Anthony Cunanan Shoots for Men’s Journal
New York-based photographer Anthony Cunanan recently shot his first assignment with monthly lifestyle magazine Men’s Journal for its January 2019 issue. He met photo director Jennifer Santana at a portfolio review the year before and, in hopes that he would soon land his next big assignment, made a point to stay busy with quarterly emails and frequent print promos. His hard work paid off when Jenn sent him an email about the project. Like many before, Anthony was excited about the shoot and couldn’t wait to get started. The article "Stronger Than Last Year" would appear in The Blueprint section where the magazine shares tips and tricks for a better, stronger life.
The team was fortunate to collaborate with Nike New York Headquarters, to shoot in their corporate gym space. With access to ample room and tons of workout equipment, Anthony needed to capture three separate moves for the multi-page magazine spread: handstand pushup, pullup, and running your fastest mile. With references from previous shoots, the photo editors emphasized a continuation of the warm tones and natural feel of the portraits. Anthony understood what type of lighting he would need and went on to research movement videos to imagine what his ideal angles might be.
While a gym isn’t necessarily an open floor setup for a photo shoot—with gym equipment and machines that cannot be easily moved—Anthony thought of maneuvering around the spaces as a fun challenge. Keeping in mind lighting, angles to shoot, and what’s in camera and what’s not, he was able to come up with a solid game plan.
Being flexible on set is always a great way to approach any shoot. Finding ways of lighting in tight spaces is always fun for me because the production part of my brain starts getting creative. I know I wanted to play with shadows and still have a somewhat contrasty hard light.
After narrowing down the three moves and where they would shoot them, the team proceeded in first shooting the handstand pushup. They needed multiple stop motion shots to provide some context and focus for the spread’s “form tips.” From there, Anthony was able to play around with angles and cropping to then capture the other images.
What was your vision for this project?
I really wanted to show the strength that comes from a handstand pushup. It’s not an easy move to accomplish, and being upside down lends so much to the balance and strength of our model to do it repeatedly. We did the move multiple times and the whole crew was very supportive to the talent, making sure he was comfortable holding it and doing it again and again. Having split seconds to capture it had me excited to find the most interesting angles.
How does this reflect your photographic style more broadly?
I love creating environments that promote creativity for everyone on set. From the setting of the lights to the music playing, to the verbal direction I give, it’s all about having fun and letting go with the camera. Some of my favorite images came from letting the model continuously perform the move how they would naturally. This way I could be there to capture the shot in the seconds where he looks natural doing it.
Were there any challenges that you encountered in planning or execution?
In a gym, you have a lot of equipment around, as well as mirrors, so that you can see your form as you work out. We ended up covering the mirrors with a seamless backdrop. This helped to clean up the background, which would have had more gym equipment in the reflection. Additionally, you would definitely see the lighting and crew in the background had we not covered the mirrors.
What was your favorite part of the project?
I love seeing the images in print. We take so many photos on our phones and immediately post them on social media. Seeing the magazine show up in my mailbox and turning the pages, seeing the layouts used and the accompanying text really gets me excited to keep shooting and collaborating.
Check out more of Anthony Cunanan at www.anthonycunanan.com.
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