I am still in disbelief that I have a beautiful 2,000 sq ft. studio just down the hall from my bedroom in NYC. It is complete with a backdrop system that can accommodate full-size rolls, an industrial boom-stand, a stunning house sound system, and even a lounge and makeup station. Most of all it is still crazy for me to see all of the equipment set up here in Brooklyn, especially given the history and mileage of some of the gear.
A lot of the stands and even some of the lighting hearkens back to my first large investment I made back in college. The spending spree was inspired by my summers I spent interning with Roy Cox at his commercial photography studio. I will admit… I spent quite a bit more than I needed to. It was complete overkill for a student and at that time still amateur photographer. Having my own studio was always a dream of mine and I guess I thought I could realize it right then and there. I first tried using the attic of my campus house (see pic to the left), however quickly found out that walls painted green, 7ft ceilings, and a complete lack of ventilation or air conditioning were far from the ideal ingredients for a good shooting space. I must have conducted a grand total of 3 shoots there before I ended up instead routinely lugging all of the equipment to my photography classroom for personal shoots. The school had its own equipment but I had become spoiled by my C-stands and was doing my best to emulate the lighting schemes I learned during my internships.
Following my graduation and ultimate foray into wedding, portrait, and other forms of location-based photography, all of my beautiful studio equipment ended up sitting in storage. And there it stayed even through my four year residency in the Turks and Caicos. I had considered moving it down there from time to time but a small part of me knew that wasn’t the purpose for my initial investment and to stick things out. When I eventually did move to NYC, I found what I was waiting for.
When I initially came across my Brooklyn loft, it was far from the studio it is now. The entire place was covered in layers of dirt and the studio space was filled with junk and garbage. I saw enormous potential in the space however, namely because of the depth and ceiling height, two things I knew were extremely important for my style of shooting. As a tip to novices, the height is extremely useful for using large light-modifiers from high angles, a very natural and dramatic technique I love to use. The depth is critical for shooting full body shots with longer lenses and provide the photographer with as many options as possible. It is great to have the ability to compress full-body portraiture with long primes. Additionally, the added space was great for having a lounge area, room for a tethering workstation, and still room leftover for stylists and hair/makeup stations. I must have made at least 15 trips to the dumpster, but the space was finally ready to be populated with lighting and grip equipment.
It took me around 3 weeks to finalize the logistics of moving all of the studio gear in Maryland up to NYC. I was able to arrange moving help and booked a truck two weeks comfortably in advance. Little did I know the weather on the day I selected would end up a winter cyclone with 70mph winds! The conditions were difficult and admittedly dangerous, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. Low visibility and high winds battered us for all 350 miles of the trip, however we made the trip in record time. After bringing everything inside, it was somewhat surreal to dust off the stands and see my crudely written “Frank Withers Photography” logos all over in faded sharpie- I almost washed them off, but decided to leave them. It’s good to have humble reminders like this around your work space in my opinion to always keep things in perspective on good and bad days alike.
And now? What can I say… it is truly amazing. The space is still rough on the edges and I am still stocking misc. supplies, but I have never been this excited to create in a long time. The potential and capabilities of this studio are truly above me and I am looking forward to chasing those projects. As of now, I have already scheduled a beauty editorial for a full day shoot just 1 week after initial set up. It’s time to hustle.