July 21, 2010 49

David Blaine For Esquire

By in


“It’s not going to work!” Thats the first thing David Blaine said to me when he walked into the studio. After explaining our plan and showing him how prepared we were, he then proclaimed that it would take 5 tries to get it right. Let’s just say that David has a “strong personality” and I had to use every trick in the photographic Jujitsu playbook to make it through the day. It’s incredibly physically demanding to hang upside down and I do have to give it to David for delivering a command performance. He did end up inverting 5 times but we actually got the winning shot on the 3rd time upside down. The whole team did a great job, including photo editor Alison Unterreiner, set builder Jesse Nemeth and you can see stylist Wendell T Brown in the BTS photo below. Of course the shoot wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Michael Norseng’s brilliant concept! After the shoot David gathered the crew around and performed some of the most amazing card tricks I have ever seen. Literally cards disappeared right in front of my eyes. That was some serious Magic!


49 Responses to “David Blaine For Esquire”

  1. ernie says:

    i was wondering how you did that….

  2. eugenio says:

    magician lavine!

  3. […] Michael Lavine (who has an incredible portfolio) has posted some interesting commentary about a recent pic of David Blaine for Esquire […]

  4. Frank says:

    Penn & Teller did this act many many years ago on TV, I think it was live on SNL. Nothing new or groundbreaking here, sorry!

  5. Austin Joffe says:

    Very cool! the “behind the scenes” shot is equally amazing!

  6. Donaldson says:

    Penn and Teller did it first.


    David Blaine is a whiner.

  7. jim says:

    Was cool when Penn & Teller did it 20 years ago too.

  8. mdk says:

    Man, that takes me back to the first time I saw Penn and Teller go upside down on SNL. In the 80’s. Live.

  9. Canudig says:

    Cool photo. Nice recreation of the Penn & Teller trick on SNL in the mid-80s.

  10. Goth Bunnyy says:

    You know Penn and Teller did this on SNL like 10 years ago, right?
    Are we Live?

  11. Wayne says:

    Penn and Teller did this better in ’89.

  12. Trav says:

    Penn & Teller have done variations on this bit many times over the last 20 years. I guess people have short memories.

  13. klank says:

    Please. Penn and Teller did this years ago.

  14. Ryan L says:

    Wow it’s soooo amazing that Blaine was able to come up with something Penn and Teller did decades ago. Kudos to you!


  15. mfusion says:

    penn and teller did this live on saturday night live years ago.

    nothing new to see here, move along.

  16. Ryan L says:

    Penn and Teller did this decades ago on SNL. Not impressed.

  17. dwil says:

    Someone should mention Penn & Teller.

  18. Rev. Bob says:

    That looks familiar somehow…

    Oh, here we go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0RlDV2yl9Y#t=02m30s

  19. British Guy says:

    This has been done SOOOOOOOO many times by comedy acts. Penn & Teller have done this and so have HUNDREDS of other comedians.

    David Blain is FAR from original. The guy is a no talent hack.

  20. Lelio says:

    That is a pretty fun picture. Too bad Penn & Teller did it first and better.

  21. I did this bit 20 years when my name was Penn & Teller.

  22. Gman says:

    When David blaine did it it was physically challenging. When Penn&Teller did it 20 years ago they not only made it look easy but made it extremely funny. Somebody should give David Blaine a hamburger. Card tricks – puhlease !

  23. peter advantagious says:

    yeah , penn and teller did this first. and the photo sucks! you can tell he’s upside down just by the way his clothes are hanging off of him. god david blaine sucks, do something original instead of stealing someone else’s bit: and not standing in an ice cube or on top of a really tall pedestal, how about david blaine actually doing magic as a spectacle, not things that leave him as the butt of jokes. penn and teller he ain’t.

  24. Trogdor says:

    Did people here forget to mention that Penn and Teller did this trick live on SNL years ago?

  25. VibroCount says:

    In 1962, Ernie Kovacs did a 30 minutes version of the various Eugene skits he had done for years. If you go to the 6 minute mark in this video, you can see a classic version of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtq-DRvKEKI

    Even Penn & Teller acknowledge their debt to Mr. Kovacs.

