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  • maria 2:39 pm on November 30, 2013 Permalink  

    bat’s out of the bag 

    This-I-Know_vampireSenior editor Adrienne Frank and I were in search of a good pair of vampire teeth for this issue’s “This I Know.” Our subject, Katharina Vester, teaches a class on vampire narratives. Though it’s a rigorous literature survey, Katharina was up for doing something fun with the image. So, we decided to top a stack of “required reading” with the vampire teeth.

    We had to drive 40 minutes to a pop-up Halloween store in suburban Maryland to find a pair of teeth (who knew they’d be so difficult to find!).  At the checkout counter, a rubber bat caught my eye. Vampires turn into bats, right? I imagined it flying near Katharina, adding a little more life (and fun!) to the photo.

    D14_207_001Of course I didn’t think it through. When I got back to the office and took the bat out of the bag, I saw that I was in trouble. The bat was very floppy and rubbery. How were we going to make it fly?







    Photographer Jeff Watts to the rescue! He took the bat and disappeared for a while. He then called me in to his studio and proudly showed off his rig—there was the bat flying, waiting for its photo to be snapped.

  • Adrienne Frank 5:20 pm on November 26, 2013 Permalink  

    next stop: Georgia Avenue/Petworth 

    D14_248_030_Metrocentered I know I shouldn’t choose favorites, but “Metrocentered” is one of the most fun pages in the magazine. So much work goes into it–and yet, the final product looks very natural. Based on the feedback we’ve heard from readers, “Metrocentered” is one of your favorites, too.

    D14_248_050_metrocenter_groupWe just shot the Union Station “Metrocentered” last month (it was, as it often is, the last thing on our to-do list). So, it felt a little odd to be shooting another “Metrocentered” just a few weeks later!

    For the April issue, we hop on the green/yellow line to the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro, where we have alumni, staff, and a student doing some very cool stuff. We needed to shoot the image in November, as it looks more like spring now than it would if we waited until February, right before we go to press. In order to remove any trace of fall, art director Maria Jackson and I got to the location, Grant Circle, 30 minutes early to rake up all the leaves. (My job requires more manual labor than you might expect.) More than a few Petworth residents, who strolled through the park as we were feverishly raking leaves, noted that “the park service is really on top of things.”

    The photo, which I’ll share with you in a few months, turned out great–and I can honestly say we left the park better than we found it.

    If you want to see your Metro stop featured in a future issue of American magazine, shoot me an email at afrank@american.edu.

  • maria 5:02 pm on November 25, 2013 Permalink  

    a nod to Warhol 

    When I learned that we were profiling alumnus Alice Denney, a 91 year old lady who counts the who’s who of the pop art world among her closest friends, my first question to the editor, Adrienne Frank, was, “What does she look like?”

    Adrienne didn’t have any visuals yet . . . time for me to Google! There weren’t many images of Alice, but of the ones I could find, there was no escaping her signature glasses—they were huge. So I was prepared when Alice opened the door to let “the team” into her house to take her photograph. She was wearing an enormous pair of funky glasses.

    andy-warhol-marilyn-monroe-1960sAfter our brief time in her house, filled to the brim with the most wonderful and crazy art, and reading Lee Fleming’s story, it was time for me to figure out how to illustrate the article. Alice has such a long list of connections with cool artists like Jim Dine and Jasper Johns but it was the iconic Andy Warhol that jumped out at me. He’s always been one of my favorites. Everyone knows his silk screen of Marilyn Monroe—the same portrait repeated in multiple squares and in different colors. What a perfect way to show off Alice’s glasses!

    denneyOnce I created my first “Alice Denney,” it was a blast experimenting with changing the color of her glasses (and her jacket, buttons, and lips). It was hard for me to stop at nine. It was nice for me to go loud and bright—and out of my comfort zone.

    Although I know I’m not any kind of pop artist, it was thrilling to pretend for a little while.

  • maria 2:42 pm on November 19, 2013 Permalink  

    from nothing to something 

    Although I don’t conceive or write feature stories for American, I am privy to their origins. I sit in the editorial meetings listening to the editor and writers talk about story ideas. Sometimes while I listen I feel panicked and think, “How am I going to illustrate that? I’m doomed!” But other times, images pop into my head immediately and I want to get started right then and there—not knowing if the story is even going to pan out.

    new-american-shootThe story “Swearing In” was just one of those “I got it!” moments when writer Mike Unger first pitched the story eight months ago. I immediately envisioned a hallway wall with ornately framed black and white portraits, under thick glass hung on large patterned, flowery wallpaper of an immigrant family’s early- or mid-twentieth century home. As Mike was talking I began imagining. I had already moved on—thinking about the logistics of collecting frames, where to get vintage wallpaper, and how to photograph the subjects (not even identified yet!).

    Luckily Mike’s story became a reality so I could realize my vision. And unlike some stories there was plenty of time to find frames and neat wallpaper (Etsy’s Hannah’s Treasures had just what we needed) and take the pictures of the new (and not so new) citizens Mike interviewed.

    Now it was time for the fun part! I enjoy the challenges that often come with my “big ideas.” How was I going to wallpaper and on what? How was I going to organize and hang the frames? With the help of our photographer, Jeff Watts, I decided to use the studio floor. Even after a week of being under weights the wallpaper wouldn’t unfurl. It was tough lining up the flourishes without the wallpaper rolling back over on me. Once secured, I was able to move the frames around (no holes!) and adjust accordingly so all would fit correctly in the final layout.D14_242_031When I look at the final image in the magazine I remember the wonderful subjects I got to meet, their willingness to stand in front of a huge American flag, put their hands over their hearts, and smile. It was an honor to put their portraits in frames, “hang” them on the floor, and make them part of the American family.

    Check out “Swearing In” in the new issue of American magazine.

  • Adrienne Frank 3:16 pm on November 18, 2013 Permalink  

    it’s here! 

    HP_ad_kuehlThe new issue of the magazine arrived in our office on Friday. We’re tickled with it and hope you enjoy it, as well. If you want a sneak peek before the magazine hits your mailbox, check it out here.

  • Adrienne Frank 8:56 pm on November 11, 2013 Permalink  

    coming soon… 


    A particularly patriotic American magazine hits mailboxes next week. The November issue features a cover story about AU’s “new Americans,” including freshman Dullah Hassan, who’s sitting for the citizenship test soon. We’ve also got a profile of former NFL player-turned Under Armour executive Ryan Kuehl and a lively look at the objects that inspire AU faculty and guide their research.

    We also unpack a Buzzfeed reporter’s bag, offer an insider’s look at the White House briefing room, and head to the Union Station Metro stop.

    Your copy should arrive, hot off the presses, by mid-November!

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