EGCR’s production specialist John Hadden sat down with photographer/videographer Daniel Salemi to take a closer look at what we often see but rarely examine; the buildings where our clients spend their working day. In “A Closer Look”, he speaks with Salemi to discuss the recent release of his photography book “Firm”, the architecture of Manhattan’s law firms, and the unique skill set he brings to our clients.
Daniel Salemi is a professional photographer and also a videographer for Ellen Grauer Court Reporting. Daniel brings his eye for detail and his drive for perfection to his role at EGCR where he has worked for the entirety of his videography career.
How long have you been working as a videographer and how long with Ellen Grauer Court Reporting?
I have been a videographer with Ellen Grauer for four years. I wasn’t a videographer before that. I’m a photographer and studied photography in school. One day, I got this call from Dan Macom, head of EGCR’s video department, asking if I wanted to shoot a deposition. At first, I said no because I’m a photographer not a videographer. When he called me again, I realized that I would have access to these law firms that basically nobody else does. And that’s how I got started.
Congratulations on publishing “Firm,” a collection of your own photography – I really enjoyed looking through it. What was your inspiration for this kind of book?
The inspiration came from my childhood. My dad worked in advertising in midtown, Manhattan and had his apartment on 49th and 1st. From the balcony you could see the Citicorp building, which is my favorite building in New York. You’ve got the slanted roof, and if you actually go to the building, the four corners of its base are not there, so it’s like a cross at the bottom of the building. It’s very precarious. When it was first built, it actually wasn’t balanced correctly, so there is a ballast in the basement that swings. The building could have fallen over if there were extremely high winds and an earthquake. This architecture appealed to me from an artistic perspective.
As a photographer, I’d imagine you must have taken photos in many places. Is there something in particular that you like about shooting New York City?
It took me a long time to start photographing in New York. I had lived and studied here for about 13 years, but I didn’t really shoot the city because it was just so chaotic. I had a formal upbringing in photography, and it was difficult to compose something in such chaos. There’s always something that will get in the way, but now I’m just trying to live with the way it’s going to be. Having access to skyscrapers, once you’re that high up, there is a lot less chaos. Everything is still.
Can you speak about the architectural aspect of your compositions, and what you find aesthetically appealing about shooting in law firms?
What I find aesthetically pleasing about conference rooms are the clean lines and empty spaces. I find it interesting that these spaces are, most of the time, unoccupied.
Going back to the beginning part of your question, my inspiration to shoot architecture comes from when I was a child. Coming to the city and seeing the buildings, I was awe-struck and I would try to recreate them in Lego form when I would go home. My favorite part was destroying the buildings [laughs].
Since I was a kid I wanted to be an architect, but I just never quite had the drawing skills so I started taking pictures of architecture instead. It wasn’t planned, I never really thought of being an architectural photographer. Even looking through old family albums, there were random pictures of buildings that were clearly taken by me mixed with pictures of our family. It’s really interesting, I don’t remember taking them.
I noticed that many of the photos in your book are shot in black and white. Is there a particular significance/reason for this approach?
I think it’s a pure way to view architecture. You’re just looking at the film in negative space. The color doesn’t really matter because the color will change throughout the day depending on the light. Most of the buildings aren’t very colorful to begin with, so you can be more creative with black and white.
Would you say that there is a cross-over in terms of the skills required for photography vs. videography ?
I think so. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I hope that comes across in my video work as well. With my background in Fine Art photography, I make sure that the frame is well-composed, the color is correct, and, most importantly, that the audio is clear and precise. Through creative thought process, I am able to make do with the limited amount of available light and maximize the cinematic potential of any room, even in locations that are not ideally lit.
Given that videography is very much a tech-orientated service, is there a particular trend/direction that you foresee for court reporting videography?
I think videography in court reporting will become more immersive with documents and exhibits being shown simultaneously. I would love to see a more fluid interaction between clients and documents. If everyone spent 10 minutes learning the functions of an app, they would ultimately save large amounts of time shuffling documents, cut down costs, and help save the environment.
The tricky part is getting a system like this implemented. I’ve heard countless attorneys, no matter their age or experience, discuss why this isn’t happened yet. I think they are just waiting for it to become ubiquitous before they jump on board.
Daniel Salemi’s photography book “Firm” is available for preview and purchase here: http://www.krisgravesprojects.com/shop/firm
“Firm” is a novel gift for anyone in the legal services industry and makes an original addition to any law firm’s reception areas.