As a group, photographers are a very silly bunch of people. Arrogant, jealous, selfish, and easily offended, there are times I am surprised anything creative comes from us at all. Not that there aren’t some notable exceptions, but the list of still-living (last I checked) photographers that I can genuinely respect is limited to a short list of Annie Leibovitz, Jock Sturges, and Nick Knight. While there are a lot of really good photographers around the world, the ability to genuinely distinguish one’s self lies with only a few. At the bottom of the barrel is the photographer who claims models steal his concepts, and the one who fiercely protects a city park claiming only she can shoot there. Despite our individual strengths, we are, as a group, often lacking.
There is a lot of talk about being original, edgy, and new, but consider that some 4,000 years ago someone wrote:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV)
That pretty much kills the notion of being original, doesn’t it? If there was nothing new under the sun 4,000 years ago, one has to figure the best we can do is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy with a twist, and that’s assuming the idea wasn’t that popular from the beginning.
While there may be no genuinely new ideas or concepts, however, what makes an image, or a set of images, stand out is how they are different from others that are similar. Anyone can toss a pretty girl in the back seat of a car, but how does one make those images stand out, memorable from all the clutter.
The answer lies less in the creative talent and capability of the photographer, who almost always insists on top billing, and more with the wonderfully creative and patient people who work in the background, often without any credit at all. Very few great pictures actually happen within the vacuum of a photographer and his/her camera. Great pictures, especially great editorials, are a group effort. While the experience and perspective of a well-experienced photographer may factor considerably, it is the designer, stylist, make-up artist, hair stylist, art director, grip, and any number of assistants who actually make all the pieces come together so that the photographer actually has quality material in front of the camera.
This editorial is a wonderful example of classic teamwork. The concept of a beautiful young woman in the back seat of a car has been done hundreds of times, but we were privileged to work with a wonderful team of people who each brought their talents to the table to give the concept that twist necessary to make it different. Let me tell you about them.
The concept and the wardrobe come from designer Catherine Fritsch. I have to admit, when Catherine first approached me with the concept, I balked a bit. Could we really put our own twist on a concept so common? She assured me we could, and she definitely delivered! She put together a strong team of professionals loaded with impressive talent, then shows up with a corset that has it’s own personality. Of the wardrobe, Catherine writes:
The corset represents a woman trying her “alter ego”: the bold, confidant, sexy, maybe even dangerous persona that we sometimes crave to be.
To give us a setting different from any other, Catherine tapped David Hart, who graciously allowed us to use his customized 1947 Ford Tudor Sedan for the shoot. It takes a special vehicle to provide enough room for a long-legged model, a photographer, lights and reflectors, and David made all the adjustments we requested. The lines of this unique vehicle, right down to the upholstered ceiling, gave us a set unlike any other.
For hair, Catherine chose Misty Al Eryani. I’ve worked with Misty before and love her attention to detail and accuracy. Misty is never one to “just toss something together.” She plans carefully, and executes with precision to create a look that is particularly perfect for the situation. Misty was on set thirty minutes advance of call time, making sure she had everything ready to go.
Make-up came from the effervescent Sasha Starz. Sasha understands color and shape beyond what looks good for the average Friday night out. One of the reasons I enjoy having Sasha on a team is because she knows I need more, a LOT more, if we want photos that really rock and looks that are memorable. Yet, she also knows the power of restraint. As you look through the pictures, know that I didn’t have to “fix” anything on the model’s face, all thanks to Sasha’s professionalism.
Our stylist for the day was Jantina Anderson. It’s one thing to have a lot of really cool parts and pieces on set, but it takes someone with a special gift to pull everything together so that it actually fits. Jantina is one of those people. Exactly the right pair of earrings, the right number of bracelets, the correct shoes … even the hose was subject to her scrutiny.
Perhaps the hardest working person on the set was photography assistant Brian Logan. I have, in times past, been guilty of taking assistants for granted, barking orders randomly, then going behind them and correcting their mistakes. Increasingly, though, I have learned to depend on assistants and Brian is one of the best. He works tirelessly to make sure lights and reflectors are in the right place, with the correct settings, without getting in my way. When I tell him how I need lights set, I can walk away and know when I return they’ll be exactly to my specifications. Brian’s not one to stand around ogling the model. He’s always busy, always checking to make sure everything is ready when I pick up my camera.
Our model is professional dancer Caroline Loy. With experience that ranges from classical ballet and ballroom, to contemporary studies with famed modern dance company, Pilobolus, putting a “twist” on concepts comes naturally for Caroline. Caroline is one of those people who doesn’t stop, dancing constantly in addition to full-time work as a wife, and mother of one-year-old Cambria. Literally a last-minute addition to the team, Caroline stepped into the roll with bubbly enthusiasm and excitement, bringing a beautiful intensity to the look.
With a team like that, they could have almost given the camera to a chimpanzee and still had good pictures. While I was there every step of the way, never shy of an opinion, the fact is that the photos you see here, and with almost every other set you see anywhere, is the result of the combined, collaborative efforts of a very talented and experienced team. They all deserve top billing and endless applause.
So, at risk of further upsetting my colleagues, the next time you open a magazine or a web site and see a really cool set of photos, know that behind the photographer is a team of hard working professionals without whom the majority of great fashion and editorial photos would never happen. This really is classic teamwork. Give them your applause and compliments; they deserve it for putting up with people like me. [grin][Disable Flash Gallery]