Art Producers Speak: Nadav Kander

- - Art Producers Speak

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email:

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Nadav Kander. I wish all my creatives would create work like this. It’s pure.  It’s the simplest equation of lighting and subject.  In its simplicity lives a visual that is so complex and dramatic. It was a fantastic experience working with Nadav.

This Guy is a new actor in the UK that the NY Times wanted photographed. Ashley Ward the Make Up person and I had spoken about using Powder before and this seemed like a great moment to do so. This Pic has just won the World Press Portrait Award !!

I was desperate to think of a subtle way to make Brad look more edgy and have the viewer wondering why. Why the black band? Etc. His hair was so long, I had to do something with it that was not the ordinary.

This is a picture from my latest series. I have always photographed people Nude but not very often been satisfied that they were original and authentic to me, until these which I am much happier with.

This work shows my love for Maholy Nagy and other artists working in Europe at the same time. It answered the brief in a beautiful way, marrying the Client with the Industry they advise and giving you a sense of the Banks immersion in the worlds of their clients. Great Art Direction.

This one for Nike Head Quarters in Holland, needed to say ICONIC but NEVER STILL in the same picture. I tested with the AD for a day and we came up with this (in my opinion) great way of working, doable in the time allotted to these busy athletes as well as beautiful. Look how fit Lance looks, I wonder why?

This idea came from the Agency in France. A quick very blue city car.


This picture was originally taken in collaboration with an Agency for a car company. I don’t think it was used, but I love it.

The shoes were super light and this idea to project the clothing to show lightness really worked. Bolt looks cool and the set and finished picture looked very modern and original.

A little dated now but still quite cool. In it’s day it won so many awards for the AD that one of the award shows jokingly brought him onto the stage and gave him a shopping trolley to help cart the metal away.

This is part of large series of work that I photographed along the Yangtze River in China. 5 trips to China and about 2 and a half years resulted in the book, titled Yangtze – The Long River.

Here’s something different… Limited budget, shot in my small studio. Really fun to do.

Suzanne Sease: How many years have you been in business?

Nadav Kander: I have been shooting professionally for 23 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

I am self-taught and have been shooting since I was 13, as I was inspired by the work of Steichen, Stieglitz, Atget, Man Ray, and Moholy-Nagy.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

I met Harry De Zitter in South Africa, and he told me that if I wanted to make it in advertising, I needed to move to London. He said to me, “If you really want to be the best, you need to learn from the best.” If you recall the advertising in London in the 80s, it was second to none.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

I have never tried to get folks to hire me but to produce work that is liked.

I find that work that questions is far more interesting than work that gives you all the answers. I always want to create work that asks more questions than it answers. I think that has been the thread that links my work.

My influences are incredibly widespread, from the photographers I mentioned earlier all the way to the work of Jeff Wall to video artists to sculptures and paintings.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

I think if the client is trying to reduce the work to the lowest common denominator, it is hard for all parties involved to create a great collaborative vision.

The industry has so drastically changed that the art director’s position can be very difficult. I think art directors are saints who are coming up with brilliant ideas that they wish could be a certain way, and sometimes they are thwarted by the client. I am there to help the process come together as smoothly as possible for them. It’s a collaboration.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

I love doing editorial work. It offers a great creative process and the chance to work with great people. (The money is secondary.) I love it when an art director comes to me with something I have never done before and says, “I know you have never done anything like this before, but what do you think of this and how would you do it?” I welcome the challenge of a great collaboration because that is what pushes you forward, and you end up landing in a much better place than if you had done it alone.

I am thinking about starting an e-mail communication that would be for art directors, art buyers, and photo editors and would be about inspiration. It would be an e-mail from me of something I found inspiring, whether it was a photo I just did or a sculpture I found or just inspiring words. I am not sure how often I would send these out. I would have them e-mail me at this address if they would like to be a part of this. E-mail:

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

I think it is important for art directors to use a photographer who likes to shoot outside of the box. The end results are usually better, as it is very hard to create something original if you stay in your comfort zone.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

I am always thinking of ideas and giving myself projects that fall under this umbrella of what makes me tick. That is what art is all about: turning yourself inside out. I have a current project, “Bodies. 6 Women. 1 Man,” and one that I am continuing to work on in Russia. It usually takes me about two years to finish a project, which usually becomes a book.

