A client once asked me what my favourite shoot was.
I had to think. I didn’t know offhand.
Is that like asking a chef which egg they cooked was their favourite? I don’t remember half of the shoots I’ve done after 13 years of doing this for a living.
But. I said I’d get back to her when I’ve thrown the question around a few times.
My favourite shoot was the time when the owner of a restaurant needed some imagery for their walls and by extension would also need similar imagery for promo material, websites, menus, that kind of thing. They’re based in West Auckland (the far west Auckland, not New Lynn or Avondale or even Henderson, but getting out past Titirangi and into the bush) and take pride in the local environment and wanted to showcase that inside the restaurant as well as out. I asked if they had any ideas of what that looked like. They said “Whatever you think is cool”.
Whatever I think is cool.
And that was it. I bollocksed on about this a while back – trusting your eyes, ‘nobody sees it like you’, that kinda stuff. And as true as that remains, and as true as it also remains that the skill for seeing these things needs to be honed and nurtured, it’s also pretty rare for a client to just trust a photographer like this and send them out, to get the goods that represent their brand to the outer world without a brief nailed down or manicured by marketing people. Just shoot what looks cool.
So that’s what I did. I got up at 5am, made the 45 minute drive to where I thought would be right, and shot stuff for about 3 hours. That day was hideous – rain, wind, cold, a heavy damp mist that stuck to everything like a grim sheet, and me with a 135mm lens trying to pick things out among the fog wondering what the hell I was doing. But, as any photographer knows, you have to come back with something. Even if that something is very different to what the client expects, you need to turn in something. So I turned in abstract shots of fern leaves, heavy with rainwater and bending under the weight, dripping cold runoff into the mud underneath. Shots of bark saturated and scarred, wider shots of forests receding into the distance under a blanket of grey fog, the dim outline of the hills just a suggestion in the background – a slight slate grey among the cement grey of everything else.
They loved it. They said they were glad I didn’t do “the usual shit” of sunsets, kids playing while the sun dips and flares behind happy mum and dad, content with their world entire. One of those images was printed 3m wide. 5 years later and they’re still being used everywhere, so much so that they are synonymous with the brand itself. They believed in me. I believed in myself and just trusted that what I thought was cool would be enough.
These aren’t those pictures. Sorry. That’s probably anti-climactic. However this set is along similar lines. Not intending to use them as part of any campaign, it’s somethings that capture my eye and make me look a bit longer than a passing glance. In the old days I use to question this. What was it about that wall? That stack of tyres? That shopfront? I stopped after never finding any answers, and even if I did, would it change anything? I hope not. I like the solitary silence of taking everyday pictures without worrying about what comes after. You should too. Remove the noise. Stick to your guns. See what’s cool. Don’t worry about what comes after. I think you’ll learn something.
I have learned that I like lines.