Guest Post by Marni Beardsley, Director of Art Production at Wieden + Kennedy
the news spreading around for the last few months of julian richards closing shop was something you desperately hoped to be a silly rumor. even with his talented photographers asking my opinion on new homes and the website now defunct in such a bizarre way—classic julian—you still wanted to bury your head in the sand. for it’s hard to imagine the photo industry without its eccentric-visionary-genius-bigmouth-wizard in residence. i forgot how much i enjoy julian’s exceptionally unique writing style and musings. his pdn interview with amy wolff is without question the best i’ve read in years. no one to better sum up the industry so eloquently and brutally as julian—always with a healthy dose of sheer hilariousness.
i suppose it’s finally time to pull the ole head out of the arse and say thank you to this wildly captivating, twisted, hysterical, dirty, immensely brilliant man.
it’s long been a privilege to work with julian’s smartly curated roster including chris buck, michael mclaughlin, david barry, greg miller, sian kennedy and the late, great james smolka, among other gifted artists julian has represented over the years. he not only represented the highest caliber artist within his specialized niche, but he also knew the importance of vetting personality. in other words, no pompous assholes allowed. as such, you could count on every last photographer to be kind, dedicated and genuine, delivering nothing but top-shelf-quality content while ensuring an enjoyable, positive experience for all.
but the real treat was getting to watch a true genius in action. an irreverent, demented master of ceremonies disguised as an agent. yet we all knew he was much, much more than that. to say julian was a refreshing respite from the typical agent/art producer dynamic is a gross understatement. as you found yourself hanging onto every fascinating thought that left his crazy, often repulsive mouth, you knew you were gonna be in for one hell of a fun ride, a ride that would be filled with the purpose of achieving nothing but the finest picture taking and creative problem solving i’d ever witnessed.
there are countless stories of working with julian, but one in particular stands out the most. it credits his unconventional solutions or, perhaps better yet, his sheer insanity. and yet julian’s duplicitous plan worked beautifully; the work was off-the-charts exceptional, creatives and clients walked away extremely happy and i was left standing, jaw dropped to the floor.
the concept involved photographing the talent in some sort of bizarre-looking space suit in an environment that obviously didn’t make any sense for him to be in. visually it needed to have a bold, modern, arresting quality with a photojournalistic bent. i helped the art director pull some images from one of julian’s photographers who fit the bill perfectly. we sold the concept through to the client, who also loved it. the next natural step was to enlist julian and his photographer, begin estimating and have the almighty creative conference call.
before we get to that, let me just say my art director gravitates to the outlandish, the twisted, the deranged. edgy isn’t good enough. it needs to be completely fucked up. when the art director and i got on the phone with the photographer to discuss the concept and his approach, we found him to be surprisingly soft-spoken and very sweet, with a solid point of view about his vision and how best to execute it. but when we got off the phone, the art director said he wasn’t sold. “why the hell not? his answers to how it would look were spot-on,” i implored. more than that, it was this very photographer’s images that helped sell through the concept.
the art director questioned whether the photographer’s personality was outrageous enough. he wanted someone as fucked up as the concept. i did my best to explain that, more often than not, it’s the quiet, “normal” ones you gotta watch out for. their deviance is expressed through their work. still, he wasn’t confident enough that his energy would bring out the crazy in the talent. “he’s wearing a fucking hazmat space-suit thingy. how the hell are you supposed to bring out personality in that?” i just didn’t get it.
i immediately called julian and explained the situation. after a barrage of hysterical ricky gervais-esque retorts, he said, “i’ve got it! if he wants an outlandish, perverted personality, let’s give it to him. let’s do the call again after the weekend.”
“how would that change anything?” i asked.
“because i’ll pretend to be the photographer.”
monday came, and we did the call again. this time “the photographer” appeared to have dipped into his secret stash of crack cocaine. he was explosive, spastically spewing all sorts of deranged nonsense at 150 miles per hour. there was no getting a word in if you wanted to; between his brilliant psychobabble he was panting profusely, as if he were simultaneously doing one-handed push-ups.
the art director LOVED it. ate up every word and the crazy energy behind it. toward the end of the call they exchanged some perverted absurdity, and the next thing i knew it was locked and loaded. i stood there in complete shock, desperately trying to contain my laughter. my art director didn’t seem to think it was odd that a person could do a complete 180 in personality. even more shocking, he also didn’t notice that halfway through the diatribe, a heavy british accent crept into the conversation. people often overuse the expression “peed my pants,” but i literally urinated—not in a toilet—from the hilariousness of it all.
sadly, with julian out of the business these ludicrous stories are now a thing of the past. thankfully i have the reminder of a six-foot blow-up doll bequeathed to me by lord richards—much to the confusion of my coworkers and my kids when they visit my office. i do, however, now semi-hide a photograph created by julian’s alter ego, a highly conceptual pervert who goes by the name perkin lovely. the photograph in question is a tightly cropped shot of a naked, pasty-white, hairy man with his package tucked between his legs. in its place is a ridiculously huge black dildo with a toy piglet perched on top, happily waving “hello!” “look, mommy, there’s piglet!” squealed my then-four-year-old daughter when she visited. i realized winnie-the-pooh would have a whole new meaning if i didn’t move it pronto.
better yet are the scintillating emails i’ve squirreled away that span 20 years. these unrestrained and dirty poetic reveries would be better served in the publishing world instead of a folder titled “fucked up brilliant shit” created just for him. if i could share one i would, but i don’t want to get sued.
as wildly successful as julian has been all these years as a photo agent, this legend is more than likely going to blow our minds even further with his next adventure—whatever that may be. i hope it fully utilizes his fantastical performing ability and enviable storytelling that are deeply rooted in this brilliant wordsmith’s dna.
as julian takes his well-deserved final bow, we are left with no other option than to applaud wildly with much gratitude and respect. and maybe even a little bit of urine in our pants.
—marni beardsley on behalf of the art production departments at wieden+kennedy