The Duchess !

Just weeks after I left the magazine in January a good friend and former co-worker Morgan Murphy called and asked me if I’d consider shooting ‘a car’ for him. He explained this was a Top-Secret shoot, one that would be embargoed until he was ready to share it with the world. Morgan is a great collector and restorer of classic Cadillacs so I knew it would be a special car. But only after I was sworn to secrecy and agreed to do the shoot would he share the story of the car. 

The car is known as “the Duchess”. It’s a 1941, one-of-a-kind, custom built limousine made for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as England’s King Edward the VIII and Wallis Simpson were known after he abdicated the throne.  “The Duchess,” built in the Harley Earl era, is a fully unique, one-off commission by General Motors’ legendary leader for the cream of 1940s society. It’s ….

  • A one-of-one custom creation, designed for royalty
  • Built under the supervision of Alfred P. Sloan Jr., for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor
  • Dozens of completely bespoke features
  • A New York society mainstay for a decade

You can read it’s amazing story here.

The car will be sold in Manhattan by Sotheby’s in their Art of the Automobile auction November 21st

Morgan tracked this most famous of all Cadillac’s for several years before finding it. Then spent more years convincing the owner to sell it and yet more years and likely too many dollars lovingly giving it the restoration it deserved.  

Once Morgan told me what the car was my immediate concern was my lack of experience in shooting something like this. We talked about what he wanted in the way of images. He needed images for brochures, the web and for the eventual auction where he would sell it. I’m not a studio shooter but this needed to be done in a studio. Morgan had already found a local studio and rented it for the shoot. I agreed to do it figuring I could pull it off somehow.  We visited the studio, Leo Ticheli Productions and met with the great crew there. They were very supportive and suggested which lighting in the studio to include in our day-long shoot. I was fortunate they had a moveable overhead soft box as large as the car. One shot Morgan wanted to recreate was an historic view of the car parked on Fifth Avenue in NY in 1941. The softbox allowed me to recreate that lighting. 

A few weeks later we met early in the morning at the studio and got started. It was a fun long 10 hour shoot. I got my confidence as the day progressed. Leo came in off and on to see how things were going and was a huge help with lighting tips. Others came in out of curiosity, watched and left. Everyone who came in left deeply impressed by the car. And the more I shot the car the more impressed I became too. Morgan thought of so much. He had boxes of jewelry brought in to shoot in the jewelry cabinet in the back seat and pipes for the Dukes humidor. He even had a wonderful model come in to ‘be’ the Duchess. 

It’s been hard not to share the photos for the last eight plus months but Morgan just called and, with the listing in the auction the embargo has ended. He says the Associated Press is coming out with the story today. 

If you have a spare million or two you should head to the auction. You could drive off into history ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage


catching my breath

Going freelance was never my plan. But some things aren’t planned. Now that I am freelance I’m pretty darn happy. It’s hard getting used to the roller coaster of too much to do and then very little and then suddenly busy again after so many years of just busy busy busy. I’ve slept more nights at home this year than in the past three or four and I’m loving it.  And Annie our dog is loving it too. 

I worried about where the work will come from and friends said not to worry, that I’ll do great. I deeply appreciated their confidence but had my own insecurities and doubts. But they have, so far and happily, been correct. The phone has sounded enough to keep me busy. I’ve made good inroads on making a living. Though I’ll always have fears and doubts I also know I’ll be ok. 

I’m especially happy to have had three different magazines use my work on their cover in the last three months. That’s been a very nice kick. Though I can’t expect that all the time I’m going to hope it happens again. 

I have a shoot for a favorite client this Saturday. It’s always good when they call back. Next week I’ll do my third shoot for another client. My work is on their current cover and hope I can get another for them on this shoot. 

I’ve had so much to learn and have learned so much…about creating new kinds of images and photographing things I haven’t, about promotion and about the business. I have done some studio work photographing Christmas packages, an historic car and beautiful hand-made violins. I’ve done a lot location portrait work and active shots of people working in the dark at 5am.

This week I joined Wonderful Machine and hope that exposure will help put my name in front of new clients. I just printed a second portfolio to accompany my main ‘book’. I still need to develop  promotional materials, both print and electronic. And I need to pay my county business taxes and renew my business license. It’s always something. 


Now if the phone would just ring  …