I think any photographer will tell you that there are a few publications that are the pinnacle point of seeing your work in. My bucket list #174 is shooting a cover for TIME magazine. While it isn’t something I can foresee myself doing anytime soon (lack of contacts), I did come very close to it with a ad campaign I shot for Allan Gray (investment company). It ran as full page advert on the back of TIME magazine cover. Baby steps, eh! I have always been a massive fan of the visual style that Allan Gray had in it’s advertising: Black & white. Classical. Emotive. Powerful. It was an exciting project to work on, especially based on how highly I viewed their existing visual direction in both stills & commercials. I felt I had my work cut out for me. Creating ‘a moment’ is not an easy thing to fake. Even more so when it involves children. They are raw. There is no superficial layer they put on to create a belief.
One of the campaigns involved a boy who needed to look bored or similarly emotive. Revolving around time taking forever when you’re so young. Being not too old myself, I thought back on what it was for me as a kid that made me feel that. Getting my hair cut was definitely high on my list!
So I arranged with a more classical looking barber shop to shoot there. Nothing too clean or clinical. It needed to have atmosphere. That was the easy part. How does one get a kid to look bored or ‘pained’ over how long something was taking? Well there is no trickery there. I got my boy to sit in the barber chair. I had a coffee. He sat there excitedly. Then he got restless. Then he wanted to do something else. It was only at the point that I felt he was at his wits end that I got the barber to start ‘cutting’ his hair. Boy, did he not look impressed with me! He almost scowled that he had to sit there longer! Yet this was perfect! I got the EXACT expression & mood I wanted from him! I couldn’t have gotten a better reaction from my model even if I tried to fake it a hundred times!
Afterwards we had pizza & ice-cream & played cricket on the grass. He very quickly forgot that I was his least favorite. In fact, I think if there is anything he remembers of me, it’s that I played ball with him!
This project brought a few things home for me. Firstly, one cannot always fake everything in photography. Some things have to be real or as damn near real as possible. Secondly, simple things work. One doesn’t always need a great big fancy setup or production. There is that acronym that my grandmother used to tell me & I’m sure everyone has heard it: K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid. I know as a photographer if I try do too much on a set or try get too much into an idea, it totally loses its magic. I often have to just stop myself, take a step back & unclutter. Take lights away. Remove crap from my frame. Keep it simple!
There are another 2 Allan Gray campaigns that I shot. The one has just been released, so I can share that with you soon. The other is toward the end of the year. Ill post those up when I’m able.