11.22.2011

Turn around and look in the opposite direction. Life is 360.

We were shooting some lifestyle ads for one of Austin's luxury, high rise condominium projects when I stepped away from the camera to give my eyes and my brain a break.  We were shooting an aspirational ad with an "upscale, west Austin, soccer mom" (model) in her early 30's with a glass of wine in a "fabulous" kitchen, somewhere on the fifth floor.  All the appliances were Miele or nicer.  The wine chiller?  Sub-Zero.  The countertops?  Italian marble.  My attention span? Minimal.  When I stepped away from the camera the highly (over)attentive make-up person rushed in to touch up the model.  When my assistants saw me walk out onto the adjacent patio the smart one walked over to check the camera and the memory card, made sure the tether connection was still good and made eye contact with me to make sure there was nothing I wanted at the moment.  The other assistant grabbed at her cellphone like it was a life raft in the north Atlantic and instantly started texting.....

When I walked out onto the patio I noticed this red chair against the blue sky and the low, rushing clouds.  I walked back in and grabbed another camera out of my bag and snapped a few images.  A retouched version (remove plywood to the right of the chair) ended up in the property brochure.  I stood by the railing and watched the traffic below. 

A famous photographer wrote a series of tips in a 1952 Modern Photography Magazine that I came across in the Fine Arts Library at UT many years later.  His advice?  "Once you've covered what you think is your subject, turn around and look in the opposite direction.  You might find something fun there."  "Always shoot a version for yourself instead of just what the job calls for."  "Only eat steak when the client is paying for dinner."  "Don't let them rush you.  It takes as long as it takes to do it right." "How much light do you need?  Just enough to do it right.  Not a bit more."  And finally, "Tell them it has to be real champagne in the glass because the photo will show the difference...."  I guess the last tip was intended to keep the photo shoots fun.

The only tip I can offer is to make sure to prop the kitchen and dining rooms shots with stuff you and the crew will enjoy eating....  And that red chairs look cool against blue skies.

15 comments:

Spiney said...

I hope the assistants from that shoot and current and future assistants read this post and realized they should act like the smart one if the want to get rehired. I learned by assisting and still assisted long after I had my own studio. I could always learn something knew if I was observant. I knew there was always something that needed swept, polished, toned down, tweeked, or moved. And this was well before cell phones. So I can't say if now I wouldn't be tempted. And Yes, I got the real point of your posting. I always shot the job more than one way if the time and talent allowed.

Spiney said...

I forgot to add having come up the ranks I had little tolerance for lazy assistants who were not there to work and learn. I asked for what I needed. If they didn't get the hint they weren't hired again, not on my dime.

Marino Mannarini said...

The holy bible of shootings on assignment, this all is.

Kudos, Kirk!

thequietphotographer said...

I'm not a pro, but when photographing I like to be "the photographer" but also wear a different hat and be "the client" of myself. I like and appreciate what you tell us, but the last tip about real champagne can become ...very expensive!
robert
PS: I know that Luchino Visconti, italian movie director always wanted real props in his movies (jewellery as well) because he said that it makes the difference.

Robert Roaldi said...

I assume that the comment about the "smart" assistant reflected a pattern of behaviour, not just the one incident. You can always find a moment in a day when someone is doing something unrelated to what they are being paid to do, sipping a drink of water, blowing their nose, and nowadays checking their phones.

kirk tuck said...

Robert, was I being too subtle? Or was the meaning lost on it's way to the web?

Robert Roaldi said...

Dunno. When I read it, it sounded a little uncharitable to the assistant that was checking their phone, is all. Uncharitable, that is, if it was an isolated incident on their part. If it was typical behaviour (and I see it all the time) it's fair.

kirk tuck said...

Hi Robert, I know you mean nothing by it but I get a bit prickly when people assume that the rules have all changed and anything goes because now we all have cellphones and are transfixed.

Assistants can blow noses, pee, eat sustaining snacks and what not while we're on set but there's a contingent (that gets quickly weeded out) who can't breathe without checking a screen and when they take their minds out of the workplace I tend to lose them for a while.

There's ample time to check texts from a friend who is shopping and requires "shoe guidance" but it should be during lunch or, if you want to be sneaky, during a potty break.

My preference is for everyone to leave their cellphones in their cars but we've eroded civilization beyond that particular failsafe point.

Can you imagine a shoot thirty of forty years ago where everyone carried around their own telephone, with a very long plug to the wall, just waiting for it to ring?

Or an assistant rushing to the mail slot to check again for the 50th time whether or not a letter had arrived?

Why would we want to tolerate the modern equivalents?

If someone starts a conversation with me and then starts staring at their cellphone screen I take that as an invitation to walk away.....

meandmycanon said...

I know of a large optical company who, given the choice, will always hire someone over forty. Reason? The youth of today, who are very text savvy, don't seem to communicate very well with their customers. They seem to lack that "human empathetic touch" older people take for granted. While I am hesitant to tar everyone with the same brush I think there is some truth to the optical company's observation and really, Kirk was just commenting on one person being present at work while the other was no doubt planning her next text.

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Totally get you on this, Kirk - no, you weren't too subtle.

badaud said...

Kirk, do you leave your cell in the car when you walk onto a job?

badaud said...

BTW, California fizz looks just like real Champagne if you're shooting digital. If you want Krug to look like Krug, gotta shoot film....

kirk tuck said...

I have very little regard for my cellphone and am comfortable leaving it on the desk in my studio when I go to a shoot. I figure my client is paying for my full attention and most of my shoots are booked weeks in advance. I'm not in emergency medicine and I am NOT on call. There is no need for most people not to be without their cellphones for four or five hours at a time. If you are so tied to your phone that you need it in your pocket to shoot jobs for which you are charging thousands of dollars a day for then you might have grown some compulsive behaviors.

Our need to "be in touch" is making us more out of touch that ever before.

When I go in to shoot I remember the exchange between the two Jedi Knights in Star Wars.

Qui-Gon: "Don't center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs."
Obi-Wan: "But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future."
Qui-Gon: "But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the living Force, young Padawan."
―Qui-Gon Jinn, instructing Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi[src]

The anticipation of calls and texts is the future. The people and project in front of you is the now.

The cellphone is the concentration disruptor invented by the devil to keep us from concentrating on real life.

kirk tuck said...

badaud, Another reason to keep shooting film.

Wil said...

"uncharitable to the assistant that was checking their phone, is all"

Really?

All of a sudden it's okay to get paid for doing personal stuff? It amazes me the entitlement that people feel about their phones, their text messages, their emails.

I used to have a boss that made us clock out to take/make a personal phone call. I still think she was the fairest boss I've ever had.