The first of the Spring 2013 Image Source Photographer Workshops kicked off in London, revealing an interesting new direction in commercial photography
From the aesthetic of ‘Truthfulness’ to new visuals around ‘Family’, the London Workshop kicked off on Tuesday. A quick summary of a fascinating day.
Presentations included: Anthony Harris, Image Source’s COO explaining why, despite the disruption of cheap photography, high-end premium photography is a serious market. Ashley Jouhar, the Group Creative Director on the aesthetic of ‘Truthfulness’ in photography and advertising, a look and style with a fascinating visual history and lineage; Liesel Bockl, Art Director at Image Source on trends, style and culture in Asian photography and Siri Vorbeck, Director of Photography on new directions on ‘Family’ imagery.
While Tom Hind, Getty Images Director of Creative Content revealed some top-line insight from ongoing research as to the value of Premium photography to customers.
Copenhagen, Milan, Munich, New York and Los Angeles to come, and there are still a few places left.
As soon as the Workshops are concluded we will go into more depth and analysis of the trends and insights delivered.
From our photographers:
Great workshop with the guys @imagesource lots of new ideas and angles to shoot projects this year! Just need to pull my finger out now…
Blending the present and the past, the real and the ideal, David Bowie and Audrey Hepburn, this week’s 7 Days is about the retouching, colour and propping of Nostalgia.
It was 9 years ago in 2004 that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty kicked off. Shot by British photographer Rankin it celebrated a different female body shape to those in conventional fashion and beauty product advertising. Despite the emergence of the plus-size model and the celebration of actresses like Christina Hendricks in Mad Men, Dove have settled on an idea and issue that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Dove’s provocations around fashion and advertising conventions continued this week with a software program aimed at those “responsible for manipulating our perceptions.” They created a “Beautify” photoshop action and posted it on various websites. Supposedly adding a skin glow effect, it actually returned the photo to its original state.
Meanwhile at the other end of retouching, Mars in the UK have have pushed the image manipulation button to the max with a retro CGI fantasy for their Galaxy bar, where 1950s icon Audrey Hepburn solves her public transport problem by being stylish, elegant and cool, hitching a ride from a hunk driving a convertible.
On the ‘time-travel’ tip, David Bowie’s new promo features a younger version of himself, luxuriating in a suburban sensibility. Time magazine gets in on the wave of Bowie nostalgia because of his forthcoming album and the huge exhibition at the end of March at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Another comeback is an ad for Patak’s Curry. Originally released in 2011 it is still ticking sepia-toned boxes around imagery that is connecting with audiences – a spoonful of nostalgia, a pinch of washed-out colour and a sprinkling of family and tradition. A funky hammond organ and a sitar help in this recreation of the 1960s/1970s.
And finally in a week when advertising imagery is blending the ‘real’ and the manipulated, the present and the past, Sainsbury’s Supermarket in the UK surfs the nostalgia wave this misty-eyed reminiscence of how kids used to play. Dimly-lit images are the keynote signifier for nostalgia. Did everyone play in such poor lighting? Is that why I have spectacles? Thankfully my kids now live in a world of HD and the past, in the future, will look a lot sharper.
How was Photography used to sustain dictators? How has it supported people in fighting for freedom? Power! Photos! Freedom! at Antwerp’s Fotomuseum reveals a hidden history of photography. Curator Joachim Naudts gives us the remarkable background to a compelling exhibition at Antwerp’s Fotomuseum. Naudts reveals the race against time of the Human Rights Watch to preserve the photographic record of a brutal tyranny, and explains how imagery was used by both the state, and by those fighting oppressive regimes in the Middle East
What was the nature of Colonel Gaddafi’s photo archive? Was he a collector/curator of photography?
