Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
Suzanne: Since my father was an architect, I have always had a love for architecture. I grew up in an older neighborhood in Baltimore with houses from 1880’s so I have loved incredible details in interiors. I think that is why I was so attached to this advertising campaign for ABC Carpet & Home. The colors, the details and the lighting are amazing and then it draws you in and see the carpets on the floor. I think this is an elegant campaign and I reached out to Carol Alda at Bernstein & Andriulli about the project and to reach out to Jason Madara the photographer on the campaign.
Suzanne: I look at your interior work a lot but I wonder if you were considered for this project because of the portraits in interiors that you did for GQ and the woman sitting in the chair with the pink curtains. What are your thoughts on what got the art directors eye?
Jason: I recently asked the art director at ABC, Angela Gruszka, that very question, and because I do shoot everything, I was curious as to what portion of my portfolio appealed to her for this project. She said she wanted a photographer with a good sense of light, depth and dimension to balance the wild kaleidoscopes of color she wanted to create in the ads. There wasn’t just one image in my book that spoke to her – she trusted me to create something beautiful and memorable out of essentially empty rooms. She wanted the final images to be painterly: rich in color and mood.
Suzanne: I read in your bio that you were raised in a visual arts family, does that help you when you are shooting an interior or a figure in an interior? Do you look at the entire scene and how it plays visually?
Jason: My upbringing has absolutely inspired me and the work that I do, and how I approach each job. My father has been in the music business for the past 50 years, and music has always been in my life and a huge inspiration for how I see the world. My mother comes from a broadcast production background and she taught me about the business side of commercial art. Because of this I started out having a good understanding of how to manage a production from A-Z. My stepfather comes from the fine art and commercial side of advertising. He taught me about contemporary photography, and opened up a world I never knew or learned in school. Because of these three people I learned how to be conceptual, how to be inspired and how to put it all together. It was truly the perfect storm!
So to answer your question, yes, when I approach ￼an interior or a person in an interior, I look to what I learned through my years of living in other countries, studying contemporary art, traveling, and inspirations way beyond photography. For the ABC project, I wanted the light and color to play off each other, and to create an image that felt more like a painting.
Suzanne: Tell me about the rooms that you shot. Where are they and how much additional prep did you all have to do before the shoot?
Jason: When ABC contacted me about this job, they showed me scout images of an old house located in Hudson, NY. They also provided examples of the rugs they wanted to shoot there. We talked about the quality of light and looked at some of my work for the direction, mood and feel of how we would do it.
Apparently no one had lived there for years, but the last tenant had painted all the walls the colors that you see today. After years of decay it started to break apart. Amazingly, we didn’t do any prep aside from a tech scout the day we arrived. Angela Gruszka from ABC had a solid idea of which colors she wanted in each room and the rest was about the balance of natural light vs. artificial light, composition, and approach to showcase the rugs, but also showcase the environment – it was a delicate balance of everything. I didn’t want one particular image to be my favorite – I wanted to love all of them, but for different reasons.
We shot for two days and did four shots a day, starting with one key light. I just slowly added light by light until we got to a place we all loved. After the shoot, I flew back to San Francisco and started the post-production with my retoucher, Rebecca Bausher of Pixel Chick. We retouched the images individually over the next six months as they launched the ads, making sure that each image was exactly like the one before in quality, color, balance, and mood.
Suzanne: I love that you have multiple categories that most folks wouldn’t put on one website but they all work together well. It seems like the Europeans can do it so it nice to see you doing it here in the States. What advice can you give to photographers who want to work multiple categories but people say don’t do it.
Jason: I get this question a lot, and it seems to be a scary thing for most – the idea of showing different kinds of work in one portfolio. I never understood why so many in the industry advise photographers to only focus on one thing. There seems to be the perception in the domestic market that clients need the security of knowing their photographer is a specialized “portrait guy” or landscape shooter. I believe this is shifting. I think most photographers want to and do shoot many types of subject matter – they just aren’t marketing it all. It becomes their personal work. I think the key to making the multiple categories work is creating a consistent visual identity. There should be a continuity in the quality of light, color, and mood, no matter what you’re shooting. I’ve spent the last 15 years playing with and developing that cohesion. Portrait, landscape, interior, still life- I never really saw the difference. Every image is about light and composition, it doesn’t matter what it is. The goal for me is to keep the mood and color the same.
The advice I have for other photographers is simple: if you love something, then do it. Just don’t change who you are because the subject or environment changes – try to keep the same vision for whatever it is you photograph.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Raised in Los Angeles by a music, film, and a visual arts family, Jason Madara’s cinematic vision of the world was instilled long before he ever picked up a camera. Growing up as a silent observer on sets and in studios, the world in front of him was in a constant state of storytelling: high in raw emotion and drama. As a photographer, Madara continues to capture moments as performances – alive and visceral in their stillness.
Formally trained at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara and professionally practiced across the globe, Madara’s deft balance of lightness and darkness brings beauty and tension to glimpses both ordinary and extraordinary. Madara credits the depth of emotion in his work to his wife and daughter, who constantly inspire him to unveil the complex sweetness, fragility, and power of the human state and natural environment.
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. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.