Sophia Loren in Miami

I’ve just been alerted that an article I had photographed for Architectural Digest Magazine in 1995 is appearing again in the magazine’s online site. Here’s the link:

Architectural Digest Visits Sophia Loren in Miami

As a photographer, it’s satisfying to learn that your work of the past still holds interest for today’s readers. But that’s always and especially true when the story involves a celebrity. And this one’s not only about your average celeb but an icon in the world of film.

Back then I had received a call from the assignment editor at Architectural Digest that the actress, Sophia Loren, had an apartment in South Florida. That wasn’t news to me because I had been hired to photograph that very apartment for its interior designer, Ted Fine, and I had recently completed the shoot. Architectural Digest had seen the photos and wanted to use them in a story. As an AD Contributing Photographer, I was regularly assigned shoots in South Florida as well as at locations throughout the Caribbean. The photographs of Sophia’s apartment hadn’t been published anywhere yet and when the call came from AD, I was able to assure the magazine that it would be the first to publish them. But AD wanted more than just those interior design shots. Sophia herself had agreed to appear in the story and that’s why the magazine was now calling. She had promised the magazine to make herself available for a shoot in the apartment.

That assignment would become a memorable day for me. Sophia posed for my camera in four different areas of the apartment. She would appear styled differently for various activities which included dressed to go out, casually relaxing at home and, most interestingly, in her kitchen preparing a meal. I learned that she had authored a cookbook and was used to shopping her ingredients at Lorenzo’s Market in North Miami Beach.

Being the consummate pro, she treated me and my crew with the utmost respect and was surprisingly generous with her time, She was happy to dress and prep herself without the aid of a personal stylist and was ready-to-go for four individual scenes. She asked for nothing more than our input and approval as to her apparel for each setup. I have to thank my wife, Loretta, whose artistry and experience in the garment industry bore fruit that day. My skills are elsewhere, but Loretta boldly stepped to the plate and became the actress’s advisor for each appearance.

The most challenging setup was the scene in the kitchen where it would appear that she was preparing a meal for friends. We had learned she was quite used to doing this (knowing a local resource like Lorenzo’s for example). Loretta came up with the idea of Sophia making her own pasta and to pose her working a pasta machine. Loretta is a very experienced amateur chef, and since that kitchen had few accessories, she brought her own pasta machine from home along with an assortment pots and dough prepping materials. All that remained was the sheet of dough and the rolled pasta to come out of the machine in the shape of linguine. No, we didn’t actually make it from scratch – we purchased sheets of pasta from Lorenzo’s Market and they stood in very well. On the day of the shoot, Loretta, her star-struck emotions in check, stood with the actress helping her set up the “pasta making scene” – and we had it! In addition to the shot for the magazine, a black and white polaroid of Loretta Forer and Sophia Loren together in the kitchen is a wonderful souvenir of that day!

Loretta & Sophia Captioned 4

Olympia Theatre Graces the Cover of The Villager’s Yearbook

villager directory 2014 cover

 

The Olympia Theatre, a restored 1920s “Picture Palace” in downtown Miami, appears on the current cover of the yearbook of  THE VILLAGERS, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Miami’s historic structures.

 

3630-07 ©2002 Dan Forer

The structure, completed in 1926 by architect John Eberson, had amazed the public of the time with its stunning Moorish architecture, perfect acoustics and a simulated night sky complete with wafting clouds and twinkling stars. It’s one of the few Eberson buildings around the world still standing.

 

3630-09 ©2002 Dan Forer

It was saved in 1975 by philanthropist Maurice Gusman and thanks to early restoration work by famed architect Morris Lapidus, in 1984 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places

 

I had the honor to photograph the project for Miami architect Richard Heisenbottle, a well-known restoration specialist. He researched the archives for photographs showing the building’s original appearance.