Joachim Naudts: First of all, I’d like to point out the fact that the archive was not a personal archive of Gaddafi’s, but it’s an archive compiled by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) with images of Gaddafi. Peter Bouckaert (emergency director of HRW) was in Libya during the revolution to secure and document as much valuable information (evidence that could be used in court/The Hague). Together with a few photographers they found lots of photographs inside government buildings, police headquarters or homes/palaces of relatives and loyals to Gaddafi. They did not take those with them (=theft), but re-photographed them to make sure they were kept from ‘looting’ etc. Peter Bouckaert wrote about it extensively, I quote 3 important paragraphs:
“Our project to secure the archives of the Libyan state was a race against time: Libyans were finally able to vent their fury against the police state that Qaddafi had built, and all too often, that fury involved burning down and tearing apart any symbols of the regime — particularly the buildings of the loathed security agencies. We arrived in the eastern city of Benghazi in late February, just days after the Libyan revolution had begun there. Control of eastern Libya had been wrenched from the security services after days of arrests and shootings of demonstrators by Qaddafi’s forces, and we found state buildings all over the city still smoldering, burned to the ground by angry mobs. It was as if somehow, the now-free Libyan people, then still under threat of a military offensive by Qaddafi loyalists to retake eastern Libya, believed that they could somehow hold off Qaddafi’s return by burning down the symbols of his feared police state.
The Human Rights Watch teams didn’t seek to haul off the files we were trying to preserve – those belong to the Libyan people. In any case, the files of a state which had just about all of its citizens under surveillance were just too massive to haul away. We quickly photographed what we thought relevant, and then worked with Libyan lawyers and rebel representatives to impress upon them the importance of securing the archives, as they surely held answers to some of the mysteries from Qaddafi’s 42-year rule. There were so many unsolved mysteries. No one knew what had happened to the bodies of the roughly 1,200 prisoners who were mowed down at the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli in 1996, after they protested their detention conditions, for one. Somewhere in the files, there should be answers.
Unfortunately, two rooms with documents at the prison were already smoldering when we arrived. While our search focused mostly on intelligence documents, we noticed that the archives contained rooms literally filled with photographs and films documenting Qaddafi’s rule. The photographs were of little interest to our Libyan guides, who had been saturated with Qaddafi’s omnipresent image and exploits during his long rule. Unlike with the intelligence documents, which revealed secrets that they had not been privy to, our Libyan friends could not understand why we foreigners found images of Qaddafi, well, being Qaddafi, so fascinating. On a number of occasions, we had to stop of Libyan counterparts from reflexively tearing up any image of Qaddafi that we came across – another popular cleansing ritual in the new Libya.”
How did you get access to the archive and what was the basis of your selection?
Joachim Naudts: The Gaddafi archives are only one part of the entire exhibition. This part is co-curated by the London-based freelance curator Susan Glen. After extensive research (involving lots of interviews with Libyans, both pro and contra the former regime) she provided all the important and relevant historical context. She managed to name most of the people in the photographs. Who is Gaddafi talking to? Where is he? What’s going on What deals are being signed? Who did he trust? Who didn’t? What dates are the photographs made? This part of the exhibition came together after endlessly rearranging the selection in order to be able to make the entire Gaddafi-era visible and understandable through photography. Starting in the late sixties, ending in 2011. HRW was (of course) also extensively involved, mainly through Peter Bouckaert himself.
Is there a specific ‘Dictator’s Aesthetic’, or is there a universal visual language of the ‘Power Portrait’?
Joachim Naudts: I think you’re right that there isn’t really an aesthetic, specifically for Dictators. Power portraits in general use the same ‘style’. The thing that is specific though is the way these images are ‘used’. The omnipresence of an image, not only in official buildings, but also in public space, on the streets, in living rooms, in shops. The massive repetition of that one image, of that one person; that is really unseen, except with dictators. Some important things about this ‘omnipresence’, that are valid for most of the authoritarian countries are: – Only His (the leader) image can be shown in public, no other images are allowed (especially from ‘normal’ people or opposition) – This is a practice that lasted for decades (in Libya for instance over 40 years). The enormous psychological impact can not be underestimated. Omnipresence leads to the idea of somebody that sees everything. The image replaces the gaze of the dictator himself, the image nearly becomes the substitute for the dictator, the substitute for his fear. It’s a kind of ‘Big-Brother is watching’…
How effective a tool of Power is photography? Is it still as relevant?
