I had the great pleasure of working with design director Benjamen Purvis and photo editor Renee Keith of Runner’s World on ‘The Body Issue’ (on newsstands now). This assignment took me to LA, Houston, and NYC to make portraits of 22 real runners. Each participant submitted their story on how running has shaped their lives and bodies, and the RW staff narrowed it down to these finalists.
It’s rare to get an assignment with so much freedom. Benjamen, Renee, and I had a conference call a few weeks before the shoot to discuss details and art direction. The concept seemed simple enough – create strong portraits of real runners on white and on black backgrounds. Ben stressed that the mood needed to elevate the subjects, and that I should treat them as professional athletes. I began sketching ideas of body positions and movements as well as lighting options to prepare. While I regularly work with everyday people, getting them to feel comfortable wearing next to nothing in a short period of time was going to present some challenges.
The first leg was LA. It was going to be the trial run to work out kinks in the production since there were quite a few moving parts to the set up – hair and makeup, stylists, a video crew, assistants, and studios to prep in each city. I felt pretty good after our shoot day and Renee encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing in Houston and NYC. While the RW staff couldn’t make it to the shoots, I was given enough freedom, direction and feedback to make this a successful feature.
The biggest challenge was working with entirely new crews in each city. The key on my end was to have my sets diagrammed with notes so my assistants could match the lighting. The other challenge was pacing, as we had to get through each subject fairly quickly. The good news was that every participant was super excited about being a part of the shoot, so they were up for anything – jumping, push ups, crunches, etc.
All in all, this was definitely one of the highlights of my year. It’s rare to get this many pages and this much liberty to make images. Thanks to Ben, Renee, everyone at RW (including their easy to work with video crew), my assistants, the hair and makeup teams, the stylists, and all the participants!
A nicely designed grid showcasing all 22 participants in the table of contents pages of the issue.
The layout going up at Runner’s World Headquarters.
A wall inside the Health & Fitness tent at Runner’s World’s first-ever half marathon expo. Photo by Benjamen Purvis.
Jack’s Studios in NYC was the third and final leg of the shoot.
The feature ended up being 16 pages, and I’m a fan of the clean design. I was also excited to see that the edit included at least one image of each runner.
Below are a few outtakes: