Miami Artist Uses Love of Art to Promote Education And Health

By Eleanor Cecconi

Miami artist and HIV/AIDS counselor EmilioAponte-Sierra gives me a tour of his elegant Bal Harbour apartment, telling me the details of the extensive renovation just completed. His heavily-accented voice is soothing and combined with the cool colors on the walls, it is easy to see why his specialized method of art therapy, counseling using art, is such a success at the PRIDE Center at Equality Park in Broward County. Aponte-Sierra serves at PRIDE as the coordinator of RESPECT, an Effective Behavioral Intervention and individual client-focused HIV prevention counseling program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aponte-Sierra working on Bella (Catwalk Collection) by Rico Roland

Aponte-Sierra working on Bella (Catwalk Collection) by Rico Roland

Aponte-Sierra grew up amidst the tiny Caribbean villages of Colombia, but brought his love of the arts and glamorous theatrical visions to Miami Beach about ten years ago. I first met Aponte-Sierra at a Miami Fashion’s Night Out event at the trendy LMNT Gallery in midtown. Aponte-Sierra was displaying pieces from his “Catwalk Collection” throughout the gallery, but he had also engineered and designed the catwalk for the Emporio dei Giovani couture fashion show. “I have been wanting to infiltrate the Miami fashion scene for a long time,” says Aponte-Sierra about the gig. “I’ve been working as a guidance counselor and using my art to benefit local charities while expressing myself. I’ve been so interested in design and theatrical productions throughout my life that a transition into collaborating with fashion houses is a natural step.”

At this stage of his career, Aponte-Sierra is known for his local gallery exhibitions, such as that at the PRIDE Center, ArtServe, and LMNT, so many would be surprised to discover Aponte-Sierra’s formal education was in Fishing Engineering. Studying at the University of Magdalena in Santa Marta, Colombia on a theater scholarship, Aponte was interested in how to marry sustainable fishing and agriculture with the needs of the local Colombian village people.

Part of Aponte’s educational program was field research and on-site projects, which would require interaction with the locals. Aponte tells me it was at this point that he began building invaluable communication skills that would one day contribute to his successful approach to counseling using Art. “Many people think, ‘How did an education in fishing engineering prepare you to be a counselor?’ While this is true, it wasn’t such a sudden switch of careers. The process was slow, organic, and natural. I began working with village people for environmental and sustainable development projects at Fundación Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta -FPSN, and it was at this time I realized I had a gift when it came to communicating with people. Talking to them, listening to them, figuring out their needs- the educational experience was almost sociological in that way.”

FPSN is a Colombian nonprofit organization established in 1986 to seek alternative solutions to the degradation of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and improve the lives of its inhabitants. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, declared as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO, is the world’s highest coastal peak and contains examples of all of the climatic zones that can be found in the tropical Americas.

"Moon Light"

“Moon Light”

Sierra-Aponte Aponte-Sierra moved to Miami in the early 2000s, and it was upon meeting a friend who was involved with local HIV/AIDS education and prevention activism that Aponte first came to work with victims of the virus. “At first, a friend of mine asked me to help him work with Latinos with HIV because he could not speak Spanish and as a fluent Spanish-speaker I was helpful for translation. It was at this time I began accompanying him on his activism work, and was involved only in a secondhand way. This same friend was instrumental in helping me see that I wasn’t just translating, but was actually beginning to help and counsel people in my own way. After my involvement grew into more than just helping a friend or even a hobby, I realized this communication with people was extremely important to me. It was at this time I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in counseling. From that point on, I did not look back.”

Despite furthering his education with psychology, Aponte-Sierra has always identified himself as an artist. His interest for the Visual Arts started when Colombian Artist Nohora Parra Leyton introduced him to the world of painting in 1981 at the National Loperena School. During his adolescent years Aponte was involved with theater- specifically Grotosky and Stanislavski School. “I was always very dramatic and interested in acting. I continued acting through my college years. In fact, it was being involved with the theater that led me deeper into the visual arts. When I wasn’t rehearsing or on stage, I was helping create stage settings, backdrops, painting scenery, and working on the general artistic direction of whichever production I was in at the time.” Not only was Aponte-Sierra introduced to painting in this way, but it was at this point that he fell in love with the creation of masks- a visual thread that runs through his body of artwork to this day.

Aponte-Sierra’s “Catwalk Collection,” a variety of women carrying handbags and wearing vibrant shoes, was created by the artist’s unique method of weaving together pages from colorful and diverse magazines and news publications. “The colors and different photographs create a texture that is something I love- the energy can not be created in quite the same way using paint and ink.” Recycling materials is also important to the artist. “Everyone needs to change their behavior in some way. We need to use our already existing materials to transform or change our world into something beautiful. This is why I use newspaper, cardboard, and plastic in my work.”

The artist does not discount these more traditional mediums. Pieces from Aponte-Sierra’s “MOON” collection and “RIBBON” collection were created using ink and paint on canvas. When viewing the MOON pieces, it is clear they were inspired by Miami’s mysterious and sultry nights. The RIBBON collection is a graphic and emotional series, utilizing the colors black, red, and white to express a variety of feelings regarding disease, knowledge, regrets, and choices one must make.

"Parasol" from RIBBON HIV

“Parasol” from RIBBON HIV

Aponte-Sierra is most proud of his RIBBON collection because the images are utilized in his counseling sessions at the PRIDE center. “Clients sit in the waiting room and view my works. Frequently when they come into my office, they mention the works of art they looked at. If not, I will ask them if they noticed the pieces and what they thought. People infected with HIV, or living high-risk lifestyles, frequently bottle up their emotions because the disease is so taboo. Discussing my images, related-to and inspired by the HIV infection which is such a problem in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, is a great way to get these suppressed personalities to open up. I love that my art makes people feel comfortable and helps them realize feelings they couldn’t acknowledge otherwise.”

While still in the process of obtaining his US citizenship, Aponte-Sierra is not free to travel back to Colombia. But as soon as he can, the artist has global plans. “I want to bring my ideas for counseling, art therapy and the RIBBON project to Colombia, where access to education about HIV and AIDS is very limited for high-risk individuals. I am working on other series’ for a variety of diseases, including breast cancer.”

Aponte-Sierra’s poignant body of work gives life to the old saying that a picture speaks a thousand words. I leave his elegant and spacious apartment feeling hopeful because, even if it is one painting at a time, talented individuals like Aponte-Sierra are finding innovative ways every day to make a difference in their community.

Bill Maher: Reforming the Mind

By Robert Luce

Despite the recent signing of the new healthcare law by President Obama, the country remains divided over the changes. “These kinds of progressive legislation that we’ve seen passed in the last century, like social security and medicare, are always imperfect when they start out because, obviously, there’s a lot of opposition,” says the optimistic Bill Maher, who brings his sharp political humor to The Venue on April 14.  “You see these old obese stressed out white people, these heart attacks waiting to happen,” Maher says about the tea party that opposed healthcare reform. “They look like the very people who should have been for healthcare reform.” With challenges still ahead, Maher believes the people are ready to heal the other ailments of America, and they have his permission to call on an old friend.

With healthcare now a done deal, Maher would next like to see something done with the environment. “As far as worrying about my health, healthcare reform is a great first step,” laughs the outspoken Real Time host.  “But I’d like there to be an environment to live and breathe in for the next twenty years.” And if anyone can do it it’s the current administration. “Still it’s going to be a heavy lift because people couldn’t see the immediate benefit of healthcare,” says Maher. “To try and convince them that something as abstract as the environment needs to be desperately addressed is going to be tough.” Yet, Maher believes it’s possible as long as the Democrats keep the taste of victory in their mouth. “Republicans have always been better at standing up for what they believe in,” says Maher. “They’re not afraid of going out and selling it to the American people.” Maher points to the continued claims the GOP makes about the government totally taking over healthcare as a prime example, even though the insurance companies are gaining 30 million more customers. “Government healthcare through insurance companies is so American,” laughs Maher recalling misplaced Republican hysterics over the bill. “It’s the same way that the hybrid is the perfect American electric car because it runs on gas.”

When it comes to the trillion dollars over ten years the overhaul is going to cost, Maher says the answer lies not in raising taxes, but in cutting our over 700 billion dollar defense budget in half. “Taking money away from the pentagon is not the same thing as not supporting the troops,” states Maher. “They’re still going to get what they need, but mostly what the pentagon is is a defense contractor,” says Maher about what he describes as being mostly corporate welfare. “Buying sophisticated fighter jets for all those dogfights we’re going to get in with Al-Qaida who just happen to live in caves.”

While Maher continues to detest religion, he still feels that the teachings of Jesus can help move people to change. “Jesus is a very admirable philosopher,” says Maher. “And for him, assuming he did exist, in the first century AD saying things that were truly revolutionary that we’d never heard before, like “the most common of men are equal to a king.” It’s because of things like that I would never discount how important he is in the revolution of thought.” But for Maher, the power of prayer can only move so much. And if we intend to move forward with more change we need to come back to reality. “So you’ve prayed and talked to your imaginary friend,” says Maher. “Great! After you’ve finished that exercise in utter futility you think you might want to get to the business of doing something.”

Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Chicago Scene.

Smash Mouth Rocks The White Light White Night Fundraising Gala

By Vanessa Bisetti

Being charitable has never been more enjoyable than at the sixth annual White Light White Night event put on by the Walk with Sally foundation. Walk with Sally, founded by Nick Arquette, provides mentoring support programs for children whose parents or siblings currently have or have died of cancer.  Every year hundreds attend the dress-to-impress event all with the mindset of contributing to the amazing cause, and having fun while doing so.

A red carpet led guests into the event where the mood was set for a good time with Patron as the main sponsor.  The all white affair had the “Taste of South Bay” with samplings from local restaurants to provide decadent food for the evening.  While an opening band played, people enjoyed cocktails, food and great company before gathering near the stage for the live auction.  Luxury trips, meals with the finest chefs, and a variety of other offerings were auctioned off raising record amounts of money for the foundation.

The fun had only just begun; after the successful auction, guests came to their feet and surrounded the stage for the live concert from Smash Mouth.  Catching up with lead singer Steve Harwell proved to be far from boring as the witty, charming and very personable celeb dished on his rock star life.  Starting in a rap group Harwell made the switch to rock, as the rap business had lost his interest.  That switch that he describes as the best thing he ever did changed his world.  The band that began in 1994 has changed, with Harwell and Paul de Lisle being the only two original members, yet it has not affected the dynamics of the band.  Smash Mouth is releasing a new album in September that according to Harwell is “fucking amazing…the best record we’ve made in seven years.”  Harwell continued to say that fans could expect this album to be more mature, but still be very fun.

Harwell himself has always had a hand in contributing to others.  At home he always helped out especially around the holiday, such as going to food banks and homeless shelters.  Last year, a bet of $20 was offered to Harwell if he ate twenty-four eggs; this turned into a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, raising over $10,000.  Good friend and Food Network star, Guy Fieri, stepped in to cook the eggs for Harwell to eat.  “I almost threw up two seconds into it,” laughs Harwell, “Guy put everything I didn’t want in it.”  Playing at the White Light, White Night event was no question for Harwell stating, “Everything they’re talking about, I’ve been through.  So yeah, it’s special.”  Though he showed a soft side interviewing, the rocker’s wild side came out on stage with “I NEED A SHOT!” being Harwell’s quote of the night during Smash Mouth’s rocking concert.  A wild end to an amazing night benefiting the Walk with Sally foundation.

Photo by Kurt Steinmetz

Steve “Mongo” McMichael Tackles Child Illness

By Robert Luce

Former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael is no stranger to pain. After years of playing pro football, and wrestling in the WWF and WCW, it was only a matter of time before the hits and injuries he sustained caught up with him. The need for therapy eventually led him to the Illinois Back Institute where, thanks to Dr. Jeff Winternheimer and his wife Stella, he was showed an affection he hadn’t experienced in his years of dealing with his assorted injuries. “Dr. Jeff developed a non-surgical, natural treatment to live pain-free,” says McMichael of the breakthrough treatment he’s been receiving. “The man has become my BFF.” This admiration led McMichael to become part of the Chicago Legends Golf Classic benefiting The Dr. Jeff Foundation for terminally ill children taking place on Friday, August 10 at the Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort (3500 Midwest Road, 630.850.5555) in Oak Brook, Illinois. Along with McMichael, attendees will have the chance to golf with Kevin Butler, Otis Wilson, Reggie Smith and James Thornton, among others. “In this profession there’s passion, but where can you find compassion?” says McMichael of the Illinois Back Institute’s capable doctors. “These people are givers and that’s why I’ve fallen in love with them.”

What makes the The Dr. Jeff Foundation special is that it works with Normal Moments Inc.—an organization dedicated to helping parents with critically ill children enjoy as many normal moments as possible as they deal with their child’s illness. “Normal Moments is the immediate benefit,” says McMichael. “It’s like Make-A-Wish, but it’s not just for the kid, it’s for the parents, too.” Normal Moments helps ease the burden set on parents of critically ill children allowing them to spend more time with their kids. “Can you imagine just what fifteen minutes of relief means to somebody?” says McMichael. “Seeing the smile on a terminally ill child’s face is a blessing.”

It’s no wonder then that the College Football Hall of Fame inductee enjoys being head coach of the Chicago Slaughter indoor football team. “It’s a fun and relatively inexpensive day out with your family to watch a Chicago sports team,” beams McMichael of his championship team. “You’re closer to the action and you can reach out and touch the players.” But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to see the Bears win the NFC Championship Game and go to the Super Bowl—since it would be an immediate benefit to his restaurant, Mongo McMichael’s, in Romeoville, Illinois. “I told Lovie Smith I’m dispelling this rumor that the ’85 Bears won’t let you win the Super Bowl, because when they get there, my restaurant is going to make a ton of money,” laughs McMichael. “So I told Lovie I expect him to go to the Super Bowl every year.”

With a host of Chicago luminaries at his side—coupled with dinner, cocktails and a live auction—McMichael promises the Chicago Legends Golf Classic will spawn plenty of Chicago memories. “It’ll be a rowdy dinner,” he says with a smile. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about raising money for the kids. “We need to always remember scriptures like, ‘I am my brother’s keeper’”, says McMichael. “When we stop taking care of each other like all the great civilizations before ours did, then that’s when things will all go to shit.”

For more on the Chicago Legends Golf Classic visit Chicagolegendsgolfclassic.com.

Monstrous Honesty

By Jamie Degraaf

Bethany Barton dreams of having a pet dinosaur. “It would probably smash my house,” says the 30-year-old artist/illustrator/Angeleno, “but it would be awesome.” We like Barton because she draws robots, writes about monsters and unearths big emotions with concise free-form poetry.  Also, she was born in Chicago. Barton calls her aesthetic fun, messy, emotional, childlike and expressive. “I want to say what everyone is thinking,” she says. “I want to show how completely unique and original we are, and yet as just-plain-human as the person next to us.”

On August 8, Barton’s work will be featured as part of the EFFEN Art of Design mixology contest in Los Angeles. She is currently finishing up three exclusive prints for this event and is extremely excited. “I think what EFFEN is doing is great; artists and boozing go hand-in-hand,” says Barton. “And my mom never thought I could get paid to make art and drink vodka!”

The progeny of creatives—her mother an actress and father a journalist—Barton has dabbled in the arts her entire upbringing: singing, acting, art—the works. In college, she was artistically indecisive and changed her major some five odd times before ending up with a theatre degree from California State, Northridge.  Post-grad, Barton made the move to live the artist life. “I had been speaking other people’s words, singing other people’s words,” she says. “I just wanted to make my own work and say things in my own words.”