Joachim Naudts: Depends how you define Power. In the exhibition we focus on two sides of it: the power of the people and how they use photography in that respect, and the power of the regime that also uses photography. Some small examples:
– Mosireen is a civil journalism group of young activists from Cairo. In the exhibition we show 9 videos they made. They filmed on the streets, also battles between protesters and the army. Immediately after filming, they edited the film and set up their own ‘Cinema Tahrir’: a projection screen and a beamer, in the middle of Tahrir Square. With this, they simply tried to convince people to stay on the square. They convinced others with imagery (photo and film). They showed what was going on in other parts of Cairo, other parts of Egypt and in other countries from the Arab World – ‘Uprising of Women in the Arab World’: A Facebook campaign/group that uses photography to get their message (womens rights) out in the world. People made simple portraits of themselves holding a piece of paper with a text, stating why they agreed with the message of the Facebook group. By having a message AND a face, the message comes across much more strong and fast. The portraits make way for an immediate identification. Photography as a tool used by regimes is different: photographs are often staged, portraits need to express power, …
A good example of the psychological side of this, can be found with the Artocracy project. Some info on this: “TheTunisian Artocracy project is a side-track from the more well known Inside Out project by French street artist JR. Six Tunisian photographers (SophiaBaraket and Hela Ammar among others) travelled their country to take pictures of 100 ‘normal’ Tunisians. Portraits were made of men and women, young and old, from all corners of the country, rich and poor, business people, workers, farmers and unemployed. These black and white photographs were subsequently printed in large-format and hung in the streets. The portraits were displayed in strategic places of symbolic importance for the fight against the dictator. ‘Regular’ people in the streets, where previously only portraits of the ruler were shown. Naturally it caused controversy, also with the ‘regular man on the street’.” “HamideddineBouali photographed what was going on the morning of March 18, 2011. In the early morning bystanders have spent long minutes to meticulously remove the pasted portraits of the Inside Out project. Artocracy in Tunisia is an artistic project with intervention by the famous photographer JR. It was a democratic action, both on the side of the photographers that hung giant photos on the Bab Bhar gate, as of those who removed them again. The performance took place and that is the most important thing to remember.”
Can you tell me a little about the Syrian imagery?
Joachim Naudts: We show quite a lot of Syrian imagery. Interesting to note is the comparison between the work of Swiss photographer NicolasRighetti and Syrian photographer Issa Touma: “Swiss photographer Nicolas Righetti documented Bachar al-Assad’s as yet last election campaign in 2007. He combines these photographs with some unmistakable quotes from the Syrian president. Assad got re-elected for a new mandate of seven years. According to official figures, published on Tuesday 29 May 2007, he received 97.62% of the electorate, compared to 97.29% in 2000. Righetti’s photographs put it sharply: colorful, joyful aesthetic contrast with the underlying, sinister political messages.”
“Issa Touma is photographer and founder of Le Pont Organisation in Aleppo, Syria. To the present day both art and photography serve him as a counterweight against the violence in his country. In his photographs the image of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seem to emerge uncritically.” “In the Middle East, we don’t need to leave our homeland in order to be in exile, because we are exiled in several ways. Mostly, it is our inability to live within our essence. We pretend to have a healthy family life, yet there is distance between the members. We also pretend to have a warm social life, yet, in reality, are miles away from each other. We can’t express our points of view clearly; we can’t see them clearly. Trust is almost vanished among people. We claim that we are living in Utopia. The media is very optimistic about everything. One cannot even hear about a car accident in the daily news. It is as if everything bad and harsh only happens outside of our borders.
Politically, I belong to a generation that grew up with one government, one president, and have never tasted democracy in any way. We cannot practice or participate in our own political issues. The only ones concerned are also exiled in their high and fancy towers.” – Issa Touma
And the stills from Imaginary Guillotine?
