TOP: May 2013 cover of Boston Magazine. BOTTOM: Basket weave shoot
for Marie Claire magazine.
shots himself, so there’s no room for hubris from the stylist. It helps that
Caponetto loves Feinberg’s arrangements.
“I love that I like his styling,” she explains, “because I’ve worked with
photographers who do their own styling, I’ve had to bring the props, and I
don’t like their styling at all. So I don’t work with them anymore.”
Once Feinberg has put the shot together, they both evaluate it. “Then it’s a
give and take as to what’s working what’s not,” Feinberg explains.
Caponetto can spend dozens of hours preparing props for a shoot, but
on a Feinberg shoot, everyone needs to be able to adapt on set. On a recent
accessories shoot for Marie Claire, Caponetto had spent a week weaving
patterns to fit the accessories, but when Feinberg set up the first shot, it was
clear that everything was too neat. So he asked her to undo the weave she
had spent hours working on. “And I wasn’t screaming in the background!”
“She understood what was happening,” Feinberg says. “You have everything
going in a good direction, everyone is growing together, and then you have
spontaneity…things that are different to look at.”
“It didn’t work,” Caponetto admits, “and it doesn’t matter how much time
you put into it, if Mitch doesn’t like it, it goes in the garbage, and we find
a remedy. There’s mutual respect, so that it doesn’t hurt either one of our
Beyond their technical skill, the pair’s compatible dispositions make
collaboration easy. Caponetto’s bubbly personality complements Feinberg’s
fastidiousness in the studio. He likes to have the smallest team on set that
he can get away with, and having someone as versatile as Caponetto—who
can fabricate models and design sets in addition to styling props—on set is
invaluable. Feinberg finds it helpful to be giving directions to the person who is
doing the physical work.
“I often find that people either bring energy to a room or they take it away,”
Feinberg says. “I like having a lot of good energy and good vibes in a space.
Personality is very important to me.”
Collaborators on a photo shoot often speak in references, and if they’ve
worked together long enough, their own vernacular or shorthand. But
Caponetto and Feinberg take it a step further—sometimes they understand
the other better than they understand themselves. When Feinberg has trouble
explaining what he’s looking for, Caponetto can easily parse his intentions.
“When I’m not sure what I’m saying, it’s a translation,” Feinberg says. “I
have an idea, but I’m not quite clear what my idea is, and then she says ‘Oh,
what you really mean is…’”
Of all the work the two have made together, Caponetto’s favorite is probably
the weaving story for Marie Claire. She pitched him the idea when they first
met, but it would be more than 18 months before it would come to fruition.
Initially elated that he had remembered her pitch, she would soon come to
realize just how monumental a task all the weaving was. She pulled several
overnights to be able to show up on set with everything completed.
“No matter what, I have to show up at 9 a.m. with it correct,” Caponetto
says. “But it was worth it for me, because you never see that in an editorial.”
But it was the cover they shot for Boston magazine, in the wake of the
Boston Marathon bombing, that is arguably their most emotive work. Brian
Struble, the magazine’s design director at the time, conceived the shot of
marathon runners’ shoes arranged as a heart, and drove 150 pairs of shoes from
Boston to the studio in Manhattan. With an impending print deadline and only
one day to do everything, everyone—Feinberg, Caponetto, retoucher Shin Ono,
Feinberg’s assistant—was on the floor, laying out sneakers. Everything was
flight-checked, retouched and out the door by midnight. The resulting shot
became one of the most iconic magazine covers of 2013.
“Still life is generally not time sensitive,” Feinberg says. “The photograph
that you made last year, you could make this year. That one was a very moving
shoot for us. It’s the kind of thing that’s rare in still life…an opportunity to
make a photograph that can’t be repeated.” —MATTHEW ISMAEL RUIZ