So Barton decided to live in her car, “because that is what artists do.” At that point, she lived what she calls a “buy sandwiches and pay bills kind of life.” It was her husband who encouraged her to make something more of her talent. “I was rolling around in the napkin scheme, always sketching here and there. He was the one who said ‘Maybe you should hang these napkins on the wall and tell people to look at them.’” Soon after, she bought her own gallery and began painting sets and making custom art work for commercials. She began blogging and posting new work on a daily basis, which is how her agent discovered her in 2010.

Currently, Barton is getting a lot of love for her newest project, a self-written and illustrated children’s book, This Monster Needs a Haircut (Dial/Penguin). She calls this her debut into the “kids-book –please-buy-me” world, and credits her agent for seeing protagonist potential in her drawing of Stewart the monster. With her first story, Barton aims to imitate her favorite children’s books: those through which readers can see the author, not those that try to do what they assume kids would like. She wants readers to say “Hey, I want to get a coffee with that author!”

Looking back from where she is now, Barton admits to having wanted to give up on her art, which her friends bring up periodically, saying, “Hey, remember that one time you were going to become a nurse?!” Barton remembers, and is sure it won’t be her only grapple with doubt. “I’m making loads of things and really putting myself out there, but then one day I ask ‘Is this working?’” she says. “But I continue to make art every day, terrible art, too. It’s how I figure out what is going on inside my brain. I have to get all the images out of my head or I can’t sleep; my brain will be like ‘Hey, you should get up and make this…right now.” We are glad that Barton listens to her brain and would be more than happy to grab a coffee with her.

EFFEN Art of Design takes place at Marvimon in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 8 starting at 6 PM.

Edgemar Celebrity Poker Tournament

By Vanessa Bisetti

“Shuffle up and deal!” was the phrase that kicked off the 4th annual Edgemar Celebrity Poker Tournament in Santa Monica on Saturday, July 14th.  Held at the Edgemar Center of the Arts, celebrating its 10th anniversary, the non-profit center stays alive through the societal love and generosity of the community.  The poker tournament is an annual fundraiser that plays a large role in helping the center to continue to be a home for anyone to unleash their inner artist.

The night began with a variety of food and beverages, sponsored by Tom Elliott, owner of the Venice Ale House located on the boardwalk in Venice Beach.  As a friend to the center’s owner and founder, Tom was more than willing to not only provide food but to of course get in on the poker action and contribute to the cause.  Of the participants sat John Hennigan, a professional poker player and Camryn Manheim of ABC’s “The Practice” and many others.  A grand prize of a weekend getaway to Las Vegas was the cherry on top of participating in the charitable event.

Michelle Danner, owner and founder of the Edgemar Center of the Arts, describes it as a magical place.  She expressed her gratitude to those who came to play and for their contributions to keep it running as it is a “wonderful home in the community”.  The theater itself gives back by having programs for under privileged kids and senior citizens.  Recently, the Edgemar had a night called “Senior Moments” where senior citizens came and shared stories from their lives to an audience, “story telling at its purist”.  Michelle enjoyed playing poker for the night and gave the floor to Lara Gertzen of the West LA Poker.  Lara has provided the equipment for the event the past four years.  With a personal love of the theater, she enjoys putting on the event and believes it draws a great crowd every year.  The night, full of laughs and friendly competition, concluded as a night to remember.

Check, Mate

Sailing and Chess: Basics of the Chicago Match Race Cup

By Jamie DeGraaf

“When I say ‘sailing,’ the first image that comes to most people’s minds is most likely a pristine wooden yacht with a blue blazed captain manning the woodwind,” says Tod Reynolds, director of Chicago Match Race Center. “That could not be further from what is taking place at Navy Pier this week.”

