Trending – Making Sense Of People, Their Behavior, Needs, And Mind Set

- - Creativity

While visiting NYC for the expo I met Karen DSilva, a former founding partner at Spark Visual Research and current creative consultant. At the Sony party she was telling me about a talk she gave at ShootNYC on trending and how to harness the power of societal trends to get your photography to connect. Now, I tell a lot of people that making a connection to someone with your photography is a lot less linear than they think, but I’ll admit I was a little nonplussed at the buzz-y sounding idea behind trending. Well, her talk has spawned a workshop and considering her pedigree (creative depts at Photonica, Getty and Image Bank) I asked her to explain it further. After reading her explanation, I have to say, this sound pretty awesome for the right person:

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images (television, books, internet, newspapers, packaging, billboards…) so the million dollar question now becomes, how do you get your images to stick? The secret to creating an image that resonates is simple, your images need to connect with people. When an image connects, it is because your image holds meaning for the viewer. Maybe there is an emotional connection or your image provides inspiration, or possibly it makes them feel empowered. Decoding our society is all about understanding how it evolves and what makes people tick. How do we do this? Two words, understanding trends.

Trending is about making sense of people, their behavior, needs, and mind set. It is about the direction in which something is moving. When we experience a shift or change in the way we live as a community, that reaction is a trend being born. For the last few years, life quite frankly has been a little scary. War, terrorism, foreclosures, and unemployment, need I say more? As a society we push back by craving something safe, something comforting. What gives us a sense of security? Historically, safe + comforting + security = tradition (the ultimate comfort zone). In the marketplace, we refer to this trend as HERITAGE. Heritage is thick wool sweaters, tweed, beards, old fashion barbershops, curves, artisan food, suits, and smart looking hats. It’s old world quality and time honored tradition. Heritage gives us a sense of identity, timeless elegance, and a soulful spirit.

Now, going back to getting your images to stick. As a photographer, when you tap into a trend like Heritage, you’re adding relevance to your image. Of course, the next question becomes how does one apply heritage to your images? First of all, it’s a lot easier to recognize a trend and even discuss the effects of a trend than actually incorporating the trend into your work. In order for it to be meaningful, the trend needs to complement your aesthetic and take into consideration the stories within your work. A true connection is made when an image embraces the spirit of the trend, rather than just adding a trend wash. Mixing in the trend of Heritage into your work, can add a modern marketplace vernacular to your images. Bottom line, it’s that extra something. The old “I’ll know it when I see it” client answer to the eternal question “what are you looking for?”

So, on December 6th (with the support of APA), myself and 2 other trenders are hosting our first trending, brainstorming, workshop extravaganza. The aim is to download our photographer audience on the trends of Heritage, Transparency, and Cinematic. We’ll break up into small groups and walk through different stations designed to make you apply these trends to your work. This is going to be about thinking outside the box, collaborating together, being creative, and just plain having fun. Go here for more information:

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. ” … so come with your thinking caps on!” is Heritage. I haven’t heard anyone say that sine maybe the late 1940s – early 1950s. 8-D Do grade school teachers still say that?

    Lots of interesting possibilities – Terry Richardson channeling Weegee fore instance.

    Maybe I should get a Honeywell Potato-masher to give my DSLR a Heritage look 8-D

  2. honestly, if you’re looking to capitalize (and monetize) a trend…you might want to look at one other than ‘Heritage’…retro-chic has been playing out for years now around the world…I already feel it’s jumped the shark…so it’s probably best to look beyond it.

    what’s next? the safe bet would be the opposite of the literally “old” trend…life likes constrast…life is also cyclical…so….

    anyway, just my thoughts.

    • @hi, That’s because retro-chic isn’t honest. It’s too cool for school hipster BS. Let me submit Tadd Myer’s as a good example of Heritage. (full disclosure: I’ll helped produce it). It’s been very successful for him because it connects, and it connects because it’s not trying to be anything other than what it is.

  3. Ambrose Pierce

    Rob, I think you hit the nail on the head when you say it’s pretty awesome “for the right person.”

    I wonder if what Karen is offering jibes with how creative people really think? I am typically drawn to subject matter because I find it personally compelling and never think in terms of making work for the marketplace or because it fits some societal trend. If what comes out of the creative pursuit has some application to the marketplace, that’s great, but it shouldn’t driven by that.

    Much advice being offered today deals directly with, “what will sell”, rather than what comes from one’s heart. If Karen were my consultant, I guess I’d be asking the question: isn’t it better to be true to yourself and promote your own personal, unique vision and style and let others decide if that will fit their campaign? Or is it better to put your finger on the pulse of society and the marketplace and say “ah, that’s what people are into, so I’ll make that kind of photography”. I find the latter approach quite daunting; it doesn’t seem sincere, unless of course if by chance I happen to be genuinely interested in the subject. In other words, how do you conjure inspiration and put your heart and soul into something that may not be consistent with your personal vision, without feeling like your are forcing it solely in an effort to appeal to an art director?

  4. just some dude

    isn’t it ironic that a workshop on TRENDS is focusing on HERITAGE. so they are saying authenticity is trendy right now? ha.

  5. I would find a course in “Being Yourself Photographically” much more appealing. The photo world would be a lot more authentic, interesting and not merely trendy.

    Led Zeppelin wrote music that pleased them and were lucky enough to have an audience that valued their genius. Imagine if they wanted to be a Stones cover band.

  6. Ansel Evans

    “Mixing in the trend of Heritage into your work, can add a modern marketplace vernacular to your images.” Let’s not even belabor the extent to which these people are unable to properly express themselves.

    Ambrose Pierce and Andrew Pinkham cut to the heart of the matter: in a world and industry overwrought by and suffering under the weight of repetition and sameness, ones’ best strategy is the cultivation of an individuated point-of-view, not further indoctrination to the party line. The irony here, being that this service is squarely not about “thinking outside the box,” nor “being creative,” but, rather, perpetuating the same visual hegemony that has turned most commercial photography into an endless yawn-fest.

    Who, in good conscience, would pay for this? If you want to observe trends, walk down the street with your eyes open.

    What expertise, other than pedestrian positions, at photo agencies, do these folks have? Are they semioticians? Sociologists? Have they pursued advanced work in cultural or media studies? What insights can they offer beyond reiterating what is already evident- to even the uninformed- on a daily basis?