Nadav Kander is an internationally renowned photographer, director, and artist based in London. Consistently among the top-ranking advertising photographers in Lürzer’s Archive, he has collaborated with clients across all categories (from finance, travel & leisure, and entertainment to alcoholic beverages and sports brands), and he is one of the most sought-after portrait photographers working today, commissioned by everyone from Time magazine to the National Portrait Gallery. In recent years, Nadav has also taken on directing assignments, among them “Evil Instincts,” a series of short films for GQ starring Hollywood actors famous for their villainous roles. He is represented as a director by Chelsea Pictures and as a photographer in the US by Stockland Martel, in UK and Europe (excluding Germany) by We Folk and in Germany by Severin Wendeler.

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.

There Are 18 Comments On This Article.

  1. This is such a wonderful post with amazing images, but the one that I like the most is “angtze River in China” it is just my cup of tea. Again amazing photographs!!!

  2. He is quite simply my favorite contemporary photographer right now. It’s a shame that the last 4 bookstores I’ve been in have not had any of his books.

  3. Thanks for this interview, it is always great to listen in a conversation with such a creative mind. It’s refreshing to see someone with strong personal style have such a strong presence in both the art and the commercial markets.

  4. What I admire most about Mr. Kander is that he doesn’t allow his vision to be placed in a box. I listen to art buyers and producers telling young hopefuls to “find a niche” or “focus on one style” BOLLOCKS!!! The images shown above display many different photographic styles and they were all done by one individual!! Congratulations Mr. Kander for keeping everyone guessing. That might be one of the reasons everyone wants to work with him!!!

  5. Since I got into photography at the age of 26, Nadav’s work always, always topped my list. The range is incredible.

    Personally, i think it’s such a shame he’s so heavy in advertising, (which only serves one miserable purpose of selling shit). I know the “creatives” in such industry feel separated and are focused on creating the “art”, but I wonder how someone like him feels about essentially being part of the propaganda. His portraits of Lance Armstrong, for example, are part of the collection of images that made a fraud into a hero. Or making Obama look like a superhero on cover of Time when we he really isnt. Or shooting for mega corporations of bank, alcohol, shoes & soda makers who are no saints.

    Then shooting the china project (objectively?) like it’s totally unrelated.
    Nike is still running their factories there right?

    I suppose the bubble of separation in the mind must be easy when all the accolades & praises are just pouring in.

    (he’s to hoping this post doesnt get deleted)

    • Suzanne Sease

      You sound like a very angry person whose career didn’t work out like you thought it would. Please stop blaming others. Actually, Nadav is not heavy in advertising, he does a lot of editorial and personal projects. Have you checked out all the galleries that have featured his work? Have you checked out all the books he has published? If you are going to hide behind one name stop trying to cause such negative reactions, that is reserved for trolls.

  6. Yes, he’s done work for cigarette companies in the past as well. He doesn’t make any claims to being some sort of crusader against corporates. He has to earn a living and he has done that primarily from advertising. I believe the editorial work came later. I assume the personal work was there all along. I love that Nadav has successfully avoided being pigeon holed. Too many art directors and art buyers expect photographers to stick to one genre.

    • I’ve never met an AD or buyer who expected that. The client they have to sell the photographer to on the other hand…

  7. He’s badass. I’ve followed his work since working the midnight oil during my college days. The Saturn car ad series is prob the most original car ad I’ve seen to this day. It was Saturn right? Oops, just loved the photos, I drive Honda.

  8. It’s wonderful to hear Kander say that he still gives himself projects/challenges even now at his level of art and that he creates for himself, not the client. Love his comment about more questions than answers in his photos. What an inspiration! I’ll be looking for his blog and his books. Thank you, Kander!