 

3630-10 ©2002 Dan Forer

Experts drilled through decades of the wall’s paint layers to sample and reveal the original colors. It’s been an ongoing project for Heisenbottle that has, thanks to work over the years, seen the theatre’s visual charm and practical use revived. The Olympia is a glorious exemplar of Miami’s past.

3630-04 ©2002 Dan Forer

A Photo-Shoot in an Unusual Place

3924-18 ©2008 Dan ForerSometimes it’s just plain luck.

 

My assignment was to photograph a newly created collection of furniture pieces by designer, Adriana Hoyos. Adriana, well-known as an interior designer, is also the creator of her own line of furniture on display in her showrooms located in Miami, Ecuador, Venezuela and Chile.

 

With ad deadlines looming, it was decided that, rather than await shipment to Miami, the most efficient way to photograph the line quickly was to do it where all the new pieces were located, in Adriana’s home base, Quito.

 

But then it became a question of where to do the shoot. Adriana was against shooting in a studio. That would have been fine for a “catalog” style of furniture photography; isolated pieces against a seamless neutral background. This shoot had to be different. It was destined for a campaign using full-page ads in prominent design journals. Neutral catalog shots wouldn’t do. She felt that the venue and background for the pieces should compliment her designs though not compete or distract. The placement of the furniture in real-world home settings was an option she rejected. Adriana felt that in each ad, the piece should be isolated and rivet the viewer’s attention powerfully. They deserved to be seen as individual creations; more like works of art or as sculptures – which indeed they were.

3924-15 ©2008 Dan Forer

For a location, a fortunate convergence of events led her to visit a closed and fire damaged theatre in downtown Quito which was owned by a friend. When I arrived in Quito with my assistant fully equipped to do the shoot, she asked me to visit the site in order to help make the final technical and artistic decision on whether or not the space would work.

3924 Adriana Hoyos Theater

The area I chose on the theatre’s mezzanine was vast. The extraordinary thing was that the fire had left the walls of the space covered in a patina of mottled earth tones. And, especially useful, the entire space was flanked by a wall of high windows letting natural light stream in from one side. I felt we could depend on that light as a principal source and I could provide the needed fill and accent using my own lighting units.

 

Finally, the furniture pieces, strategically placed for the photographs, easily stood apart emphasizing the simplicity and elegance of their design.

 

3924-09 ©2008 Dan Forer

 

 

So the luck of finding that extraordinary place made all the difference, And with Adriana’s willing staff helping us transport and position the furniture pieces, we shot for two long days coming away with a collection of images that satisfied my client and made me proud to have been a part of the process.

 

3924-06 ©2008 Dan Forer

Richard Branson’s Island Paradise

3033 Bali High 04

Bali High

The trip to Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands starts off with some very difficult obstacles. As the photographer with an assignment from Architectural Digest Magazine to shoot Sir Richard Branson’s private island, I’m faced with the responsibility of getting myself, my crew and all my gear to the site. This was in the day before digital photography when shooting on film required more equipment than today

3033-08 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

First of all, there’s no landing strip at Necker; it can only be reached by boat. Second, the island to which you do fly has, to say the least, a rather short runway. Did I mention the mountain at the end of it? No?

Well, it’s there and that means that only certain aircraft fly in; smaller aircraft can, with less room for cargo. And all this means that I’ve got to keep my equipment needs under control; minimize them so that I’ll be accommodated on the airline I choose.

Once I’ve figured all this out, the trip goes as follows:

I, my assistants and my stylist and all my gear fly out of Miami to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, the one with the mountain at the end of the runway. There I’ve contracted a smaller, twin-engine propeller-type aircraft into which I transfer us and our gear. Now it’s a short hop to the British Virgin Island of Tortola. Not really Tortolla but tiny Beef Island which abuts Tortolla’s east end. Land there and unload the stuff into a VW van and a cart. The van drives and we push the cart several hundred yards to a nearby dock where our last transport is waiting, an open 40 ft. fishing boat. After once again transferring the gear onto the stern of that boast, it’s off across the turquoise waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel and on to 74 acre Necker Island. It’s situated a few miles off the shore of Virgin Gorda, which is visible on the horizon.

