You think managing a professional photography business is a time-consuming challenge? Well, consider the dilemma that faces Brian Bannister, a sports and beauty shooter who, along with managing his own photography career also owns and operates Loft 19 Studios, a deluxe 9,000-square-foot studio complex in Phoenix, Arizona, catering to some of the country’s top photographers.
Oh, and Bannister also happens to be a Major League Baseball pitcher who, up until a hamstring injury sidelined him in April, was in the starting rotation for the New York Mets with a 2-0 record and a 2.89 ERA.
“I’ve had to juggle to fit both into my life, but it’s doable,” says Bannister, from a hotel room in Florida where he was rehabbing in late April. As Studio Photography went to press, Bannister was still undergoing rehabilitation, hoping to be back with the Mets by mid-July.
In the mean time, it’s full steam ahead at Loft 19 with about five major shoots scheduled there per month.
While balancing both careers would seem an impossible task, considering that Bannister’s studio is in Phoenix and he’s usually in New York with the Mets—with half his time spent traveling to road games—Bannister is, mercifully, not running Loft 19 Studios alone. Pinch-hitting for him while he’s away from Arizona is his dad, Floyd Bannister.
If you follow Major League Baseball, maybe you’ve heard of Floyd Bannister before. Floyd led the American League in strikeouts as a 1982 All-Star and pitched for the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, California Angels, and Texas Rangers during a 15-year career.
And since Floyd raised Brian on baseball, the son’s returning the favor by sharing his knowledge of photography. Floyd now works for Brian as Loft 19’s studio manager.
“My father’s retired, but he loves being involved. I’ve trained him in all aspects of running a studio. Clients contact him directly,” he says. “He knows as much about running the studio as I do.”
As for Bannister’s contact with clients—especially when it would seem to require being in two places at once—it’s largely done through telecommunications, i.e., cell phone, Treo, and email. Because of this, the studio is run completely from cell phones. When clients try to reach Bannister, there’s a chance that phone will ring in the locker room at Shea Stadium in New York after a game. “They can reach us 24 hours a day if they need to,” he says.
Make no mistake. The 25-year-old Bannister takes making the right pitches and taking the best pictures very seriously. Though he’s passionate about the two disciplines, he’s practical as well.
“As I’ve established myself as a photographer and studio owner, I’ve had to make sure that it’s not taking away from my work on the field and vice versa,” he says. “But as for photography as a whole, I consider it to be my future profession after baseball.”
Field of Dreams
Loft 19 is as impressive as some of Bannister’s best fastballs. The complex is split into two studios: one 7,000-square-foot space with an attached 3,000-square-foot outdoor backlot shooting area; and a 2,000-square-foot studio, also with a backlot.
Both studios are packed with the sorts of amenities you’d expect at top studios in Los Angeles and New York. Awaiting his rental studio clientele are a cyclorama (30’ wide x 25’ deep x 20’ high); freight access through massive 12’ tall x 10’ wide doors; a 1,200 square-foot viewing and entertainment loft; 600 amp 3-phase power (indoor and outdoor); private dressing rooms and a conference room; vanity mirrors with hydraulic styling chairs; a separate client office; an art gallery; and various lounge areas.
Between shoots, clients and models can avail themselves of satellite television on a 51-inch High Definition TV set or listen to Howard Stern and catch up on sports scores on Sirius Satellite radio. There’s also high-speed wireless Internet access, a professional kitchenfor cooking and catering, a Sony Play Station 2 video game system, and a DVD player.