INTRO: No matter how long you look at Carmelo’s Anthony’s SLAM magazine cover, it’s still unclear as to how the cornerstone of the New York Knicks was captured as a larger-than-life figure comparable to the size of the Empire State Building which hovers behind him. With the use of such dramatic imagery Ben Osborne, SLAM’s editor in chief and the author of the Anthony article, could have easily created his headline by selecting classic hip-hop song titles such as “The City Is Mine,” “The Takeover,” “Heart Of The City,” “Sky Is The Limit,” and “The World Is Yours.” That wouldn’t be a stretch when you consider that in Anthony’s cover shot he is wearing two Olympic gold medals around his neck in the same manner that many rappers wear gold and platinum chains on their album covers. This may have been the type of emotion that Tom Medvedich was trying to evoke when he snapped photos of the basketball superstar on the rooftop of New York’s Ace Hotel.
The 28-year old native of Clifton, New Jersey labels himself an up-and-comer in photography but you would quickly dispel that notion once you see his ever-expanding portfolio of high-profile hip-hop celebrities including Pharrell Williams, Steve Stoute, Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, the Clipse, Raekwon, T.I., and Jadakiss. His tremendous work ethic and humility are just a few of the reasons why Medvedich is able to secure gigs that keep him consistently booked throughout the year. It’s also why the coming of age candidate decided to share some of his secrets and career highlights.
TRUE STORY: “I basically did photography in high school on a whim and I enjoyed it so I ended up going to a community college for film and it didn’t really interest me. I dropped out after my first semester and then I went to photo school in California basically on a whim too and I ended up really liking it so I just kind of stuck with it. I ended up going to L.A. after school and working on car photography jobs at an automotive studio. I was there for about a year and ended up going the CGI [computer-generated imagery] route and moved back to the East Coast and I wanted to pursue still life because I didn’t have any interest in CGI work. I ended up doing still life and portraiture in New York but I had to assist for a few years to get my feet wet and learn the ropes. I never really wanted to only do still life. I wanted to shoot people as well because that way is a little more variety in your life rather than just dealing with products all day long. I made a friend a few years ago and he turned out to be an aspiring rapper so I ended up doing a lot of shooting with him just for his own personal stuff and for me for fun. I then linked up with The Source magazine and I kind of cut my teeth with them so I put together a little portraiture book and it expanded. I did a little stuff for XXL and ended up working with SLAM magazine and that’s basically how I got involved with them.”
LOYALTY: “I have a retoucher who is like a big brother to me at this point. We’ve been working together for four years. His name is John Flynn. His company is called Post and his work is awesome and you can see it at Needpost.com. We actually linked up because John had done some editing for the guy that I was assisting at the time. He found me on Linkedin and I needed someone at that time. We worked together on some stuff. We are actually about to put together a pretty cool project, like a big series of work. I shot a XXL portrait this year with Rick Ross and for something like that you need an assistant and you need a digital tech, someone to run the camera and the computers so basically you just need a full team. Usually celebrities have their own stylist that they work with but if you need a prop stylist or something like that that’s kind of on me and I definitely have a hand in producing the shoot and that way I know who I am going to be working with.”
ALL I NEED: “I use a few cameras. Right now I am using a Cannon 5D Mark II and a Mark III but on job where the budget permits I’ll use a Hasselblad H2 with a Phase back. That’s just a sharper system where the image will be literally sharper and the resolution is bigger so you can make humungous prints out of things like that. It’s definitely a treat when you get to use that camera.”
PAYIN’ DUES: “Most magazines do not own the images. They will let you own them but they will put an embargo on it meaning that you can’t use the image for anything else until three months after the issue has printed which is pretty standard. There’s definitely some magazines out there that want to own the image and they will have some leverage on a young photographer just trying to build a book. That’s kind of the price that you pay but it’s just part of the business. Eventually, you grow from there and then you stop working for publications that want to own your stuff because your pictures are your livelihood.”
HIS MOST MEMORABLE SHOOT: “I definitely feel like the Spike Lee stuff that I shot is timely and classic in the sense that the dude’s been a big deal pretty much for as long as I’ve been alive so to me that was the biggest deal shoot as far as, ‘Oh man. This is Spike Lee!’ It’s just kind of crazy. He’s somebody who’s touched millions of people with his work. That was for The Source. I shot that in 2009. I’ll show people my book and that’s a picture where people go, ‘Whoa! That’s Spike Lee.’”
HOW HE CREATED A CLASSIC CARMELO ANTHONY COVER FOR SLAM: “The magazine came to me with the concept. They were saying they wanted to shoot him against the Empire State Building. We had to figure out where the hell we were going to do this. Obviously it had to be somewhere near the Empire State building so we had a couple of days to throw it together which is often the case with celebrity shoots. You don’t really have much time and schedules change all the time because they are busy. We ended up finding the location which was the Ace Hotel after trying a couple of other places and not really feeling it when we went there. We checked it out. We scouted it and went on the roof and thought it would be perfect. We ended up just shooting it right there and we didn’t have to superimpose anything. It was just the Empire State building and him. I built what’s called an apple box which is a wood box which you will see in commercials sometimes. They are there to stand on or put stuff on it. We built the platform for him which was probably three or four feet tall and he was standing on that and I was pretty much laying on the ground so that kind of forced the perspective up so he was the same level as the Empire State Building. It’s nothing fancy, just a little camera trick just messing with the angle.”
NOTHING’S GONNA STOP ME: I want to continue this still life as well as portraiture. I’ve had a little dabble in ad work which is definitely where I am trying to go with my career and I love what I am doing now but I want to expand more into bigger jobs. I just want to be diverse photographically. Eminem is definitely high up on my list and Jay-Z . I’m really into rap so I love stuff like that. I would love to shoot a guy like Martin Scorsese and anybody that I really like and respect and someone who has really touched pop culture. It’s just crazy to be able to say that I’m just some kid from New Jersey who can actually have access to these people and make some cool art with them.”