Doug Menuez finds documenting the people and places of software, hardware, and service companies to be second nature, having spent years with high-tech organizations in the past. Doug was asked to travel to Redmond, Washington, to work with Microsoft 365 Studio, and it was as familiar to him as coming home. Microsoft seeks to empower people all over the world, with their products, and that required Doug to bring credibility on a large scale. Here is a bit about this project.
You recently finished a project with Microsoft. How did this project come about? What were they looking for from you?
Microsoft had been working on refreshing the 365 brand and wanted more documentary and authentic imagery to respond to a changing audience. I was recommended to the team by Sue Boivin, Executive Creative Director at Microsoft. We once worked together on a brand campaign for a bank and had a blast working together. One of my great joys is building long-term relationships. We all change and grow, and yet having worked together, you develop a kind of shorthand as well as trust. On Sue’s recommendation, Jamie Fish from their creative agency, Venandi Creative, reached out to me, and we had a series of fantastic calls.
Your background in photojournalism brings you opportunities that span advertising, magazines, as well as projects working directly with corporations. What makes your photojournalist approach stand apart from others?
People in corporate marketing and advertising often think it’s easy to shoot genuine moments that have an emotional resonance with audiences. It’s pretty difﬁcult, and every aspect of the production has to be tuned to support this. What makes me different than most is my ability to merge the two worlds. My photojournalism skills help me deliver the ﬂeeting moments that we need. It’s my years of doing production across the globe on signiﬁcant brand campaigns that gave me the experience and insights to gracefully blend the two worlds. Everything in advertising is set up to stop spontaneous, candid moments from happening and me from capturing them. I have to subvert the process and make it support my strategy.
Is this your first project in working with Venandi and Jamie Fish? How was this assignment different?
Yes, first time with Jamie and she was astonishing. There was no detail too small, and she created an incredibly positive, open atmosphere on set. It was a lot of fun. It was different in the sense of a tighter budget and more editorial, but the goals for me were the same – to get real moments in time that communicated the story. I noticed that most of the crew were women and a good range of ethnicities. That was not by accident, and that level of inclusion was inspiring. We talked about that afterward.
You are fascinated with documenting the human condition. How did you go about understanding the corporate culture of Microsoft 365 Studio?
I spent 15 years documenting the rise of Silicon Valley with Steve Jobs and the great innovators- from the inside with exclusive access – so I learned about how tech companies evolved their new cultures to support innovation. I watched them grow into corporate behemoths as their success increased. That means I see corporations as populations of human beings with hopes and dreams and issues like everyone else. They go home to families and are part of communities. I try to stay open and never assume anything. I’m here to learn, so I keep a kind of “beginner’s mind” no matter how much experience I have, I’ve learned that every assignment will be different.
You tend to bring “more” to a project, beyond photography. What does “more” consist of and, how do you go about going above and beyond?
There are a couple of pieces to this. The short answer is, I’ve found myself being a consultant as much as a photographer on some shoots. I’m always up for brainstorming and helping with pitches, collaborating on the creative execution if needed, and have done this on several global, award-winning projects for major brands.
The more extensive background to why that’s happened: I’ve built long-term relationships with clients that have stretched five or even ten years by giving everything I have to every production. I am a documentary photographer and concerned with our world and human experience, but I also love doing advertising. I went to art school, and so did most of the creatives with whom I work. To do great work, they have to borrow from the world of art and ideas, pop culture, history, sociology, anthropology, business, and more. Given that I’m getting hired for my eye and to shoot what I love to shoot, it’s gratifying.
I have a worldview and perspective that’s a bit more rounded and perhaps different than other shooters. My background shooting photojournalism for magazines includes shooting six covers for Fortune. I have spent years documenting tech and corporate life, including profiling 70 CEOs. Add that to my years of shooting brand advertising and corporate-direct projects, and I have perspective. I have seen failure on a massive scale from the inside of companies, as well as incredible successes. I understand the agency’s clients and their issues in a way that those without my experience with people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, don’t have. I also am so grateful to be called on and to contribute to these projects that I think I’m bringing a good vibe and positive energy. I want to think I make these projects fun for all of us. Life is short after all, let’s make it count.
Follow Doug on Instagram to see the work of a photographer/director circling the globe to find the moments that fuel empathy, connect cultures & remind us of our shared humanity.