Petunia - white adolescent pit bull

About a year ago, a skinny white pit bull was found wandering near the Buffalo waterfront alone and scared. She was a sweet girl who had some trust issues, and very little was known about where she came from before she was found and placed with the volunteers from a local rescue program called Educate-A-Bull that aims to both educate the public about the false and harmful stigma surrounding bully breed dogs as well as rescue, rehabilitate, and find wonderful homes for these in-need animals. The program’s volunteers worked hard and did an amazing job of getting her healthy, noursihed, and socialized again. They named her Petunia.

After a local news station ran a story on the work I’ve done with the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, a group of Educate-A-Bull’s volunteers contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with their program and creating an adoption portrait of this tiny lady, since she is one of the program’s long-term residents. Of course I jumped at the chance to get to meet, photograph, and play with this cute four and a half year old pit bull terrier.

Petunia is looking for a new home with a loving and experienced owner. She’s a wonderful dog that has been with Educate-A-Bull for about a year, and her ideal home would be one without children or other pets – preferably with an owner who can give her a lot of attention and make her feel truly welcome as she settles into her new home.

She is house and crate trained, and current on all her vaccinations. You can read more about little Petunia on her Educate-A Bull page.

Please help spread the word about Petunia’s story. I know together we can find her a forever home!

Petunia - white adolescent pit bull

Chef Steve Gedra of the Black Sheep in Buffalo, NY.

For a long time Steve Gedra has been my favorite chef cooking in Buffalo.

With the two restaurants he’s owned in the city alongside his wife Ellen – their former Elmwood Avenue spot Bistro Europa, and their current restaurant The Black Sheep, Steve has cemented himself as one of the most exciting figures in the Buffalo dining scene, and I’ve got a lot of reasons to appreciate what he does – some culinary, and some a little more personal.

I love the fact that his menus often reflect things that I grew up with that tend to be a little harder to find on most local menus: head cheese, pig ears and pork liver aren’t uncommon things to see when you look over the menu at The Black Sheep. A lot of these are things that remind me of meals I shared with my dad before he passed way (coincidentally – I think he would have really liked Steve’s food).

I love that he works so closely with local producers to pass on the area’s best to his customers.

I love that Steve constantly mixes it up, often inviting other local chefs into his kitchen to collaborate as part of his monthly Midnight Mass events.

I love that Steve can convert some of the pickiest eaters I know – namely my fiancée. As an avowed pork hater she gets mad if I even cook bacon in the house, but she will gladly chow down on any number of porcine goodies if Steve is serving them.

I love Ellen’s deserts – even if for some mystifying reason you don’t eat anything else on the menu, just order dessert and you’ll be happy.

And I love that when I was recovering from a really nasty surgery that kept me from working for quite some time Steve invited Erin and I to Bistro Europa for what was, at the time, the most relaxing and stress free meal we had been able to enjoy in a while – he’s a genuinely welcoming and caring person who wears his love for his customers on his sleeve.

It was amazing to finally have a chance to create this portrait of Steve in the front bar of The Black Sheep. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon before a weekday dinner kicked off, so we had some wonderful light coming in through the windows while we set up this shot and enjoyed some of the fantastic Chemex brewed coffee Steve made for us. Steve and Ellen put a lot of care into the design of the restaurant, including the intimate front bar that then opens up into the larger rear dining room, which is where we decided to photograph Steve enjoying a coffee and a few seconds of quiet prior to service.

Craig Maxwell of Parker Hannifin

I’m thrilled to share some selections with you from my latest assignment for the always fantastic to work with Forbes Magazine. This time they sent me to Cleveland Ohio to create portraits for a story on Parker Hannifin – a nearly 100-year-old worldwide firm specializing in motion control and mechanical engineering that is in the process of disrupting their own research and development process in a really exciting way.

Craig Maxwell of Parker Hannifin

My first subject was Craig Maxwell – the company’s VP of technology and innovation, and the man responsible for creating the new R&D practices at Parker that allow singularly focused engineers and scientists to pursue research on their own wild projects in a program that’s part hacker space, part startup incubator, and part Shark Tank like pitch contest – a  program that’s keeping the company focused on agility, adaptability, and innovation at a time when slow-moving and overly conservative companies are falling to disruptive young upstarts. The symbiosis between the company and it’s passionate and competitive engineers benefits everyone – especially those engineers to whom Parker provides significant benefit and support, as Maxwell’s ultimate aim is for them to have an ownership stake in their profoundly important creations.

