Photo Editor: Margo Didia
Creative Director: Nick Mrozowski
Props and Food Styling: John Lavin
Retouching and Compositing: Gretchen Hilmers
Photographer: Michael Clinard
Heidi: How often do you shoot for Adweek?
Michael: About three to five times per year. Since the start of 2014, I’ve tackled two conceptual feature projects, and in those instances, I shot both the cover and opening art to accompany the story. In the last half of 2013, I did the same on the subject of Big Pharma and contributed five images to their annual Hot List issue, published in December. I should just say quickly that in addition to my photographic practice, I exercise a particular form of ideation for Nick and Margo. I consider what I do for Adweek to be a form of grappling. I take their concept and wrestle with it.
Do you typically sketch out all our your ideas?
By and large, yes. Some things can’t be said with words. It’s important for me to find ways to convey a message through symbols, subject matter and themes that are pre-existent in our collective conscience, that visual ether. I love conjuring, so I use all the things at my disposal to bang out my best take on what Norman Rockwell might do if he were in the hustle in 2014.
How much drawing do you do while you are not shooting? Do you have a journal?
While I’m drawing all the time, I like to keep fit photographically, too. I’ve been doing some experiments with tissue paper, shooting into glass and mirrors, using blueberries as indigo, etc. Since February, I’ve slowly been adding things to a personal journal of sorts: The Hills, 98006. I keep a record there of what I’m reading, what moves me. It’s an index, too. Something I can later refer to.
How did The Hills, 98006 come about? What was the impetus for it?
The Hills, 98006 came out of falling in love with a neighborhood and a reawakening in my spiritual life. There’s no prescription, but for me, I read. I listen to audio books. I get out of the house and walk in the woods. If the jewel from my daughter’s tiara falls out, I fix it that evening. Time has taken on less meaning or importance to me; my relationships with my wife and daughter have grown. The Hills shows glimpses of that dimension of my life.
How did this idea for a chicken eating a burger come about?
Margo got in touch on Tuesday, May 6. Her emails are never really long, just to the point. In a word, perfect. She asked if I was around, and my intuition told me this would be something rad.
I told her that if I was needed to churn something out in next 60 hours (like that Snapchat Ghost concept back in February), then regrettably I’d be unable to since my family was enroute to California for what would become the most epic of family vacations.
We determined that I could doodle it up Wednesday and produce the thing over the course of the next few days (while on the family trip), and we could shoot the whole thing on Monday, May 12, so it could hit the printers later that week, like clockwork.
Was the overhead cover idea nixed due to type legibility or the single chicken became more impactful?
That concept was maybe the third or fourth thing I passed along, the one where you see the suggestion of many chicks swarming a burger from above. I sent the hero option and profile options late Tuesday night, and she signed off on those Wednesday morning. That one was generated strictly for giggles Wednesday evening. Another angle. Younger chickens. Something more graphic.
Did the printed idea hatch from that initial sketch?
Ha! Yeah. . . I’ve shot all kinds of animals, so I was only submitting angles and vantage points that I felt I could actually create. It helped to know the anatomy of a chicken, understand how it eats and know that at some point it would have to look up because it has to swallow. That confirms I’ll get my straight-on hero shots, but chickens don’t really look like chickens from the perspective of a traditional headshot. My feeling was that it might be best to see it from the side, so it’d read.
Was the chicken well behaved?
Absolutely. I hired an animal wrangler named Charlie Wainger. Charlie talks chicken. Charlie understands that there’s a certain way you talk to a hen. Whispers are effective. I never know when something will go sideways, so I had him bring a brown hen named, Martha, in case Cleopatra decided she was watching her figure that day (Cleopatra’s the white chicken).
Are you still a beef burger guy?
For some reason this feels like a chicken and egg question. I don’t discriminate against form. Be you cow or be you chicken — I’ve eaten worse.