Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I stumbled across Erik Madigan Heck’s work while looking for great work for this column and I am thrilled I did. When I read Erik’s bio, I was shocked to see what he has accomplished before turning 30. He just received the ICP Infinity award in the applied fashion category. If you check out his work you can see why: www.maisondesprit.com. He is represented by Stockland-Martel (NA) and Wefolk (Europe). Today we are featuring his print campaign for ETRO.
Suzanne: I read in your bio that you love to mix the influences of photography and illustration and this campaign really showcases that. What was your inspiration with this campaign?
For this particular campaign I was looking a lot at Matisse’s later works, and thinking about his use of body positioning, as well as furthering my own interest in the use of frontal primary colors. I’m interested in how reducing colors to block forms creates a sense of flatness, which is more akin to illustration than to photography.
Suzanne: Looking at your work you present the work that is true to your vision and talent. Some clients pull you back while others allow you to showcase your vision, therefore the campaigns stand out. So many artists are scared to show work that is “safer” what is your advice to them?
Safety only comes when one is scared of being uncomfortable, and work should always come from a place of discomfort- otherwise you’re not creating, you’re simply regurgitating.
Suzanne: You got your MFA from Parsons in 2009 and you have all this work created including Neiman-Marcus hiring you in 2012 to shoot their Art of Fashion portfolio and short films. I believe this is because you stayed true to your vision. What was it like to be the youngest photographer that Neiman Marcus ever hired for this legendary campaign?
It was extraordinary to work with a company of this scale and reach, and to work with such a legendary creative director such as Georgia Christensen. I felt very honored, and also felt that I had something original to offer Neiman Marcus- that resonated with what they needed as a brand to differentiate their idea of luxury from the rest of the market.
Suzanne: I love looking at personal work and I was intrigued by “Undercover” What is this story about? And as you can see it creates a dialogue with a buyer. This is why I feel showing your vision in personal work is so important. What are your thoughts on this subject?
Undercover is a Japanese brand actually, its designed by Jun Takahashi, and this was something I created to really push the boundaries of my own idea of high fashion merging with streetwear. It came from a place of referencing photo history with Weegee’s newspaper photographs, as well as bringing in overt political issues such as race and cross continental misunderstandings of what the term “street” even means today. Streetwear has been appropriated by high fashion, and I wanted to bring something raw back to it, but that also was still staged and not based in reality.
Suzanne added to above: I am thrilled that I thought the project was a personal one when in fact it was client assignment. Brilliant.
Suzanne: How do you continue to push your vision while keeping your work so fresh and energetic?
I’m constantly searching for that balance, I tend to do a lot of research in the history of both photography and painting, while also looking a lot to contemporary music, and especially electronic and subversive music cultures. A lot of my work is actually influenced as much by experimental music as it is by art history.
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Erik Madigan Heck was born in Excelsior in 1983, to Croatian and Northern Irish parents. He earned his MFA in Photography and Film Related Studies from Parsons School of Design in New York in 2009- where he currently lives and works. Heck is a continuing guest lecturer in both the graduate and undergraduate programs at The School of Visual Arts in New York, and is the creative director of the semi-annual art journalNomenus Quarterly Heck’s advertising and editorial clients include Levis, BMW, Neiman Marcus, Eres, Vanity Fair, W Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Le Monde, The New Yorker, amongst many others. His fashion clients include Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann, Giambattista Valli, Kenzo, Mary Katrantzou, and The Row. In 2012 Erik Madigan Heck was a recipient of “The Shot” award, and named as one of the top 6 “exhilarating new talents” by W Magazine and the International Center of Photography. In 2011 he received both the Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 Award, as well as the PDN 30 Award. Heck was also nominated for the prestigious ICP Infinity award in the applied fashion category. Heck is also a past National Scholastic Gold Medal recipient.
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.