by Maria Luci
Joseph Escamilla typically shoots textured still life images that have a great deal of character. He says he wants his product shots to have, “a little bit of life, and history.” This unique photo style caught the attention of a Penguin Press art director, who was looking for a photographer to illustrate the cover of legendary NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson’s new book: Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.
Penguin believed Joseph’s style would be a perfect match for the project and offered him the assignment in a straightforward manner. “It was very much a ‘Hey, do you think you can shoot Phil Jackson’s championship rings for me? You might need to go to his house, let me know if you’re available.'” His response? “Of course I’m available to shoot that!” So with a little help from Wonderful Machine producer Craig Oppenheimer, he put together a winning estimate for the job and got to work.
As mentioned by Penguin, the shoot was in fact at Phil Jackson’s house—in his garage to be exact. They wanted Joseph to capture various photos of the rings, to create a graphic cover that showed the character behind each piece. Knowing he would be shooting in someone’s garage, within a limited time frame, Joseph prepared by testing a few easily transported table top set ups, finalizing his plan before arriving. He adds, “I’ve shot in small spaces before and I’ve had to create mobile tabletop setups in a ton of oddball spaces, so it wasn’t too challenging, but it’s definitely the biggest job I’ve shot in a garage, that’s for sure.”
Once in the garage, Joseph says that Phil Jackson brought in the rings in a “little velour sack and just kind of dumped them out on a notepad, and told us to just yell upstairs when we’re done. We all just looked at each other as he walked back into the house while we stood next to his Benz, beach cruisers, and general garage detritus with more than a handful of gold and diamonds just kind of jumbled together.”
- Joseph with his assistant Alissa and Phil Jackson.
Shooting the rings themselves went smoothly. In fact, Joseph says the entire shoot was about “as smooth as could be.” This can be attributed to their laid back host—”the Zen Master was very easygoing, trusting and very accommodating!”—and the assembly line Joseph and his team set up for cleaning, position and shooting each individual ring. The only issue was the state of the rings. They were quite “banged up” and it took a good amount of post processing to make them appear shiny, new and cover-worthy.
Joseph handled the entire project with ease, and the client was very pleased with the final results. Within one week of getting the cover approved, Penguin had it up on Amazon for preorder. The images are not just being used on the book, but also in marketing and even as the background of Phil Jackson’s Twitter account. Joseph says the project taught him that “there’s always a solution, no matter what space you’re forced into. Oh, and also, Phil Jackson is one cool dude.”
View more at josephescamilla.com.