AtEdge Conversation Series

Remembering a Bygone Era: Nostalgia By Mauricio Candela

Times have changed. A lot. There have been more scientific and technological advancements in the last century than in any century before it. And of course, with all those changes have come a whole lot of drawbacks. After all, advancement rarely comes without its own set of consequences.

It’s been over fifty years since Bob Dylan recorded “The Times They Are a-Changin,'” and even he probably would never have guessed how much more things would change in his lifetime.

Mauricio Candela Nostalgia

Photographer Mauricio Candela’s latest series, Nostalgia, focuses on how times have changed for children in particular. His photographs bring us back to a time before smartphones and the internet. Before kids had to worry about social media and having the latest gadgetry. As he puts it, “imaginations are now at the mercy of tablets and dictated by smartphones and video game consoles.” Nostalgia is all about remembering a time when childhood meant simpler times and an abundance of innocence.

You can see more of Nostalgia below, including the photographer’s own statement about the series.

For more of Candela’s work, visit his official AtEdge page.

Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia Mauricio Candela Nostalgia

All Images © Mauricio Candela

Photographer’s Note

Nostalgia by Mauricio Candela.
What once was childhood.

Childhood and the Nostalgia of it have a curious relationship.
It’s not something that children are conscious of, but as adults, it plays a big part as a reference in their lives.

Remembering our own childhood conjures up images and thoughts of a seemingly simpler, easier time.

When we see today’s children surrounded by technology, it seems as if their own imaginations are now at the mercy of tablets and dictated by smartphones and video games consoles.

Almost like a still silent scream, these photographs are presented to remind us that innocence, simplicity and creativity are the foundations of any childhood. Having any of these elements in our past is what makes the nostalgia for them so strong in present times.

This artwork shows the reality of a child. We can clearly experience a “feeling” in viewing it. It acts almost like a warning to the inner adult carried inside. It’s a reminder that any childhood flourishes by such very basic, simple things within a nurturing environment.

It will serve as a safety net or foundation. By enabling this context, they’ll be armed at defending themselves from the assault of today’s world and its technological tsunami.

The process of creating these images was done over a long and slow timetable. It took almost a year to find all the ideal characters to reflect the meaning of what I wanted to impart in the artwork. Using neutral color palettes and staging each scene organically, without makeup or tricks, without over-producing them.



Maxine Helfman Captures a Different Side of James Franco

Photographer Maxine Helfman recently had the opportunity to photograph James Franco the artist, not James Franco the actor. The shoot was for the New York magazine and the goal was to capture a different side of Franco.

You see, James Franco isn’t just an actor, he’s also a wildly hated artist. There are tons of articles all over the internet about why you should hate him and his art. He’s regularly slapped with labels like “poser” and “faker,” and the art world seems to love to hate him as a whole.

That’s where Helfman comes in. The feature article was about Franco sitting down and having a discussion with one of his biggest critics and Helfman was tasked with creating a cover image for the piece. According to New York photography director Jody Quon, Helfman “has a very vivid sense of photography and a painterly quality as well.” This is what led to the cover image being “van-Gogh-as-tortured-artist,” as Quon put it.

The end result of the campaign was a series of brilliant images that portray Franco in a delightfully new light.

To see more of Helfman’s work, check out her AtEdge portfolio.

Painted James Franco Kind of looks like a murderer James Franco James Van Gogh Franco

John Huet: Capturing The Power and Vulnerability of the Competitive Athlete

John Huet began photographing competitive athletes 30 years ago, and today he continues to capture the power and vulnerability of his subjects through his award-winning photography. In addition to his career as a photographer, John is also a successful commercial director who has earned a reputation for streamlining the process of shooting stills and video on the same set.

Working with the industry’s leading advertising agencies and brands, many of John’s clients find inspiration for the direction of their campaigns in the authenticity of his work. He has shot some of the world’s greatest competitors for clients such as Under Armour, Kellogg’s, NASCAR, FOX Sports, Gatorade, The International Olympic Committee, Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Asics, Oakley and ESPN. From his book Soul of the Game: Images and Voices of Street Basketball, to photographing the Olympics, to working on large commercial campaigns, John skillfully portrays the unyielding spirit of his subjects. His photography consistently earns prestigious awards and frequently appears in the Communication Arts’ Photography Annual, PDN and Lürzer’s 200 Best. Most recently John was named the International Photography Awards’ 2015 Sports Photographer of the Year.

Similar to the athletes he photographs, John possesses an undying dedication to his own sport. Whether he’s shooting an international ad campaign or a game of street basketball, the commitment, passion and energy he brings to the table are the same – a fact that becomes apparent with just one look at his work.

We had the pleasure of chatting with John recently. Here’s what he had to say about his career, his long history with the Olympic Games and what he’s working on now.

John Huet is represented by Marilyn CadenbachMore of his work can be seen on and through his website,


©John Huet

You’ve had quite a successful career over the course of 30 years. Tell us about how you got started photographing competitive athletes.

I didn’t start out intending to be a sports-oriented photographer. I originally studied commercial photography at the Art Institute of Florida. After graduation, reality quickly set in that I wasn’t going to be getting huge jobs right away, so I was shooting small stuff and taking on random jobs to make ends meet. At that time, my older brother was a producer for Penn State Football Network and was able to get me media passes so that I could occasionally go shoot the games, just to get the experience. I still never thought I would be shooting sports one day.

Fast forward a couple of years. I opened my own studio and was mostly doing product photography for a sports magazine in Boston. After about a year, the assistant photo editor told me that they were going to redesign the magazine and make it more lifestyle/fashion-oriented. They were looking for a photographer to do the first cover and editorial spread for the redesign. I jumped at the opportunity, but they ultimately went with a more experienced photographer. About a week later I got a call from the same photo editor saying they wanted me to shoot rain weather gear, but with actual runners instead of the usual studio product shoot. We shot the gear all over Boston on a rainy weekend — in back alleys, under bridges — really trying to give it a gritty feel. A few days after turning it in, I got a call saying, “you’re not going to believe this, they loved your pictures so much that they’re moving the issue up and your images will be on the cover and interior spreads. They also asked if you’re available to reshoot the cover and redesign that the other photographer shot.” A couple of days later I got a call from John Doyle, Senior Creative Director from Mullen, who saw some of my photos on the editor’s desk and wanted me to shoot a campaign to relaunch the magazine with all sports-related photography. Keep in mind, this kind of work didn’t even really exist at that point. You were either a Sports Illustrated photographer or a photojournalist. There was no in-between. After the relaunch campaign, I shot ten of the next twelve covers for the magazine.

The same creative director then got me involved with Puma, another with Reebok. An art buyer for Wieden & Kennedy who worked on Nike asked my agent to send my portfolio for one of the senior partners who liked my work. She asked me a bunch of questions about how I shot the images. Once I answered (correctly I guess), she asked me to get on a plane to Florida that following Monday to shoot Andre Agassi. Three days later they sent me to Barcelona to shoot a pole vaulter. I’ve done at least one job for Nike every year for the past twenty-seven years since.

John Huet

©John Huet


©John Huet

You’ve been photographing the Olympics for 13 years now. When did your involvement with the event begin?

