Editorial Story Telling
Editorial Photography is a passion of mine. It is a testing ground for ideas, a place to push new approaches in creative expression. I have had several close relationships with editors over the years who embraced my vision and supported my desire to push the medium.
This is an essay I wrote in which I describe the nature of editorial photographic production.
The Anatomy of Editorial Photography
Upon dissection, a great photo shoot reveals teams of moving parts functioning harmoniously as a single unit. Metaphorically akin to the body's neurological, skeletal, and muscular systems. Editorial photography must blend artistic creativity and creative flair with story telling and for lack of a better term, product placement. The finished story must captivate the viewer's attention, stir emotion, and ultimately showcase the beauty of the fashion. In order to accomplish all these criteria the photographer's team must communicate, coordinate, and function efficiently. As within any complex system, the exacting orchestration of the parts is essential to the completion of the whole. I will associate the three systems of the human body to draw the analogy of a harmonious workings of a healthy photo shoot.
The neurological system is responsible for the processing and executing of all creative elements of the photo shoot with the right side of the brain; while the left side of the brain is responsible for the logistical and mechanical elements of production. The true beauty of the photographic art is that it is both extremely technically while simultaneously being highly creative.
The sensory systems are the creative teams of wardrobe stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, and art department. These teams serve as the eyes, ears, mouth, and hands of the project. These must be attuned to the modern trends, styles, techniques, and artistic movements within their speciality. They give the story the sensory input, which is processed, edited, and translated to the final vision by the Photographer. Collectively this group must be in sync with the overall vision; their styles and skills need to complement and not compete with each other. No one sensory system can be overbearing or it will throw the image out of balance. It is the responsibility of the photographer creative side to assemble and lead a balanced team that will deliver the desired results.
The brain's "left side" needs to make decisive decisions in the thick of battle and ultimately serve as chief "problem solver". This left brain has to deal with the "muscular" system to ensure the production team's ability to execute. Any shoot require efficient well-organized production coordination. A typical editorial shoot day consists of eight to twelve shots in one to five locations. Continuing our metaphor of "production" being the muscular system. It would be the "lower body" taking the brunt of pre-production responsibilities: including managing and hiring all personal necessary to deal with location scouting, team building, crew hire, permitting, insurance, location/travel arrangements, prop-styling, and of course Kraft services. The muscular system's "upper body" has the responsibilities from pre through post production on the camera side. This includes equipment management, pickups, or rentals; personnel management for grip, 1st, 2nd, and digital assistants, transport from location to location, construction and set building, light set ups, equipment checks, light test, teardown, post image archiving, processing, and proofing.
The support or "skeletal" system for any photo shoot is the client. Whether commercial or magazine/editorial assignments supply the purpose, guidelines, budget, and deadlines for the project. In editorial photography budgets are limited. Most of the production value is provided by barter. Exposure provided by the magazine is the principle payment for all parties involved. When magazine "credits" are bartered for talent, locations, clothing, jewelry,, and props... it is paramount to get the credits correct.
The better coordination between the neurological, muscular, and skeletal systems yields more efficient performance. Like in athletics, the more an individual and team practices, the better the neuro-kinetic response. The ability to carry out a multitude of responsibilities necessary in capturing the story's vision takes fine tuned machine. The strength of an idea is worthless if there is not a strong body to transform and idea into reality. One could say the ideal photographer needs to be of sound mind and body. The photographer needs to be sharp in mind utilizing right-brain creativity and left-brain problem solving; but also equipped with an athletic physique fine-tuned to execute the demands placed on it; and ultimately supported by a skeletal system strong enough to bare the brunt of the weight created by the demands of editorial photography.