On Assignment: Mayor Francis G. Slay
When people ask me what I like about St. Louis, almost always the first thing that I mention is the awesome loft that Dr. Fiance and I were able to buy here. In New York, we had approximately 450 square feet in the East Village (which was the largest apartment that we’d ever had in NYC). Now we have a space considerably larger than that, and a significant part of that extra space is dedicated to my studio. I don’t operate a commercial studio at home, but the space is large enough that I can do a full seamless backdrop setup. This came in very handy last month when Feast magazine asked me to make a portrait of the mayor of St. Louis, Francis G. Slay.
I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous about this assignment, although not because it was to photograph the mayor. I am not a stranger to photographing influential public figures. I have photographed some heavy hitters over the years, including the mayor of another major city: in 2008 I made a portrait of Rudy Giuliani while a staff photographer in New York City. He was running for president at the time and it was quite an experience to be sure. But that was in a hotel conference room, not in my home studio!
In the end, when the Mayor Slay arrived my professional experience kicked in and I managed not to make a fool of myself (I think). In truth it was just like any other shoot, and once I got started I was able to concentrate on getting the shots that I needed for the assignment. Like most public figures, the mayor was used to having his photograph taken, and was a confident and cooperative subject.
This was a great project to work on. I’m a big fan of the mayor, particularly his influence in the ongoing revitalization of downtown St. Louis. And interestingly, this project also tied in with my current focus on food and food culture because my photographs of Mayor Slay were used in Feast magazine as part of a feature called Tastemakers: Entrepreneurs Who Shape the Way You Eat. Great stuff!