Ryan Farris of Parker Hannifin with his exoskeleton project for Forbes Magazine

My second subject for this assignment is a perfect example of Maxwell’s ideal. Ryan Farris is one of the singularly focused engineers I mentioned above – and the mind behind one of Parker’s most exciting new developments, a revolutionary wearable exoskeleton system aimed at helping people with severe spinal injuries to walk again. Aside from the healthcare application the firm is hopeful that there might be further industrial applications that they can develop as the technology evolves. Farris began work on the project while still a student at Vanderbilt University and it there that the exoskeleton caught Craig Maxwell’s attention, prompting him to bring the project in-house at Parker. Farris has been catching the attention of more than just the internal startup scene at Parker, as he was named one of Forbes 30 under 30 Young Innovators – an honor he greatly deserves as his invention should be brining real positive change to people’s lives in the next couple of years.

Ryan Farris of Parker Hannifin in Cleveland OH for Forbes Magazine

Casting director and historical reenactor Guy William Gane III

I’m a bit of a binge watcher when it comes to historical dramas and political thrillers – so I was elated to once again have the chance to photograph Guy Gane. Guy is a prolific actor and casting director specializing in historical reenactments, period and military dramas (He’s also the owner of one of the best beards I’ve ever photographed). Guy has worked on projects like HBO’s John Adams, Netflix’s House of Cards, Legends And Lies, Field of Lost Shoes, And played historical figures like John Wilkes Booth and Augustus Van Horne Ellis in historical pieces for PBS – among others.

A consuming obsession with the past runs in Guy’s veins, and it takes little time with him to realize that the connection to the historical figures he plays is more than just dramatic. He’s truly invested in the history of The United States – especially the Civil War. As a historical reenactor obsessed with authenticity and detail Guy wholly throws himself into each role – from developing truly period accurate costumes to being a near encyclopedic font of knowledge about the lives – both glorious and tragic – of those he plays.

You can currently see Guy’s work on Fox News’ Wild West docu-series Legends and Lies

Casting director and historical reenactor Guy William Gane III

Casting director and historical reenactor Guy William Gane III

Examples of branding and marketing materials developed by Shauna Haider of We Are Branch developed for Buffalo, NY Photographer Luke Copping

Take a look inside the work of the incomparable Shauna Haider of We Are Branch!

Shauna and I have collaborated on so many amazing projects over the past few years and she’s been an instrumental part of defining the look and style of my brand. I love that she’s always ready with a dozen new ideas on how I can evolve and polish the design elements that accompany my photography. Today on We Are Branch’s blog Shauna takes a look at a few of the projects we’ve been working on the past few months.

English Band You Me At Six Photographed for Alternative Press

Alternative Press is one of my favorite magazine clients to work with  – partly because they send me on assignments to make portraits of great musicians like England’s You Me At Six (who I shot for their December issue) and they always give me a ton of freedom in how I want to interpret each band’s vibe.  Sometimes it comes in handy that my studio is right in the heart of Buffalo’s entertainment/theatre district – because I’m usually no more than a five-minute walk from most of the city’s best venues and that gives me ample time to set up the kind of dark moody images I like to create with a group like YM@6.

Check out this stripped down live recording of You Me At Six’s Room To Breath


Image from LiveBetty Training campaign

I’ve been working with Buffalo, NY based startup LiveBetty, an empowering tech company that allows people to create and manage their own home messaging businesses, to create images for a variety of training and branding uses. The first project I tackled with them was creating aspirational portraits of company spokesmodel Lulu Robinson. We had to find the perfect location for this shoot that looked just like the dream workspace of a successful LiveBetty member, and we found it at redFISH Art Studios in East Aurora, NY. Turns out that the space has the most beautiful apartment upstairs – white wooden floors, beautiful but simple furniture, art EVERYWHERE. I’m not going to lie, if I had my way this is pretty much what my office would look like too – except I’m sure it would probably still be cluttered with knee-high stacks of photo books and LP’s for me and my dogs to weave around just like it is now. LiveBetty head John Wolf has a very cool vision for the growing company and I’m excited to keep working with him on developing the look of the brand.

