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  • Adrienne Frank 2:39 pm on June 9, 2014 Permalink  

    good sports 

    Though I’m an editor and writer, I love a photo shoot. It’s exciting to develop a vision and execute it—or rather, have our talented photographer, Jeff Watts, execute it. I would guesstimate that about 90 percent of the images you see in the magazine are original, not stock, photos.

    When our friends in Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) decided to profile Loren and Jamie Danielson for the April issue, we knew exactly where we wanted to photograph the Bethesda couple. Loren, Kogod/BSBA ’80 and Jamie, CAS/BA ’81, are generous, longtime supporters of the AU wrestling program (Loren wrestled for AU). What better place to photograph them than the new Bender Arena locker rooms, surrounded by the wrestling team?

    When we went to scout the locker room before the shoot, it looked like a hurricane had come through. The guys were at practice, so there were shoes, clothes, and wrestling gear everywhere. (It was a good preview of what my son’s room will look like when he hits the teenage years.) A few days later, however, when we met the Danielsons, DAR staff, and the coaching staff for the photo, the room was spotless—as were the wrestlers, all decked out in their warmup gear.

    We tried several combinations before settling on the fourth photo below. The students were great sports (no pun intended). I know being photographed can be a little uncomfortable, but they did everything we asked with a laugh and a smile. And, like our wrestling squad, the final photo is a winner.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Adrienne Frank 1:09 pm on April 21, 2014 Permalink  

    helping hands 

    eagle talesHere’s the thing about pulling old photos from the AU archives: most of the images don’t come with captions identifying the who, what, where, and when. But sometimes you get lucky.

    Case in point, this issue’s Eagle Tales image. We knew it had to be old (check out the car in the background) and we were hoping archivist Susan McElrath could narrow down the time period for us. So, I was absolutely tickled when Susan emailed me not only the exact date, but all five names, to boot (they are, from left: Ella Harllee, Margaret Snavely, Margaret Warthen, Florence Yeager, and Ruth Hudson).

    The photo of the plaid-clad, pickax-packing coeds building a new stone walk on campus was taken during AU’s Arbor Day celebration, April 14, 1937. Green thumbs gathered every year for AU’s Arbor Day festivities from 1933 to 1945; students got the day off from classes to help build bridges, fireplaces, and walks.

    cbd_1The Arbor Day celebration was the precursor to Campus Beautification Day, which has become an April tradition at AU. Tomorrow, hundreds of students, staff, faculty, and friends of AU will fan out to 17 sites across campus to plant, prune, and beautify during the 21st annual festivities. Learn about how you can get involved here.

  • Adrienne Frank 4:38 pm on April 15, 2014 Permalink  

    next stop: King St.-Old Town 

    Old-Town-Alexandria“Metrocentered” is heading to Virginia. We’re hopping on the blue/yellow line to King St.-Old Town for the August issue of American magazine.

    If you live, work, or hang in Old Town Alexandria, we want to hear from you. Share your connections: email magazine@american.edu.

  • Adrienne Frank 1:06 pm on April 2, 2014 Permalink  

    the needle in the haystack 

    POV-planeEvery magazine has its hiccups. This issue, one of my biggest challenges was securing an opening image to go with Capt. Cliff Taylor’s portrait. Much as he would’ve loved to, photographer Jeff Watts couldn’t snap an aerial image from the backseat of Cliff’s F-16 and because of security concerns, we couldn’t shoot the cockpit with all its cool instruments. And we weren’t satisfied with using a photo of plane on the ground—where’s the fun in that? That meant we need to buy a photograph.

    FB_fighterpilotI scoured the internet for F-16 images. I had gone through more than a thousand photos when I happened upon this  image by Florida photographer and airplane enthusiast Suresh Atapattu. When I sent it to Cliff to ask his thoughts, he replied:

    This is perhaps the most awesome F16 pic I’ve ever seen! It shows a highly offensive F16 carving around a corner to take a gun-shot! This jet is pulling 9Gs—no question. It’s really hard to get this shot because the setup has to be perfect and it’s incredibly difficult for the photographer. (He’s pulling at least 8Gs to allow a 9G jet behind him for <1 second.) You can tell it’s in full afterburner from the heat trail behind him and it’s a max performance turn with the leading edge and trailing edge flaps auto-digging-in. The plumes off the wing roots display the airplane’s real performance at high G maneuvering. All very interesting to plane geeks but ultimately it’s just a spectacular shot!

    I had found my needle in the haystack.

  • Adrienne Frank 1:06 pm on April 2, 2014 Permalink  

    the need for speed 

    D14_289_049xWhen my brother and I were little, my parents liked to take us to airshows. They have a photo of me, circa 1984, standing near the cockpit with a female fighter pilot. I wanted to be that woman. Top Gun, which came out when I was 8 (I choreographed a roller skating routine to Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone), solidified my fascination with fighter planes–and fighter pilots. (Volleyball scene, anyone?)

    So, I was tickled when—after a pretty intense Google search—I found AU alumnus, Capt. Cliff Taylor, SPA/BA ’98. He’d be perfect, I thought, for POV: the opening spread in the magazine. (Read more about the plane image here.)

    D14_289_030a“Diesel,” as he’s known to his fellow pilots, was game. He invited us to the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for a photo shoot. After our first shoot was snowed out, we rescheduled for early December. As you tell by the ominous grey skies, it was frigid (Maria used her Photoshop skills to make Cliff’s hands and cheeks less red), but it was a thrill to watch F-16s scream across the sky during the shoot. And everyone, from Cliff to his flight crew, couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.

    D14_289_044As we were wrapping up the shoot, Cliff told me I have a cool job. “This from the fighter pilot,” I replied with a laugh. While I may not pull 9Gs, it is pretty neat to work with people who do.

  • Adrienne Frank 12:57 pm on April 1, 2014 Permalink  

    ain’t no foolin’… 

    FB_coverIt’s April 1 and the new issue of American magazine is here! Copies, hot off the press, hit mailboxes soon. In the meantime, check out the April issue, which features stories about SOC filmmakers Michael DeChant Jr. ’05 and Doug Gritzmacher ’05, novelist Julia Fierro ’98, SPA’s new American Communities Project, and more, online.

  • Adrienne Frank 1:59 pm on March 27, 2014 Permalink  

    winter wonderland 

    snowman_D14_396_164aWe’re always on the hunt for a fabulous photo for the “Your American” opener in the magazine. Though our next issue drops April 1, this photo from a February 13 snow storm felt right, as it’s been an brutal winter in Washington.

    The day before we went to press, however, we swapped the snowman for a photo of the men’s basketball squad, who took home the Patriot League Championship on March 12, landing a spot in the NCAA tournament. (Read Mike Unger’s tales from Milwaukee here.) It’s a fantastic image (by a student photographer, Murugi Thande ’17) and we were happy to get something about the team’s tournament bid into the magazine.

    Students-building-snowman-by-Steven-BlumStill, I was a little sad to see the snowman go. As a native Phoenician, I was over the winter weather by Thanksgiving… but I still felt a strange attachment to these smiling students and their festive creation. So, I was tickled when we found this image in the university archives while searching for photos for “Eagle Tales.”

    Looks like snowmen are something of a tradition at AU—as is grumbling about the cold weather.


  • Adrienne Frank 7:37 pm on March 14, 2014 Permalink  

    mark your calendar 

    splat calendarA new issue of American is on the way!

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