of time on Ty Stone - what could I possibly say? The guy is a solid musician, he’s backed by Kid Rock, his career is set. I was invited by a member of his management after I requested a portrait session so I went to the show to snag a few shots and possibly meet Ty in person; I quickly realized that after a slew of press events and commercial shoots down in Nashville that I would probably not be the first thing on his radar. I was, however, pleasantly surprised before Ty took the stage. Paulina Jayne, Brandon Calhoon, and Doop and the Inside Outlaws opened the evening. I still can’t get over the fact that Paulina is only 16! She played a heartfelt, boot stomping set with a great band and sang her heart out. Brandon Calhoon belted out some sweet southern rock that I haven’t heard live in long time; his wailing guitar and resonating vocals made my camera shake. Empassioned would be an understatement. Doop and the Inside Outlaws wowed the crowd as usual with some bluesy, country rock that was exceptional. Clever lyrics and outstanding work by the band as a single unit kept me at the stage edge longer than I expected. These three bands are trying to carve a line for themselves and reach the limelight, and they still have a lot to say and a lot of fight in them. It was really great to see a group of gifted musicians play like crazy and put on fantastic shows. I find Detroit endlessly fascinating when it comes to music. The city where Motown was born is also home to spectacular Rock legends and pinnacles of Rap and Country - it’s a music melting pot, and it offers endless opportunities that were not afforded to me in other cities that I’ve lived and worked in. Check out the collection of shots I took. I think you’ll feel like you are right there with me, seeing some excellent musicians play their hearts out. You may want to update your playlist with their music too.
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Fashion in Detroit Assignment
I was lucky enough to spend the day with Kate Abraham - Fashion Blogger @ DetroitVogue.com shooting the shows at Fashion in Detroit this past saturday. You can see her overjoyed at being photographed candidly…
I started my career way back in the late 90’s shooting runway in New York at Fashion Week for a small magazine. It’s really great to finally see some fashion movement happening in Detroit. Our city has seen some tough times over the past couple years, and it would appear that there is a rebound on the horizon. I’ve recently heard about a following that Detroit has in Germany and Italy - yup, you heard me correctly. Writers, musicians and photographers are getting noticed for their Detroit roots and influences in Europe. Kate A. told me very simply “Detroit has a style all it’s own” and I truly saw that this past weekend. I spent a considerable amount of time photographing the designers themselves and trying to really find out where Detroit was in each one of them. I was left with a really great portrait series of wonderfully creative Metro Detroit Fashion Designers:
Above is Designer Dana Keaton and her astonishingly young students, ranging from 11 to 15 years old. These fashionistas showcased their own designs at the event.
Highlighted below are a couple of the standout talent from Detroit. Check out DetroitVogue.com, and you’ll find much more detailed information about each designer and their respective collections. Emily was a delight to photograph and presented a focused collection and Natalia oozed Detroit Style all her own…