A life-long lover of all things sailing, Reynolds is in full glory as the Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC) hosts the Chicago Match Cup, the only U.S. stop on the Alpari World Match Race Tour. The event has drawn 12 of the world’s top-ranked skippers and their teams to compete for their share of the $100,000 in prize money and points earned towards the Tour’s overall World Championship, which features $1.75 million in prize money, the largest booty offered in the world of sailing. Kicked off on July 10, the event continues at the end of Navy Pier through Saturday, July 15 and is open to spectators.

“These boats are sleek racing machines that the teams push to their limits maneuvering within inches of their opponents as they seek to gain an edge,” says Reynolds. He explains match racing strategy by saying, “It turns sailboat racing into a game of chess where you control your boat using the physics of the wind and water to out maneuver and outsmart your opponent.”

Reynolds inherited his passion for sailing from his father, an Olympic runner-up in the sailing trials. At 7-years-old, Reynolds entered his local junior sailing program in his New Jersey hometown. “It was an activity I immediately took to learning from not only my instructors in the local program, but my dad, grandfather, and older cousins,” he remembers. “It was a true family activity.” Reynolds sailed throughout high school, joined the Northwestern University team in college, and competed across the Midwest, making it to nationals his senior year, after which he began match racing at CMRC.

2011 found Reynolds elected as the new director of CMRC and, every day since then, he has felt  there has been something new and exciting to contribute to the development of the Cup. For example, in reference to organizing the Chicago Match Race Cup, Reynolds says, “My role is to create a signature Chicago event that utilizes what I consider the city’s greatest asset: Lake Michigan, which showcases the city globally, is entertaining to spectators locally, and provides value to event sponsors.”

Since opening in 2009, CRMC has established an international reputation for high quality match racing; therefore, being asked to host a new stop for the Alpari World Match Race Tour seemed to be a natural, logical choice.  CRMC is confident and prepared to run the entire event, both on and off the water. “The tour brings with it the top teams in the world, an international media team, and some fantastic sponsors,” says Reynolds, “but I have to thank the staff and volunteers at the Chicago Match Race Center as they are the ones who made this event a reality.”

Reynolds invites the entire Chicago community to join CRMC at Navy Pier this weekend for the first of what he expects to become an annual must-see Chicago summertime event. “The concept of match racing is simple: beat your opponent off the line,” says Reynolds. “However, the path to execution is one of thrills, spills, collisions, and emotion.” He promises you won’t be bored.

Carolla Creates Controversy

By Robert Luce

Controversial, real and raw is how people describe comedian Adam Carolla. Rising to fame as the co-host of the radio show Loveline from 1995 to 2005, the edgy entertainer, who has made a career out of tackling everything from religious totalitarianism to political discourse, will produce an episode of The Adam Carolla Podcast live from the Park West on Thursday, June 17 at 7 pm and Friday, June 18 at 7 pm as part of the TBS Just for Laughs Fest. “It’s a one man show filled with improv, stories, anecdotes and opinions.” Stories and opinions that have drawn the ire of many lobby groups, “I make jokes and have some opinions that flow into race,” says Carolla. “It’s not like I have a white pool man and a Mexican gardener and I’m going to go out and yell at the Mexican gardener and bring the white pool man a six pack.” And with more than 150,000 users accessing the podcast site each and every day, Carolla isn’t ready to let anybody put a muzzle on him.

Never one to shy away from hot button issues, Carolla has found himself criticized for supporting Arizona’s controversial law that requires local police to enforce federal immigration regulations. “In LA you get pulled over for no front license plate and you have to practically hand the cop a dossier that includes your ID, registration and proof of insurance,” he says. Carolla also believes there’s no such thing as racial profiling, only profiling. “If they’re looking for some guys that tagged a freeway sign then they’re looking for males, and they’re looking for males of a certain age and possibly a certain ethnicity,” he says. “But if you’re looking for guys who committed internet fraud then they’re not looking for the same guys. What do you think an FBI Profiler does?” Carolla believes those against the law are narcissistic. “When the idiots that are complaining start arguing against whatever it is, see how long it takes them to get to them.”