3033-07 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

Once docked at Necker Island, we unload the boat and lug the gear (did I mention it’s 16 cases plus personal luggage) up a challenging set of stairs to the platform of the thatch-roofed main house. I and my tired crew have reached Sir Richard Branson’s island paradise.

3033-04 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

But I’ve been here before. Actually several months before the trip above I travelled to Necker to familiarize myself with the place and to meet and photograph Sir Richard for the upcoming story. The visit was his idea and he covered our expenses for that trip. I traveled with my assistant and we were put up in one of Necker Island’s most beautiful structures, a tall pagoda-styled building overlooking the sea called Bali High (remember Bloody Mary singing about it in “South Pacific”?).

3033-08 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

What a wonderful few days that was. Much of it was spent exploring the island through a network of trails, which led to its eastern tip. There the constant trade winds blow so hard that the sea birds hung aloft above our heads with their wings absolutely still maintaining lift solely from the power of that unceasing wind. We were encouraged to experience it as the birds did. We stood, feet apart and still, leaning into it, trusting that it wouldn’t let us down. I mean “down” literally since we were on a cliff-top with nothing but the sea at our feet some fifty feet below. We did, and it didn’t fail us.

3033-14 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer
Back at the main house (the large thatched roofed structure), Sir Richard was taking a holiday break with his wife and kids. The kids had been encouraged to invite some of their friends from back in England and the whole, raucous assemblage were entertaining themselves with all the water sports the island had to offer. My assistant and I were simply one of the crowd and were made to feel entirely at home in Sir Richard’s world.

3033-16 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

 

I was directed in my assignment to get a shot of Sir Richard somewhere on the island and I found the perfect place near a hammock hung between two wood columns on a balcony overlooking the sea with the mountainous profile of Virgin Gorda in the distance. It was a quick setup without the inconvenience of needing extra lighting (which I hadn’t brought anyway). With Sir Richard and his two kids posed naturally and comfortably in and around the hammock, I snapped a few frames and it was over. They needed no encouragement from me to look absolutely happy with where they were and what they were doing. A very happy family snapshot!

Richard Branson & Kids at Necker

Once that was done, Sir Richard, acceding to his kids’ request, asked if I would shoot them and their mates all piled around the hammock for a personal souvenir. Of course I did that shot for them. Some months later I received a personal note from him thanking me for that extra effort. From my experience of those few days, I’ve thought of Richard Branson as one of the most welcoming, down-to-earth people I’ve met on assignment.

3033 Hammock Photo by Dan Forer

The next day while I continued working on my future shot list, the families of all Sir Richard’s Necker employees were ferried over from Virgin Gorda to join the Bransons for a day of fun in the pool and on the beaches with a picnic thrown in. Branson himself was in the pool giving swimming lessons to a bunch of his employee’s kids.

3033-06 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

 

Back to the actual shoot trip; we waited until that summer’s hurricane season had passed and returned with all our gear for the principal photography. But Necker had paid a price that summer. We found the island had been hit in July by Bertha, one of that Summer’s hurricanes. I had to design my shots to avoid areas where repair was taking place such as the roof which was being re-thatched. Along the shoreline, the leaves of trees that had been attacked by the storm tide had mostly turned brown or had fallen off entirely.

3033 Bali High 06 Photo by Dan Forer

 

The rest of the shoot, however, went off without a hitch. I especially remember Loretta, my wife and the stylist for the shoot, patiently setting the dinner scene with perfect napkin folds for each of the twenty-one place settings. Every accessory, every floral element, every object that makes each shot look natural; these she controlled. The stylist is the unsung hero of the shoot whose imagination paints the perfect picture that we see.

 

3033-09 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer