I always like when Leigh Beisch shares with us stories about what it was like to grow up in a creative family. Her father was in advertising during the Mad Men time and he mother was an amazing poet. So, when she told us that she was going to start a series on her own blog interviewing people who have inspired her, we thought it would be a great idea. It was no surprise when she started with her father. Here is what she shares.
“I think the most interesting thing to learn about another artist is to find out what other creative has inspired them in their development. Then you can start to see how the puzzle of how they work is put together. It fuels your own fire a bit, I believe. So here I start an ongoing series- introducing some of the creative folks who have shaped my vision, my soul. I feel lucky- I have had the opportunity to work with some amazingly talented creatives and I admit- I have been influenced by many of them. The folks I introduce here are a few- some who I consider almost family because of how we connect to each other creatively. The first is real family- my father- Chuck Beisch. He is the person who introduced me to photography, who has encouraged me through my whole career, and the first to get me to look carefully and really see.
Dad was a Creative Director in NY back in the 50’s and 60’s- so I guess that classifies him as a “Mad Men”. He worked with photographers like Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Avedon, Hiro and became friends with Bruce Davidson and Joel Meyerwitz. Photography was his passion along with art directing. He went on to work in London, San Francisco and Boston. He won so many Hatch awards my parents started using those silver bowls as ash trays. He has taught creative thinking and strategy at Boston University, Emerson College and RISD. After closing the doors to his Marketing agency a few years ago he now focuses on his own photography- winning many awards (I am proud of him!) I sent him a few questions to flush out his process as he is one of the most creative thinkers I know:
What led you down the road to being creative? What is your back story?
When it became clear that I was not cut out for a career in academia it became the only alternative. In addition what helped was the fact that I was born into a family where art was a tradition so nobody told me I couldn’t raise a family on what I earned with a career in creativity.
Where do you get your inspiration? Reading, traveling, music, relationships, looking at artwork?
Looking, looking, looking. I am constantly on the prowl for arresting images – innovative ideas.
What is your process for coming up with ideas, creative solutions?
I make it a point to know all I can about the problem at hand, then let the stuff germinate after which I scrawl down any ideas that come off the top of my mind – I do not reject anything. Then I put the stuff on hold and look at it again in a day or two. What floats to the top I skim off and try to develop. I reject the obvious and look for the unique solution. Right now I am doing a lot of photography for myself – I was taken by what Donald Judd the minimalist painter said to his students = don’t ask yourself if it is art (there are too many prerequisites in that ) ask yourself if it is interesting. That works for advertising or any mass media for that matter folks just don’t look at the banal unless they are the client.
How do you/did you choose who to hire or collaborate with (other art directors or photographers)?
Madison Ave in the 60’s was like the wild west. Creativity ruled the land and you could bring in anyone – sometimes the selling of the work was attached to the photographer /artist /illustrator director/ composer who was to do the execution. I brought in Diane Arbus for instance to work on dog food. Also Avedon, Bruce Davidson and Hiro to work on a bank campaign. Joel Meyerowitz did my storyboards. Nicholas Roeg was to shoot a Gillette commercial for me in the UK. We were encouraged to think out of the box. An interesting story revolves around an art director friend who hired a photographer who was known for his humor and photographing people to shoot a photo for an ad which had a fun approach to selling a motor scooter.
Do you find that listening to music is important in the creative process?
It connects with my inner self. Takes me to another place. Music in commercials is critical. I used the anvil chorus as background for a spot that talked about the frustrations of using a computer.
What do you listen to for inspiration?
Classical, Cool Jazz. Sometimes the lyrics of Dylan and Cohen.
Do you find it important to have conversations, relationships with other creatives?
Yes especially if they push the envelope- but I have worked alone writing copy and doing the art direction. I have worked with great writers like Ed McCabe. I steal from the experience – not the words but the thinking and the style.
What would you say is the most important way to connect with the creative community?
To win awards. But what is more pertinent here is how to connect with the person who is working with you. In that case to share your enthusiasm for the product or service no matter what you may think of it. Being cool is being cold. It’s creative constipation. So accept everything that the other person offers = you can make the cut later.
What is the most important thing to your creative process? Your place, the people around you, your technical know how?…..
All of the above. But mostly the challenge – the fire you have in the belly.
Can you share a story that defines your creative “style” or how you like to art direct?
I was working with Hiro on a campaign that personified the New York woman. Hiro had done a studio shot of kids bouncing around on a sheet of plexi while Hiro shot from below. I suggested we use the same method on location shooting up past the model and using the buildings as backdrop. It won a Photographis award with the photograph. Also-while working in England I went to do a pickup shot for a commercial that featured women who had used a conditioner and shampoo. The director shot the pickup as it was boarded. Then, as we had the models on hand for the rest of the day, we re shot the insert in an entirely different way not only for that segment but I also rewrote the words and the editor cut an entirely new spot. I showed the original spot with new insert then when the client knew he had what he asked for, I showed the new spot. He walked away in a stupor but called me the next day euphoric. With this and the other ads we became #1 in the Shampoo category.
Can you share some images from your favorite project?
Please add anything else you would like or feel would be interesting.
Trust your instincts – and remember you are there because other people can’t come up with creative ideas – you are THE man /woman.