For the New York Times: DC’s new Media Brat Pack

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Brian Beutler, reporter with Talking Points Memo, and Dave Weigel’s (seen below) roommate, works at Sticky Fingers Bakery in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC Friday, March 4, 2011.
Brian Beutler is part of a friend group comprised of increasingly influential DC political journalists and bloggers.

These are some photos from a super fun assignment I got from New York Times Fashion & Style editor Beth Bristow a little over a month ago. Here’s the article.

For the last year I’ve been making a concerted effort to produce images that I think are more INTRIGUING rather than explanatory.

My photo ego aside, I’ve found that the most effective published images are the ones that suck the reader into reading the article. …how many of you just said “duh?”

Lets be honest, paragraphs all look the same, right?.

…and so, photos operate like SUPER HEADLINES!

So while shooting and editing I try to make decisions based on how interesting the image will look IN THE NEWSPAPER. …or the magazine, or the website, or whatever the context.

The way I see it, literal photos — often the ones the word people love to choose — do a disservice to the readers AND to the writers. Seriously, how many times have you glazed over an article because the photo is boring?

But at the same time, you can’t just make crazy photos that don’t make any sense, they need to be grounded in the story’s context.

So, when I got this assignment I started realizing that I can tell a lot more about these writers’ personalities through their surroundings. — using the character of place (another theme I’ve been into these days).

Take Dave Weigel and Brian Beutler’s apartment, for instance. They live in, what I think can best be described as a bachelor pad. — yet, they’re increasingly influential  DC political pundits.

This crossroad of their lives — their nerdy (in a good way) lifestyle, intertwined with their rather serious life as young political wonks — is, I think, beautifully summarized by their home.

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Is this an “amazing” photo of Dave Weigel? No. but in the context of the New York Times, under the right headline, I think this image would absolutely make people curious about the article.

I really trying to metaphorically show Dave Weigel’s big-deal job by having him strike a “stately” pose, while surrounded by the super-telling “dude” artifacts of his home-life.

I think it gives a humorous inside view into what kind of people Dave and Brian are. They’re super smart dudes. …and totally nerdy.

Dave, as an example of his nerdiness, often has a stack of graphic novels next to him (below) as a source of diversion and literary inspiration. Once he realizes his political writing becomes too boring, he likes to pick up something intrinsically interesting to get his word juices flowing.

…is the phrase “word juices flowing” kinda gross to anyone else? I’m gonna keep it in.

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CAPTION: Staff writer for Slate and political commentator for MSNBC Dave Weigel, 29, writes a book review for his personal blog in the dining room of the DC apartment he shares with fellow young DC political pundit Brian Beutler. Weigel and Beutler live like stereotypical bachelors. In their living room comic books and collectable hardcovers decorate the shelves, a RockBand video game drum set hovers below Weigel’s flat screen TV, and their couches and chairs look like carryovers from a college apartment.

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To contrast Dave and Brian, there’s Ezra Klein: arguably the “star” of the group.

I got to hang out with him at the Washington Post. Some of the best photos from his shoot is of him at his cubicle. — which I didn’t expect at all.

And then there’s poor Matt Yglesias… His shoot yielded some of my favorite images from the project. …unfortunately none of them made it to print. Space is finite, I guess.

And can we congratulate him on dropping a ton of weight? When I did some research on him before the shoot, all the photos of him showed him like 40 lbs heavier. He looks great!

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CAPTION: Several months ago Washington DC political blogger with the Center for American Progress Matt Yglesias read that sitting at work all day is unhealthy. So now he does most of his writing atop a stack of books.

…so, below are some of the more interesting photos from my shoots. Some are obvious outtakes, like the one of Matt Yglesias below, but I still thing they’re interesting and, more important, somewhat telling of their personalities.

I had a really great time hanging out with these guys. They’re super nice and really accommodating.

As alwasy, thanks for reading and looking.

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at Dave and Brian’s house. awesome!

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and if, for some reason, you’re hungry for even more images here’s the gallery collection of extended outtakes.

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