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  • Adrienne Frank 3:43 pm on May 26, 2014 Permalink  

    fire in the hole 

    FB_paintballThe photo of filmmakers Michael DeChant Jr., SOC/MFA ’05, and Doug Gritzmacher, SOC/MFA ’05, in the current issue of American looks pretty simple. The duo behind the documentary, Soldiers of Paint, about the world’s largest paintball game—a restaging of D-Day in tiny Wyandotte, Oklahoma—are posed with their camera gear in front of a wall splattered with paint.

    Truth is, hours of planning, three trips to the Ranger Surplus store, and lots of heavy lifting went into that single shot.

    wall-before-paintball_iphoneMaria knew she wanted to photograph Doug and Mike outdoors, covered in paint. (No easy task, given the nasty weather we endured this winter.) Since we couldn’t shoot up a wall—fun as that would’ve been—we stripped and painted two of the 10’x5′ boards from AU’s holiday card shoot in our parking garage (special thanks to our work study, Tiffany Wong, for all the elbow grease), then transported them to Maria’s house in upper Montgomery County where we could paintball without scaring the neighbors. There we met up with Doug and Mike to have a little fun.

    paintball_2_iphonepaintball-wall_iphoneMike-propping_D14_387_010group_D14_387_097xThis was a particularly enjoyable shoot; not only were our subjects game for anything, the final image is fantastic. Also, I love when I have the opportunity to work with Maria, Mike, and Jeff all at once, as they’re incredibly creative and talented.

    Oh, and it turns out, firing a paintball gun is great way to relieve stress.

  • maria 1:08 pm on May 12, 2014 Permalink  

    Esty and me 

    linedrawing_brownstonesI am not an illustrator, but sometimes I have no choice. This usually happens when a portrait of the subject doesn’t tell enough of the story, and there’s no time or money to hire a professional illustrator. Although I may be smiling on the outside when I find myself in this position, I’m usually filled with self-doubt and, frankly, fear.

    “The Writer’s Block” came in very late. Twelve days before we were to go to press, actually. Another story didn’t pan out, but writer Mike Unger was able to tap into an interesting alumna, Julia Fierro, author of the forthcoming Cutting Teeth and founder of the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop in Brooklyn. Mike didn’t know how the story was going to flesh out so I couldn’t do any pre-planning. I had to wait for the story.

    Freelancer Amanda Stevenson Lupke took some wonderful portraits of Julia but when I read Mike’s story I knew we needed to tap into Brooklyn, which is a major character in Julia’s story. We had to get a brownstone image and it had to be whimsical. It was Friday. I needed the layout done by Monday.

    istock_brownstonesI searched my go-to stock image websites feeling a little sick until I came across a row of typical brownstones on iStock.com. I could use it as reference. All I needed was a light table—which, of course, I didn’t have. I may not be an illustrator, but I am resourceful. I took a flat lantern we had in our basement and glass from a frame hanging on our hallway wall to create a small, primitive light table. I purchased the iStock image and went to work. I found myself getting excited as the drawing was coming together. The iStock image only had two stories, but I could make three! I started to feel confident. I wanted to create matching art—street sign, crumbled paper, pencil, envelope, and Julia’s book—for the layout. The New Yorker popped into my mind and I decided to put my little black and white “doodles” in the text. I was pumped. I’d draw a frame for Julia’s portrait!

    When I came into work on Monday, I showed my coworkers the drawings. I was so tickled and ignored my usual M.O. to lay low. One of my coworkers looked at the iStock image and my drawing and said, “You Etsy-fied it!”

    I love Etsy so I took that as a compliment.

  • Adrienne Frank 1:11 pm on May 5, 2014 Permalink  

    back to school 

    FB_teacherI know I shouldn’t play favorites, but “Unpacked” has a special place in my heart. It’s such a fun page to work on and, if I do say so myself, a really cool concept. How do the items in your bag speak to your profession, personality, and passion? (At the moment, I have a copy of Real Simple, my toddler’s fire truck, and a bag of jelly beans in my purse—you can draw your own conclusions.)

    The fact that our subjects get so involved in the “Unpacked” process also makes it a lot of fun. Perhaps it’s because we touch all their stuff, but by the end of the shoot, it always feels like the subjects are old friends.

    unpacked_iphonepixSince we launched the redesigned magazine in late 2012, we’ve been hankering to feature an elementary school teacher. “Imagine all the crayons and glue sticks!” I said to Maria. Brieanna Samples-Wright, CAS/MAT ’12, a kindergarten teacher at Stanton Elementary School in D.C. was game for letting us rummage through her floral tote.

    upacked_D14_407_001In order to accommodate Brie’s school schedule, we did the shoot in her classroom, which turned out to be a blessing. (We have to get on our hands and knees for this one, and the colorful rug provided some extra padding.) I knew I wanted the background to look like an elementary school bulletin board and Maria got the dimensions just right (after five issues, we’ve perfected the process). I loved all the color and texture in Brie’s items; she’s a cheery, devoted teacher and that enthusiasm for education and her students shines through in her objects.

    What’s in your bag? If you want to give our readers a peek inside, email magazine@american.edu.

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