After seeing Soul of the Game, the book I did on street basketball, the Director of Creative Services for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee reached out to see if I would be interested in shooting the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I was also given the opportunity to shoot the images for building wraps on the seventeen largest buildings in Salt Lake, AND I was asked to shoot the commemorative book for the Games as well. I realized that it would be extremely difficult to give them the images they needed if I was shooting solo, so we put together a team of eleven photographers to shoot with me. Only one of them had ever shot the Olympics before. We shot all of the images for the book, The Fire Within, and it was really successful. Everyone was happy. About four or five months before the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, I sent an email to my contact at the International Olympic Committee saying that I wanted to shoot the Games. A month before the Games started, I heard back, and I’ve been shooting for them ever since.

©John Huet

©John Huet

What’s your strategy for photographing an enormous event such as the Olympics? What are your shoot days like and what kind of challenges present themselves in these types of environments?

Physically and mentally it’s the hardest thing I do. The shoot days are very long, and the competition there is phenomenal. We’re photographers, not athletes, but even though we’re not competing, the atmosphere between photographers gets intense. For me it’s more about what technology can help me the most. Generally, camera companies come out with new equipment every spring and summer, and if you shoot at the Olympics you have a better chance of being in line to get the equipment. In competitive sports you’re always trying to look for what’s different, what hasn’t been done – there are so many photographs of the same person crossing the finish line – how do you find that iconic shot? You have no idea when it’s going to happen. My strategy is to figure out what’s going to make someone feel like they were actually at the event. I also shoot a lot. For London, I shot over 50,000 frames, edited that down to 40,000, then edited it down again and delivered 4,000 retouched images. All of this was done within a month after the Olympics.

©John Huet

©John Huet

In 2014 you photographed the Special Olympics for the first time. How did you get involved with that and what was your overall experience like?

A creative director I’ve worked with has been working with Special Olympics for many years. She kept trying to get me involved, but it never quite worked out, until last summer when everything fell into place. I was able to spend an entire week photographing the Special Olympics, and it was a really amazing experience. Having shot the other Olympics, I was prepared to shoot action, find the best shots, etc., but the Special Olympics was really a whole different vibe. Competition is every bit as intense but on a totally different level. Everyone is really friendly and inviting. While I was shooting some high jumpers, one of the athletes came up to me and said, “Hi! How you doing?” She sat down and proceeded to talk to me until her coach called her up, at which point she asked me if I could get some good pictures of her. Photographing the Special Olympics is unique–a lot of the athletes want to smile and wave at the camera. I got so much more eye contact and interaction than at the regular Olympics – which is great – but it makes it a little more challenging to get those candid shots. One guy even stopped and posed for me while he was playing. It’s such a great event. The people you meet and the volunteers that are there helping are really an amazing group.


©John Huet


©John Huet

©John Huet

©John Huet

Last year you worked with Carolyn Dowd, Associate Director of Art Buying at Hill Holiday, the creative team at the agency and your agent, Marilyn Cadenbach, to photograph the#PassTheFlame Bank of America Campaign in conjunction with the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Tell us more about your approach and process for creating the inspiring portraits.

The campaign was a great opportunity to work with some of the athletes who were going to be competing in the Special Olympics World Games. Logistically, it was a little tough simply because locations and other things were changing during the 3 days that we were shooting in LA. That’s the nature of the business, and we just rolled with it. As far as my approach and process, I didn’t approach this project any differently than I approach any other shoot. I think it’s important to have a rapport with the people I’m photographing, so I work to establish that. One of the athletes, Kenny, was competing in the Triathlon at the Special Olympics that I photographed in 2014. It was his first time, and he took 2nd place. I photographed him at that event, and being able to talk to him about it made it much easier to connect with him. I was able to show him some of the photos I had taken of him which is always fun.

I really enjoyed meeting the athletes and their families, and all of the athletes were really great to work with. I think that everyone on set felt a real sense of respect for these athletes. It was a great vibe and a great shoot.


©John Huet

What projects are you working on now?

I just wrapped a shoot in Beijing, working with six Chinese Olympic swimmers for a big brand in China, and I just finished a great shoot with Saucony for their upcoming Spring 2016 endeavor. I recently finished a shoot with several Olympic athletes for Kellogg’s. I did an editorial featuring the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins, and I was also in China photographing for Gillette not long ago. I just finished 3 TV spots for Boston University, I’m doing a series of TV spots for the Department of Defense and a spot for Major League Soccer. I’ve been photographing for 30 years and I’ve been directing for 20. I like doing television. It’s a totally different mindset. I’ve been doing a lot more television work for the past year and a half, including a small documentary, but photography is where it all began for me, and I love it as much now as I did when I started.

©John Huet

©John Huet

©John Huet

©John Huet

What else should we know about John Huet?

I still just think of myself as a photographer (rather than a sports photographer), mainly because when I look at the sports photographers, I am in total awe. I feel very lucky that I get to play in their world for a month every two years. I stress and prepare myself for every job I do and whether I’m shooting something that is paid or not paid, the same focus and the same energy is there. I don’t really differentiate between assignment work and personal work. Everything I shoot is personal — every single job is personal to me. There is no difference.

©John Huet

©John Huet

Ingredients: A Conversation with Dwight Eschliman

Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products is the latest book from world-renowned photographer Dwight Eschlimanand author Steve Ettlinger. Newly released at the end of September, Ingredients: is a combination of fine art and evocative food science which aims to help people understand exactly what goes into processed foods. While many of us have an understanding that much of our food is processed, this book brings ingredient lists to life in a whole new way and makes unpronounceable names real, forever changing how we read food labels.

The subject of Ingredients: is especially pertinent today, with more and more people caring about what’s actually in their food. While the photos and information in Ingredients: may be surprising, even alarming, the book is not meant to be a polemic against Big Food. Instead, the authors’ intention is to make readers into more informed shoppers.

“If food ingredient labels make your eyes glaze over, we hope that this book will open them instead,” writes Ettlinger in the introduction. “We hope that this little bit of art and science … will make you think about food additives as real stuff, not just some strange words on a label.”

The authors were first inspired to collaborate on Ingredients: because of a mutual intrigue in what exactly we’re eating – and the Twinkie. Eschliman created a visual treatment of Twinkies ingredients in 2012 called 37 or So Ingredients that went viral and led him to Steve Ettlinger, author of the acclaimed book Twinkie, Deconstructed.

We caught up with Dwight to learn more about the making of the book, the most surprising thing he learned, and to learn more about what he’s working on next.

Dwight Eschliman is represented by Apostrophe. More of his work can be seen through,

INGREDIENTS_55_Red 40 and Yellow 5

Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5: Two additives that are manufactured similarly from a mixture of powders that come from petroleum products such as benzene.

When did you first start deconstructing objects in your photography?
I’ve always organized things. Recently my parents showed me a picture that I’d taken as a child of my dresser after perfectly organizing all those items that a 10 year old cares about – a model airplane, Garfield shrinky-dink, Legos, books about baseball and jet airplanes, etc. Traditionally it’s been more about the organization than the deconstruction, but I do love the organized deconstruction! Organization has been a career-long theme. My first organized composition, or grid, was a promotional poster for a paper company I did when I was still in school. I collaborated with Todd Richards, a very talented designer. It’s still an image I love.

INGREDIENTS_34_Isoamyl acetate

Isoamyl acetate: An ‘ester’ used in artificial scents and flavors. It can be found in beverages as well as ice cream, candy, baked goods (it was the original flavor of Twinkies’ creamy filling), chewing gum, and gelatin desserts.

