Business / Culture

Local studio hosts marquee talent

Courtesy of LightBox-NY

Beyonce and a dance team perform the music video Countdown at LightBox-NY’s studio in 2011.

Beyonce, Lady Gaga among music stars who have shot photos and video at LightBox-NY

It’s a chilly March morning on the peninsula, the kind of day when each breath condenses in the bright morning sun. Old man winter has not yet let go of his grip on the season. But a few floors above Garrison Avenue, summer has already arrived.

Sunshine streams through the large warehouse windows. A woman leans against the windows wearing a white and blue checkered sundress with a skinny pink belt on her waist, light brown canvas wedge heels on her feet. Her brown hair is set in a carefree up-do summer style.

On this day, LightBox-NY, a 10,000-square-foot photography and film studio in the BankNote building, is the summer setting for the cover photo of the Lucky magazine May issue. Three stylists swarm the woman, primping her hair with a brush and a cloud of hairspray, applying a light powder to her cheeks and nose, and smoothing out a few wrinkles on the dress and meticulously adjusting the fabric. They quickly disperse and the photographer moves in to capture the summer scene.

New York City has always been a backdrop for photographers, filmmakers and artists, but often the Bronx plays just a supporting role compared to the Manhattan skyline. But since 2007, when LightBox-NY quietly opened, streams of celebrities have come through the neighborhood for photo shoots, including Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga and Christy Turlington.

The studio served as the location for Beyonce’s 2011 music video – Countdown – and has hosted numerous high fashion photo shoots for magazines including Vogue, InStyle and Harper’s Bazaar, just to name a few.

“The natural light in here is hard to beat in New York City,” said David Appelson, who owns and operates the space. “Everyone is always surprised that this space exists in the Bronx. We have people from all over the world that come here.”

There is typically a shoot taking place every week, with natural light flooding through the large industrial windows and skylights unobstructed by skyscrapers. LightBox-NY boasts numerous amenities that are difficult to find in Manhattan: an ample parking lot, large freight elevators, roof access, lower expenses, and one especially prized commodity: quiet. It’s a win-win for Appelson and clients.

“I absolutely love the quietness of the neighborhood and the easy access of the studio compared to the studios in Manhattan,” said Katie Waterman, a makeup artist with the Utopia agency in Manhattan that shoots for national and international magazines.

“If all studios were as sunlit and airy as LightBox-NY, I would have less equipment set-up time for a photo shoot,” said freelance photographer Will Davidson.

Appelson, who wanted to make a business out of his hobby of photography, bought the space within 10 minutes after seeing it. Today, LightBox-NY remains as the only original art space business that entered the BankNote building when the building reopened fully renovated in 2007.

“My goal is to bring a bit of glamour to the borough,” said Appelson.

But the glamour likes to stay under the radar. One reason the studio has been so popular with celebrities is the lack of gawkers that typically crowd the Manhattan studio locations. LightBox-NY is only one of two studios in the Bronx, and quite possibly the best kept secret in the studio business.

Samantha Duran, production coordinator with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, said that her office gets calls regularly for the space.

“The brilliant, natural light at LightBox-NY is unsurpassed, and despite being located in the Bronx, it’s very accessible from the Bruckner Expressway and the subway,” said Carl Bellavia, an independent photographer and location scout in Manhattan.

Appelson hopes to expand into leasing the space for parties and special events. He says the space transforms beautifully into a moonlit room set with elegant table settings and center pieces illuminated with candles. He can even make a winter day warm again.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply