What do you get when you cross a roller derby girl, an indie pro-wrestling heavyweight champion, a hard rocker, banjo player, rapper, five microbrewery owners and brewmasters, and a hula hoop?

I don’t know, but it sounds like a hell of a time.

We recently wrapped up an intensely fun project for KDHX Community Radio, the results of which are getting a little press and recognition around town, due mostly to the fact that said results are a series of six billboards sprinkled strategically along St. Louis highways. The other reason they’re getting attention, I think, is because this project was that rare and perfect trifecta of adventurous client + excellent design + creative concept. You need all three, but you never have all three. Almost never.

Press and recognition, part one: Riverfront Times piece about the billboards – here.

Press and recognition, part two: Write-up on the St. Louis Egotist (yessss) – here.

The ads are an extension of KDHX’s capital campaign, aimed specifically¬†at funding (through donations, hint hint) the station’s impending move to its new home in Grand Center. Branding firm Almanac (with whom yours truly shares a downtown headquarters and many a beer) developed the initial campaign¬†a couple years ago, and the new outdoor signage is the most recent, and public, stage of that effort. Check out the “_______, for KDHX” website (it’s red!) – here. Which is also the place to donate, hint hint again.

What can I say about making these photographs, other than that these are some of the most fun subjects you could hope to have in front of a lens? How about this: The original concept didn’t necessarily involve black + white imagery, but it did have to take place in the studio, and still have impact when clipped out onto a white background. I said, “Oo oo! (jumping, hand in air) How about punchy black + white portraits, where the shadows and edges go black against the white backdrop, which is difficult because usually all that white fills in and flattens everything out?” And Nate (designer, Almanac) said “Ooo, that could be interesting…” And that, friends, is how creative work should work.

If you’re reading about this here rather than somewhere else, you probably want to see some pictures, so let’s get down to bizniss. And for the actual billboards, head over to Almanac’s blog post (here) and scroll to the bottom. Or, you know, read it.

Here are some finals from the shoot (skip to the bottom to see outtakes):

St. Louis rapper Tef Poe

Kirsten O’Laughlin, Arch Rival Roller Girls

Gorgeous Gary Jackson, Midwest Indie Pro-Wrestling Heavyweight Champ

Tom Schlafly, Schlafly Beer

Schlafly brewmaster Stephen Hale, with giant mash fork

Jason Hutto, formerly of the Phonocaptors

Folk musician Ryan Spearman

Kristin Gleich, STL Hoop CLub

And now for the outtakes:

My personal fave from the entire affair.

Photographer experimenting with position of 8-foot mash fork.

Shot of Tef that shows our light tent around the subjects, keeping the shadows nice and inky.

And here, for the photo geeks, a little reveal on just how black I wanted those shadows to be. In other words, total darkness except for the lights on front of subject. No retouching on these two images at all.

Front lights turned off.

One frame later, front lights back on.