From the SPD Archives: Photo Portraits from the Mag2000 Conference, 1996

From the SPD Archives: Photo Portraits from the Mag2000 Conference, 1996 SPD50k.jpg
For several years in the mid-1990s, Steven Freeman was a ubiquitous presence at SPD events, photographing judgings, conferences, and other activities. His portraits of publication design judges appeared in a number of SPD annuals, as well as the Grids newsletter (back when the SPD newsletter was printed and mailed to members!). One of the highlights of Steven's work was when he photographed participants at SPD's Mag2000 conference in Monterey, California, in early April 1996.

Organized by co-chairs Tom Bentkowski, design director of Life, and Roger Black of Roger Black, Inc., Mag2000 was an historic gathering of close to 300 art directors, designers, editors, and industry professionals. They gathered to hear an all-star collection of presentations from the likes of James Burke, Henry Wolf, Sam Antupit, Martha Stewart, Brendan Gill, Nigel Holmes, and an array of art directors including Gary Koepke, Fred Woodward, Will Hopkins, Mary K. Baumann, David Carson, and many more.

Mag2000 was an amazing gathering of talent. Roger Black said "This is the first conference I've ever been to where any one of the illustrious speakers at the podium could easily switch places with almost anyone in the audience."

Steven Freeman spent several days photographing participants in an improvised studio. The results include sparkling portraits of the cream of magazine art directors, circa 1996, including Roger Black, Fred Woodward, Janet Froelich, Ina Saltz, Diana LaGuardia, David Carson, Michael Grossman, Walter Bernard, and many more, plus a photo of Martha Stewart.

(Pictured above): Richard Baker, art director, Us.

TomBentkowski.jpgTom Bentkowski, director of design, Life

Steven Freeman: "In 1987 while in college at RIT I was very fortunate to work as a photography intern at Life magazine in New York City, the same year Tom Bentkowski began as design director. Early on, Tom became a mentor to me and helped shape my photographic vision, especially when it came to, as he calls it, "sculpting portraits." He also impressed upon me the importance of connecting with subjects (which often meant even getting them to "perform" on set) in order to gain their trust and, in turn, better capture their true essence."

InaSaltz.jpgIna Saltz, art director, Worldbusiness

MichaelGrossman.jpgMichael Grossman, creative director, Meigher Communications

"After I graduated from college, I spent the next few years honing my skills while shooting for Entertainment Weekly, Life, the NBA, New York magazine and others. In 1994, while on assignment for EW, Tom called with a favor that I remember he explained on my answering machine (remember those?).  He said the assignment would be very difficult and certainly he would understand if I would not want to help out. I thought it would probably be shooting some very complex portrait through glass or with a highly reflective surface. It turns out the difficult assignment was to photograph portraits of the art directors at the SPD judging two days later.  The shoot went really well and, after that, for the next several years I became SPD's "go-to" photographer. The first assignment led to photographing the judging, the gala, and then the call to do more portraits in Monterey at the Mag2000 Conference."

DianaLaGuardia.jpgDiana LaGuardia, design director, Esquire

"At Mag2000 Tom's suggestion was to give each subject 30 seconds to art direct their own portrait. We chose a blue sky painted canvas for a backdrop to convey the blue skies of Northern California."

DavidCarson.jpgDavid Carson

WalterBernard.jpgWalter Bernard, WBMG

JanetFroelich.jpgJanet Froelich, art director, The New York Times Magazine

FredWoodward.jpgFred Woodward, art director, Rolling Stone

"I set up the canvas and lighting in a conference room near the auditorium so subjects could come and go easily throughout the sessions. The portraits took place over the course of the event at a rapid pace. The subjects came up with very creative ideas and some simple ones too. Props came from both inside and outside the room--whatever anyone could find. With Tom's guidance about 'sculpting' in mind, I added a unique twist in how faces were framed, and also led them into engaging poses. I found it especially interesting how Richard Baker's portrait unfolded. He was a bit reticent to pose; in fact, it took cajoling from both Tom and Fred Woodward to convince him to agree. (Actually it took two days to convince him). When he finally succumbed, I figured it would be a simple, straight-on look, but, as he said the night before, 'I've got something special planned.'  He did not disappoint.  With the help of Fred, Richard tied his hair up like a palm tree and wore a turtle neck sweater. To this day I still use it in my portfolio. Art directed by Richard Baker, styled by Fred Woodward--that has a nice ring to it, right?"

SarahJeweler.jpgSarah Jewler, New York magazine managing editor

SamAntupit.jpgSam Antupit (former art director of Esquire)

HenryWolf.jpgHenry Wolf (former art director of Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, Show)

"Shooting all these art directors at Mag2000 was pretty cool experience, to say the least. I'm a big sports fan. It was a lot like both shooting and hanging out with Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, and Derek Jeter with no boundaries; at least I imagine it would be so. Just meeting Henry Wolf, Sam Antupit, and Roger Black and discussing photography was great, but photographing them was another level. I had photographed Walter Bernard a few times in the past, so to do it again in CA was just icing on the cake. I have no doubt it gave him supreme trust in me and that was reflected in the portrait, which is a very rare look for him. Sam's portrait was one of my favorites. Communicating with his mouth taped up was so awesome. Henry did classic Henry. This past summer I photographed an NBA player holding his rookie card, (which I also shot), in the Henry style. I'm not sure if anyone had any idea why--but I did." 

RogerBlack1.jpgConference co-chair Roger Black

"Roger Black jumped in a suit 10 times fast and broke a sweat. I'm not sure people would have thought of him being so athletic.The art directors all gave me something, and I was very appreciative."

MarthaStewart.jpgMartha Stewart

"Martha Stewart showed up 90 minutes late because she just 'had' to take a detour to sample and purchase butter on the way from San Francisco. But she redeemed herself and was really funny too. She told a story about how excited she was that her magazine had won an award for its design --but she couldn't recall the name of the of the organization. It turned out it was SPD!"

GigiFava.jpgGigi Fava, Bean Design

See more of Steven Freeman's work on his website.

Follow Steven on Twitter and Instagram: @sfreemanphoto

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  • I just met some well known person here in your post....! Amazing they are!!

  • Inspiring post i love this.

  • Memorable post.

  • Scot Sterling

    I remember these!

  • Roger_Black

    Amazing to see these people. What a great event that was. (And we all learned the Macarena!)

    And thank you, Steven, for mentioning me in the same breath with Sam Antupit (who got me into this business) and Henry Wolf.

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