How did you end up getting involved with Ingredients:?
Ingredients: had its start as a personal project. In 2009 I deconstructed the Hostess family of baked goods after some on set discussions about the state of the American diet. I singled out the Twinkie and self-published a book entitled 37 Or So Ingredients. We created a website for the project and it went viral. I guess there’s something about the Twinkie! After all the attention that 37 Or So Ingredients received, this book project basically fell into my lap. I immediately knew I wanted to expand beyond baked goods and explore the world of food additives. I recognized that the world of food additives (or functional ingredients as the food scientists would prefer we call them) is a subject matter that elicits strong opinions regardless of position. I wanted to put a face to the names that you hear all the time: Acesulfame K, Agar, MSG, Xanthan gum, etc.


Shellac: A preservative made from insect excretions. Shellac helps keep foods fresh and is also used on vegetables, chocolates, baked goods, and even coffee beans and chewing gum.

Tell us about your process for shooting this book.
Most of our time invested in the book was spent doing research and sourcing. I wanted to bring a balanced, expository approach to the book and put a lot of effort into creating a balanced edit in terms of both perception of additive (good vs. evil) and functional purpose of that additive. To accomplish this, I had to read an awful lot about food and the food science world. Along the way I ran into Steve Ettlinger, a great writer that ended up being my collaborator for Ingredients:. The book includes 75 additives and 25 deconstructed foods. In the end, we sourced close to 700 additives and ingredients. Most were not too difficult to source, a few were challenging, and one was impossible.


Corn: Used to make more food additives than any ingredient other than petroleum. Pictured are cornstarch, chemically altered “modified cornstarch,” maltodextrin, corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup.

Were there any particular challenges you faced when photographing these items?
Perhaps the greatest challenge was preventing viewer fatigue. It was important to me that the book remained clinical and consistent to allow the viewer to access sometimes rather subtle variations in a world of white powders and clear liquids. Most additives look quite similar. Just think of salt and sugar. Not too different! There simply aren’t a lot of people out there that are going to get excited about looking at 280 pages of nearly identical photographs.

We photographed additives from two perspectives and included environmental photographs of grocery stores to help round out the story and create some visual variation while still staying true to the clinical and consistent visual approach that was critical to my vision of the book. It also helps to have a talented design firm to work with. Manual did an amazing job with the book.


Soy lecithin: One of the most common emulsifiers used in food processing. It improves dough handling, moisture retention, texture, volume, browning, and shelf life. It is typically used in place of egg yolks.

What was the most surprising thing you learned?
I was surprised to learn that MSG may not be responsible for each headache I get, that although it’s in nearly everything, High Fructose Corn Syrup is nearly impossible to obtain, and that Diacetyl smells really, really awful.


Diacetyl: Primarily used in artificial butter flavor. Has an intensely gross odor when freshly manufactured.

What will your next project be?
Right now we’re looking at cows.

All photographs © Dwight Eschliman, from Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products (Regan Arts, September 2015)

A Conversation with Chris Gordaneer

Chris Gordaneer is Canadian advertising photographer and director renowned for creating mesmerizing images that teleport viewers to other worlds.

Last year, Chris became a partner of Toronto’s Westside Studio. Founded in 1985, Westside Studio represents award-winning commercial photographers, including Chris, under the roof of Canada’s largest commercial photography building. In the United States, Chris is represented by Randy Cole Represents, a New York-based boutique agency promoting commercial photographers, directors and CGI artists.

Chris’ signature style – surreal with a soft color palette – has earned him more than 250 awards in the past 18 years and has gained the attention of a wide range of clients, many of whom ultimately commission Chris due to his love for the giant vista and the way he’s incorporated it into his personal work.

The energetic images Chris produces are the result of the intimacy he creates on set. “I always try to make people feel invited and welcome when I’m shooting,” Chris says. Combining his talent and vision with top-notch production, he always attempts to get the most out of every shoot.

We caught up with Chris recently to chat briefly about his background, the evolution of his style, and the relationship that’s developed between his personal and commercial work.

Chris Gordaneer - Composite Image

Composite image; background photographed in Scotland and model shot in studio

You recently became a partner at Westside Studio (Congrats!) Tell us about some of the salient points in your life and career leading up to that moment, and what this new role has meant for you.

Westside gave me a place to grow and challenge myself as a photographer, but even more valuable was that it helped foster the relationships I have in the industry. I went and did my work placement at Westside as an assistant and never left. I could see the opportunity to work with so many talented and creative people was right there in front of me, and I knew it was for me.

Chris Gordaneer for the 2015 Pan American Games

Olympic bronze medal winner and Canadian flag bearer Mark Oldershaw photographed for the 2015 Pan American Games held in Toronto

Describe your style and how it’s evolved into what it is today.

There’s definitely been a transition from analogue to digital, but I still like to try and capture as much as possible in camera. I like to create a certain mood with my photographs, not just a straight capture. I like my images to tell stories, to have a heroic feel that is direct and clear. Clear visuals are very important.

Chris Gordnaer - Composite Image 2

Composite image; background photographed in Alberta and model shot in studio

Tell us about your personal work. What has been the primary focus and why is it important to you?

I enjoy the outdoors and I think that comes across in my work with big skies and epic landscapes. Getting into remote areas is where I enjoy my location work the most. It’s important to me as a personal reset to spend some time being in nature. There are no distractions and it helps me focus on what’s around me and capturing the details I deem important.

Chris Gordaneer - Golden Ears Park in BC

Personal work, photographed at Golden Ears Park in British Columbia

How does your personal work relate to your commercial work? Have you noticed that clients commission you based off personal projects?

I try to travel to a remote area each year on my own to shoot a creative and explore. My personal images are often what I think attracts clients to me. They want that majestic and epic feel for their ads, which is great and makes most projects feel like they are tailor made for the marriage of my personal and commercial work.

Chris Gordaneer - Subaru

Image for Subaru Campaign, photographed on Vancouver Island

Where do you see photography going in the next few years and what kinds of things are you doing to stay current?

Most photographers now are expected to have a mix of photography and motion skills. The technology has changed at such an exponential rate that it seems like a natural progression to become a director. Understanding how to make powerful single images is very helpful and maybe even an advantage when creating motion work. I’ve really enjoyed the evolution.

AtEdge Conversation Series: On the Track with Andy Batt

Andy Batt‘s approach to photography is built out of a strong commitment to creating an intersection of image and story. Whether it’s working on a large scale project with a huge crew and bigger personalities, or a quiet portrait session in his own studio, his work shows a love for the act of discovery and the creativity of crafting with light.

In 2013 Andy began working with a new high-profile client, Verizon, to photograph their iconic IndyCars and the drivers who operate them.

“This project is all about the power and strength of the IndyCar; that awesome feeling comes from the sound of the engine, the grip of the tires and the sheer speed. That feeling also comes from the successful bridge between driver and car; without a driver with skill, determination and power, an IndyCar can’t win a race.”Andy Batt

While shooting, Andy found himself visiting various different racetracks, mounting cameras onto cars, and using remote-controlled helicopters all in the name of telling the Verizon IndyCar story.

We sat down with him recently to get all the details on what goes into capturing the raw power of these automobiles, what the shoot days were like, the scariest moments, and to get a glimpse of what we can expect to see from him in the future.

The images below are selected pieces from the series. View the complete project here.


Verizon IndyCar Drivers © Andy Batt

How did you get involved in this project?
Andy: Art buyer Hillary Frileck put my name in the hat and creative director Cliff Skeete believed in me. They are amazing people to work with who love and understand photography and its importance in advertising. We’ve worked on four amazing rounds of Verizon IndyCar — two multi-day shoots at a track we had locked down, and two different racetracks capturing real racing in a way that matched our production shoot.