Joachim Naudts: Joachim Ben Yakoub made a films based on photographs he found on-line. He juxtaposes different image of Tunisian former President Zine Abedine Ben Ali. On one hand he uses images of the ‘regular’ portraits of the president as they hung in the streets, on the other hand he uses image of that same portraits being ‘defaced by the people, demonstrators, …
By doing this he reflects on the way the image replaces the president and the anger of the people is being addressed towards these portraits instead of the president himself: “The photomontage of Joachim Ben Yakoub looks at the role of the portrait of former Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali. Guillotine Imaginaire approaches the decapitation of the portrait as an essential element in the liberating repertoire of the revolutionary movement. Zooming in on the transition between dictatorial and revolutionary mis-en-scène shows a far better understanding of this historical upheaval and the role of the image in this context. Juxtaposing different images that circulated the internet during the revolution, entails a righteous pleasure, but simultaneously warns for the spirit of the dictatorship and its re-embodiment. Unless people in post-revolutionary Tunis get whatthey claimed”.
Power! Photos! Freedom! is running at The Antwerp Fotomusem from the 15th February 2013 to the 9th June 2013. Visit the museum’s website for more details.
Gregory Crewdson, the photographer whose photos look like movie stills, is now the subject of a movie.
Photographer Gregory Crewdson, described as ‘one of America’s greatest living photographers’ is known as much for the epic, Hollywood-size scale of his photoshoots as he is for the disturbing, surreal, mesmerising drama of his imagery. Emmy award-winning cinematographer Ben Shapiro has spent over ten years following Crewdson, the culmination of which has resulted in Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, a documentary exploring both the life-story behind his work, as well as the huge logistical and creative challenges involved in its creation.
In this article, we get the low-down from Shapiro about his impetus for creating the film, what it is like working with Crewdson and how making the film changed his perceptions of his imagery.
1. When did you first become aware of Gregory Crewdson’s work?
I was hired to shoot a short documentary about Crewdson in 2000, though I had seen some of his photographs before then, a series published in the New York Times magazine.
2. As a cinematographer, Crewdson’s work must exert a real fascination?
Its true, I’m interested in lighting in general, though what was most unusual was the combination of daylight and artificial lights and watching the balance of the two fall into place (and then pass away) as the magic hour darkened.
3. How did you keep a narrative, and even your own commitment, together over 10 years? Was it always a long-term project or did it just turn out that way?
It just turned out to be a long term project. I filmed Brief Encounters in bits and pieces in between many other projects (working as documentary cinematographer and producer/director) that form the basis of my working life. I wasn’t sure exactly how the project would end, but then Crewdson decided he was finished with his Beneath the Roses series that is the center of the film–and I knew the story in the film would have a conclusion.
I find on long-term projects, as I keep working I get more and more involved in it – you develop a history and a deeper interest in the subject, so sticking with the story wasn’t a problem. Then at a certain point I had to edit and deal with post-production, and the business of distribution and festivals etc…it can seem kind of endless, but that’s the process of documentary filmmaking really.
4. Would his images make a great movie? (If not why not?)
They might be stills of some great imaginary movie, but they themselves probably wouldn’t work as movies simply because they are conceived of as single moments, not as part of a specific larger story, so there’s no dialogue, action, story arc, etc. Its pretty hard to make a great movie without those things!
5. Was there any ‘magic’ that Crewdson didn’t want revealing in his production process?
Not really. He was very open with me and with everyone who works on the photographs. Its all a process of deliberate, careful work by Crewdson and many others on his team and his crews. Having said that, the source of his ideas for the images is something of a mystery, even to himself, I think – insofar as products of the imagination are always obscure in their origins.
6. Beforehand what did you think you might discover about Crewdson, and his work, and what did you discover?
I wasn’t sure what, beforehand, I thought I would discover – mostly I was curious and impressed by the amazingly elaborate process by which his images are created. What I discovered was a process that he and his team had developed over many years, that articulates his vision on a unique scale and style. Crewdson himself, I found, is friendly, funny, thoughtful, and deeply committed to this process and his vision.
7. Did making the film change how you see the images?
Absolutely, and I think seeing Brief Encounters changes how people see the images, too. I gained a much deeper appreciation for their visual qualities by seeing up-close the process behind them.
