Willi’s history with the studio stretches back over two-and-a-half years. We first started corresponding prior to a trip to the West Coast in the fall of 2012. I had hoped to work with this California model while in San Francisco that October. Ultimately our schedules did not mesh and we failed to meet up. Actually, that trip is now most memorable for what we missed. While in San Francisco that October, not only did we miss working with Willi, we also missed Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc on both New York City and our travel schedule. Unable to fly home, we were forced to remain in California in the messy aftermath of the storm. (Which meant we also missed no electricity, running water, heat and elevator service in our homes back in New York.)
But Willi persevered. Six months later he was making a trip East and wrote to see if he could schedule a session with us while in the metropolitan New York area. And so exactly two years ago this week we did our first work with the 26-year-old California model in Cortlandt Manor, the Hudson River town about an hour north of New York City. Work from that session has been online in Willi’s New York gallery ever since. Coincidentally, the session was one of the first times that Alex worked as a stylist/production assistant on a New Manhattan Studios photo shoot. The two young models have known each other ever since.
We had the opportunity to work with Willi a second time in late July while on a trip to California in 2014. In fact, we worked with him twice, first on a Saturday and then on Sunday when the models scheduled for the second day flaked on us. We had the good fortune to be working at the home of good friends and fellow photographers, Mark Grantham and Mike Tossy.
The weekend of our shoot last July was a jumble of overlapping schedules and commitments and it wasn’t clear how much time we would be spending together, but small world that it is, the weekend was a series of reunions all the way around. Alex and I had first met Mark in 2012 when they did a photo session a couple of days before the hurricane left Alex and me stranded on the West Coast. We’ve been good friends since and I first worked in Mark’s and Mike’s lovely home, pool and gardens in 2013. Willi had met Alex when we had worked together in March of 2013. Coincidentally, Willi and Mark had worked together in California several years prior to that. You can see some of Mark’s earlier work with Willi in 2009 on his website ( http://www.markgrantham.us/alternative.html ).
That Saturday Alex had a job with another Bay Area photographer while I worked with Willi. Alex arrived back at Mark’s place (where he was staying) in the late afternoon, just in time to connect with Willi before the end of our session. Alex assisted in the work around the cars and hot tub.
For much of Sunday, Alex and Mark worked together in Monterey, rejoining Willi and me in the late afternoon (but early enough for the boys to enjoy the pool in the late afternoon sun). By the end of the weekend, all photographers and models had become closer friends and, as the pictures on this page illustrate, a good time was had by all.
Despite the memories of a great weekend, ironically, it took nearly seven months to get back to Willi’s folders and process the work we did with him in the hills above Santa Cruz last summer. But it was worth the wait. I always find unexpected gems when I return to a folder after many months. Willi’s was no exception. I was happily blown away again this week by being reminded of just how outstanding a model he is. But there was a second joy to be back in that folder at the end of March. Not only was this the second anniversary of our first session with Willi, but revisiting the pictures of sunny California had a special sweetness this week. Spring officially arrived in New York on Friday afternoon. . . almost simultaneously with the latest snowstorm. Staring at swimming pools, hot tubs and green gardens was the perfect antidote for the never-ending winter of 2015.
Willi: The Private Portfolio has just been released. This 58-page book contains the best of Willi's work, including many previously unpublished photographs, and is available from the studio's online bookstore.
As part of a new feature at New Manhattan Studios, a Fine Art Gallery with a limited number of the best images from Willi's two photo sessions has been opened. The Fine Art galleries feature selected images from the model's photo shoots, many of which were previously available only in the studio's publications. High quality art reproductions can be ordered in a variety of sizes and media, suitable for framing or collecting. Each gallery is open for a limited time only. Willi's Fine Art Gallery will be open through the end of June.
And last, but not least, check out the feature on Willi that appeared on Favorite Hunks on April 18.
Click here for All Things Willi at New Manhattan Studios.