What was your strategy for photographing these cars and their drivers?
Andy: I’m going to quote myself here — this is from the treatment I put together,

Verizon IndyCar © Andy Batt

“[…]I’m going to deliver that spine tingle to that fan. I’m going to make the photos that take them right to the track…

To get a point of view that you can’t get from a TV, the bleacher seats or the box suites. It’s putting the fan in there, in the moment.”

I needed to deliver and create images that would resonate and create that story with a fan. IndyCar is an exciting sport—it’s about the scale of the track, hearing the engines roar and feeling the immense speed as those cars dive into a corner. Putting that into a series of images was the good kind of hard creative work.

What were shoot days like and what kind of challenges did you face?
Andy: We had half a day of testing and two shooting days to work on the first round of this project, and two more days for the second round. The days were long — sunrise to sunset.


Verizon IndyCar © Andy Batt

Were there any scary experiences?
Andy: Nothing felt that scary — for me. For the people watching I think there were a few moments of fear seeing me flying around the track like a lunatic. There was a brief panicky moment when I was sitting on the “front porch” of the insert car, behind the IndyCars going around the track at 70mph when I became aware of just how crazy this was, but I was able to shut that down and get on with the shooting. It’s true that looking through a camera makes you feel protected somehow. There is something about working through crazy stuff that lets you just ignore the ramifications. I would like to add that the insert car operator was amazing, and had me strapped in very safely.


Verizon IndyCar © Andy Batt

What was post-production and editing like for this project?
Andy: The post look was a collaboration between myself, the agency and my retoucher. The call was to take the images into a dark, gritty and aggressive place. If you look at lot of the marketing for other IndyCar teams, you’ll find a very slick, polished look—almost video game like—and with this campaign we wanted to go away from that. There’s a great boutique retouching agency in Portland—Willamette Valley Color. I work directly with the owner, Craig Ferroggiaro on most of my projects. On IndyCar Craig was indispensable, helping craft the look we wanted.

Do you have a personal favorite image from the series?
Andy: I really love this image from the first round; it’s from one of the cameras we mounted right over the front wheel with a super wide lens.There’s a real sense of the speeds these cars are capable of and the light is amazing. It’s a shot that, for me, fulfills the mission of creating a new image for this sport.


Verizon IndyCar © Andy Batt

From the second round, this pit stop photo is one of my favorites. We brought a genie lift out to the track so I could shoot hand held from directly above the car. There were a bank of strobes positioned up high as stadium lights to add some of the flavor of a night race.


Pit Stop © Andy Batt

What would you say is unique about your photographic approach and what do you think sets you apart from other photographers?
Andy: That’s one of those difficult questions for me. From my perspective, I throw myself into a project like this one full force. All the choices I make seem like the obvious ones — I do what seems right. It’s hard to see outside of that bubble. When I talk to other photographers or clients, I get the sense that the paths I take, and the way I do things is unique. But from the inside? It’s hard to know. I have to answer the same questions as everyone else. What story am I telling? Whose story is it—clients, subjects or mine? How do I tell it in an interesting way? I try to make the answers my own—the game is to create original photographs that have some special sauce. Not that everything is a complicated, complex idea—sometimes it’s just about getting the right smile on someone’s face.

A project like IndyCar is literally a lot of moving parts; it’s about creating a palpable sense of exhilaration and excitement.


Verizon IndyCar Driver © Andy Batt

Where do you see your photography going? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Andy: My photography is always in a constant state of evolution—it’s easy to look backwards and see where I’ve been, but much harder to look forwards. I just know that when I find myself repeating things, I get a little itchy to make a change. That could mean discovering a new technique or finding new subjects, I’m not sure. For me it also means looking at current styles and trying to see either past them to what’s coming, or looking closer at what’s 180° from them. I tend to steer away from the current trends—I’ll take advantage of them when appropriate, but if I’m trying to move my artistic self forward, it’s about doing what others are not. That means that what I’m doing might not always align with current tastes, but hopefully I’m always ending up in a slightly different place than everyone else.

Do you have any words of advice for emerging photographers?
Andy: Well, I guess the baseline would be to believe in the paradox. This entire industry rests on the ability to hold two alternate concepts of the same idea in your head at the same time. For example, being a small business owner means that it’s necessary to be profitable — that’s not a luxury — and you need to minimize financial risk.

On the other hand to pursue the career of an artist means it’s necessary to take risks. Sometimes those are creative risks, but often it’s linked to taking a financial one. Being an artist is all about vision and creative ideas, and sometimes you need to follow that vision with money.

To be both of those things is paradoxical, but being a successful commercial photographer requires both.

You need to create work that satisfies your soul, that makes you happy and inspired. You also need to create work that satisfies your clients, that puts money in your pocket. If you are very lucky, you can get paid to do the work that you love. Most of the time you need to find both kinds of work so you can feed your soul and your body. Too much of the work that just gets you paid, but doesn’t feed the artist means you’ll wake up one day with no desire to do the work you need to keep doing. Too much work done purely for your artistic vision, with no financial return means you’ll run out of money. Finding balance in what you do is incredibly important.

For a deeper look into Andy Batt’s body of work please visit his AtEdge Portfolio and Website.

AtEdge Conversation Series: Is It Real or Is It Porto?

James Porto has a reputation for presenting fantastical worlds that blend real and unreal together through the use of classical photography techniques and digital compositing. The resulting images, rich with texture, often challenge the viewer’s sense of reality.

James’ early influences, experimental artists like Jerry Uelsmann and Pete Turner and the classical portrait and fashion greats Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, are always palpable in his photography to one degree or another and are ultimately what make for two distinct sides of his artistic sensibility.

Scattered throughout his images one can find unusual, unexpected, and evocative ideas usually inspired by dreams, fantasies and even music. Conversely, viewers can also expect to see work that captures the majesty of a moment or the essence of a portrait subject, images that are more classical and restrained.

An energetic, conceptual thinker and problem solver, Porto always takes responsibility for every aspect of the process, from pre-production to delivery. This way he can better control the outcome and realize the exact vision that he imagines and that an art director is hiring him to create.

James’ latest assignment, The Real Cost Campaign¸ is part of the FDA’s Nationwide Anti-Smoking Campaign, and is currently running in most major markets across the country as large posters in transit stations and subways.

We caught up with James to get all the details of this powerful new project and discuss more of his imaginative, multi-layered work.


The Real Cost Campaign  © James Porto

How did you get involved with this project and why did choose to take on the assignment?
The Creative Team at FCB/Garfinkel in New York, Senior Art Director Jackie Anzaldi, Art Director Mike Lubrano and Executive Vice President/Executive Creative Director Gary Resch reached out to my agent Ralph Mennemeyer as they felt my vision would match well with their concepts, which were epic. I wanted to take this assignment on because it presented an opportunity for me to create images that would make a positive difference in the world. I found it impossible to pass up making graphic, iconic and frightening posters aimed at countering and discouraging the insidious intentions of the tobacco industry which are to ensnare young people with their evil and addictive product.

Does it have any personal relevance to you?
I’ve never smoked tobacco, however, I’ve watched too many of my friends struggle with the enormous challenge of trying to quit, some with success and others not. During the course of making the images for this campaign, Tom Sales, my childhood friend and a lifelong smoker, died of lung cancer. I dedicate my contribution in this campaign to his memory.