8. Which is your favourite Crewdson image and why?
Its really hard to pick a single “favorite” image. I am very struck by the Brief Encounter image the shooting of which is the climax of Brief Encounters the film. The scale is so vast but all the many aspects of the image are so fully considered, I’m always impressed by it.
Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters was released to US audiences in October 2012. It is due to hit cinemas in the UK in spring 2013.
More information can be found at the documentary’s website.
The Martin Agency’s print campaign for Morgan Stanley was one of the most eye-catching campaigns for a bank in recent years. We explore the ad’s creative paradoxes and talk to Creative Director Alon Shoval.
Shot by Nadav Kander, with portraits of Morgan Stanley employees “embodying” the solid virtues of the company, its message, and the campaign as a whole is a noteworthy moment in Business/Banking communications.
The interest is not wholly in the fact the portraits contain images of solid, durable, monuments such as The Golden Gate bridge ,whose longevity and social usefulness stand as a judgement against the kinds of speculative financial ‘products’ which lead to the credit crunch. Investment banks have often visualized what they do in terms of ‘building’ things, this 1970s ad for Manufacturers Hanover highlighting the mobility of a new system allowing them to transfer money around the world with an image suggesting to clients that the “sky is the limit”, but it’s also “grounded” in something very tangible – the steelworker.
On the other hand as our feature All Change: The New Business Imagery suggested, some things really have changed. Employees don’t look like they used to.
This 1968 Wells Fargo ad, with it’s bank of suited men no doubt felt like a wealth of expertise you could tap into – now it looks just a little scary. The employees in the current campaign are a mix of gender and ethnicity that feels reassuring. And there is a visual metaphor in the way the portraits are inhabited by the spirit of something substantial and purposeful.
And most of all there is the title of the campaign that says something about where the public see banks and bankers – “What If?” With questions such as “What if there was someone you could trust with your legacy?” What if there was someone who guided you with integrity?” Before the credit crunch these weren’t issues that were top of mind in dealing with banks. At the top level, the blended images, express “transparency”, a significant concept in banking communications since the crunch.
Nadav Kander’s portraits are oddly touching. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper in London about his show Bodies: 6 Women, 1 Man he says, “I like to show the truth. I like to show things that are paradoxical.” And these commercial images do the same thing – they are both human and ghostly. Some even feel “cyberpunk” in the meshing of flesh, machines and steel. And the biggest paradox of all, which makes these images so interesting is that these images express concepts of both “durability” and “change” – the solid structures aligned against the fluid water (tradition and change is an ongoing theme in Kander’s work, see Yangtze – The Long River).
And one more paradox. As Creative Director Alon Shoval remarks below, these are ads which question capitalism – a remarkable thought for a series of images promoting a bank’s skill at Wealth Management. And yet that is why they ring true in 2013.
Since the crash, banks don’t win many popularity contests. How much of a factor was this in shaping your strategy?
Alon Shoval: Morgan Stanley has always been a company built on doing “first-class business in a first class way.” We wanted to remind the world that Morgan Stanley has always stood for responsible capitalism and has a long history of helping investors through every crisis, including the most recent one.
Generally, what kinds of ideas have currency at the moment when communicating ‘big business’ or ‘finance?
Alon Shoval: Investors don’t want empty promises and clichéd visuals of wealth anymore, they want someone they can trust. That is what we tried to convey in our Morgan Stanley “What If? campaign.
What did Morgan Stanley want to focus on? For example, a sense of history, ‘time’ and ‘making’ seem central to the imagery?
Alon Shoval: We wanted to question capitalism, allowing Morgan Stanley to emerge as the leader in helping the system work in the real world.
How did you choose your range of models, and what did they think of the final ‘portraits’?
Alon Shoval:The models were chosen and shot to reveal their true character. They are aspirational, but also are substantive and authentic.
At what point in the conceptual process did you decide you needed Nadav Kander for this? What did you think he would bring to the campaign?
Alon Shoval: Nadav was the ideal artist to execute this idea. His portraiture, whether of the famous or the ordinary, uses the outside to reveal what is within. His eye is unique and the subject never evades his penetrating lens.
