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Freda Scott Creative welcomes
Illustrator Matt Weems

Like many illustrators, Matt Weems grew up idolizing other artists. Unlike others, his hero was a woodblock engraver from the mid-1800s. “Howard Pyle was an engraver and then became an artist in his own right,” explains Matt. “He knew how to make the most of his medium.”

Portrait of Afghan Warlord Gulboddin Hekmatyar as a buzzard, by Illustrator Matt Weems

That stark, high-impact style still informs Matt’s work to this day. “I love black and white,” he says. “It’s extremely unforgiving – you only have two things you can show. You have to be confident and you can’t fudge it. Each stroke has to be right because it can’t be concealed. I like that.”

Portrait of a man interpreted as a four-armed deity, by Illustrator Matt Weems

Matt started out as an apprentice illustrator, creating detailed product and floor plan renderings for Levi Straus. But he quickly evolved his business into more creative territory. “There’s a skill to creating something technical and photoreal,” he says. “But when you let personal interpretation drift in, things get more interesting.”

A computer sits on the ground in front of a stone wall and a forest fire, by Illustrator Matt Weems

He uses color to add a creative twist as well. “That old-timey black and white look isn’t what people always want to see,” he admits. “But there can be an evolution, bringing in color. I like to mix those old ink techniques with a fresh POV.”

A portrait of Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers in woodcut style, by Illustrator Matt Weems

Experimenting with pencil and ink from his studio in Alameda, California, Matt has partnered with clients from Looking Glass Virtual Reality to Restoration Hardware and San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers. If he’s not at his desk, check out back where he’s likely building an oil drum grill or a giant bunk bed.

Black and white illustration of the painted lady Victorian homes in San Francisco, by Illustrator Matt Weems

We’re thrilled to welcome Matt to the Freda Scott roster. You can see more of his high impact illustration here.

Black and white rendering of a leather jacket, by Illustrator Matt Weems




Steve Belkowitz adds life to Chronic Tacos

For the first time in the brand’s history, Chronic Tacos decided to expand into lifestyle imagery, and they chose Photographer Steve Belkowitz to get the job done. “It was a big venture for them,” says Steve. “I wanted to make sure they came out of it happy.”

Overhead shot of a woman lying on a picnic blanket, for Chronic Tacos by lifestyle photographer Steve Belkowitz

Fortunately, Steve has the chops for such an ambitious one-day shoot. Though the shoot was set in Long Beach, CA, the entire pre-production phase was handled from Steve’s east coast studio for efficiencies. Just before the shoot, Steve arrived for a full day of tech scouting to finalize locations and set-ups.

Friends walk down the street with bikes and skateboards, for Chronic Tacos by lifestyle photographer Steve Belkowitz

“We got a great crew locally,” Steve says. “I brought out two of my go-to assistants and a wardrobe stylist from back east, but location scouts, hair and makeup, local assistants, our models, we found all that in LA. There’s so much talent there, it’s easy to put together a really strong team.”

Wind blows a woman’s hair as she walks by a lifeguard stand, for Chronic Tacos by lifestyle photographer Steve Belkowitz

One thing Steve did have to scramble for: a very particular vintage truck the client had their heart set on. “Turns out, a friend of my stylist had one! It was perfect,” says Steve. After shooting solid from sunrise to sunset, Steve and crew had the shots they needed.

Man, woman and surfboard in the back of a vintage truck, for Chronic Tacos by lifestyle photographer Steve Belkowitz

“They’re using these for store banners, outdoor signs, instagram, facebook, web, you name it,” says Steve. “We got a lot of great stuff for them to work with, and we definitely had fun doing it.” You can see more of Steve’s highly sought lifestyle and people photography here.

Two girls smile in the back of a vintage pickup truck, for Chronic Tacos by lifestyle photographer Steve Belkowitz Close up of a woman’s hand holding a phone showing Chronic Taco’s instagram, by lifestyle photographer Steve Belkowitz




Will Strawser lands in Lurzer’s
Best 200 Ad Photographers

From a pool of over 8000 submissions gathered from photographers throughout 50 countries, Will Strawser was recently featured in Lürzer’s esteemed list of the Best 200 Ad Photographers. And the showcase pieces they selected perfectly fit Will’s art-forward, visual storytelling style.

Commercial Photographer Will Strawser’s listing and work in Lurzer’s Best 200 Ad Photographers issue

“This painterly style is different from a lot of the ad work I do, but I think it can be really relevant,” says Will. “Consumers want to see something unique but familiar at the same time. Putting a modern spin on the painting styles from well-known classic art is a great way to draw people in.”