Some people might say that print is dead – but when it comes to portfolios it’s still, and always will be, my favorite ways to show my work to prospective clients. So I was overjoyed when a package showed up on my doorstep that I’ve been patiently waiting for. Inside was the beautiful new bound portfolio book that I had ordered from Paper Chase Press. The last time I did such a major revamping of my portfolio was in 2012 and that book was predominantly made up of beauty images, my work and client base has evolved a lot in those years and shifted its focus to subjects in the business and creative worlds – so it was about time for something new. This book is made up of a mix of work that covers the best of my editorial and advertising assignments as well as really important personal projects like my rescue dog series and my portraits of Buffalo, NY entrepreneurs who are working to change their city.

I’ll showing this book on several upcoming marketing trips, but I wanted to share it here to give everyone a peek at it while it’s brand-new and fresh. Enjoy!

Oxford Pennant Company Let's Go Buffalo Pennant

I’ve got a really cool pennant that says “Hustle” in bold golden letters hanging in my studio. It’s part conversation starter/part reminder to get off my ass and get working on whatever project I’m trying to launch at the time. If you look at little closer you’ll find a tag on it that proudly exclaims “It’s an Oxford!” which has become the rallying cry for a young business that’s taking a prototypical piece of sports memorabilia and breathing a new sense of style into it. CEO David Horesh and Brand Manager/Designer Brett Mikoll are turning the simple and classic felt pennant into something that’s equal parts Cal Ripken and Kanye West.

Oxford Pennant got its start on the road – specifically the long stretch between Buffalo and Boston where David and Brett were traveling regularly for business while working for another Buffalo entrepreneurial powerhouse, City Dining Cards (and as I’ve said before – their Buffalo Drink Deck is a thirsty and frugal photographer’s very best friend). The pair found themselves inspired by the preppy aesthetic and eye for visual merchandising of the stores they were dealing with that rolled together sports, local pride, and a keen intuition for pop culture. While bouncing ideas off of each other over drinks one night they began looking for a vehicle through which they distill all of their varied interests into one medium – and they knew they didn’t want to make t-shirts. Brett elaborated “We decided we want to do one thing and do it really well, that we wanted to be Oxford Pennant, not the Oxford brand.”

Oxford Pennant Company "Let's Go Buffalo" Pennant

Somehow during the course of their trip the idea of creating pennants took hold, and Dave realized that there was a void in the marketplace for a modern and well-made pennant that focused more on the culture, aesthetics, and nostalgia of athleticism and civic pride than it did on a specific team. “We made a Buffalo pennant, a Boston pennant, and a Pittsburgh pennant to start because we had friends in those cities, and produced about one hundred of them. We figured that we could at least sell them or give them away as Christmas presents and that would be fine. So we quickly launched an Instagram and a Shopify store. I remember laying in bed on Christmas night 2013 registering the domain name and our timeline to launch from there was just about a month,” David told me during one of our many discussions about Oxford.

A month from inception to launch may sound crazy in this era of multi-volume business plans, cap tables, and overwrought marketing campaigns, but it’s indicative of the earnest and intuitive business that Oxford is building – one that embraces the scrappy, fight-to-make-it, mean-something-to-your-fans ethos of the sports legends that Oxford borrows so much from. Regarding their rapid genesis, Dave told me “We decided not to think about it too much, because if we thought about it too much we just wouldn’t do it. I remember sharing this idea with my brother-in-law who had just gone through a crazy period in his life of opening a business, getting married, having a child and moving to Rochester. When I asked him how he got through all this so quickly without going crazy he told me ‘go, ready, set” and go, ready, set is something that I think about all the time now. Sometimes you just have to do it and figure it out along the way, and in this case that worked in our favor.”

