More than photography
What you are seeing when you look at an image I create, is not just my photo. There is a team of individuals providing their talent (which in general is of the highest caliber in the industry) and expertise to the final outcome. All of these individuals, from the Model, Hair and Make-Up artist, Manicurist, Fashion Stylist, Prop Stylist and Post Production Retouch (for skin generally… Never my lighting) are essential in getting the “Film Finished” so to speak. Being that I am based in Paris, considered one of the three major centers in the world for my metier, I can draw on this exceptional source of talent. These people gravitate to these centers, just as Hollywood attracts actors and actresses, film directors, and producers.
I have had this discussion with many very talented photographers who become frustrated with their work because they cannot produce the images they imagine for lack of the other talents needed to do so. They ask, “Ben, why do my images lack something that I can’t quite define?” And I brutally have to answer.. “They smack of being Provincial…”
Anyone who has been in this God-forsaken business as long as I have can smell it the minute they see the image. Everything from So So model, bad and poorly done make-up, abysmal hair, no fashion styling at all or perhaps at best borrowed from a local clothing store and totally out-dated by my “Snobbishly Arrogant” standards and really badly overdone or incompetent retouching.
If anyone wishes to do what I do, it is really quite simple. Gain a vocabulary. Go out and look at or buy, Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, I-D, Numero, V… Not the mainstream crap. Absorb it, look, observe, look, observe. You must attain a base for even knowing HOW TO OBSERVE and what to look for. DO NOT YET STUDY THE TECHNIQUE!!! That will come later. Look at everything that is happening. Look at the hair, the make-up, the clothes, the model, the theme, the ambiance. Keep doing this over and over and over until you learn how to be “Discerning”. To become discerning you need the vocabulary.
Once you’ve done that and come to the realization that you might want to try this, you can choose a high end provincial market or “THE MARKET”. I started with Toronto, stayed one year, moved to LA, NY, Milan and eventually Paris. You can get some pretty good talent in Chicago or LA as upper-echelon almost-there markets and get away with it. You can get the good models in Chicago when they come in to do the shows.
Never do a test without all of the “support team” I mentioned. Hair, Make-Up and Fashion-Accessory stylist and of course the Model. “IF YOU DON’T HAVE THIS TEAM YOU WILL BE WASTING YOUR PRECIOUS TIME.”
You need to think about how you can get a relatively good serious working model and support team for your shoots and what to say to get them. A model agency will know immediately by the questions you ask if you are a novice or advanced shooter. Ask the wrong question and BYE BYE. You’ll smack of… Oh, just wanna meet models, forget it buddy! Never mess around with Model agencies, always be as forthright as you can with them. They can screw your career before it has started with just two or three phone calls.