When it comes to what’s really threatening America, Carolla says it’s not immigration, but the millions of broken homes. “I don’t care what color or religion you are, but if you can’t afford to have kids you shouldn’t have any. These stories you hear about a child having ten brothers and eight sisters is a form of child abuse, especially when dads a rolling stone. All the evils would magically start to drift away if we did something about it,” presses Carolla. “But it’s all about more relief and how we are going to help these kids. Well you shouldn’t have nine kids unless you’re a Rockefeller or Tyler Perry!” For Carolla, the solution to the problem is simple. “The only way you can do it, because people are dumb, is to give them an incentive not to do it. You can’t reward them with welfare.”

Intent to give his podcast a facelift in the coming months—bringing the radio format to the computer with a regular daily show, cast and bits—a triumphant return to Loveline is not in the cards. For Carolla, the future is the internet. “We’re technologically evolving and for the first time in our existence as a culture no one is excluded. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to us,” says Carolla. “You can sit around and watch four hours of porn on your computer all day, or you can watch it on occasion and go out and have a relationship.”

For more on Adam Carolla visit Adamcarolla.com.

For more on TBS Just for Laughs visit Justforlaughschicago.com.

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Chicago Scene.

Behind the Lens: Getty Images’ Most Prized Photographers

By Allison Duncan

The top photographers from Getty Images are some of the most celebrated celebrity/event/fashion photographers in the world. From shooting the cover of The World in Vogue: Peoples, Parties, Places to snapping photos at the Playboy Mansion to covering the Academy Awards, these photographers have seen it all. The Getty Images’ photographers have become household names in a notoriously competitive industry.

They honed their craft from a young age, realizing their passion for taking photographs early. Inspiration was around every corner. Dimitrios Kambouris, for instance, worked at a mom and pop camera store in Astoria, New York after high school, selling cameras and film. He soon became inspired by the craft and started taking photos of everything and anything in New York City, from Times Square and Rockefeller Center to The Empire State Building AND Central Park.

Their commitment to taking pictures has kept them relevant in an ever-evolving medium. Each photographer agreed that the change to digital photography has created a platform for nearly everyone with a digital camera or smart phone to be a photographer, so they have to work hard to continue to stand out.

“It’s obvious that photography has been changed by digital technology, but at its core, it will always be a visual medium so you still have to see and have some kind of vision of your own,” says Larry Busacca. “That vision can range from creating fully conceptual imagery or as seemingly simple as choosing the exact right moment to push the button on the red carpet, and it’s not as easy as it looks.”

It takes an exceptional eye to capture a great moment, and the Getty Images’ photographers explained the need for both a technical and creative background. Even more so, a strong photo evokes an emotion, both in the photographer and in the audience. “When I get a great photo, I just know,” says Jamie McCarthy. “It’s kind of hard to describe, but if someone else sees that photo and gets the same feeling, then I’ve done my job well.”

Photographers capture memories and tell stories through visual art, but the men vary in which stories they are most eager to tell. Andrew Walker is most fond of shooting celebrity portraiture and day-in-the-life stories because of the one-on-one experience, which he believes is an opportunity to collaborate and create something interesting. McCarthy, on the other hand, is partial to concerts and the Victoria’s Secret models, “for obvious reasons,” he says.

Regardless of their personal preferences, they agree that there are particular shots that are most popular with consumers. In the past few years, fan favorites have been celebrity event photography, especially traditional full-length photos. And what matters most to these photographers is that their photos are being seen and appreciated.

“What makes it worthwhile is when I see that the pictures are being used, seen and liked,” says Frazer Harrison. “There is nothing like seeing your work on the front cover a magazine while you’re browsing through the magazine racks at airports. I always want to sneakily sign it and leave, but I have not yet done that.”

