Production designers and decorators have a unique challenge when they’re creating an environment for a television series or a movie. The set design and décor must be believeable but creatively distinct. It must reflect the story of the characters that populate the space and support the overall arc of the story being filmed. One of set decorator’s challenges is what to put on the walls of their sets as fine art. The art must compliment the story, be affordable, easily accessible and the studio must be able to license the images from the artists that create them. These requirements make the acquisition of fine art for a show a real challenge and has created a cottage industry specific to the needs of Hollywood.
I’ve had the good fortune to become a part of this Hollywood fine art industry. I shoot high end photography images that are licensed and hang on the walls of many sets around town. I have an extensive library of fine art photos as I shoot images when I’m traveling around the world on other assignments. I am also hired to create specifically themed images for a set that needs a certain visual tone. The great thing about both scenarios is I create and own everything and can sell or license my art as I see fit.
Recently I created images for Rob Lowe’s on-set office on NBC’s hit series “Parks And Recreation”. Julie Bolder, the award winning set decorator I often work with, had a basic theme in mind. She wanted images that would play to Rob Lowe’s hyper intelligent athletically inclined character. So I visited a few sports stores for inspiration and gathered some architecturally specific athletic gear. Old school barbells, racks of weights and Frank Gehryinspired bicycle parts looked great as black and white prints.
I talked one of my actor friends into posing on a local mountaintop perched on a bike for a full color sunset silhouette. It’s helpful that I live in the Santa Monica Mountains so this was literally shot in my backyard. The assignment only took a few hours. I posted the completed images for Julie to see on online. She “walked” through the gallery I created sitting in her office in Hollywood and cherry picked the images that she knew would serve the set design and the show.
Speed is key to this type of creative photo assignment, as the show will often need to print and frame the images in 24 hours. I saw the framed images on the show recently as Rob Lowe played out a great scene with them behind him. I was thrilled to see that the art I created supported his work without stealing the focus. I’ve been creating fine art images for “Parks And Recreation” for a couple of seasons now. It’s a wonderful way to stretch creatively and continue to build my fine art photography portfolio. Other shows I’ve created fine art photo images for include six seasons of “Weeds” for Showtime, “Notes From The Underbelly” for ABC and “Haversham Hall” for the Disney Channel.