A dream assignment
A few days ago I met up with two younger photographers at a coffee shop in San Francisco.
I have always seen myself as a young, up and coming photographer, but after two decades in photography I guess I’m now among the established, “older guys”.
Hanging out, it was refreshing to hear their perspective on an industry I have been a part of for so long.
One of them, a truly talented photographer with a large social media following, had shot one massive advertising assignment, and decided he did not want to do advertising work at all going forward. There were “too many meetings and too much politics.
He decided to now only create work for himself, and use it to bring social awareness to environmental issues in order to create lasting, positive change.
Inspired, our conversation drifted into using photography this way.
What I didn’t get to share was my experience with advertising photography, because it is NOT always like the experience this young photographer had.
Being an advertising photographer does not have to be diluting your work and conform it to a clients needs. It can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding…
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius once said, but this is just a small part of it.
The bigger part for me is filling what I at times feel is a collaborative void. I talk to friends in smaller companies and they are in an environment where they all collaborate and push each other to both do and become better in their field. As a photographer there’s no expectations of me in my daily effort, but for the ones I put on myself. There’s no business partner to bounce ideas off and help move the creative effort forward.
This do however happen when an advertising agency calls you up and say; Hi, we have these ideas and would love to collaborate in making them into images.
At its best, the world of advertising makes me a better photographer. I then get to work with amazing creative and art directors to push and shape ideas into images better than I could on my own.
The epitome of this is in the assignment I just did with Y&R and Crystal Cruises.
Creative Director Trevor Oldershaw hired me and made me a partner in creating a series of images I’m truly, truly proud of.
Create an experience in all the major places Crystal Cruise lines visits.
To design a campaign encompassing all the wonder of traveling the world in the utmost luxury that is inclusive, and exclusive, to a Crystal vacation. To transport the viewer to another place, somewhere on a vacation of their dreams…
So off I went, visiting 10 countries on 5 continents to make dream moments, having an experience of a lifetime…
Among all the adventures I had in creating this campaign for Crystal, the one capturing this moment in New Zealand stands tall as the most extraordinary experience.
We had landed in Queenstown, on the south island, and from there drove four hours towards Fjordland, where we had a helicopter waiting to get us to our location. During our travels into New Zealand, the forecast had turned for the worse and when we arrived, our helicopter was grounded because of weather. In looking at the forecast and weighing our options for our four days in New Zealand we returned to the North Island and headed to Napier where the weather was better. Spending two days capturing images in what felt like The Shire from Lord of the Rings movies, we again turned south hoping for a clearing between the storms rolling in.
We arrived in Queenstown to massive rains and at this point, we were running out of time. Our last chance at capturing our moment on the mountain peaks was the very same morning as our flight onward to Argentina.
On that last day, we woke to a stunning morning and I boarded the helicopter with a big sense of relief. In our last three hours in New Zealand it would happen…
During our 90 minute helicopter ride, however, the clouds started rolling in again, pushed forward by the next storm. As the pilot let me down on the ground, the sky had clouded over with snow flurries in the air, but just as I stepped to the edge of the cliff the skies parted and the sun came through, creating what might be the most extraordinary moment I have had as a photographer.
The light and the drama unfolding over the next 20 minutes was just extraordinary. All the travel, waiting, and anticipation were worth it when standing among these lakes and mountains watching the sun trailing in and out of the clouds.
It quickly turned into dark clouds and the sun disappeared. But, those moments were all we needed and we were off to make our plane to Argentina.
Photographed to represent all the wine regions Crystal visits, this vineyard moment was captured right in my own back yard.
I’m from Norway, but I have established myself in the California Wine Country of Sonoma.
It was fall of 2015 and the harvest had taken place for most grape varietals in the northern hemisphere. Shortly after harvest, the vines lose their leaves and become barren. This is not ideal for a romantic moment, so it was with a true sense of urgency we needed to find the location and make this image happen. The very best option, when short on time, is to stay close to home. A 15 minute drive away from my house is this magical vineyard that became our location and representation for a very special Crystal moment.
This image is to me the biggest visual surprise in the Campaign.
We arrived in Rome to create our photograph at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, but found them fenced in for renovation. The Trevi Fountain, however, had just finished its renovation and been unveiled the week prior. So, we joined the crowds to look at what might be one of the most spectacular landmarks of Rome. As we got there, there was barely space to walk on the streets, let alone get a glimpse of the actual fountain.
So, we set our alarm clocks and went back at 4:00 in the morning. With the fountain to ourselves, but for a few other photography enthusiasts, we got to create an image that, at night, lent a depth and mythology to the fountain and the surroundings that I found perfect for our moment on the scooter.
In improvising there’s always room for surprises and creativity and I feel this photograph speaks to this.
So, needless to say I’m grateful to the world of advertising. Yes, there are phone calls and meetings and a lot of pressure but most of the time it is worth every bit of it.
The balance of art and commerce is in the approach. My advice to a young photographer would be to find a personal anchor in every commercial assignment so that the photo is honest in the execution. This will allow your esthetic to be a part of every image, commercial or not, and for a collaboration to happen that might push your work to something better than what it would have been on your own…
A massive thank you to Creative director Trevor Oldershaw, Art buyer Miriam Lee and the rest of the crew at Y&R California.
Also a big, big thank you to the marketing team at Crystal Cruises. What and amazing team with a vision and mission to make the experience of vacationing with them and extraordinary one.