Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is there room in commercial photography for photography?

I have noticed something interesting during my discussions with potential reps. There seems to be a east coast vs west coast difference in terms of what is the best kind of photography to show.

The WC reps prefer to show work that looks very much like advertising. The idea is that agencies need to be able to demonstrate to a client that a photographer not only is capable of executing an image but has in fact made the image previously.
I shot a cow once. It was part of a personal project where I shot the interior of an old movie theatre, shot farm animals in a studio and composited them together in post. The series got some attention and an art buyer saw it in CA. She had a campaign for a giant cow feed conglomerate and needed a cow shot. She saw my series and I was hired to shoot a cow for the agency. I used the same animal wrangler from the movie theatre series and we shot the same cow.

The art buyer moved from a midwest agency to a NYC agency. I talked to her and she assured me if she ever needed a cow shot at her new agency she would be sure to call me. I have been shooting for 20 years and have only shot one cow (twice) but I will always be seen as the bovine shooter by this one art buyer. Talk about being pigeon holed.

On the other end of the spectrum are agencies that bring me in early in the process of coming up with a campaign. I got a call from an agency. They had a client and needed help coming up with an idea. They gave me a rough outline who the customers for the product were and I was charged with putting together the campaign. I pitched my idea and we shot in a few weeks later.

I am in the process of changing the kind of work that I show. The new criteria will be the strength of the image and no longer whether the picture looks like an ad. I used to be puzzled when I saw the pictures other photographers showed. What the hell was Nadav Kander thinking when he showed those pictures of empty hotel rooms? Yeah they were emotionally compelling and looked like real photographs but what product did it look like he was selling? What about Carlos Serrao's pictures of a lion on a dock? Yeah they were cool and looked like nothing else out there but they looked like nothing else out there. You are supposed to show work that looks like other work that has been published. That's the rule right?

13 comments:

robert said...

In an older post you said you had a meeting with a rep or art buyer and they said "your pictures don't look like advertising" and thereupon you embarked on a journey to remake your book.

This post seems to say you are now running in the opposite direction.

Is there a conflict there or what has changed?

As the economy tightens advertisers get more conservative, all this leads me to believe we will see more "cow-lookers" than ever. But I don't know, I have had little contact with art buyers. (none.)

ED mcculloch said...

I shoot what I love in my own unique style.

I've found it's what most AB's are looking for. Someone who knows who they are and is honed in on their vision. If their good they will be able to integrate your vision into their campaign.

So good for you for heading in that direction- It will open creative doors you never knew existed-

gewhite said...

Is this not the stereotypical joke that has been going on for years, or am I imagining things.

robert said...

isn't advertising usually a "stereotypical joke" by definition?

Anonymous said...

I cant believe nobody left the comment of MOOOOOO?!?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

haven't been here for awhile but it seems you are still looking to see if there is the magic agent or the magic formula for success. weren't you with a big time agent? i do hope someday for your peace of mind that you shoot and edit for you and what you think is great rather than putting so much of measuring what you should think or feel on the shoulders of others.

favrot - the t is silent said...

whoa there anonymous, sounds like you are a jealous photographer or a professional hater. In case you are unaware your message is dripping with condescension. just trying to keep it real - - - thanks thomas, for doing what you love.

Kee Photography said...

Oh snap! Seriously... I'm with favrot . . . I think using the work you really love in a clever way to court a rep IS "edit[ing] for you." This is better vs. the alternative, i.e. putting a bunch of commercial work in your book that only touches the tip of your true photographic paradigm... Looks like that "someday" anon is talking about is already upon us... and sounds like somebody's sour they didn't hop on that train earlier.

Jeff Singer said...

Hey Thomas...

Are you disappointed you didn't get the call for this shoot:
http://www.pdnpulse.com/2007/12/they-shoot-cows.html

Jeff

broening said...

A lot of interesting discussion here though I am not sure if people are saying I am a Mofo or a genius.

Back in the early days of the blog this came up as well so it must be something I need to work on.


http://thomasbroening.blogspot.com/2007/05/taking-your-temperature-in-someone.html

Kee Photography said...

You're definitely NOT a mofo... that takes a lot of work. I'm not sure what anon was trying to say in their sour comment, though... sounds like they just wanted to give you a wedgie : o

Watch out for wedgies.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone that I know that use to work at Martin Williams.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.