What is the work process like when working with Nadav Kander? These images look like they are painstakingly constructed?
Alon Shoval: Nadav has the same relentless pursuit of crafted aesthetics as we do at The Martin Agency. We do not stop until the work belongs in a museum and neither does he. The Art Director, D’Arcy O’Neil, and the copywriter, Neel Williams, worked tirelessly on the marriage of the portraits and the location scenes, creating these magical images graced with equally striking words.
The images feel like a blend of different genres ghostly, graphic full of detail. They really stretch the idea of portraiture, not at all conventional, where was the work shown and what was the response?
Alon Shoval: The work was launched externally as double-page spreads in The Wall Street Journal and internally as huge images lining the halls of Morgan Stanley. The response was unanimously positive. It’s rare that you find a financial client that wants to create communications on this level— but Morgan Stanley has always been a rare breed in the world of finance.
Fast Company Magazine: Photographer Adam Fedderly
Get ready. Business imagery is one of the most searched for categories on-line by customers and needs constant updating as new trends and ways of conducting business develop and become the norm. For the next 8 weeks, we will be offering exclusive insights into the visual trends that you need to know to create great, saleable images.
You would be foolish to ignore the data. The top searched subject on Image Source is “Business”, each month Google sees over 6 million searches for “Small Business”, and over 90,000 searches for “images of business”. And Forbes magazine predicted a 6.4 percent rise in marketing spend by businesses this year.
But the rapid shift in business imagery is the content, the kinds of concerns business that business is addressing, that we see in editorial and commercial tearsheets – new kinds of companies, offices/locations and kinds of working that blurs the boundaries of worktime and leisure time, the rise of the touch-feely ‘artisanal’ alongside the small tech start-ups.
There’s different kinds of people, different kinds of management, different kinds of “leadership” and “collaboration” different kinds of business concepts we haven’t seen before.
And all these need new visual forms, demand fresh ways of picturing them.
My Dad would drive into the city and drop me off at school on his way to work, each day a different suit, that to my eye looked the same kind of business uniform – Pin-stripe, Herringbone, Check. The look signalled subtle shadings of serious and casual, in the office all day or schmoozing a client. Business circa 1980.
In 2013 there is no Uniform anymore, there’s only “Pluriform” as the trend watchers might say. Anything and everything goes. What it means to do business would not have been imagined in my father’s days, or even five years ago. Economic and social changes, and geographical shifts that were happening during the boom years have been intensified during the bust years. It means a radical departure in how business looks and how it will be communicated. Businesses, especially start-ups, no longer look white and male.
They are female.
They may be in the wordmash of trendspotters – “Mompreneurs” – mothers at home with kids working online, via eBay or Etsy.
They may be Seniors, as Baby Boomers discover they either don’t really want to retire or just can’t afford to.
Oh yeah and that Herringbone suit? This is a business meeting Dad!
We’ll be exploring the new dynamic of the group business photo. But that doesn’t mean previous models are extinct.
They’ve just been tweaked a little. The businessman is occasionally little less certain reflecting the sober and serious post-crunch mood, and consequently, close-up, can express a kind of “rugged”, “senior”, “wisdom”. But then the faces of technology, business and communication a few years back are changing too.
Oh, and Business are going to change in other ways. In a Report conducted by Future Laboratory for HSBC bank, Ian Pearson, a ‘Futurologist’ who used to work for British Telecoms says, “It will be more difficult to describe what you do for a living in the future, as the nature of business changes, but also the way business changes.” This is what used to be known as the portfolio worker but at a time when careers are more fluid than ever, it is known as the “slash/slash” generation – entrepreneur/designer/dj/barman…the kind of thing photographers might have done when starting a career.
Business imagery, in the language of management consultants, is in a state of disruption. Over the next 8 weeks we’ll be bringing you insight from experts in how to shoot images that creatively engage with the latest concepts and styles to make your images commercially-telling for the user. We will be looking at models, props, concepts, locations and many different kinds of business and business imagery. Business means technology and industry, but also baking and dress-making. It means singular leadership and collaborative teamwork, it means business becoming more local as people become conscious of provenance, but also more international as small businesses are finding it easier to access markets in the vibrant new economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – who also have different models of management and leadership. It also means, like Kickstarter, doing it by yourself. All of this translates into pictures.