Although the Getty Images’ photographers have their work seen by millions of people throughout the world, they also use their talents for personal moments, too. Harrison says that one of the most intense and emotional shoots he’s ever done is shooting his daughter Yasmin moments after she was born because he knew it was one job that he could mess up. It’s in moments like those that photographers realize they are part of the action even though they’re behind the lens.

“I never feel like I’m missing something; on the contrary, I feel like I’m more a part of the action,” says McCarthy. “I get to do and experience things that many photographers don’t get to do. Many of my subjects and clients treat me more like a guest taking pictures than just the photographer.”

Each photographer stressed the difference between a celebrity photographer and paparazzi; that is, the treatment of their subjects. Each of the Getty Images’ photographers has gotten to where he is because of his commitment to honoring the art of photography. Many of their best moments so far in their careers have come when a celebrity or client gives thanks for taking a beautiful photograph of them, and that’s what makes it all worth it.

Their inherent ability to find beauty has been the difference between one-time success and becoming a household name. “I think one of the factors that may have changed how beauty is defined is the sheer volume of imagery that is in our faces all day that attempts to tell us what and who is attractive or not,” says Busacca. “Much of beauty is personal perception.”

Although beauty may very well be in the eye of the beholder, there are certain moves that can help you look your best in photos. And while each photographer stresses the importance of practicing your poses in the mirror, Walker also advises that women place one hand on the hip, slightly turn your shoulders and cross your legs.

These men have seen it all, and their reputations precede them. Time and time again they’ve proven their worth in the photography industry, and each of them hopes to still be around many years to come. Perhaps Busacca says it best, “The best moments keep coming.”

Mike Hines Signature: Taking Floral Design into the Modern Era

By: Patty Jae

New to the transient world of floral design is a game-changing brand that is quickly
becoming a model to the rest. Mike Hines Signature (MHS) is the culmination of a
career’s worth of original design and global influence by its namesake creator.
Hines original venture into botanical design resulted in Chicago’s Epoch Floral,
where he is the cofounder and creative director.

MHS differs from Epoch on a grandiose scale. “I will do these high-end extravagant
installations, in windows or buildings its just a larger scale to show people…they can
be bigger, better and more spectacular that they have ever imagined,” said Hines.

The latest installation of MHS will be unveiled May 30th at the NoMi Garden. Due
to the fresh elements of the piece it will be only up for a day. Hines remarks on the
uniqueness of this temporary medium, “Its an art piece that you have moments to
capture, you may be the only person it to see it. It’s no different than art,we all
perceive it differently mine just goes away. It’s a fleeting moment and that is the
absolute beauty of it on so many levels.”

Hines is also extending his vision of modern floral design to help change public
perception by teaching others what he’s learned throughout the years through
workshops, demonstrations and lectures.

Aesthetics are in the eyes of the beholder and Hines isn’t sticking to societal norms
in floral design. Hines never uses synthetic flowers, his installations always have
fresh and organic components, he uses “Anything thats really organic that I can get
my hands on… egg shells, found objects, there is always a fresh element, it can be
4,000 feathers and fresh peonies, Hines states.

He also touches on how his thought processes evolve during the creation of each
installation. “You need some sense of depth, I just follow my gut, my installation and
design evolves rather than being scripted. I’ll have the idea and whatever element
I’m working with, tends to come to fruition on its own,” Hines revealed.

The installations that encompass MHS are at the discretion of weather conditions,
so much so, they only last one or two days. Hines also works with a multitude of

clients in the city and on a global basis. Look forward to up coming installations in
Hawaii and Marrakech. Some of his future booked lectures are for varied audiences
including woman’s groups, universities, and floral schools.

Hines uses the words “unapologetic” and “irreverent” when describing his approach
to floral design yet he modestly notes, “If I can get someone to stop and look at it
then I’ve done my job… I do it to show people the possibilities.”

MHS latest installation will début the opening of the Park Hyatt’s NoMi garden, you
can watch Hines constructing the installation that morning and it will be unveiled
later in the day. You can view his past and upcoming projects on

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Elite Private Wedding at Barrington Horse Farm

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Babies Breath Ceiling