Still Images In Great Advertising – Jeremy & Claire Weiss

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

I reached out to Day 19 (Jeremy & Claire Weiss) after seeing this great Converse campaign, because they seem to work well as a husband and wife team. Here is our conversation about how they make it work… together.

Suzanne: This is a great campaign for Converse, who looks to be a very loyal client that allows you to create amazing campaigns. Tell us about the campaign, how you got started in the business, what your big break was and how have you hung on to Converse for all those years?
Jeremy & Claire: We shot it over 6 days all over Southern California in the spring. Converse has been great to us, that was our 7th campaign for them and at this point we all know each other so well we just go out and have as much fun as we can and take some photos in the process. Those shoots have led to so many other shoots its been ridiculous. Our son also has a lifetime supply on Chuck Taylors thanks to Jess.

We started in the picture taking business by shooting our friends who just all happened to be doing rad shit. We’ve know a lot of amazing musicians, skateboarders, etc. and we always just documented our lives. Honestly, we both saw ourselves working at a small town newspaper by this time since we both studied photojournalism and documentary photography. I started going on tour with bands in the early 2000’s because I tried assisting once and it was horrible and I need some money. I could go on tour, sell merch for an hour and have 23 hours to shoot people hanging out having fun. That led to shooting press photos, covers, magazine articles. So I’ve been making a living shooting photos for a decade now but it was nothing close to a good living until 2006ish. Claire and I started shooting together in 2005, because of a push from my old rep. I was up for a Dell campaign, but didn’t have a portfolio and we were rushing to put one together. Claire had an amazing shot of Jack Black that the rep wanted to include in my book and asked if Claire would let me use it. That made no sense to me so she said, “why don’t we just start pitching you two as a team?” It was so obvious but we never saw it. We got that Dell job and flew to London… but of course they didn’t want to pay for two tickets.

I would say our “big break” was from Natalie Flemming who pushed hard for us for a Nokia campaign back in 2006, maybe 2007? She had been following our website for years and waiting to find a project for us. When she called in our book we contemplated not sending it overnight like she asked, because we couldn’t afford the $50 to overnight it and we were too naive to know you could ask for a FedEx number. That job is how we met our current rep Giant Artists who we’ve been with since day one of the agency.

Most of our clients are repeat clients and they have been very loyal to us for the most part. I’d say 75% of our shoots this year have been 2nd or 3rd shoots with the agency or brand. We’ve made some lifelong friends at the agencies we’ve worked with and have had clients offer to put us up when we do our Day19 family world tour in 2013.

As a husband and wife team, does this confuse art directors and buyers and how is your creative process in pre-pro and on set?
We’ve been together since we were teenagers and met when we both first started taking pictures, so our whole picture taking life has been spent together. We are both a part of every step and we both shoot every job together. The #1 question on conference calls is always how it works with us shooting together and the answer is we both love shooting and we are both trying to one up each other in a fun, loving way. It gets comical sometimes us both saying “look at this”, oh yeah “well look at this!” all day. Years ago one would be more of the art director and one would shoot and we would pass the camera back and forth, but we were just always fighting for the camera so now we both just constantly shoot.

How do you keep such lose and natural feeling with your subjects when you still have to produce the work? How do you strike that balance? Do you work with the same producer?
We just have a ton of fun when we shoot. We have worked with the same team for years and we all know each other so well that it makes the environment relaxed and attitude free. On a recent shoot the client told us, “it’s so refreshing to work with you guys because you are just real people” and it was funny to us because we weren’t sure what that meant. She had been in the business for 20+ years and has done a million jobs, so what were all of her other experiences like? Were the photographers crazy or had huge egos? Maybe we are just naive, but how could you not have fun doing this job? We are getting to meet new people and be creative on a daily basis, and get paid for it! Blows my mind how anyone could not have fun doing a photo shoot.

Shit, did I even answer the question. I think our photos look natural because it’s very laid back and our subjects are actually having a great time. No model can fake having a great time, it’ll show through in their face. We have a couple producers we mostly work with but I will not tell you their names because we need them (sorry Nancy, Sarah and Wes).

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

Jeremy & Claire Weiss live in Los Angeles, CA with their son Eli.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

 

There Are 31 Comments On This Article.

    • Andrew (love the one name people who feel free to insult others!)

      Actually my son who attends a public school here and has a kid at the school (who got kicked out of private) drives his Land Cruiser to school. Maybe you should be a little more open minded. This kid wears Converses.

  1. Kevin Arnold

    Nice interview, Susan. I was hoping to read a bit about how they manage family when they both travel together. Sounds like they might have kids. Did you talk about this at all? I’d love to hear some insight from Jeremy and Claire.