Overhead shot on black seamless of mushrooms and vases in painterly style, from photographer Will Strawser

For Will, it’s a labor of love to create photos in this style. “I always loved the Dutch renaissance masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer,” says Will. “Everything from the darker lighting style to the symbolism throughout.” And high art is highly fashionable right now. Will points to Peter Lippmann’s recent work for Christian Louboutin as one example, in addition to his own fashion work.

Fashion shot in painterly style of male model on a throne draped in fox fur, from photographer Will Strawser

Will’s latest efforts include the cover of Washington Post Magazine and shooting social media video content for repeat client, Wegman’s. Congratulations to Will for being recognized as one of Lürzer’s Best 200 Ad Photographers. We couldn’t agree more.

A feast shot in the painterly style of the Dutch Masters, from photographer Will Strawser




Illustrator Carolyn Vibbert
Puts Clients on the Map

“Working as a map illustrator can be tricky,” says commercial illustrator Carolyn Vibbert. “Maps have to be fun, so you want to look at them – but informative, too.” Carolyn has partnered with clients in categories as diverse as tourism, real estate and healthcare, so she’s well-versed in how to communicate through geography.

Map of Irvine for a real estate development client by commercial artist and map illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

“For the Irvine map, the client wanted to showcase the green space incorporated into their development, but also include landmarks so viewers can find and enjoy the parks and trails closest to them.” Carolyn works on the maps and any necessary icons concurrently, integrating them as she goes.

Illustrated tourism map of Spain by commercial artist and map illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

“For the Spain map, the request was to show the various food regions of the country, whereas when I worked on the map for Portsmouth it was more focused on general attractions and services,” she says. “I do a lot of research on the web to find the local flora and fauna, local topography and whatever makes a place special.”

Illustrated tourism map of Taos, New Mexico by commercial artist and map illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

Color plays an important role, as well. “I often limit the number of colors in my maps to keep the design cohesive,” says Carolyn. “And the colors reflect the sense of place. For example, for Portsmouth I chose a palette fitting of a historical colonial city.”

Illustrated map of Huntington Hospital by commercial artist and map illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

Most importantly, in order to be useful, a map has to draw in the viewer. “I like to keep the energy up in my work, so I’ll alternate the sizes of icons, or even mix styles a bit so it’s more playful,” explains Carolyn.

Illustrated map of Nantucket by commercial artist and map illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

With an extensive portfolio that includes maps, icons, logos, landscapes, people and more, Carolyn has drawn in viewers – and clients – of all types. You can see more of her work here.

Black and white illustrated map of Italy by commercial artist and map illustrator Carolyn Vibbert




Illustrator Shane Johnson
pictures the ’60s protests

The last time illustrator Shane Johnson partnered with Smithsonian Magazine, it was to honor the scientific achievements of physicist, Francis Halzen. “I knew this project demanded a different visual approach,” laughs Shane. To convey the grittier content, he chose rougher, heavier inks and flat, limited color. “I came up with a different palette for each illustration, using texture to create visual interest,” he says.

A woman runs through a crowd of protesters, for Smithsonian Magazine by illustrator Shane Johnson

The illustrations were commissioned to accompany an excerpt from a novel set in the chaos and conflict of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Shane selected the three passages he felt were the most vivid and engaging, and began with rough thumbnail sketches before moving on to tight pencils and then final art.

A woman cares for an injured protester, for Smithsonian Magazine by illustrator Shane Johnson

Three weeks later, the project was complete and the riveting excerpt was published in Smithsonian Magazine earlier this month. Shane is currently working on several classroom magazines for middle-schooler kids and recently finished an activity book for fans of Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 animated series. You can see more of his editorial and commercial illustration work here.



Retoucher Rachel Kissel takes
Corona Premier beyond the beach

“Most agencies want that one perfect photo. But this time they wanted one perfect file, to give them endless photos,” says retoucher Rachel Kissel, describing her latest project. Calvary Agency asked Rachel to create a file they could easily rearrange for Corona’s website, billboards, banners and more. The ask was enormous, the timeline was miniscule.

Original unretouched photos of lime and Corona Premier can and bottle

“From the original photos (above), I retouched and arranged the file so the various elements can slide anywhere in the frame, allowing copy to be placed anywhere around the products. Then the file can be cropped in hundreds of different framing options. This file is a monster – it can do so much,” says Rachel.

