The Dukes family portrait

I've been focusing much of my attention on photographing portraits, and much on family portraits. I've re-geared the website with a gallery of family portraiture as well as a page discussing our process for working with people to produce timeless and memorable portraits. Recently, I met up with one of my childhood best friends, John, and he asked if I'd be interested in photographing his family. John has been married to his beautiful wife Codie for a few years now and they have the cutest little girl, Cheyenne. They've got another baby on the way and thought it would be a good idea to capture some family photos before her arrival. We talked a bit about what they would like for their photos and from that I decided to take them to one of my favorite "secret spots" to shoot...






















"You captured the essence of my family and not only did you get great posed shots, but you also captured great candid moments."
-John Dukes

Thanks Dukes'. It was an honor to photograph the family.

Photographer Monica Hoover's Rescued Cards

I recently had the opportunity to shoot a portrait session of my friend

Monica Hoover along with her husband Justin and their two rescued pit bulls Trinity and Sandi

. Monica is an accomplished photographer, artist, gallery owner, and teacher. She has been an inspiration to me since I've known her and she has inspired many fortunate enough to get to know her. She has always been a passionate woman and it shows through her work and her character. Not only is she passionate about her work, but she cares deeply for her dogs. She cares about the well-being of all animals, for that matter and that compassion is part of what has led her to create

Rescued Cards

, a company whose aim is "to support the valiant efforts of animal rescues across the US through unique greeting cards that feature photographs of their rescued animals and a link to the rescue’s website." I caught up with Monica and her husband Justin for a photo shoot and we got to talk a little bit about Rescued Cards and its mission.

Monica Hoover: My challenge: how can I create collateral for these organizations that I’m working with. How can I create something for them to sell? How can I make money for them?

Bob Lajes Photography: How did you figure out that it was greeting cards?

MH: With the

Barking Lot

, I had them sign up for a smugmug account so we could upload images and with Smugmug you can sell photos at any price you want and you can put photos on everything from tee shirts to coffee mugs and that was getting me thinking.

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Truly, the basis of Rescued Cards was just trying to figure out a way to get the word out because I felt that calling my friends and the press and media wasn’t enough. It wasn’t personal enough and I do believe photography will give the personal experience, if done right.

BLP: Tell me about the design factor for your cards.

MH: Coming from my background in working with bigger corporations I recognized the potential of how powerful it would be to get our cards into a national level pet store chain. Once in stores, we could travel to different  rescues and do the same thing I’m doing here but do it on a national  level and ultimately that’s the goal.

The photography does speak for itself, but I knew I couldn’t do this alone and I needed a team. Some of my best friends are some of the best  designers in California, I think. I called my favorites up and said,  “Hey here’s this idea, this is what I want to do, this is what I’m doing, are you in?” They were all into it, but one in particular, 

Justin Clark of Clark Studios

   absolutely fell in love with the idea and  he was behind it 100% from the beginning. For Justin to get behind  something says a lot. He’s very selective with who he chooses so the  fact that he was so into it right away and he was like, “Let’s do it.  Let’s make it happen.” So, we did. Every day between our busy jobs, we  are just plugging away, designing cards and editing photos and we just built this brand!

BLP: Between the photography and the design, it’s very elegant and I don’t think that when you think “pet portrait” you think elegant, but it really is.

MH: It had to have an artistic vision.  I want these photos to be creative and, you know, photographing animals isn’t easy.

BLP: No it’s not. I’ve done it. It’s not easy.

MH: Trinity is my supermodel. She’s a pro. (Laughs) But, I’ve had a lot of experience. I do photograph animals. I’ve done fine art panels of dogs. I think that with what my husband Justin and I have been through with our dogs, we might understand dogs more than maybe the average person.

BLP: Definitely...and I think for you as an artist and photographer, having captured your dogs so many times and so many great ways, you’ve developed that patience and understanding.

MH: I do feel through

the whole Dog Whisperer experience

, and what we’ve been through with our animals, I’ve learned to handle animals better and as a photographer working with my animals, I get it and I do a pretty good job. (Trinity licks Monica’s face).

BLP: Clearly, Trinity agrees.

MH: (Laughing) Trinity agrees.

BLP: Now, for these different non-profits, they’re not branches of a larger organization, they can just be any non-profit?

MH: Yeah, our goal is to get into a major national chain. We have the right connections  with some of the bigger players in the pet store world on the national level. When we have that go through, then we’ll have our cards in all these stores in every city in every state and once that happens, we can expand and travel to 501c3 non-profit rescues all over America to photograph their dogs that are up for adoption. For now, any organization that  finds us and wants us to come out for a photo shoot, we will. We'll do our best to help as many rescue organizations as we can.

BLP: Do you want to turn Rescued Cards into a non-profit?

