Introducing Cutler/Bremner, two creative powerhouses who recently made their collaboration official with a new website. They sat down with us to discuss the pandemic and creativity, and gave us a behind the scenes look at their latest cover for Washington Post Magazine.
“The pandemic and creativity have nothing to do with each other. The only thing the pandemic does is give people an excuse not to create. You either have a creative mind or you don’t. People who are creative don’t watch what others are doing and follow — they instead explore and constantly try to change and evolve. You will always remember an image with an idea over just an image.”
atedge: Your Washington Post cover was about the new challenges posed by the Coronavirus. What are some of the challenges and shooting difficulties you’ve overcome during the lockdown?
Cutler Bremner: We’ve been challenged with the face-to-face collaboration. In the past, we’d meet in person and kick off the start of a new assignment. Now, one of the biggest challenges is that social time we all had pre-Covid it’s unfortunately not happening due to the current regulations. We get a lot of work done separately and prep for shoots on Zoom and then come together the day of the shoot. The actual shoot days are always a bit more complicated with apps to check into for access to the stage along with temperature checks and of course masks, social distancing and wiping down surfaces. We’ve found that additional TV monitors on set have been really helpful to keep the distance among the crew. There’s alway a “Covid” person on the shoot to help enforce these rules. The shoots can still be accomplished you just need to adapt to the times and take this virus very seriously.
Original concept sketch #1. Courtesy of Cutler/Bremner
atedge: Do these added challenges inspire you creatively, or push you in a previously unexplored direction?
Cutler Bremner: The Education Cover for the Washington Post is a good example of adapting to our current times. We had some earlier concepts that we were considering shooting in an actual lecture hall at a university. Location scouting and getting permission to be on any campus has been become a lengthy process and comes with its own set of rules that make it even more difficult. So we simplified, and thought shooting the cover in a large open studio space would actually be more graphic and unique. Once we landed on that approach we then developed our lighting direction and overall look of the shot. In some ways because of these challenges it may have helped us to land on this bold approach.
atedge: Have you dealt with similar scenarios of limited access in the past?
Cutler Bremner: We’ve done many automotive shoots, and sometimes when the client has a new prototype they’ve often provided security with the vehicle. This usually involves a leaner crew just to limit the amount of people who’ll see the car before it launches. The stage is often a “closed set” with each crew member signing in each day that way security tracks who’s been there, to minimize the chance of a leaked image. Those shoots have been a similar experience to our current shoots and in both cases you just adapt and focus on the work.
Original concept sketch #2. Courtesy of Cutler/Bremner
atedge: Do your visions always align or do you find at times your approaches to a challenge differ?
Cutler Bremner: We’re usually in-sync from the beginning, but the collaboration is certainly stronger by challenging each other. We often push each other and sometimes debate a concept, but it’s always a discussion about “how can we make it better”? We’ve collaborated together on many assignments throughout the years and at this point we have a shorthand that allows us to develop ideas fluidly. Our usual approach is to receive a brief from a client then we work separately for a little while, and then share our ideas with each other. We pick our favorites and develop them further together and then prepare them for presentation.
atedge: As a team, what would be your dream project?
Cutler Bremner: Our dream project would be an assignment that pushes us to create a complete integrated campaign. Our approach to concept development combined with getting the opportunity to see it through production and final deliverables is what we really want to be involved in. We’ve been very fortunate to work with some great CMO’s and editors and our goal is to build from those past experiences and grow into new ones. There’s a lot of great clients out there that we’d love to partner with to create smart conceptual ideas and we can provide an alternative to agencies and design studios. Our dream project doesn’t have to be a big budget with travel. (Always nice to have) We’re open to opportunities to have clients that are looking for an experienced team that can get stuff done efficiently but making sure the craft is there in the quality of all the work. Ideally we’d love to have the opportunity to present concepts that we develop alongside with the client and then we get to see it through from concept to execution.
Behind the scenes as the team prepares for the shoot. Courtesy of Cutler/Bremner
atedge: What is your photographic philosophy and how has it helped in this situation?
Cutler Bremner: Our vision has always been based on the philosophy of “less is more”. Simplicity is always clearer. This approach not only applies to creating imagery, but also our approach to design. It can be seen in our site design and other work we’ve produced. Ironically, this really does apply to the current times all our recent shoots have certainly been produced on “less is more” approach. We’ve all had to do more work with a smaller crew. It’s been challenging but we find a way to get it done and still make sure the quality of the work doesn’t get affected.
atedge: Do you have any advice for other photographers who are shooting during lockdown?
Cutler Bremner: Whether you like it or not, the pandemic has created the perfect window to explore and make personal content that is a reflection of who you are as an artist. There are no excuses to stop you from doing anything, period. It allows you to stand on your own without any distractions. If you have self-discipline, the ideas will come.
To see more inspiring work, view Craig’s online portfolio on At-Edge and visit the CutlerBremner website.