Our members will get more detailed briefs in our members area, from their Art Directors, and in the upcoming Workshops in New York, LA, London, Munich and Copenhagen.
In the meantime, just remember, the surprising thing about change is that it always surprises.
Cultura RF/Monty Rakusen
It’s not just that Monty Rakusen makes factories, science labs, tugboats look dramatic, even beautiful. His work pushes some hot-button trends.
“I tend to specialise in power generation – nuclear fusion – ship building, car production,” says Monty Rakusen in his bio. But his shoots deliver much more: the impact of scale; the pleasure in the look and feel of machinery and technology; the storytelling around ‘leadership’, ‘teamwork’, ‘co-operation’. And Rakusen’s vividly physical imagery plays into a social trend that began with the credit crunch and the public’s scepticism of the ‘funny money’ economy of the previous decade. In a recent poll for Gallup in December 2012, 70 percent of Americans rated Engineers highly or very highly when asked about trust compared to the 28 percent who rate Bankers. In visual terms, this translates into a desire for imagery that expresses ‘tangible’ things, a respect for ‘makers’, ‘producers’, manufacturers and people with hands-on skills. Rakusen’s photography has all of this, and more importantly it feels tactile with its textured palettes of warm oranges and reds alongside cool, shiny chromes. In the interview below Rakusen talks about his inspirations, shooting a factory in the style of a perfume ad and the ‘visual mix’ of 100 tonnes of molten metal.
1. A shot of a single object that expresses a powerful memory/event?
Monty Rakusen: This picture of Lloyd holding coffee beans came out of my shoot in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. I will always remember the experience of shooting in Jamaica with great fondness and emotion. Whilst it was a really tough shoot, it was great to work with these amazing people in this incredible place on the top of a mountain in the clouds. The rum was pretty good too!
2. An image of three books that have inspired you?
3. Favourite photo you have taken?
Monty Rakusen: The Steelworks image. This was a very difficult picture to take. We started really early in the morning and shot for six hours to produce this one image. It was the largest steel pouring that our host had ever made, around 100 tonnes of molten metal, and it was poured using three ladles. The shot itself is made up of many pictures and some of the people appear several times. I am sorry to spoil the illusion! Here it was my assistant’s job to protect and look after the kit which couldn’t move and the environment was very cold and raining ash and this is a good example of the value of a hard-working assistant.
4. Favourite artist/photographer/image-maker
Monty Rakusen: My all time favourite photographer would be Cartier-Bresson. His ability to catch the moment and build drama out of the mundane is unsurpassed. I really enjoy the work of fellow Yorkshire man David Hockney and I am a big fan of Eugene Meatyard.
5. How did you become expert in Energy/Industry/Science photography and what were your reference points?
Monty Rakusen: For many years I ran a photographic studio shooting catalogue and product photography. I was very successful, but I was quite unhappy. As with most photographers there comes a point in their career where they must change direction, and I had been asked to shoot a factory in the style of a perfume ad, with very shallow focus and gentle light. The project was quite successful and it changed the way I took pictures. Gradually I moved more towards industrial photography. I have always been fascinated by Science and Industry and people making things and it seemed an exciting thing to do, to paint this in an heroic light.
6. How do you manage all the visual detail in your images?
Monty Rakusen: Mostly I shoot tethered, so my laptop comes with me into steelworks, coalmines and nuclear power stations. It can be pretty tough for it! The photography becomes more like painting, using the screen as a canvas and this enables me to fine tune my pictures, more so than if I was shooting into a card. Nevertheless, I do shoot into cards regularly too, but I have an assistant constantly downloading them and reviewing them. The work is very thoroughly post-produced, and I spend more time in post production than actually taking pictures, which I feel is a bit of a shame, but this polishes the finished image and gives it high production value.
