You might think you know “Business” photography, but take a look at the work of Ricky John Molloy, moody, dramatic, vital. Like work and the office really matters. How Scandanavian Noir became the language of “work” imagery.
Danish photographer Ricky John Molly is a master of understated drama and mood, the kind of thing fans of the detective genre “Scandanavian Noir” would recognise, like the photo below of a group of chefs. The mood is firstly a simple function of light and dark, with another layer of mood added by looks shared, and a single staring chef that is admiring or sceptical – a hint of some kind of “Power” relationship. “Power” is a difficult concept to pull off well in business images because unless you live in a dictatorship, expressions of power demands subtlety, otherwise it’s just bluster.
This group of office workers, a blue palette and faces gripped with a sense of determination. Individual intensity and group purpose – “teamwork”. Editorial shots but with its easy to see why the honesty of these images would lend themselves to commercial, advertising imagery that feels vital.
Molloy simply makes business imagery around work feel relevant because his photos suggests a wider human psychology, it imagines motivation, thinking, planning. It’s no surprise that his posters for Headhunter were visually inspired by the classic 1970s conspiracy movie Three Days of The Condor, whose wariness of corporate “Power” chimes very much with our age. At a time when big business, politicians and other powerful institutions are regarded with a degree of scepticism by the general public, Ricky John Molloy’s work offers some useful lessons in the imagery of work, business and power.
You were a trainee Photojournalist at Politiken newspaper. What kinds of stories did you shoot and how did the experience shape your photography?
Ricky John Molloy: I was a part of the daily team and my assignments were everything from shooting portraits, reportage and football on a Sunday. I was lucky to do a lot of travelling. My first trip was to New York. I went there alone to shoot a story of a homeless guy living on the street. I was pretty scared and excited at the same time. Working as photojournalist has given me a lot of experience. I can work fast, i work flexible and move a lot around my motive al the time. I kind of work best with some limitations. I feel limited in a studio and feel at home on location. Working as a photojournalist has given me tools to be flexible and fast.
The lighting in your work is almost like a character itself, could you tell us a little about your approach? Any influences?
Ricky John Molloy: I learned to use light pretty late in my professional life. We did not learn it in school or my work at the Politiken. So as soon I started freelance (2001) I bought some light gear and played around.
In the beginning I used it for all my pictures and it played a big role in my pictures – it was very visible. For example my beach pictures on my webpage is from that period.
I turned day to night – and I loved the effect. Later I tried to make the light more subtle and not the first thing you would notice. I still try to learn new ways of using my light. My big influences would be Annie Leibovitz, Nadav Kander and Gregory Crewdson.
You did a series of images for Headhunter, what was the brief?
Ricky John Molloy: The brief was to portray the characters on posters the way they were in the film. Simply interpret them and take their portrait. The look was inspired by the film Three Days of the Condor
You shot some classic images around “business” and “power”, how did you arrive at these scenarios?
Ricky John Molloy: The scenes are as you say classic and yet simple. But inspired by the everyday jobs I do for many clients. I often do annual reports for big clients where I shoot lots of reportage and often groups of people working together. So this is inspired from those situations.
There’s a lovely image of a guy in an office, drinking milk, the colour palette a painterly blend of greys, whites and blacks. Who was this for and what were you looking as a takeout?
Ricky John Molloy: This shoot is for a danish railroad (DSB) magazine called ud & se a great magazine that spends time on great photography. The guy is called Lars Larsen and is the CEO and co-founder of “Jysk”, a danish company that sells accessories to bath, bed and so on. A World wide company, a very rich guy.
My assignment was to shoot a series of him. The idea with the milk came up when I was listening to the journalist interviewing him in his office. Suddenly he pulled his chair a side and opened a small fridge beneth his desk. He took a small pint of milk out and drank. He explained to the journalist that he only drank milk during work….”Pling!” I got the idea and shot it later on. The picture is kept in simple colours and desaturated a lot. I am inspired a lot by a former danish painter called Vilhelm Hammershøi – I love his approach to colour.
It’s the same man shot against a wall of maps but printed in colour?
Ricky John Molloy: Yes the same man. I found the room in his home when the journalist was talking to him. Every pin on the maps is a “Jysk” shop he opend…..
You have a wonderfully minimalist approach to propping that is very telling, how did you arrive at this thinking?
Ricky John Molloy: I love simple pictures and try not to make things too complicated. I believe in keeping my images simple and concentrating on expression and mood.
Could you tell us a little about the construction of the image of the woman looking at the papers on the floor?
Ricky John Molloy: The women is an Attorney at Law in Denmark and well known. The assignment was to shoot her portrait for a magazine. At this time I was inspired by the film Sin City and the Black and White look – the whites that nearly glow and take your eye in. So I wanted to make a portrait with her and papers as a symbol as an ongoing theme in all the images. The papers are symbolic of all the different decisions she takes in her professional worklife. The image is shot very simply without any light – but a lot of Post.