Bill Gates for Fast Company

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The phone call- whoa.  Could I possibly fly to Austin, TX last-minute to photograph Bill Gates?  It’s the start of SXSW, so there are no affordable hotels and flights are insanely expensive, but is this do-able?  Oh yeah.  It’s doable.  And I did it.  I even re-arranged 3 conflicting shoots to make this one happen.  How often does  one get the opportunity to photograph someone like this?  Tech politics aside, he revolutionized computing and then poured his vast wealth into global philanthropic efforts, the results of which are likely to have their own impact on human history.  I mean, I guess I’m in a line of work where I meet and photograph world-changers all the time, but Gates is kinda next-level.  Bill GatesThe first part of the shoot involved getting awesome shots of him delivering a keynote address at the educational portion of SXSW.  Bill GatesI like to shoot people at podiums in the moments between words, but I’ll be damned if this man does not pause AT ALL.  Seriously.  There is no downtime between words, clauses, sentences, paragraphs.  He is a word-talkin’ machine.  The only time I got him not talking was when he was interviewing guest speakers post-keynote. BillGates_06The second portion of the shoot was an interview with a Fast Company writer at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin.  I showed up about two hours early to scope out our room.  I was told that Gates does not like flash photography and I wouldn’t do that during an interview anyway.  I figured I’d just have him sit by a window and, you know,  problem solved.  I had a freaking heart attack when I found the room.  No windows to the outside.  Dark.  Yellow.  OH GOD NO.  (The above photo shows what this room is like without any light mods.)Bill GatesSo with plenty of time to spare, I solved my problems by enlisting the help of AV department of the fancy hotel and getting a big-ass LED panel to shine on my esteemed subject.  I placed him in a corner with some architectural interest (I was told bold, graphic lines, foreground elements, color!) and I got to work making it happen.Bill GatesBill GatesWe knew going in that there might not be time for portraits at all- that I was going to be lucky to get any one-on-one time at all.  Thankfully, Mr. Gates obliged me after the interview.  Thanks to Billy G. for taking some time, to my favorite folks at Fast Company for trusting me with this one, to my friends who let me sleep on their couches because the cheapest hotel was $500/night, to the Driskill Hotel for hooking it up, and to Austin for being an awesome and delicious city.