The Real Cost Campaign © James Porto

Those monsters are gruesome – and awesome! Who created them? What do they represent?
Yes, I agree. The monsters were created by Legacy Effects out of LA at the direction of the FCB team. Seriously the best special effects team I’ve ever worked with; we were in the studio absolutely freaking out at these terrifying creatures. They had actors inside the costumes and there was goop dripping all over them… yuck! The army of monsters represents the 7,000 chemicals that constitute contemporary tobacco products. Imagining that you’re inhaling those evil creatures instead of smoke may give some people second thoughts about either starting to smoke or continuing to do so.

The overarching goal of this campaign is obviously to communicate the dangers of cigarette smoking to young adults. Did you have any personal goals for this project?
My personal goal was to make images that were so terrifying and intense that they would be impossible to ignore, and that their presence in the civic landscape would begin to create a shift in consciousness and awareness around the lethal risks of tobacco use.  If even one person were prevented from smoking from these ads I would consider it successful.

Tell us a little more about your shooting and post-production process for these images.
It was a long and ambitious single day shoot as we not only shot the stills for the print campaign, we also did a complete video production with each of five individual monsters as well as a group shot. I kept the lighting dramatic and had the video team match our look. We shot them with and without smoke swirling around them so it was quite a few variations in two mediums and we somehow pulled it off. Once that was done we had 4 luxurious months to create the composite images. I always prefer more time if it’s available, that way each composition can be finessed like a painting to achieve its maximum power and effectiveness and in this case I was very satisfied that we reached that goal. I am very grateful to both FCB and Legacy Effects for a rare and satisfying experience.


© James Porto for Blacksnow Conversions

These images were a collaboration with Blacksnow Conversions. Tell us more about the client, their vision for this shoot, and how the images have been used.
Blacksnow is the enigmatic duo of Micah Blacklight and Opie Snow, two versatile artists whom I met at Burning Man. We collaborated to showcase their costume design so all the styling is theirs. As this was an artistic collaboration it unfolded very organically without the normal client-artist hierarchy; we worked together seamlessly with them creating the look and me capturing and directing the action. I am always on the lookout for an element that visually inspires me and that I haven’t worked with before, so I started to experiment with powdered pigment and the Blacksnow collaboration perfectly fit the bill. As of now these images have only been used for self promotion; I consider them some of the most successful images that I’ve produced recently.

Hannah Thiem

© James Porto for Blacksnow Conversions

What kind of challenges did you face with this project?
I wanted the final image to look perfectly photographic and it took a great deal of time and effort to achieve that result in post production because the powder is so fine it is almost impossible to mask and composite without it looking like amateur Photoshop hour.

Blacklight with Powdered Pigment

© James Porto for Blacksnow Conversions

#2610 MegaBillboardLandCopy

© James Porto

Was this a personal project?
The idea for the Overload series arose from several provocative magazine assignments from both Wired and New York magazine and has transformed into a personal theme that I keep coming back to. Due to the monumental complexity and ambition in each image, there are not that many in the series yet; each one tells a different story of how our world is evolving and morphing with the onslaught of technology, advertising, and population in our hyper-speed information age that we all find ourselves in.


© James Porto

Where did the concept come from?
Back in 1997 Wired assigned me to do a picture set in Times Square where all the signs were changed to a single advertiser. It looked amazing and going forward, I kept looking for opportunities to utilize that device; New York magazine gave me several assignments based on that original Wired image and each one was very successful. I then did a few more as personal projects and currently have several more in progress.

James Porto for New York Magazine

© James Porto for New York Magazine

How did you create the final image above?
Quickly! Randy Minor of New York Magazine called me one day and asked if I could create an image that would exaggerate the result of the MTA’s recent decision to offer advertising space in the subways that was previously off limits, but I only had 36 hours. I accepted and went right out with my camera, riding the subways until I felt I had a thorough library of background images and figures to work with; meanwhile my assistant gathered logos. Then it was caffeine and compositing until I arrived at the image you see here, delivered 30 minutes early too!

The Rockettes 75th Anniversary Book
009_#2347 Marquis

© James Porto

How did you come across the opportunity to photograph the Rockettes?
Very luckily, my accountant’s wife worked for Madison Square Garden and otherwise may not have known of my work. She along with her marketing director called me in for a meeting where they asked me to create a proposal to shoot a book for the 75th Anniversary of the Rockettes. What an opportunity! I was thrilled when they accepted the bid and gave me the job!


© James Porto

Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes are undoubtedly two of the most iconic attractions in New York City. Pictures of, and about, them are innumerable. Did you see this as an obstacle when setting out to shoot this project? How did you prepare to overcome that?
Since this project was a retrospective celebrating 75 years of the Rockettes, we had access to their entire inventory of costumes going all the way back and had complete run of Radio City Music Hall for two full weeks, in addition to over 70 beautiful dancers and dance coordinators. I have always loved Radio City Music Hall and was so excited to have all that access and resources that I actually never considered what had been done before; I came into project with the intention to make exquisite pictures that would honor the legacy of both the Rockettes and the Hall and did so by visualizing the images as if I didn’t know anything about them, just responding to the visual possibilities that were right before my eyes.

Rox Cab Black

© James Porto

We love these images, which are so perfectly executed that it’s hard to tell if any compositing was done or not! How much photo manipulation was involved?
What was different about this project compared to most of my assignments is that almost the entire book was straight photography; we created lines of Rockettes in various vintage and contemporary costumes, lit and shot them in various numbers in all the iconic locations throughout the hall with no manipulation. Interestingly, the three you chose were the only three composites in the book. The Marquis shot is certainly a composite as the women are out of scale, and would not have been permitted to stand up there, although we did try. The Rockettes were shot on a stage and it’s a simple two image composite. The Cover shot (orange one) had to be composited because there wasn’t really a place for them to stand and get that effect; the carpet and balcony were added and the stage façade was shot separately and composited to provide room for the title, etc. The taxicab shot is a total composite, which is more typical of my work and is pre-visualized; every element was shot separately and intentionally to serve the concept.

Special thanks to James Porto for taking the time to collaborate with us on this interview!

James Porto is represented by Ralph Mennemeyer. You can explore more of his imaginative work through his AtEdge Portfolio and website

AtEdge Conversation Series: LOCHNER | CARMICHAEL Collaboration

Jillian Lochner is one of the most sought after photographers in the world. Known for her immaculate lighting and provocative work, she has made a prominent name for herself over the years photographing campaigns for a long list of reputable clients such as Absolut Vodka, Adidas, Courvoisier, Tank Magazine, GHD, New York Times, Captain Morgan and many more.

Jillian is represented by JK&, an agency led by John Kenney and Ed Varites that works with award-winning photographers and directors who are passionate about their work and artistic vision. Always on the search for unique and talented artists who mesh well with their already established family of photographers, Jillian caught their eye a little over a decade ago. Through her work for fashion brand Black Coffee, JK& saw a photographer who was different – fearless, unique and passionate.

Eleven years later, Jillian continues to evolve and push the traditional limits of commercial photography. The latest incarnation, a new collaborative project with husband and fine artist Andrew Carmichael, takes her work to a new level previously unexplored. Andrew develops concepts, builds sets, invents contraptions and makes props. Jillian brings her years of photographic knowledge to perfecting the photo-aesthetic side of the work both in the studio and in post-production. The resulting images would be equally at home in a gallery space, in a major advertising campaign, or in an editorial context.