7. You seem to like boats, tugs in particular. Discuss
Oh dear! I do have relatives who were in the navy and merchant navy, in fact my uncle was in the raid at St Nazaire! and I am called Monty after him. So I am very interested in the sea. I like the light and large ships. However, the fact that I have shot so much on tugs is purely because we were stuck at sea during the recent four day shoot we did. On one day, I left my studio at 4.00 am and was out at sea by 9.00 am. The Captain was pushing a huge car ship around. More and more ships came during the day needing the attention of our tug, consequently there was no way we could get ashore! To make it worse, I wanted to get some sunset shots but we got a call and had to travel across the Humber estuary as the sun set and did not get back to shore until 10.30 at night! I have new projects in progress about Container Ships and LNG powered ships.
8. Often these images are telling a story about a process, that’s photographically observational and conceptual, depicting ‘teamwork’, ‘skill’, ‘trust’. How do you decide on what parts of these vast industrial productions will work best visually?
Monty Rakusen: All my projects are recced, often they are pre-visualised. I take advice from my Image Source Art Director and we do the necessary research. By experience, I have found that it is more successful to show a specific process in a slightly more conceptual way. Indeed, we shoot a lot around the ideas of teamwork, skills, experience and so forth. It is not documentary photography, it is something else.
9. The kind of shoots you do afford you the ability to see what is going on behind the ‘Wizard’s Curtain’. What is the one biggest surprise you’ve learnt?
Monty Rakusen: I think probably that all is not as it seems! Sometimes the things you think are going to be easy, turn out to be hard and the hard things turn out to be easy!
10.You have featured in Victor (the Hasselblad magazine) and in fact the video promo for the first issue feels like one of your large-scale industrial shoots! What kinds of kit (and precautions) do you use on shoots?
Monty Rakusen: Precautions – for my kind of work, Health and Safety is absolutely paramount. I cannot stress this enough. If you are working in the dangerous places where I work you must be abiding by the rules, you must make sure that your team and your models are safe and aware of the dangers. We have a whole prop store full of safety kit and we make sure that everyone is wearing it at all times.
It is often difficult to get workers in factories to wear the correct kit and I can become very unpopular in enforcing this!
Photographic Equipment – I use two cameras, the Hasselblad H4D50 and the Nikon D800, and I have a full range of lenses for them. I use Elinchron ranger flash packs and all my kit goes in secure pelicases with trekpack inserts. I use really good cases because the kit gets bounced about in the back of landrovers and thrown onto the decks of tankers and tugs and gets splashed with molten metal!
The Plant Journal, one of The BJP’s magazine picks of 2012
Welcome to the first of a regular feature squeezing 7 Days of image news into one minute. A fast briefing of this week’s image stories from around the web and this week we’re talking a look back at the reviews of 2012
Bruce Weber for Selfridges, Creative Director Alannah Weston
Fashion photographer Bruce Weber shoots black and white fantasy for Selfridges seasonal promo. Nostalgia and Anti-Nostalgia
Fashion photographer Bruce Weber has created a seasonal scenario for London West End store Selfridges, whose mix of nostalgia, surrealism and fairy tale is decidedly modern. Weber gives nostalgia a hard-edge with his cast of contrasts, reminding us that the visual language of Christmas is far from exhausted.
Photographer Mitch Jenkins and comic book writer Alan Moore collaborate on series of short films. There’s opportunity for photographers willing to turn their hand to ‘content’
Everyone is talking ‘content’, marketing managers, account managers, ‘digital strategists’, everyone it seems except the image-makers themselves, who actually have some insight into making content.
But photographer Mitch Jenkins and his friend, comic-book writer Alan Moore (The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) have taken it into their own hands. They are releasing a series of short movies, collectively titled, The Show
Act of Faith has just been released, with the trailer for the second film Jimmy’s End just out. The project is funded by The Creators Project, a collaboration between Vice magazine and Intel. Act of Faith is set in the English town of Northampton, and has light and shadow of film noir, the ominous red glow and disturbing, troubling, darkness of a David Lynch movie.
The lesson? There is it seems real opportunity for photographers to make more of their skills and creativity through providing content.
Click on image to see Act of Faith
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