  26. Should have said “Michael Norsing’s brilliant theft!” I’ll agree with all the other posts. RIP OFF!!! Penn & Teller did it better, on a live TV show! And poor whiny Blaine had to hang upside down for a photo shoot! Aw, poor baby! He’s such an endurance artist! To quote a Penn & Teller TV show, BULLSHIT!

  27. Maybe he was so tuckered out because it’s obvious he’s put on some weight. Out of shape, are ya? I understand. If you want to see brilliant concepts check with P&T, not David Blaine. Oh, and by the way, you do understand that these are tricks? No cards ‘literally’ disappeared because of Blaine or anybody else.

  28. […] fotógrafo Michael Lavine ha realizado algunos comentarios interesantes acerca de una reciente imagen de David Blaine para la revista […]

  29. Mr X Indeed says:

    Ripping off a 25 year old Penn & Teller gag, huh? Come on, you’re supposed to be better than that, David.

  30. Jo Madge says:

    Now do it with a partner, live. And be funny.

    “Are we live?”


  31. Claude3rd says:

    There’s even a kid and his dad who made a video of this trick on YouTube.

  32. cody m says:

    How does the glass just hang there…magnets?

  33. Amy says:

    What they said!

  34. Lemuel says:

    I’d say Penn and Teller’s brilliant concept rather than Michael Norseng’s.

  35. Keath Cole says:


  36. SteveK says:

    Doesn’t anyone read the comments or do they feel they are still adding something by being the 12th person to mention the Penn and Teller did this on SNL in 1989? We get it, the first time would have been enough. So it isn’t exactly original, but it is still a great shot; and an interesting story and behind the scenes shot that makes you think about how easily our perceptions are altered.

  37. Molly Black says:

    And I will join the multitude saying “new idea?!?” How about over 20 years ago. With P & T still going strong, that takes major chutzpah!

  38. stickleprick says:

    I think someone else may have done this, but I’m not sure why I fee loke that.

  39. Tom Vanguard says:

    So lame. Pann & Teller did this when Blaine was in preschool.

  40. The Almighty Pan says:

    So is David Blaine turning in to the Carlos Mencia of magic? Sad. Really sad Mr. Blaine…

  41. Cyan says:

    I like the Penn & Teller version better.

  42. Sugar Lumps says:

    Great idea, Penn & Teller!

  43. debunker says:

    Jeez – have a sense of history, how could you post such a lame knockoff.

  44. Austin Joffe says:

    Penn and Teller didn’t have a bad ass portrait taken of them.

  45. K Kennedy says:

    The image is a show-stopper in the magazine. I could tell by the blood rushing to his head and the way his sleeves are hanging that this was the real deal and not Photoshop. Love, love, love that you captured this in frame and not in post. And that’s really saying something today. Bravo.

  46. I would like to point out to everyone here the context in which this image was made. In the new digital age of photography we are the magicians. With the wave of my magic wand I could of easily turned that water upside down and faked the whole thing. But it’s much more fun to really actually perform the act of hanging upside down and make the water look like its pouring up. And we wanted it to look ambiguous, like he might actually doing it or maybe not. This image was shot for the “Impossible” Issue of Esquire. Esquire has a long history of using “classic” portraiture and this was our take on turning a classic portrait and literally turning it on its head. If you think this has anything at all to do with Penn and Teller then you are mistaken, you have your Penns mixed up. Think Irving Penn.

  47. laurie says:

    wow, these guys all have a hard on for penn and teller, eh? who cares if it’s been done before, its such a great photo!!

  48. Austin says:

    When you guys are shooting for Esquire, THEN you guys can determine weather or not the photo is bad. I don’t think it’s a rip off at all.. It’s simply using gravity to achieve an effect. there’s really no other way to do it (at a professional level). Had Michael used photoshop, I have a feeling all you would hear is “Why didn’t you just hang him upside down like Penn and Teller did?!”

    If I hung David Blaine upside down in my studio, I would also blog about it.. And if I photographed someone doing a roundhouse kick, I would hope I wasn’t heckled because Chuck Norris once did it.

  49. Penn and teller FTW says:

    Sorry but Penn and teller will always be the best

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