I was a theater major in school, as well as a photography major, I loved being around actors. They are very much adventures in life… explorers in life and they are very passionate about having a wonderful picture about themselves because for them it is very important. I remember the young people coming to my studio and I probably photographed two a week for 25 years. They would always ask, “How much time do you get to spend with me” and in those days, “How much film are you going to shoot?” and I would tell them, “Relax; we will shoot as much as we need to”. The name of the game there was to conjure up this magical compelling image of this person that’s was going to draw a director or a casting director into trying them out for a part. I did that for a long time, and it was a wonderful time to do this in my studio, which was on the west side of Chicago. It was a loft at 850 North Milwaukee Avenue and we would shoot their pictures there. I probably photographed a thousand actors and I know at least two of them made it onto the big screen. One was Jamie Denton, who was in Desperate Housewives. He was 28 when I met him, and the agents were really hot on him, you could tell. Here’s this very handsome guy and he had this quality about him. There’s was just something about him, like he was the captain of the high school basketball team or the quarterback in college; he had this quality where you wanted to know this guy. Steve Carell was another one, he was working at Second City then and he was just about to go to Las Vegas with their troop at that time. He was a sweet guy, like the parts he often is cast in. He was from a little town in Iowa, also about 28, 29 year old, and he was looking at his life at that time and he said, “I’m going to give it another five years, and we’ll see what happens, you know I’ll do something else if this doesn’t work out”. That’s how he was at that time in his life and then I saw him about ten or 15 years later in the movie 40 Year Old Virgin, and I said to myself “I know this face, I’ve seen this guy” and then I remembered who he was from our photo-shoots in Chicago.
BIM: That’s incredible history you have. It sounds like photography runs in your family blood. It’s so wonderful the impact you made for all those young actors and all those professionals and models, as you were building up your career, truly fantastic.
So Brad, tell us what’s one of the biggest misconceptions that business owners or CEO’s have about corporate photography and what that can really mean to a company.
Brad: I think it’s the approach. I would advise any business owner or corporate executive who is looking to tell story or convey a message, is first to talk to a designer or to talk to someone who’s going to build you more than just a template website and really get clear about what you’re going to convey about the company. I’d also suggest to have a writer and to work with a writer and decide what is it you really want to say about the company and then hire the photographer who can work with this writer or work with the designer or both, and look at what is it you want to say about the company and what images will put their best foot forward on the website because it’s the images that draw people into reading about the company and how your company separates itself from the other companies doing similar work. Let’s shoot photos that can tell people about your service.
I think some companies approach it as… “(Sigh…) We have to do this, we can’t have a blank face there, we have to do this and get through it” and they just call someone and have them come in and do it as quick as possible which is a mistake. I think they should give it some thought as to how they can, in the best light, show what services they provide, and who they want to photograph and the best manner to take their picture.
BIM: So the solution is really about planning. It’s about planning and really intentionally saying “we want to convey this message, we want to convey this emotion, this connection, to our audience” and then once they understand that then bringing in a professional, someone like yourself, who understands that, who goes in and capture the story that you’re trying to tell.
Brad: Absolutely. I often say to people… the ideal scenario for photographers is… I happen to be photographing the president of Boeing and I have, their 200 employees working behind him on a 787, that would be ideal to have as a visual aide. But for the most part we don’t work in situations like that. We usually go to their office and often using the architecture of the office and have them stand kind of out from that… which is what we are usually using as a visual aid. Sometimes it might be in a conference room set up. We’ll set up a conference room shot and kind of activate people… have them talking, have them sitting or standing at a certain angle so it’s conveying a sense that they’re at work.
For example, I was at the Al Burdock Culver factory and we photographed a number of people on the line with the bottles going by them. I photographed someone in a steel factory where they made steel rolls and we were able to dramatically show, with different lighting, the steel behind them. In another photo-shoot, we spent two days photographing these attorneys and with that time, I was able to photograph each attorney twice to really capture the feeling they were looking for.