Underwear Overlord

When it's character development I'm doing for my clients I usually get a pencil sketch of some stick figure standing against a wash of gray with a sketchy prop or in a vague wardrobe. The rest is kind of up to me and the art director to flesh out.
Jack: Homeowner, DIY guy, is a PC.

 This time in addition to those simple (but color)sketches, boutique Kansas City ad agency Meers gave me a descriptive deck describing the three characters they wanted me to create for their Missouri Gas Energy campaign .  I prefer the vagueness of sketches and descriptions because it forces the conversation about who these characters are and it frees me to define them more specifically. Sometimes good creative takes its own sweet time and although we didn't have the luxury of time, the art director and I had a great exchange about how to interpret the layouts.  Budget was a concern so I made the best use of our money by making some logistical adjustments so to milk our dolla's dry. The choices we made really changed the creative for the better and I'm confident we have a stronger campaign for it.

Agency: Meers
Creative Director: Dave Thornhill
Art Director: Brandon Bennett
Client: Missouri Gas Energy

Interview with me on APhotoEditor

Still Images in Great Advertising- Saverio Truglia

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
As I continue to showcase my favorite advertising winners in this year’s Communication Arts Photography annual, I wanted to showcase the ad by Saverio Truglia for Pan Am accessories campaign.  I was not aware of his work so while doing my research for this blog, it was nice to see his work and how he was chosen for this campaign and others.  I think that is one of the main reasons I am doing this column; I want to show photographers how important some award shows can be for your career.  It is up to you to make sure you do what you can to market it beyond just being in the annuals.

Suzanne:  When I go to your site, it is hard to figure out what is self assigned and what is assignment.  What do you use for inspiration when you are testing for your portfolio?

Saverio: You’re right. I showcase mostly either self-assigned work or redirections of client work. I don’t differentiate the two on my site. All my best images comes from the same passion so if client work is great, then I share it in the same place. My inspiration for shooting for myself is driven by my personal curiosity in the moment. There’s a lot in life that inspires me to check it out more closely. Making pictures for myself usually starts with seeing something in the physical world I want to investigate and repurpose. Like an out of place situation, the way light strikes a surface, or meeting somebody extraordinary. Making personal work is important to honing my instincts. Testing can also be a launching pad to experiment and try new approaches at pushing my comfort zone. I’ll always gravitate to shooting people and I find the camera to still be an incredible access point into people’s lives. When they know my curiosity is authentic and pure, I get invited into homes, businesses and bedrooms. It’s kind of uncanny how they participate and it always leaves me with a story to tell about the experience, not just the pictures. I usually write about it on my blog. When clients reference my personal work as inspiration for their own projects, it often leads to successful campaigns.

Suzanne:  The interesting thing about this winning image is that it is a combination of your period work but with a fashion flare.  Tell me about this campaign and how much you were a part of the concept to final process?

Saverio: I love working with period styling because of the rich back-story it gives. It conveys details about a character’s circumstance. Fashion isn’t something I’m known for but if the character needs to be dressed well to convey what’s happening to her, then fashion is my back-story and I’m totally into it.
There were no layouts so the creative director contacted me early to share his ideas and to get my spin. He races vintage motorcycles so was tossing around ideas of speed, Pan Am as emblem for the golden age of travel, and something about escape. I brought the idea that modern travel is full of inconvenience and that maybe we could play with the idea of getting f’d at the airport. We had access to vintage transportation like cars, motorcycles, a biplane, etc. It was kind of awesome. I fell in love with this blue Porsche laying about the airport hanger. Its shape was so satisfying to me. So I built a story around this girl who is trying frantically to catch her flight but gets stopped along the way. The afternoon sun was right and I added some light to pop all the surfaces. That month I was into shooting everything from above so I brought a ladder and looking down found all these delicious lines and triangles to play with. The concept that this girl parks her Porsche on the runway and won’t admit defeat made her into this spoiled, space age brat which was appealing to me.

Suzanne:  I was inspired to read your bio because I wanted to see where you grew up.  I was convinced either Europe or South America, so I was pleasantly surprised by the Northeast.  With that being said, where does this inter Euro vision come?  Being brought up on Italian food?

Saverio: My family came from Italy after WWII and settled in coastal New Hampshire where I grew up. My grandfather was a brick mason. He loved geometry. My father had a themed seafood restaurant called the Pirates Cove and Peg Leg Lounge. It was exactly as you imagine. My mother bred very elegant Morgan show horses. As a kid I was obsessed with the slickness of European bike racing and both parents encouraged me to study art early on. I suppose it all got mixed into the soup. My grandmother did most of the Italian cooking.

Suzanne:  While I see the sophistication of European work but with an Americana theme, how do you strike that balance?

Saverio: I’m an American. In fact I live in Chicago and love the bombastic history of this city. Like a lot of Americans I struggle with saying too much. I’m very conscious of it and always remind myself that more is not always more and restraint can speak volumes. So it’s true too when I’m working. My work probably looks American because of my environment and the people and places I can shoot. I gravitate towards the visual abundance of this country but I get pleasure from simplicity, economy and spaciousness. There’s wisdom in economy. I could describe my work as combining both a warm and cool aesthetic. So the sparse coolness may be the European traits you see, and the warm is my American tendency to show it all. It’s like having the devil and an angel sitting on my shoulders whispering in my ear.

Suzanne:  You seem to be able to keep your work with the subtleness that makes it more humorous.  What advice can you give to people who want to shoot humor but not pushing it too far?

Saverio: In photography, punch lines aren’t funny. That’s my advice. Personally I think tragedy can be funny. Not tragedy like everyone is going to die, but a poignant unfulfilled expectation. Farce can also be funny. You can call it black humor when the combination of farce and tragedy rub against each other. I happen to see all photographs as narratives so I naturally make work with an arc and timing to them. Richard Pryor had great timing. I guess I’ve developed a self-awareness or just gut instinct that has me choose where on the narrative arc my picture should exist and just how much information to offer the viewer. It’s important that they get what I ask but to discover it on their own. I call it a gestalt. It’s a great word to look up. My stories present its parts like in a circle, but some large pieces of the circle are never drawn. We automatically fill the gap with our minds to come to the conclusion. It’s actually super interactive because nobody completes the circle in the exactly same way but everyone arrives at a similar conclusion.
About Saverio:
Born on the Atlantic northeast and raised on Italian cooking, Saverio makes Chicago his home with his wife. A competitive cyclist, theater lover, an inspired cook and an equipped home improver; new experiences and challenges motivate his problem solving creativity. His images reflect life’s contrasting moments and represent a world swirling with joy and tension, black humor and light, all organized with thoughtful styling and a singular point of view. Saverio is best known for beautiful concept driven images, off-beat portraits and narrative work that is relatable and universal.  Saverio is commissioned for advertising campaigns and editorial productions worldwide.

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.

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A friend's post on Facebook said  he'd seen a messenger delivering a baby.  I couldn't get this idea out of my head until just now.
Nothing like a self-sufficient child.
Styling and casting: Planet Earth Agency
Retouching: Tim Blokel