The Men Behind the Myths

This is part of my Forever Grateful project.
As I was selling my home and placing my business on hiatus for a period of time, I took portraits of about 30 people who influenced my career over the past 12 years. This was my way of saying “Thanks” and letting everyone know that I couldn’t have done it without their support.

Sam & Ken,

I heard about the your workshop at Sam Christensen Imaging Studios from a plethora of friends when I first moved to LA. They all were excited to share their SCI “Essence Statements” and “Myths” which always seemed to hit the nail on the head and gave them a better understanding of who they were and how they could market themselves. I should have signed up for classes right away, but I had the mentality of a “broke actor” when I moved to L.A. and did little to invest financially in that career.

After shooting a couple of actors who went through your classes, I had a better idea of the importance and value of your services. You gave people a clear and concise vision of who they are and how others perceive them. When I finally signed up, I thought I was taking your class to help my acting career, but I found you helped me become a better photographer instead… which was a good thing, because I quit acting shortly thereafter.

I watched as you set-up an environment that really let your students be themselves. You asked questions, not about their goals or acting careers, but about random topics that would help them get out of their heads and allow their true essence to shine through.

Since I took on a lot of clients who hadn’t gone through your classes, I gave everyone who I shot with a lot of prep work, which became my mini-Sam-Christensen-workshop (however bastardized it was). I would ask clients to ask their friends and family for adjectives that they would use to describe them. Then I would ask questions during the shoot to distract people from the camera and allow them to fully engage in conversations that would bring about their essences in a similar way.

Many of the agents who referred me clients did so because they said that I got “Real” expressions out of them. I had one agent in particular who had a lot of models as clients. He would send them to a fashion photographer to get that beauty shot and then to me to get their personality shots. I really believe your classes made that my strength.

Also, the essence statements I received at the end of your workshop helped me immensely in my marketing. Instead of trying to pretend to be a slick professional “Hollywood” photographer, I let people know that I was sarcastic, mischievous, and playful. From the photos I picked for my portfolio, to the way I described my process and myself, the essence statements you gave me were influential in my decisions. And down the road, when I felt my work was suffering and not living up to my standards, I would often go back to my essences and see that I was trying to be something I’m not and wasn’t aligned with the core of who I am.

You two are masters at what you do and I cannot express how much you have helped me on my journey.

Forever grateful,


The Story Behind the Shoot:

Sam & Ken’s lives are dedicated to showing people their essence. I wanted a shot of them holding up a mirror with their own reflections in it. I know I could have simply done this in Photoshop, but I wanted it to be an authentic shot since that’s the big part of their imaging workshop.

photo by Blake Gardner Photography
Sam Christensen & Ken Cortland – photo by Blake Gardner Photography

I searched high and low for a 2-way mirror to shoot through. I tried making one with a 2-way mirror decal from home depot with poor results. Then found an interrogation set that I could rent for a measly $1,500/day… um… no thanks. Finally, I found a bookstore in Burbank called Dark Delicacies. They had a 2-Way security mirror in the back and were kind enough to let me come in and setup a light and backdrop for our photo shoot before the store opened one morning.

Sam Christensen, Ken Cortland, & Blake Gardner - photo by Blake Gardner Photography
Sam Christensen, Ken Cortland, & Blake Gardner – photo by Blake Gardner Photography

And for those who are wondering, my Sam Christensen essence statements are:

– For me, pranks are just foreplay.

– The boundless gratitude of the rescued stray.

– I got news for you– boys get handed what men have to work for.

– Bet you didn’t think I knew that!

– Caught you! Now show me your thingy.

– I can steal anything, including your heart.

– There’s so much to cry about, I decided to laugh.

Shot on a Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70mm lens

You can read more from my Forever Grateful project HERE.

3 thoughts on “The Men Behind the Myths

  1. This is beautiful language you speak about Sam and Ken. Two divine souls helping us wayward actors navigate to our true destination.The real Ourselves. The way we were created to be.

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