Video showing retoucher Rachel Kissel’s process on the Corona Premier retouching project

See how retoucher Rachel Kissel’s final, incredibly flexible file works

A perfect style-match for the dreamy reflections in the brief, Rachel is also seasoned enough to handle the complexity of the job. “Besides making the reflections, they needed to be able to move around on the surface. But the client wanted three surface options nested in the file – concrete, wood and wood slats. The elements needed to be gorgeous, realistic, mobile, modular and work on different surfaces.”

Two cans of Corona Premier, using a different configuration of the retouched photo from retoucher Rachel Kissel
A glass of Corona Premier and the can, using a different configuration of the retouched photo from retoucher Rachel Kissel

Rachel hunkered down at her desk in Portland while the photo shoot took place in Chicago, starting her composite as the shots came in. Working through the nights with her three assistants to make 8am presentations on east coast time, the entire project was wrapped in under two weeks. “This was a tall order and a creative challenge,” says Rachel. “I loved it.”

Corona’s website using the photo of Corona Premier from retoucher Rachel Kissel

You can see more of Rachel’s highly finessed retouching work here.



Photographer Will Strawser
sets his camera in motion

Still frame of a woman dancing in a jungle scene, from the 2018 motion reel of photographer Will Strawser

“It’s hard to even call myself a photographer anymore,” laughs Will Strawser. “Probably 75% of my projects now have a motion or video component to them.” As brands look for multiple ways to connect with their audience, traditional photographers increasingly find themselves called to take on the role of content creator. Will considers it a welcome development.

Still frame of a boxer from the 2018 motion reel of photographer Will Strawser

“Video has been a passion of mine since school. I’ve stayed hungry for new techniques and ideas, even as I developed my photography business,” he says. A website project a few years ago gave him the opportunity to expand his reach. “We did videos and stills for a high-rise development in DC, showcasing real people living in their homes. It was a gateway into a whole new world of excitement.”

Still frame of raspberries in water from the 2018 food/beverage motion reel of photographer Will Strawser

Still, the transition from still photography to moving picture is not an easy one. “It takes an adjustment to open your mind to telling a story in multiple frames versus just one. And a hybrid shoot is much more complicated – with the bigger crew and lighting set ups, we’ll take double the time on video as we do on stills. If we can, I like to keep them on separate days so they each get the attention they deserve.”

Still frame of an athlete draped in the American flag from the 2018 motion reel of photographer Will Strawser

For Will, that extra effort pays off. “What I love most about shooting stills and motion for the same project is imparting an overall vision to the campaign. Shooting just the stills limits how everything will flow together.”

Still frame of a surfer walking into the ocean from the motion reel of photographer Will Strawser

Will has shot stills, gifs, cinemagraphs and video in his rich, distinctive style for clients like Memo Jewelry, Silvon Home, Wegman’s and Bethesda Row. You can see more of his wide body of work here.

Still frame of a teacup and saucers flying through the air from photographer Will Strawser’s food/beverage motion reel    


Photographer Michal Venera harvests help for California fire victims

Commercial photographer Michal Venera has long been entranced by the beautiful rolling hills of northern California, even building his business out of a light-filled barn in Petaluma. So when fires ravaged Northern California earlier this year, he knew he wanted to help. His opportunity came in unexpected form: olive oil.

Harvested olives rest on burlap, from photographer Michal Venera

“I have a little ranch out here with olive trees,” says Michal. “Last year I pressed maybe 20 gallons and it was amazing. But this year my aging neighbor, who has a huge orchard, was looking for someone to take it over. I thought, what am I going to do with all this oil, and then the fires started and I thought, ok, we can do something here.”

An olive picker carries a full basket of olives, from photographer Michal Venera

What he did was hatch a plan to harvest and press incredibly high quality olive oil, selling it to his network of friends and colleagues and donating 100% of the profits to fire victims. Word got around quickly and soon Michal’s enterprise was in full swing.

An olive picker shoulders a basket of harvested olives, from photographer Michal Venera

The full-time photographer and his girlfriend, Minhsing, had to take a crash course in organizing pickers, insurance, transport and same-day pressing. “I was doing photo shoots during the day then driving fresh-picked olives to Sonoma for an overnight press,” he recalls.

