January 9, 2017

Starting the Morning (and New Year) Off Right!

I had a few free days at the beginning of this New Year and found some wonderful fellow collaborators (stylists) to start the year playing in the studio. Here are a few photos from our session. I always love shooting breakfast. More to come later!

September 13, 2016

Sharing Some New Published Work

When a client you have worked with for a number of years leaves the company you are shooting for (in this case a publishing client) it is a concern that the person who replaces them will want to work with new people. I am always thrilled to be given the opportunity to continue the relationship with the new client. In fact, my team embraces the opportunity to approach the assignments under a different directive. This is what happened recently and below is some work that we did for a cool new client who has a wonderful sense of food.

August 23, 2016

Hot and Juicy- Grill Shoots at the Studio

The benefit of having a studio in San Francisco is that we can accommodate a grilling shoot easily- moving the "show" outside to the studio garden, has been a real asset, especially when we need access to all the studio has to offer (accommodating kitchen, Wifi for clients, access to grip and camera gear). This last month we have had three shoots where we took the shoot outdoors to the garden. Another benefit of being is SF- is that we don't typically have to worry about rain days!

Here is some of the fun we had outside!

Below is a promotional piece we created from some of the work shot for the various projects.

Lola, the Spatchcock Pug, is on our set "art director" making sure everything smells just right!

April 28, 2016

Are Printed Promos Dead? It Seems Not!

There have been discussions for a number of years about how clients ( art buyers, art directors, designers, photo buyers, producers) find out about a photographer's work. Now there are so many ways for them to find work. Current thinking suggests that the printed promo is obsolete. That clients don't like receiving all that mail because then they need to find a place to store it. The computer - and now I would say the smartphone - has done away with the old school method of opening up a file cabinet or box and sifting through all the promos that have been sent.

I send them anyway. I personally still like print (despite the extra time that my team and I spend working with our printer to get the colors and tones just right) I like the physicality of them and I guess so do some of my clients! In fact one of them was sweet enough to send me a photo of his office wall covered in my promos! This blew me away- it made all that work worth while. There is something so validating about knowing that your work is not just selling your client's products, but people are enjoying it as well!

March 10, 2016

Hot off the Presses: A New Book On Salmon that I Shot for Chronicle Books

I love it when a book that I have photographed comes out. I get to see how the images and text work with each other to tell the story. The choices of fonts, layouts and cropping all are so important in how the work is interpreted. It is why I love to work with the talented designers of Chronicle Books. I also am interested to hear what the author's feelings about the book, it is most important to me since the book is their "baby". I am always hopeful that I have done justice to their writing. Thank you to Diane Morgan for giving me another chance to work on one of her books.

Here is my email announcement for the book.