We caught up with Jillian and JK& to talk more about this new groundbreaking work, where it’s headed, and what that could mean for the future.

When did you and Andrew Carmichael start working together professionally?
Jillian: We first started working together on an editorial shoot about a year ago. He was with me at the studio when a new set designer turned up with a horrendous thing he had built; the designer hadn’t followed my brief at all or worked to the scale I had asked him to. On the spot Andrew took over and started to draw the set by hand with pencil on the back of the other designer’s flats. Then he just started to arrange some props and bags. I lit and shot the arrangement and instantly I knew we had something special.

How has your way of working evolved since then?
Jillian: Since we began just over a year ago our way of working has become more elaborate; we are making props and sets, working on concepts, and experimenting with non-traditional light sources and translucent materials. His fascination with the extremes of light and dark challenge my usual restricted tonal palette in ways that help create work that is more than just a sum of our joint output.


Tell us a little more about Andrew as an artist and his vision.
Jillian: Andrew trained as an artist in London attending Goldsmiths and the Royal College of Art. He then worked as an artist and exhibited for over 10 years before being side tracked away from creative work into setting up an arts charity and working on regeneration projects.

Light as metaphor, and the recording of it as photography, have always been central to his vision. In an early performance installation piece he used a 4 meter lever to amplify the small movement of the artist’s chest breathing in and out to raise and lower a light bulb, first illuminating and then darkening the gallery space. The lighting of the space on the in-breath, a metaphor for coming into existence, the darkening of the space on the out-breath, a metaphor for taking that existence into the interior of the self, which is of course always eventually extinguished.

As an artist Andrew has also always been intrigued by the rigid logic of light; the way that shadows can appear as seemingly random and confused shapes when they are actually always driven by unbending rules. He often talks about how the logic of light perfectly describes the interaction of light source, subject and projection surface as the image, or the way you cannot change the fact that your shadow is always in front of you when you walk away from the light but behind you when you walk towards it. He often quotes T.S. Elliot pondering on this connection in the tragic lines from The Waste Land:

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you

The poet will try and “show you something different” but you know the result will always be the same.

Your collaboration is groundbreaking – merging commercial photography with fine art. Why did you choose to head in this direction?
Jillian: I am not sure that we choose this direction. It just sort of happened! Our starting point has always been making the work that we like. A good example is the work we’ve done for the Italian magazine Amica, with the wonderfully unconventional and energetic stylist Vanessa Giudici. The magazine gives us total freedom to do whatever we want with fashion accessories from high end brands; the more irreverently we treat the objects the more they seem to like it. We love the freedom editorials provide to make images that are not compromised by having to have a set number of products in a particular arrangement. We equally enjoy the challenge of more restricted commercial briefs and the creativity that is born out of constraints.


Your previous work is famous for exploring themes such as the dynamics of sexual relationships and the ambiguous beauty of human form and function. Do these themes also play a role in the new work?
Jillian: The new work with Andrew is very different. We have not used models or the human form directly, but there are some sexual suggestions introduced by distorting bags or altering furniture. I personally can’t resist bringing in a little sexual innuendo, but these days I prefer to make it so subtle that a viewer can’t be sure whether the photographer has put it there or if it’s only there in their mind.

Where do you see this collaboration going in the long-term?
Jillian: In the long-term, we plan to work with some of the agencies and brands we admire most to create memorable campaigns. We are talking to agencies and clients about working on the very early stages of creative projects, collaboratively as “concept vendors” supplying ideas, rather than just image makers brought in at the end of the process. Some of our personal project ideas are being developed into commercial campaigns which you can view through our website, and we are looking for a space where we can exhibit some of the objects and sets as purely art pieces. We are very excited about working together – the ideas are flowing and we bounce them off each other in all sorts of creatively productive ways, and we would like to keep experimenting and find clients who are willing to come along with us for the ride.

Jillian Lochner has been working with her agency, JK& for a little over a decade. Originally drawn to her unique vision, they have continuously supported Jillian’s evolution as an artist throughout the years.

We spoke to JK& briefly to hear more about their role as Jillian heads in this exciting new direction.

When did you begin working with Jillian Lochner? What originally caught your eye about her and her work?
JK&: We first became aware of Jillian’s unique photography when she was living in Cape Town, South Africa. She had just shot a very provocative campaign for a clothing company, Black Coffee, with advertising agency TBWA/ Hunt / Lascaris and we found ourselves wondering who this young South African photographer was making such a bold statement with her photography. Her work at the time was almost on the edge of offensive, explicit, but with a second look you realize it’s not the photograph, it’s how you see it. Jillian’s sharp yet subtle vision, her ability to step out of her comfort zone, never afraid to express what she sees and feels, made her work intriguing. After several conversations on the phone we began our relationship. The challenge for us was how to get her commercial advertising work and find which agencies were going to be willing to take a chance on her amazing talent.

What is your expectation for this type of work and how do you go about promoting someone with such a unique vision and fine art sensibility to commercial clients?
JK&: Jillian is an artist that is constantly evolving; she moved to London shortly after we started working with her and after a period of introspection she abandoned her old work and started in a new direction. We didn’t attempt to mold her photography, nor would we, to fit the general market, rather we promoted her work to those clients that are looking for something different, those clients that see their ad as something more than a marketing tool. They see advertising as representation of their brand, dynamic, powerful, high quality. We put together a new portfolio, not your usual portfolio but large prints that showed her work as art pieces, hired a great young designer to produce a mailer and put her work in AtEdge. It wasn’t long after that the more progressive agencies started working with Jillian. She started shooting ads for TBWA New York, Absolut Vodka, Anomaly, Captain Morgan, The Martin Agency, Manpower, and the New York Times Magazine to name a few.

We are now working on promoting another transition in Jillian’s photographic journey, her collaboration with installation artist Andrew Carmichael. This collaboration takes Jillian’s work to yet another level, which we are very excited to share with the adverting and design community. We are hoping that companies will see the great value of working with these two conceptual artists and elevate the quality of work we see in the market place.

You represent a very impressive list of photographers, such as Gary Land, Dan Escobar, Blaise Hayward, Marc Tule, Bill Cahill, Francesco Tonelli and others. What do you look for in a photographer that you would like to add your roster?
JK&:We look for someone with an artistic vision, whose work expresses their passion. We are an agency that represents photographers and directors. We do not represent makeup artists, stylists, etc. We are a family and we share and talk with each other every day. We focus on what we know best, the photographic image, whether still or in motion. We look for photographers that feel would make a good fit for our family.

Special thanks to Jillian Lochner and JK& for their time to make this interview possible.

For a look into Jillian Lochner’s archive, please visit her AtEdge Portfolio and current collaborative website. For more information on JK& please visit their website.

Lulu: Stan Musilek Reflects on Shooting Lou Reed’s Final Musical Project

In 2011 Stan Musilek photographed the album artwork for what would become Lou Reed’s final full-length musical project, Lulu.

The album, a collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica, was inspired by German playwright Frank Wedekind’s early 20th century Lulu plays which tell the story of a sexually-enticing dancer who rises in German society through her relationships with wealthy men but subsequently falls into poverty and prostitution.

Lulu’s imagery is centered on a mannequin bust from the 1800’s, a woman’s nude body and lyrics superimposed on the surface of the images with blood. At first, the final photographs faced censorship and media scrutiny. However a mere 2 years later, in 2013, they were awarded the prestigious Graphis Gold Award.