Empty glass bottles await olive oil, from photographer Michal Venera

With hundreds of gallons pressed, Michal threw a pick-up party for over 100 people who came and tasted the oil, bottled it and applied his custom labels. “You could pay up to $300 per gallon for oil of this quality,” says Michal. “We did it for $100 a gallon and it sold out in a week.” They made over $4000 for fire victims and, he says, “we had a lot of fun doing it.”

Michal Venera and girlfriend, Minhsing, with their olive oil

Michal is now back behind the camera full time. You can see the fruits of those labors here.



Portrait of a Food Revolutionary: Alice Waters, by photographer Nader Khouri

“When you’re shooting someone like Alice Waters, you know you have to be ready to move fast,” says food and lifestyle photographer Nader Khouri. “People like this are so busy. But instead she came in and sat down with me with such a relaxed, polite demeanor. It was the exact mirror of the intentional, values-driven approach to food that she champions.”

Chef Alice Waters kneels in a garden, shot by food photographer Nader Khouri

Nader spent four days last month shooting portrait and lifestyle shots for Alice Waters’ new home cooking MasterClass series. Shot on-set in Berkeley, Nader worked both indoors and out to capture the personality of the innovator and Chez Panisse founder that he calls “the most influential person in food of our time.”

Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters prepares a dish, shot by food photographer Nader Khouri

“Just shooting with her, I took away so many lessons about food,” says Nader. “You can really see how important it is to her to find the best ingredients – her eyes just light up when she talks about her favorite herbs and vegetables and the farms where she finds them.”

A basket of various citrus fruits shot on the set of Alice Waters’ new Masterclass, by food photographer Nader Khouri

Nader can’t give away too much about the content of the MasterClass videos, but he does promise you’ll want to get straight to the farmer’s market and then into the kitchen. “She is so passionate about slow food, high quality ingredients and education, you can’t help but get inspired,” he says.

Alice Waters gets a hug from daughter Fanny Singer in the kitchen, by food photographer Nader Khouri

Nader also recently finished a project for the restaurants of the Fairmont Hotel in Austin, Texas and was the photographer for the recently released book, Kombucha, Kefir and Beyond. You can see more of his mouth-watering work here.

Food photographer Nader Khouri with chef, slow food revolutionary and founder of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters    


From the Archives: Photographer
Brian Smale joins the Chain Gang

Black and white photo of a prisoner leaning against a chain link fence, gazing out, by photographer Brian Smale

In 1995 the state of Alabama brought back the archaic use of prison chain gangs, and photographer Brian Smale was there. Assigned by SPIN magazine, he and writer Mark Schone spent three days in the stifling Alabama heat to tell the story of men chained together and sent out to work along the highways.

Black and white photo of prisoners kneeling, preparing to get chained together. By photographer Brian Smale
Black and white photo of armed guard watching the chain gang, by photographer Brian Smale

“Most of these guys, they weren’t killers. They maybe missed a parole meeting or got caught with drugs. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could subject another human to this treatment,” remembers Brian. Inmates who refused to work would be forced to spend the sweltering day in a “Mexican Jail,” a concrete and chain link cell with jagged rocks embedded in the floor that made it impossible to sit down, often deprived of water or toilets.

A prisoner crouches in front of the open gate to a “Mexican Jail” – a chain link holding pen, by photographer Brian Smale

“The conditions seemed to me a lot like torture,” Brian says. “I met a couple of the guys in the exercise yard – the commissioner had removed all the exercise equipment so the guys showed me how they improvised, using a sewer grate for weightlifting.” In 2001, four of the inmates successfully sued the state with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, ending the modern era of Alabama chain gangs.

A prisoner uses a sewer grate as a weight for exercise, by photographer Brian Smale
Black and white photo of a prisoner’s arm with a tattoo of a ball and chain and shovels, by photographer Brian Smale

“I loved working with SPIN magazine,” Brian recalls. “They gave me a ton of freedom. It was usually just me and a small, battery-powered flash, working alone. I shot a number of stories in the 80s and 90s along similar themes: killers, klansmen, gangsters, skinheads. So I guess I was a good fit for chain gangs.”

Black and white portrait of a prisoner staring into the distance, by photographer Brian Smale

These days, Brian is based in Seattle, where he lives with his wife and kids and shoots for a number of big name, high-tech and corporate clients. “There are definitely fewer gangsters,” he says. “Which I sort of miss.”

Black and white photo of the chain gang walking down the highway, by photographer Brian Smale

You can see more of Brian’s highly regarded people & places photography here.

Black and white photo of a street sign that says “Chain Gang Rd,” by photographer Brian Smale