March 3, 2016

Writer Anne Telford Gives a Spin on My Work on The Essence of Wine

By Anne Telford
No less a consumer of alcohol than Ernest Hemingway said of wine:
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Photographer Leigh Beisch’s collaboration with wine and restaurant blogger Alder Yarrow came through a cookbook referral from noted San Francisco chef and consultant to the restaurant and food industries, Joyce Goldstein. “He wanted someone to partner with for the blog. He’s very articulate and elegant. The way he spoke about my work made me feel like I’d be partnering with someone who understood my work,” Beisch explains.
Yarrow’s highly regarded blog, Vinography® details his opinions and insights on “Wine and food adventures in San Francisco and around the world”. Vinography.com has been published daily since 2004, and he was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2013.
Together Yarrow and Beisch collaborated on a wine book that is startlingly unique. To round out the project, Sara Slavin, who frequently collaborates with photographers, designers and publishers on editorial projects, and has co-authored numerous books.  Sara was brought in as an art director/stylist. “We have similar feelings about work. We view our jobs as not just jobs but work we are passionate about,” Leigh says. “Sara put in a lot of leg work, we tried to create photography that went beyond the expected shot of these flavor essences of wine. We tried to capture that taste, that aroma.”
Winner of the 2015 Chairman’s Prize at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards, The Essence of Wine Celebrating the Delights of the Palate is both a comprehensive wine guide, coffee table opus, and an art book so beautifully photographed and styled that one can almost smell the delicious aromas arising from its pages. In fact, the book contains an aroma card that tells the story of wine’s flavors. The Essence of Wine is divided into four groups of the “sensory panoply” wine offers: harvest, garden, terrain, and kitchen, providing inspiration and guidance for Beisch’s approach.
“I wanted it to be a fusion, something that is personal as well as a product for clients. It pushed the boundaries, but was a commercial project in some sense,” she says of the long-term project.  “Wine is an artistic form in and of itself. Alder brings all the passion that goes into wine,” she adds, and she brought the passion of a fine artist to the project. Trained as a painter, Beisch’s work is sensuous and rich, often appearing more like a painting than a photograph, and always impeccably styled with a light, but sure touch.
“Due to my thesis work at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], I have been trained to think about how and why I do things,” she explains. “A lot of it stems from being a female artist as well. I allow my emotional response to what I’m photographing play into how I’m photographing it. Food is an emotional experience. Rather than viewing it as subject/object, it’s really an experience.
“For this project the subjective point of view was more important. That experience you get with wine tasting. I certainly appreciate wines; I am interested in any kind of art form. I talked to vintners about how they made their wines. They are like paintings, these wines.”
Food and drink are two of life’s great pleasures and experiences. The sensual textures, aromas, flavors, and colors of wine enhance its gustatory pleasure. Most oenophiles, or wine lovers, can describe flavors they enjoy; some might be fans of red wine, others favor whites with their lighter, crisper taste. The strict traditions of consumption, and appreciation, of wine may escape the average consumer, and are often seen as arcane and pretentious by the uninformed. This tome offers a chance to acquaint oneself with the components that make up this time-honored beverage and to be drawn into a deeper understanding of wine.
Using props, textures, and light, and never over styling, allows those natural elements, changes and differences to come into her work. “They are important. They are the subjective part that as an artist you want to bring in. As a human, as a woman— and as a huge consumer —I feel like I reflect a very appropriate point of view that works with the consumer market,” Beisch details.
When I first started in commercial photography, as a fine artist I tried to challenge things. Why do all the labels have to be in focus? Why does the wine have to have no studio lighting reflections? Why can’t it be dappled, or highlighted? It seems more energetic and exciting, questioning those things,” she says.
When one discovers Beisch’s background, it’s no surprise that she challenges and examines conventional wisdom. Born in New York to a poet mother and creative director father who worked with photographic luminaries like Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon, she was encouraged to pursue photography. Her father’s work brought his family to London, and eventually back to the States. “He got a gig heading up an agency in the Boston area. My mom started going back to school at a Harvard extension,” Leigh says. Concord is where she grew up with stories and ideologies of nature and art.
“My mother was writing poetry on her IBM Selectric in the dining room,” she remembers. “Hearing her always reading poetry aloud, brought us up in this world of seeing things in different ways—looking and savoring each thing around you, turning words into images and vice versa. “
David Williams, in his review of the book for The World of Fine Wine, lavished praise on Beisch’s photography: “The essays alone conjure a vivid sense of each flavor or scent. Combined with Beisch’s photos, the experience is gorgeously sensuous. A series of still lifes, they could so easily have become repetitive or have lapsed into the clich├ęs of stock photography or an upper-end food-store catalog. But Beisch, while stamping the book with a recognizable signature, invests each image with its own personality, texture, and feel. Like the prose, they stand on their own. Together, they make for a highly original and pleasurable experience.”

The Essence of Wine
 isn’t a book you would take to the store to help you select wines for an important dinner party. It is a book you can cradle in your hands and peruse the way you would walk through a museum gallery, stopping to admire and study certain compelling paintings. Beisch’s preference for natural light shows to great advantage when focused on sensual still lifes of elements that fuse together to create wine, that elixir that has been celebrated in art, song, and poetry for millennia.
(The book is available from Blurb (www.blurb.com) for $75.)

February 11, 2016

Thought Provokers- Jim Carlton

An image shot in China from my personal series entitled Bodies of Land 

 It is essential for artists to recognize who or what has influenced them during the course of their career. Taking a breath to look inward and recognize those people or things lets an artist recognize what fascinates them, what motivates them to create and be passionate about their work and what they are trying to say with it. 

As a commercial photographer, I have had the opportunity to work with a tremendous amount of talented creatives. I would have to say that most of them have had an impact on my thinking and approach. There have been a few, however that I had the opportunity to work with early on and still collaborate with to this day in one way or the other, that I feel I need to call out as true thought provokers for me.

Jim Carlton

I first worked with Jim when he was ECD on the McDonald’s account at Frankel, a retail design and promotions agency in Chicago, that later became Arc World Wide.  His group approached me about starting a relationship shooting for McDonald’s after they had seen a promo piece I had sent them. Since that first shoot, I have had the benefit of Jim’s trust and endorsement. His encouragement and enthusiasm for me and my team’s work was uplifting to us and pushed us to go beyond the expected. I have watched how Jim infects people with his enthusiasm for ideas and get them to do their best work. He brings a liveliness and friendliness to business interactions which result in more creative thinking.

At this time Jim is transitioning from being the EVP, Managing Creative Director at Arc, Leo Burnett’s Activation agency in Chicago, to CCO of Geometry NA, the world’s largest activation agency.  