Brett from Oxford Pennant Company in Buffalo NY

The duo quickly pulled in project manager Pat Simons, another City Dining Cards alum, to complete Oxford Pennant’s core team. In the past year they’ve grown to a roster of approximately thirty strikingly designed and 100% made-in-America wool and cotton felt pennants that feature phrases like “Started From the Bottom Now We Here” and “Liberty or Death”, and pay homage to locales like Nantucket, Cleveland, and Seattle. One thing that you will immediately notice about all of Oxford’s designs is how minimal they are. “The people that are producing pennants use this rigid, hard, plastic feeling material that doesn’t move. We wanted something that was floppy, so we sourced American made wool and cotton for our felt, and created something that would actually blow in the wind like flag, because that to me is the iconic aesthetic of the pennant. I think that this is another one of those products where less is more, when you have a simple crimson or navy or forest green pennant with a one color print on it that says what you want it to say, it goes so much further than a complicated four color process. If you buy a football pennant now it’s going to have a helmet, and the quarterback throwing a pass, and a fan in the background eating a sandwich. I think that there’s too much in that. You really can’t look at it and appreciate the graphic quality of it.”

And there is something unique about their product, something that evokes that childhood feeling of going to your first game. Even if you were too young to follow the stats and lore of the sport, you knew that this was something formative. I think that there’s something in all of us that wants an artifact of that, something of the ephemera of the game that we could keep with us. For me growing up in Canada it was a puck at a hockey game, and if you grew up in a baseball, soccer, or football town, it was probably a pennant. Before we became consumed with facts and figures, anger about salary caps and trades, and resentment over bad calls and poor league decisions, there was something about the simplicity of the game and cheering for your team that had a much more innocent appeal to it. Oxford has taken that signifier and turned it into a design savvy medium for a certain type of consumer – themselves. ““I think that the reason the product is successful is because our customers are a lot like us. We’re some combination of hip hop, sports, hometown pride, and hard work and I think that speaks to a lot of people. Sure, it’s just a twenty dollar pennant, but we’re lucky to have customers who see what we see in the product.”

Pat Simons of Oxford Pennant Company

And some important people have seen just what David, Brett, and Pat have seen in their pennants, because partnering with other brands to create  items for their audiences is a fast growing part of the Oxford business. Since their launch Oxford has been creating custom products for entities like Burton Snowboards, Mitchell Bat Company, Ninth Inning Tx, Phish, and about sixty other companies and numerous bands. They’ve even collaborated with TSPTR on a Charles Schultz Peanuts Pennant. 

Like a lot of the conversations I’ve had with young entrepreneurs in Buffalo, the team from Oxford had some strong opinions regarding the changes that the city is seeing. Dave equates a lot of their success to being based in Buffalo, but is also wary of the “We exist because of Buffalo. It’s the reason we’re able to do this. I’m originally from Rochester, but Buffalo has become my home. A little company like Oxford can shout loud enough to be heard in Buffalo and that’s definitely helped our brand thrive. As a city, we’re so preoccupied with trying to figure out when we’ve finally made it back to our former glory. I think we’re in a sweet spot right where we are.” Brett added “Buffalo DOES have the prettiest logos in sports though. The Sabres classic logo and the Bills current logo are some of the best looking logos today, beautiful logos.”

Oxford Pennant Company CEO David Horesh

Shutterbug Cover

My portrait of my little friend Birch is on the cover of Shutterbug Magazine this month!

(This is the part where you envision me doing a dramatic and triumphant slow motion fist pump right now)

Maria Piscopo interviewed Isaac Howard, Tim Courtney, Cathy Greenblat, and myself about our work with various charities, non-profits, and volunteer organizations. It covers the ins and outs of what can go right and wrong when donating your time and work and features some of my favorite rescue dog images from the past year.

When I first started photographing dogs it was just something I was going to try for fun so I could make some portraits of my dogs for my fiancee, but it’s turned into a huge part of my business and my life over the last year as I’ve been working with both rescue animals and on advertising campaigns in the veterinary industry. I hope more photographers will start to donate their time to local shelters, as good portraits really help people connect with these animals’ personalities and greatly aid adoption efforts.

You can support and learn more about the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter here. 

You can also support great organizations like notabully.org to help change minds about pit bulls and work to end breed specific discrimination. 

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