October 24th marks the one year anniversary of Lou Reed’s passing. As such, we wanted to take a moment and reflect with Stan Musilek on the process, concept and reception of this album and its artwork.


1. How did you get involved in this project? Were you a Lou Reed fan before?

I got involved through David Turner from Turner Duckworth with whom I’ve collaborated for twenty-odd years. David asked me if I was on board to shoot photos for Lou Reed’s latest musical project, and of course I jumped on it. And yes, I have always been a huge Lou Reed fan. In my college days I had all the vinyls.

2. Tell us more about the conceptual process. Lulu is based on Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays which pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on the stage at the time. Did you also intend on making something that pushed society’s boundaries?

That was absolutely the case. We talked about this a lot with David. This was Lou Reed we were working with, and pushing boundaries was just his nature. You’d talk about something with Lou, or show him something — something most people would consider racy — but he’d react like it was tame, just shrug his shoulders and say “it’s fine.” So then we figured it out and we’d go back to him with something like blood added to the picture, and he loved it! He was the epitome of pushing boundaries.


3. Were there any memorable moments or conversations between you and Lou Reed while conceiving and shooting Lulu ?

Oh yeah, that’s a great question. I could talk for a whole evening. Speaking of pushing boundaries, I’m not even sure we can put some of these on the web, but I’ll give you two.

So we started with this synthesis of the sculpture bust and the real human body, and of course we were aware that this would be for a worldwide market and that we couldn’t go beyond a certain point. But in the studio we did take versions that were more x-rated, though we didn’t present those at first to Lou. At first, we were showing him the more timeless and classical compositions of the female body. So that’s when he came back at us with, “Hey guys, this is rock and roll. We need more pussy.” [laughs] That’s when we showed him the other material and then he was happy.


Lulu11There’s another story that David recently reminded me about. There is this picture I took at the Museum der Dinge [where the bust we used for Lulu resides] of what looks like a mannequin head wrapped in bandage, with blood seeping through the back of the head. Well, each of the final shots I took went with a corresponding song for the album, so that was going with one of the songs. At the exhibition we had in Chelsea [at the Steven Kasher Gallery], we showed all the shots that didn’t make the cut for the commercial release of the album. As the exhibition was about to be hung, Lou said he would like to name the pieces. We thought that was just great, that he wanted a part of each of the photographs that I was showing. So he sent us all the names, and the one he gave to that head with the blood was “Black Man’s Dick.” David says that to this day he regrets he didn’t save my voicemail to him from Berlin. Given that this was Lou Reed we were talking about, I guess I was trying to be diplomatic, saying that “of course all Lou’s names are great, just really great, but I’m not quite sure about that one. I’m not sure I want to be identified in a gallery with that title…” and all that. So David calls Lou and brings this up, and Lou was furious, saying “I thought you guys were different, but you just want to cave like every one else when things get controversial.” And then he hang up on David. But then he called David back a little later and said, “ok, Stan might be right. He might be right.” [laughs] Lou was an artist, but talk about pushing boundaries!”


4. The images depict the mannequin bust sometimes paired with a nude body. Other images have lyrics written on the surface with what appears to be blood. What was the production of this artwork like? What steps were taken during post-production? And… is it really blood?

Actually, it is blood. It’s pig’s blood. We wrote with pig’s blood on the surface of the images with our fingers and then reshot them. One of my favorite shots with the blood is the one with the text, “I’m just a small town girl who’s gonna give life a whirl.” I just thought that was a great lyric and it worked really well with the image.


For the mannequin with the nude body, the process was interesting because we had to do it out of sequence. I was working in Paris and got the call that the curator agreed to let us shoot the bust and that the date was arranged. So I hopped on a plane, and at the time I was thinking, how can I illustrate 14 songs just by taking photographs of a bust from different angles? And that’s when Lou said “we can’t just shoot a bust, let’s get more racy.” So we were on the same page, and that’s when the idea came to add a human in there. The sequence was tricky because we only had three days for shooting in Berlin, and the date for shooting the bust was set because we had this appointment already, so I had to shoot the bust before shooting the body. Because of that, I had to have a well conceived idea of what positions we would do with the body when we were shooting the bust. On top of that, I wasn’t going to be allowed to touch the bust in the museum – they were giving us two handlers who would deal with that. So, this is how we did it. We quickly arranged for a stand-in nude to come to the hotel on the first day – that’s a whole other story, but I couldn’t believe someone would just show up and get naked for us. That’s when we sketched out the compositions with a point-and-shoot camera. Then we photographed the bust from all the necessary angles at the museum. While we were at the museum, we saw there were all these crazy objects there, and we were able to sweet talk the curator to let us shoot them. On the last day, we had this great, high profile model come to the studio to shoot her nude. She agreed to be totally nude because it was for  Lou Reed, and because her face wouldn’t be in the final photographs.


5. The album imagery was ultimately censored by Transport for London from being used as promotional material in London Underground stations and trains. It was even considered controversial to certain media outlets. Can you elaborate?

We weren’t a part of that process, so we don’t know much about it. I think a big element in censoring it was because of the pig’s blood and that people said it looked like graffiti. They didn’t want that in the stations. Aside from that, there was also this thing that they were dealing with commercial pressures. They wanted to sell the album in Walmart, so we couldn’t use some of the pictures.


You can view more imagery from Lulu here. For more work from Stan Musilek, check out his AtEdge portfolio and website.

Special thanks to Stan Musilek and Shahrzad Ehya for their time and collaboration to make this interview possible!

Re-branding a Photographer: Conversation with Marilyn Cadenbach and Jennifer Robbins

Jennifer Robbins is one of our very favorite fashion/lifestyle photographers, and Marilyn Cadenbach is one of our very favorite agents. So we were pretty excited when Jen joined Marilyn’s award-winning group of international commercial photographers last year.

Before signing a new photographer, Marilyn carefully considers more than just their style, talent and how they might fit in with the rest of her group. She also goes through a step-by-step process of evaluating their portfolio to determine how much work it might take to get it in shape for her to feel great about promoting them. For Jennifer Robbins, she recommended a total redesign of her book, her identity and all her promotional materials. The project took four months and the results are absolutely stunning (to match Jen’s images)!

We caught up with Marilyn and Jen recently to hear more about their new relationship and the re-branding project.

How did you and Jennifer Robbins first connect? What originally drew you to her work?
Marilyn Cadenbach: Susan Baraz, the Director of Photography for AtEdge, had been talking to me about Jen for some time.  I looked at her work and thought it was brilliant – the energy, her sensibility, the rawness, the looseness of her composition, the irreverence. It all appealed to me, but I wasn’t looking to add any new artists at that time, so I filed it away.  I first met Jen at the AtEdge Face-to-Face event in Minneapolis in May of last year, and we hit it off immediately.

What do you think differentiates Jen from other photographers, and what was the deciding factor in bringing her into your group?
Marilyn: Jen is a big personality, and that comes through in her images. They are bold, sexy, kinetic, seductive, irreverent, and let’s not forget, a little bit naughty. That’s Jen! As far as the deciding factor, there are a lot of things that are a part of that thought process. Do I love the work? Do I like the photographer? What kind of rapport do we have? Is there mutual respect? Is there a sense that we could work together as partners? Is there a market for the work? How committed is the photographer, both in terms of making a financial investment and in terms of doing the work, whether it be shooting for the book, going to meetings, or any other variation of getting in the trenches that may be required?

© Jennifer Robbins

© Jennifer Robbins

Before signing you on, Marilyn recommended a total re-branding of your identity in addition to a complete portfolio redesign. How did you feel about that? Were you on board with it from the start, or did she have to convince you?
Jennifer Robbins: I was ready to do what Marilyn believed was the best thing for me. Marilyn’s approach factored in not only the artist but also the human in me. She knew how to present it in a way that wasn’t demanding, threatening, or even overwhelming. She really explained it with her years of experience how she saw great talent in me and that presenting it in a certain way would change the nature of how I was received by people. It wasn’t that I had to be a different artist; it was just that I had to put it in a different package. I don’t think she had to convince me very much. I really just trusted her immediately and implicitly.


Jen’s first portfolios, before working with Marilyn

Old Business Cards

Jens old business cards

You pulled together a fantastic team for this creative makeover. First, you recommended Edoardo Chavarin to design Jen’s new identity (branding, logo concept, business cards, etc). Tell us a little about his process. 
Marilyn: I loved being exposed to Edoardo’s creative process. At our initial meeting, we sat and talked for a bit as sort of an exploratory process.  During that meeting, he asked Jen to show him what inspires her, in any form whatsoever – photography, music, food, architecture, design, people, destinations, culture, color, anything and everything. Jen pulled together her sources of inspiration, and they took it from there.  Edoardo delivered an amazing array of options initially, and it was fascinating to see how he took the concept that was most fitting for Jen and distilled it down to something that embodies her and communicates her “brand” so impeccably.

Edoardo’s first step in working up concepts for your new identity was to ask you to provide visuals to illustrate who you are and what inspires you. They could be images, buildings, logos… most anything. What types of things did you show him, and why?
Jennifer: It actually started off in a way that was obvious– things that I clearly like in the present day. After that, it just became a very strange stream of consciousness. I started off with different shades of pink and one of Madonna’s album covers. Then I showed him photos of Marilyn Monroe, Gwen Stefani’s pink hair, Barbies, paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec and Georgia O’Keeffe, a pair of shoes, Helmut Newton’s photos, and even the movie Annie Hall. There were so many random images and they all made sense to me, but the question was what were they going to say to Edoardo about me?

Business cards 1

Jen’s new business cards

Once Jen’s new identity was developed, you recommended Mary Ann Guillette to help redesign her portfolio. Tell us about that process. 
Marilyn: Ooooh la la. This was quite a process. I have known Mary Ann for years. She’s a talented Creative Director and Graphic Designer with an amazing sensibility for book design and photo editing. Mary Ann also has a very clear understanding of the printing process and can foresee potential pitfalls before going to press which is really helpful. She’s worked with me on John Huet’s books as well, and I really enjoy the collaboration.  In addition to the book, Mary Ann designed Jen’s leave behinds, a series of potential source book ads and her new promo which we are super excited to send out!

You were the creative director and chief editor?
Marilyn: Yes, I functioned as the Creative Director and Chief Editor, and I love putting on those hats. Michael Wilkerson, who works with me, did the initial edit on the book, and I took it from there, refining and shaping the direction.  I can’t edit in a vacuum, and Michael and Jen were an integral part of the process. Once we had the image sequence finished, everything went to Mary Ann who then put it into layout form.  She made some changes on the first round and also offered her input on where we might make further improvements.

How many rounds of revisions did you go through?  Is that typical?  
Marilyn: I believe we went four rounds from the time the edit went to Mary Ann to final. Absolutely.  The adjustments are usually pretty minor at this point, but there’s still tweaking that needs to be done.

Front inside of book

Front inside of Jen’s re-designed portfolio

Tell us about some of the miscellaneous pieces that a third designer, Alexandra Tumbas created to help pull Jen’s brand together in a thoroughly integrated presentation.
Marilyn: I constantly have new ideas, and Alexandra has collaborated with me on things for everyone I represent. I think the first thing that she did for Jen came to me in the form of a challenge from a Digital Assets Manager at an ad agency who told me that when we came in to meet with them on Monday, she wanted to see a certain sticker.  It was a joke, but I of course took the challenge and asked Alexandra if she could design the sticker over the weekend.  We talked back and forth, and she delivered exactly what I had in mind. That spawned more stickers for Jen which will eventually be wild postings.  Alexandra also designed her mailing label, PDF covers and layouts, etc.

What do you think were some of the greatest improvements made to your portfolio?
Jennifer: Everything felt complete from the color choices, to the type of font, to the incredible icon that Edoardo came up with. Even the layout structure of the book is something I would have never come up with by myself. I’ve always been proud of my photography but I never understood the power of presenting it the way I do now.

Leave Behinds 1

New leave-behinds

What was the most important thing you learned from this process?
Jennifer: Having great photos is paramount but presenting them as a professional packaged creation is part of the responsibility of being in this line of work. Another thing I learned was trusting people who are outside of my work but still within the industry. As a photographer I get very attached to certain images. Letting go of that control and allowing Marilyn and her team to come in and rearrange was a necessary discomfort, which I think paid off.

How do you feel about the new Jen Robbin’s package? Do you think that you have undergone a bit of a personal transformation as well?
Jennifer:  I feel thrilled with the new packaging. There is no doubt that I’ve gone through a personal transformation from even before the inception of the brand. Through Marilyn I have been inspired to step up my game in every way possible. The new packaging allows me to show part of who I am as a photographer, beyond the pictures.  It communicates who I am and things I don’t always get to say even when I’m not there to communicate for myself.

You have been showing Jen’s new book for a couple of months now. How has it been received by art buyers and creatives so far?
Marilyn: The reception has been great! As I mentioned previously, Jen’s work is a reflection of Jen’s personality, and people respond well to both.  We’ve met with some people who saw the ‘before’ and the ‘after’, and everyone has applauded the transformation!

Front of Book

Front of Jen’s new portfolio

What’s the most notable difference you’ve seen in Jen and her work since completing the re-brand and starting to show her new book?
Marilyn: Jen now has something to show that is not only an impeccable and professional presentation, but it’s a true reflection of her, from her logo, to her business cards, to her portfolio, leave behinds and promo, it’s one seamless package. When you have something that you feel good about showing, it instills confidence.  Jen takes the book to all of her shoots and shows it to the talent so that they have a sense of who she is and what she’s looking to create. She hands out her leave behinds at shoots, she loves her promo.  Recently she had a publicist at a shoot ask her where she could buy a copy of her book. I think that speaks volumes. Jen is very tall, and she can command any room, but I honestly think she may be standing a little bit taller now.

What advice would you give to photographers who are trying to crank it up a notch in the development of their image and brand?
Jennifer: I would say that if you can find the money and find a creative team that you trust then definitely put your efforts towards creating a complete package. There is no doubt in my mind that allocating money to create your brand is ultimately necessary, especially now that there are so many more photographers in the world. I fully believe it will come back tenfold.

Many thanks to Marilyn Cadenbach and Jennifer Robbins for taking time out of their busy schedules to fill us in on this fantastic project!

Jen Heels

© Jennifer Robbins

View more of Jennifer’s commercial work here: 

AtEdge Portfolio

Her client list includes: All Clad, Bloomingdale’s, Cosmopolitan, Elle Mexico, Essence, Fitness, GQ Italy, Glamour, Interview, La Blanca Swimwear, Maxim, Mimi Jewelry, Neiman Marcus, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Vanity Fair, Boston Magazine, Bollman Hat Company, Bridal Guide, Carolee, Gotham Magazine, Mandee, Ocean Drive, The One Group and Vodafone.