Why I Love My Job…

June 16, 2012

Over the years, every job becomes, well, work.  I don’t care what those “if you love what you do…” people say.  Last night, I got reminded what it is that I find the most rewarding thing about taking pictures.  And it’s not taking pictures.

Antoine Proulx celebrated 20 years of making amazing furniture and, more importantly, seeing their design vision realized as a strong, vibrant company.

Twenty years ago, Mark Minter, the Creative Director for my client, The Donovan Group, called me and asked if I’d be interested in talking to a talented young designer with an impressive line of furniture he was trying to launch.  Beyond loving the work, and it being a great fit with my experience shooting architecture with Nick Wheeler, I instantly connected with Marc Desplaines and his brother Rich, who manufactured the designs.

We settled on a lighting strategy, a look for the line, that I thought we could get some life out of.  It’s always a challenge developing a method of lighting and shooting a product line that is compelling, works with the products and shows the features, but also won’t look dated or contrived within the life of the product.  In this case, unbeknownst to us both, Marc and I were setting the stage for the next 20 years.

To give credit where due, I’ve always been strongly influenced by two people – Irving Penn, whose work with Clinique in the early ’80s I adapted to everything from electronic connectors to, well, furniture, and Blue Poitras, (AKA Patricia Jellenick Hallowell) who, as a young goldsmith and friend taught me to trust “Classic” over “Trendy”.  Classic lasts.

The lighting evolved, yet even our first shots are still being used.  Marc has developed six Collections now, and we’ve added room sets within the last 5 years, for editorial pages and catalog spreads augmenting the product vignettes.

I’ve shot Antoine Proulx with everything from our first 4×5 view camera work, to 120 film, and on to virtually every instance of high-end digital back available.  Throughout my career with Calumet and EP Levine, the joke became, “OK, what camera that you don’t own are you shooting with today?” as I borrowed or rented what was the camera of the day, throughout what was the most dramatic period of digital capture development in history.

Yet, the work had to remain consistent.

I heard several times last night that I was responsible for the “Antoine Proulx look”.  Of course I wasn’t…  I was simply facilitating the vision Marc had.   But as such, Marc Desplaines is a client who understands the meaning of a creative team.  He always asked for my help and ideas, and was forthright about whether we were on-target or missing the mark, in a way that makes me always strive for more.

Sometimes you have to step back out of the trees and look at the forest, and last night was that kind of evening for me.  I love working with Antoine Proulx, not because I love my photographs, but because I feel I’ve helped build something – a team of brilliant, hard working people who’ve created something that has, in it’s own small way, changed it’s corner of the world. Design, manufacturing, creating a product is about “making stuff”…  valuable, beautiful stuff from raw materials, ideas, and hard work.

It’s easy to think that the “stuff” you’re making as a photographer are pictures.   It’s easy to feel like images are ephemeral, fleeting, without substance.  It’s easy to think your work is only worth the few seconds that most people look at a photograph, but that’s not it.

Not at all…

Thanks Marc, Ritchie, Patty and the whole team at Antoine Proulx for a great 20 years!


One Response to “Why I Love My Job…”

  1. Leigh Stackpole Says:

    Great reflection! Wow Marc 20 years of gorgeous photos + furniture as I sit at my Antoine Proulx table typing this comment I feel something special like a warm heart.

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