What makes a great photograph?
For photographer George Lange it's more about what you feel than what you see. Instead of flat reflections of his subjects, George uses his talent as a photographer to give viewers a glimpse at who the person is and hopefully illicit an guttural emotional response.
Perhaps this is why he and favored subject Glenn Beck can be political opposites, yet share an "insane creative energy" connecting through the camera's lens.
Before he became the artistic genius behind Glenn's amalgamation of portraits and caricatures, George Lange was a liberal Pittsburgher who had grown into a successful career photographing various celebrities, corporate ad campaigns and politicians -- however Republicans, he says, were off-limits.
"My job is to glorify people," George says. "I can't glorify Republicans; I couldn't sleep at night."
So how did George get mixed up with the likes of Glenn? It's a "completely ridiculous" story, he recalls.
When George snapped his first photo of Glenn, it was for an ad campaign that would advertise Beck's CNN program. At the time, George admits he didn't know much about Glenn, but tried to focus photographing him as a person rather than a political figure. Simon & Schuster later approached him to shoot the cover of Beck's "Inconvenient Book."
"'I hate California,'" George remembers Glenn saying during one brainstorming session. From this benign declaration came the cover art for Beck's bestselling book:
Despite having a successful cover and a fun shoot, George decided it would be the last work he'd do for the controversial radio host. "I can't be in the business of glorifying Glenn Beck," he thought.
When the publisher later reached out to him to capture Glenn the Book Czar for "Arguing with Idiots," George turned down their offer. "I really like Glenn as a person, but the public persona was really troubling for me," he says, noting Beck's notoriety in liberal circles. But when the Beck team continued to pursue him, George relented and snapped another bestselling cover shot:
After the "Arguing With Idiots" photo shoot, "we were bonded," George says, "and we were on our way."
"I've had to come to terms with what I'm doing and who Glenn is," he adds. "In that process we've developed a great friendship. It's kind of crazy -- we're really good friends and have a very special relationship."
Politics aside, the photographer and his subject discovered they had much in common, including sharing experiences in parenting. Last fall when George and his wife welcomed a baby into the world, he says the first congratulatory flowers to arrive were from Glenn and his wife, Tania. "He's amazingly loyal and supportive, a great friend," George says.
In addition, Glenn can count on George's unfettered opinion as an outsider looking in.
"George has taught me a lot about being a better man, he keeps me in check," Glenn says. "George inspires me, we push each other creatively."
Glenn and George's earnest friendship spills over into their professional relationship as well. "I don't hold back with him," George says of offering Glenn his personal and professional opinions. "He's been incredibly generous. He believes in supporting creativity and supporting artists... No one has respected me as an artist like Glenn."
Showing the World a Different Side of Beck
He's wrapped Glenn in police tape, smooshed him against glass, covered his face in clown makeup and even snapped his picture under water. Whether they're shooting in a well-lit studio or in a dark desert, George enjoys freedom in his partnership with Glenn to push the creative envelope. "I've learned so much in a world I always kind of looked at like who are these crazy people?"
"I trust you to tell you my story," Glenn told George at the start of their professional relationship. In turn, George was given free access to Glenn and his world.
"There are no closed doors, no place I can't walk in," George says. "Glenn has given me carte blanche in his world."
In return, George has worked to create a library of images that give people a better idea of who Glenn Beck really is. Included in this portfolio of work have been some "incredibly intimate moments," George says, including snapping personal shots of Glenn and Tania celebrating their wedding anniversary in Rome.
"My job is to show what makes someone special and interesting," he says. "I've shown this to liberal audiences and they generally come to the work with a bad impression of Glenn but leave with a much more open, flushed-out opinion."
In the future, George hopes to expand his portfolio to include more shots of Glenn's "beautiful, empathetic and generous" audience. "Their story hasn't been told," he says.
On 8/28, George captured memorable images of Americans who descended on Washington, D.C. to restore honor. In Wilmington, Ohio, George says he was "so proud" to be part of a movement working to highlight people making such a positive difference in their community.
"I really want Glenn's audience to see the work up on my website. It's really becoming kind of a bigger story. I just know they'd appreciate it so much," he says.
With Glenn's announced departure from his 5 p.m. Fox News program, George hopes he will have more time to do w hat "he does best -- helping people who are hurting, being generous and telling their story." And wherever Glenn is, you can be sure George will be close behind, camera at the ready.
Snapping candid images of Glenn Beck is only a small part of George Lange's professional portfolio.
His passion for immortalizing memories has also unleashed his inner-entrepreneur. In a newly developed iPad application, the veteran photog hopes to share this passion with others.
"Rather than organizing images by chronology, event or subject, I organize them by concepts and ideas -- ideas that would help me organize them more emotionally than visually," he says.
Instead of capturing his own kids' birthdays on film, George hopes to use this unique organization technique to emotionally link such milestones. In turn, he hopes the pictures he leaves behind will not remind his children of the particular day or event, but of how much he loved them.
"We're all carrying these incredibly sophisticated devices in our pocket and using them to document our family, birthdays, everything going on," George says. "There's an emotional part of our experience that gets lost in the way people are taking them and archiving them. This iPad app is the first stage in helping you think about your pictures by emotions rather than events."
Beyond technological advancements, George is also working on an accompanying book that will expand on his photographic philosophy. "His photos are the most honest today, but his real talent is writing," Glenn says. "I will sometimes get an email from George at 2 a.m. after a long trip he has taken, or after a walk with his son; they are poetry. I don't save many emails. I save everyone of his."
"I like to think of pictures as kisses," George says. "When you kiss someone, you never want to kiss them the same way. Most people kiss with their eyes closed to feel it. There's something about that feeling of kissing or hugging and I want my pictures to have that."
From a young 5-year-old with a camera to a professional artist with a portfolio overflowing with iconic creativity, George Lange never imagined he'd be working with someone like Glenn Beck, but as a member of the Mercury Radio Arts extended family, his photos have been indispensable in helping connect Glenn and his audience.
"I am trying to convince him to write a book about my fans. He understands them, he sees in them what I do," Glenn says. "I believe he will tell you that they are consistently the most nice, kind and embracing people in the world."
But above all else, George's friendship may be the most invaluable asset.
"George is one of the most honest men I know -- honest in his life and his work," Glenn adds. "While we don't agree on politics, I believe we are an example of how America used to be. We talk, disagree, learn from each other and in the end are better friends."