I had some questions for Jim:

1.What is your passion? Creativity. What excites you about what you do? 

People. In marketing, many people touch the creative and ultimately influence the outcome: clients, account, production, planners, copywriters, art directors, designers, illustrators, photographers, printers and programmers. Getting people to collaborate and align on an idea and then protect and grow that idea thru final execution – pulling off what you set out to achieve as a group - is what excites me.

Leigh and Jim in Hong Kong in for Simple Bold

2. How do you define Branding and how does that fit into how your team/ agency brands itself. As photographers, hell even as individuals we are kind of branding ourselves in social media. Is this what you in the agency world too?

Totally. As individuals, we all want to be perceived a certain way – our best, way. First impressions are everything. But sometimes circumstances or things we say or do can contradict that desired perception. Nothing is more frustrating than being misunderstood. Branding is that conscious effort of controlling how we (individuals, companies and brands) want to be perceived – who we are and what we stand for. I’d say Donald Trump is as aware of this as is Apple or Starbucks.

Jim on set in Hong Kong for Simple Bold Campaign 

3. How is that changing as technology is changing? I don’t mean specific technologies- I know everyone was all about video and now they are all about virtual reality, but how does that change your approach to what yu and your team do? You probably could write a book about this, but is there a short answer?

Yeah. Technology is making everything faster, more interactive and more accessible. As a result, people are becoming more informed, savvy, and selective. Thanks to technology, marketing isn’t so one sided anymore. But brands have to be much more thoughtful with their message and how they interact in people’s lives or be shut out with the click of a button.

Jim and Leigh with Creative Director at the time Matt Denten and Happy McDonald's client

4. To me, you are the ultimate team leader. The one who inspires everyone to kick ass at his or her job. Do you like that role? If so, what do you think makes you so good at it? Do you think your great sense of humor helps with that? I have always loved working with your team because they know how to laugh and laugh and have fun with a project. They know how to get through the difficult times and keep rolling and being creative. That is an atmosphere I try to maintain at the studio and you guys helped me realize how important that is.

Wow, thanks for that Leigh. Leaving Arc for Geometry has given people the opportunity to tell me what they appreciated most about my run as Creative lead for Arc. Overwhelmingly, the word protector would come up - protector of the work, but mostly of the people. I love hearing that because as a manager of creatives, I felt the best way I could add value was to create an atmosphere of freedom and of respect that enabled people to create the way they were most comfortable.

5.  You seem really good at selling off ideas and getting everyone on board with something- that is something I respect a lot. Does that come easy to you?
My dad use to tell me in high school what a great salesman I would be and it would really irritate me. Over my career though, I’ve realized just how important salesmanship can be and how far it’s gotten me. But that doesn’t mean it comes easy to me. I can’t sell anything unless I believe in it. I learned that the hard way.

Jim and his Creative Director Seth Guge hanging out with our digital tech in Hong Kong

6.  What is the best project you have worked on? What made it the best?

The most rewarding project I’ve been a part of would be McDonald’s Retail Identity – Simple Bold. We came to you 15 years ago because of your unique approach to food and how it is photographed and your grasp on digital, which at the time was a hotly debated topic – film v digital. What makes SB a standout is it’s longevity, It has evolved over the years but the same principles we set out to achieve then: authenticity, harmony and clarity, are still in place today. What made it best was being able to launch the work in the US with you and then twice bring SB to other markets like Asia, where you and your team set up a studio and workshops for global agencies to observe how to shoot and execute for SB.

7.  How do you come up with creative ideas- how do you get your inspiration?

Creatives need to be inspired. Inspiration comes from anywhere, music, art, literature, YouTube or each other. One sure way I get inspired to do something cool is when I’m presented with a good insight. Unearthing a human truth that makes you feel something is like striking gold in our industry - it’s a gift on a silver platter – and ours to fuck up.

8. Do you have a specific strategy to pitching your clients with a new concept that you know might be a stretch for them?

The only strategy that works is don’t present something you don’t want the client to buy.

9. What do you value in your “team members?”

Talent isn’t the only requirement when I bring someone onto the team.
I look for people who are passionate about their craft, accountable to the business and each other and most of all I value decent human beings.

10.  What do you think the role of photography is in the branding world?

People want things faster than ever before. Content is exploding and technology gives us unlimited access – we are a scrolling, swiping culture.

A photograph has the opportunity to stop me in my tracks, take notice and feel something amongst all the clutter.

2008 Simple Bold that I shot that was  used for in store and national advertising for their new Asian Chicken Salad.
It was great to be able to use these kind of "story telling" props that showcased the premium quality of the food that McDonald's wanted to convey.