    • Hey Kevin,
      Yes, I did. Their son, Eli, is 4 and I will reach out to them to answer this for you. I have several husband and wife clients (the Weiss’ are not one) and when they have a shoot they have a sitter for the children. Sometimes the kids go to the location (not on set) and sometimes they stay home.

      Best, Suzanne

      • Kevin, I reached out to one of client couples and ask if they would either reach out to you here or in private. I hope it helps in the juggling.

        Be well.

        • We have 2 kids, 7 & 3, and it’s definitely a juggle but in my experience, you can make anything you want to work, work! For the last couple of years we’ve been lucky enough to have a nanny who would stay at our house when we travelled for shoots, and was there at the beginning and end of every long day. Without this luxury, hotels always have a nanny service that they recommend and our kids have made some very fun and interesting nanny friends who turn up with their bag of tricks and entertain them for the day i.e. Laura the LA showgirl who spent the day teaching them to high kick!!

  2. Whoa! I take it all back. It was out of character to critique a photo like that. In South Africa (where I live) you wouldn’t see such a thing. So culturally speaking, the ad wouldn’t work here.
    Anyway, I sure didn’t mean to be insulting and shan’t comment again.

    • No, please feel free to comment but be helpful not hurtful! People are not going to agree to doing this thread if they have to defend themselves. I want this to help people learn about what they can do with their careers to succeed with lessons from those who have.

      For the record: The kid at my son’s school is considered a spoiled rotten brat and I only know what kind of car he drives because the real kids are appalled.

      Have a good night!!

      • Beth Houston

        people need to relax…
        Be like photojojo…”we take criticism well, but we love compliments!” If you are putting yourself out there, you are going to get haters (although I understand he didn’t mean it hatefully). Be prepared, put down your dukes and take the hit gracefully. You just end up looking like a jerk otherwise. And certainly don’t go and drag down the third party in the discussion. Very uncool.
        Where is the love…

  3. Kevin,

    The kid has been on more motor homes than the average adult I’m sure. Our crew is one big family and they look after him or he goes to school or one of his grandmothers flies out or we have a friend who lives in our guest house who hangs out with him. We figure it out somehow, not always easy but we wouldn’t change it for the world.

    • Thanks, Jeremy. Always interesting to hear how other people juggle it. No ever seems to write about this, and I find it fascinating to hear how other creative people (photogs and otherwise) make it work with kids and a travel-based career.

  4. Jeremy and Claire rule and I’m lucky to have them as a friend. They make it all look very easy and it actually is if you have the right attitude and personality. When the talent and crew actually want to hang out with the photographer(s) because they are cool and have a good vibe it helps tremendously in getting photos that look like your best friend shot it. Some people really don’t understand that and it shows in there work. Day19 have it mastered.

  5. Interesting that converse would go with a campaign that looks essentially the same as what wrangler and levis did (the whole ryan mcginley bohemian theme).

    Not so much that the “creatives” involved are copying but the converse brand is blending in with other jeans brands. Is advertising suppose to have the OPPOSITE effect?

  6. Awesome, great work – interview – this is really awesome. Being yourself pays, trying to be like someone else is a headache and losing proposition. Thanks.

  7. Sarah ********

    Day 19 is the best team to work with! They keep clients happy, roll with the punches, and in five years of working together I’ve never known them to not nail the shot. Love you guys! Sarah you know who.

  8. After 5 years and 100s of call sheets and not realizing day19 is one word! Love you to Sarah. And thanks Chris. Guns!

    • That’s my worst fault right? My pinky is just on autopilot and hits that damn space bar every time I type. Day19. Day19. Day 19….damn pinky. Stop it!!!

  9. Congratulations to Jeremy & Claire Weiss for creating a successful business and raising (what I’m sure is) a wonderful family.

    Many thanks to Suzanne Sease for this column and the insights she shares with all of us.

    I have great respect for (all) of your accomplishments.

    I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday and tried to talk myself out of posting, but here it goes. I’m not trying to be rude, but there some things I (honestly) don’t get.

    Looking at the complete ad, I understand what Converse is trying to do. I think it’s a very good ad and probably accomplished the buzz or branding that Converse was seeking with a certain demographic. What I don’t understand is what makes these images “great”.

    Are they great because they sync perfectly with the client and ad agency’s goals? I think they probably do, but I’m not sure that’s a good measure of greatness. The same can be said for a photo of a box of soap in a P&G ad right?

    I understand the Ryan McGinley look, and how that’s changed how advertisers have pursued the youth market. The idea of believability or realness has always been important when marketing to youth and McGinley and his team are the current masters of that make-believe world. McGinley created that look and twenty years from now (or even today) his work will be used as an example of the ’00 aesthetic. As Bruce Weber was for the ’80’s (or Herb Ritts).

    So maybe that’s a working definition of “great” a photographer that sets the standard for their generation.

    But normally, the ad agency comes up with a concept, sells it to the advertiser, finds a photographer that can accomplish what they’re trying to achieve, puts together all the elements according to the approved layout and everyone’s happy.

    Meanwhile, if a photographer did something different, that didn’t accomplish these goals, even if it was brilliant, they’d be labeled a failure, never work again, starve, and die. Not great.

    I guess (one of) the question is if it’s really possible to produce “great” advertising photography under these conditions?

    Maybe, if it’s something like Annie Leibovitz’s famous American Express campaign, where she basically did what she would normally do with people who happened to be famous Amex card users. The same could probably be said for some of Weber’s advertising work being you won’t find much difference between say “On Bear Pond” and one of his Calvin Klein ads.

    Now I know it’s not an easy thing to accomplish on demand, but if you’re asked to produce photos that mimic what can be found on many a Facebook page and did…

    Is it great because you were able to do it convincingly?

    Is it great because it sold a million pairs of sneakers?

    Is it great because everyone is happy?

    Or even worse… Is it great because somebody declared it great and nobody wants to lose a twitter follower by disagreeing?

    I don’t think any of these are good reasons.

    I think greatness has to have some lasting value beyond the life of a magazine spread or billboard.

    I could see hanging a print of Leibovitz’s portrait of Sammy Davis Jr. (which she made for Amex) over the wet bar next to my red velvet topped pool table in my swinging midlife crisis pad, but I could never imagine hanging one of these images next to the bicycle rack in my hipster loft that I share with 27 other people.

    I’d just shoot my own.

    Ken Jarecke

    • Dear Ken,
      I have a book for you to read:
      Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
      You can find it on amazon.com, you know the place that is similar to barnes and noble, oh and books a million. Read it, comprehend it, apply it, live it, breathe it, start your own career, get hired by big agencies, make money doing what you love, take that money, make art from that money, repeat process.
      You started out your post with :I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday and tried to talk myself out of posting, but here it goes. I’m not trying to be rude, but there some things I (honestly) don’t get.”

      Stop making excuses for explaining the point you are trying to get across, stand by what you say, Jeremy and Claire don’t make excuses for what they do and why they do it, the just do what they do. BE about it Ken, do your research, look at their first photo and look at their most recent.. notice the similarity, oh yeah its the same!

  10. If you don’t know, you weren’t meant to. If you can’t see, don’t even try and understand. – the explosion.

    • That was the whiskey talking. Honestly though I think it’s a successful campaign when the company hires you to bring your personal style to the table and you do and are personally happy with the results. We came up with over 80 ads being used all over the world in 6 days. People have been sending me ones I hadn’t even seen from Argentina, Germany, Russia, Australia. It’s an incredible feeling to see your work in so many different places.

      And we sell the same photos we get hired to shoot for companies in galleries worldwide so there are a good amount of people out there who would hang them on their wall.

      And selling a million sneakers is cool too. Thanks for commenting Ken.

  11. Hey @Kevin Arnold,

    Funny you should ask. Julie and I are a husband/wife team. Julie is my studio manager and producer (sometimes shooter now) and we work together all the time.

    We are lucky enough to have a lot of great family nearby and our son Tre (9yrs old) is a super chill kid who loves to be on set and around all the action. He’s a great little entertainer too! LOL. When it’s appropriate we’ll bring him along and most of the creatives/clients just fall in love with him. Other times, grueling schedules and long days dictate that he hang here in Cincy with family.

    The way our schedule works as photographers/creatives we have the freedom to be at a lot of things that most 9-5 parents can’t with their kids. Balance can definitely be a bit challenging at times, and guilt sometimes sneaks in…but since we’re together more than most families it all works out. Our kid’s crazy awesome experiences when he does get to come along surely adds to his enrichment. I wish I had done some of the things my 9 year old has gotten to do when I was his age. Hell, his favorite food is Sushi (not cali rolls either) and he thinks it’s no big deal to be in Cincy one day and be trekking to the USVI the next on a moment’s notice.

    Pretty cool way to grow up in my opinion!

    Cheers,
    Rick

  12. “Is it great because everyone is happy?”

    I was looking at their website before I read this comment and thought that it would be easy to dismiss their body of work because it is so simple and seemingly honest. In a way, the work reminds me of the abstract expressionist paintings where people complain that their kid could have done it.

    The reality is that the simplicity is deceptive. It’s really hard to make a produced shoot look “real” and uncontrived. I think the work’s great because it’s cool and not easy to come by. In many ways, it’s easier to create a “great” shot of a celebrity like Sammy Davis Jr. than it is to find something interesting in the everyday.

    John

  13. I have had the pleasure worm with the crazy cats, and let me tell you, its the shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaattt! Couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends to work with and hang out with! Love you cats!