MH: No,

Rescued Cards

will remain a for-profit company. The plan is to donate 15% of net profits from each card sold to the rescue organization that the animal is from. We’ll be tracking the sales and on the back of the card you’ll see the animal’s name, the organization the animal is from, and their website. It’s like this, either I volunteer for one organization or I use my talent thinking from a business perspective, ‘How can I make this huge? How can I get the word out for so many deserving organizations that need to get their word out? How can I get them more attention, expand their marketing and get them money?” Another huge factor that’s very important to me is that every part of the Rescued Cards is going to be made in the USA- from our recycled paper to our environmental inks. This is important to me. I was laid off from a job, my husband was laid off and about 20 or more of my immediate friends were laid off.

BLP: You’re creating opportunities for people you care about.

MH: Yeah and people need to support that. This is a company based on good morals and values and is genuinely for the greater good through education and awareness...to get dogs adopted. We’re not just stopping at dogs either. I don’t care if you rescue guinea pigs or ferrets or frogs or dogs or cats or pigs...we’ll do it all.

BLP: There’s that passion and that aspect that you are giving back, not only to your community, but to this larger community of people doing rescue work that goes unsung.

MH: There’s a lot of passion and love and belief in what I’m doing and I genuinely see a very big need. This is my way of helping to garner more support and hopefully more donations and get people going to their websites and ultimately adopting an animal. That’s the beautiful thing about it. Everything about this just feels right. I’m gladly just bowing out of the rat race. I love fashion photography. I enjoy it. The difference is when I sent the photos out to to some of the women that volunteered in Tijuana, they sent me email back saying that they were crying and had chills. I mean, they were crying and they were so thankful. Not that I’m looking for that or need that, but I’ve taken photographs for 15 years of my life and nobody is that thankful (laughs). But giving them these photos and to see them so moved and so thankful...Its going to help. Powerful imagery will help. It makes a difference.

BLP: I think you’re broadening the scope of whose interest might get piqued, too. If you happen across this card with an awesome photo, awesome design, suddenly you might attract a new person, right?

MH: Definitely, the things that will remain consistent with our cards will be stand-out photography, very artistic, the design will be top-of-the-line, the best of the creative world as well as clever copy when we do choose to include copy. I don’t think its that saturated of a market that we won’t have a place in it. I think we can definitely make a mark and we can be leaders in the greeting card industry because we are building our business around something that creates a social impact, creates change, and promotes education and awareness...and gets animals homes. I don’t think there’s anything better.

Keep your eyes peeled folks:

http://www.rescuedcards.com/

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Tea App for iPhone

If you've read my blog before, you might know that I'm a huge fan of tea. In my hunt for kindred spirits, I've come across a few great sites and a cool looking new app. First, there's

steepster.com

a great community site for tea-minded folk to log and share their experiences. You can input info like brand, steep time, temperature and you can rate it as well as add your personal notes. Others can follow you and check out your profile, your tealog as well as your pantry. Super cool! This discovery led me to 

http://teashow.tv/

a great webshow hosted by two guys that discuss and rate the different teas they are tasting. I just started watching today. If you enjoy tea, check it out. It's educational and fun and really there isn't as much information available on tea knowledge as one might like. One of the hosts,

Samuel Iglesias

was involved in producing the new app

Tea for iPhone

. Now, I haven't downloaded it yet, but it looks pretty exciting. You can set your timer, of course, but you can also take tasting notes, and it comes with 200 brewing suggestions for different teas as well as an inventory tracker for your tea collection. You can also share your teas on Facebook and Twitter! Admittedly, I'm a tea nerd, for sure. I'm pretty excited about this and I'll be downloading this tonight. Check out Mr. Iglesias' Tea for iPhone video down below! If you download it, let me know what you think.

Cheers.

UPDATE:

I've been using Tea for iPhone for a couple of weeks now and I'm loving it! Really, the best new invention for tea. The ancients would be proud. Tea is a science and an art. This allows for consistency as well as notes on each tea type you have as well as the amount you have in stock. Plus, its great for sharing with friends. Sharing like this has brought a few friends interested in the out of the woodwork. I just bought a scale from

Halcyon Tea in Southpark

today to compliment the @teaapp

Opening Night, Shepard Fairey @ Robert Berman C2 Gallery


Big thanks to Mr. Shepard Fairey, the unrelenting artist behind the Obey Giant Propaganda Campaign for granting me the opportunity to photograph his portrait amidst all the circus surrounding the opening of his Revolutions: The Album Cover Art of Shepard Fairey show. What an incredible opening at the Robert Berman C2 Gallery featuring 12" vinyl format music art and hosting a wide array of guests including a DJ set by the amazing Dan the Automator, the genius behind the Deltron 3030 album as well as half of Handsome Boy Modeling School. Shepard also brought along Metalachi. You have to see them to believe them. Shepard, thank you for taking time out to make this happen and thanks for getting us in after closing. Beautiful show, great scene.