Commercial Photography is Not Dead. Just ask Ram Trucks, The Richards Group and Ten Talented Photographers.

Last night, I watched on Facebook as people commented on the Superbowl commercials.  The best post came from my friend Will Burns, President of Ideasicle, around the third quarter.  It read, ” Do the ads know it is the Superbowl?”  By the amount of similar posts it was obvious that people agreed.

I agreed until the Ram Farmers ad created by The Richards Group aired.  Once that spot hit, Facebook was a buzz with cheers and recognition for a spot well done.  The Paul Harvey speech was powerful, the message was powerful, the farmers of course were powerful.  But, for those of us in the industry, it was also the photography that was powerful.  How nice to see a tv spot, let alone a Superbowl spot, be a hero with photography.  Wasn’t is just a few years ago we were hearing that commercial photography was dying?  Well, thank you Ram Trucks and The Richards Group for reminding us that is still very much alive.

I am proud to say that our photographer, Andy Anderson, was one of the ten photographers that participated in this wonderful project.  Andy was humbled by the opportunity and honored by the chance to document visually his connection to the farming community.   To see what Andy had to share about this project, link to his blog here.

Special thanks need to go out to the Ram Trucks client, The Richards Group, Jimmy Bonner, Rob Baker and Deb Grisham for their commitment to their vision.  And of course to the ten talented photographers:  William Allard, Andy Anderson, Jim ArndtDaniel BeltraMark GoochAndy MahrKurt MarkusDavid SpielmanMatt Turley and Olaf Veltman.

When the Journey is More Interesting than the Destination.

© Kevin Twomey

Back in October we shared with you some photographs that Kevin Twomey took on a summer trip to Italy.   He included a corresponding post reminding us the importance of slowing down.  Well, Kevin’s trip also took him to St. Moritz. And, it was here that he tested out his newly healed arm after a break and hiked a hard to reach summit.  He recently shared his experience with us and the beautiful photographs that he created.

“While on vacation in Italy, we took an overnight trip to St Moritz and I found the journey far more interesting then the destination. The first leg was from Oltre il Colle to Tirano, where we took the scenic route through windy roads and over the San Marco pass.   We stopped at the pass to stretch our legs and take a few pictures.  What I captured was one of my favorite images from the trip.   I was drawn to the the modern day electric wires that followed over a road  built  in the 16th century. For me, it was about the layering of time.

© Kevin Twomey

I was told that the pass was built as a trade route between Bergamo (ruled by the Republic of Venice at the time) and cities to the north so they could avoid paying the high tariffs to Milan. The modern road over the pass is a favorite for many hardcore cyclists.

The second leg was a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Tirano to St Moritz.  It was a gorgeous ride through the Alps with breathtaking scenery, where the tracks climb at a 7% gradient and stop close to Brenina Pass at an elevation of almost 7,400 ft.  I can only imagine what this trip would be like in the winter!

There are 3 things to do in St Moritz; ski, shop and eat.  Since I am not a big shopper, I was happy to just sit on the slopes of St Moritz (minus the snow), and enjoy my delicious cured meat and cheese sandwich while basking in the sun.

After returning from St Moritz, I decided to hike up to one of the lower peaks of the nearby Mt. Alben. On my way up, I met three lovely people who were on their way to the higher, more difficult-to-get-to peak and was invited to join them. The rock scrambling tested my arm (which I had broken 8 weeks earlier),  but the payoff was worth it when we hit the summit.   The weather was on my side at that moment with storm clouds in the distance to help give me the right atmosphere for my photograph, but far enough away so I cloud return home dry.

© Kevin Twomey

© Kevin Twomey

© Kevin Twomey

© Kevin Twomey

If you would like to see more of Kevin’s work, please link here.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

© Kevin Twomey –

Kevin Twomey spent a few magical weeks in Italy this summer. When he shared his photos and stories with us, we suggested he share them on the blog as well.  Kevin’s account is very beautiful and reminded us of the importance of slowing down.  

“”When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”   When it comes to food, that saying won’t steer you wrong anywhere in Italy you happen to visit and enjoy a meal.

This past August I went to see the in-laws in northern Italy with my wife. We spent a week in the Alps eating, hiking and eating some more. I am a big proponent of eating home cooked meals and locally grown food and I am happy to report there was no shortage of either on my trip.

A mile up the road from my in-laws summerhouse, close to the town of Oltre il Colle, is an abandoned ski resort where a handful of cows graze at the granite peaked base of Monte Alben for the summer months. These cows belong to a local herder, Tobia. Tobia and his brother have lived amongst these mountains their whole lives. Things are much simpler than my current urban city life and it was good to see the old methods of doing things were just the present day routine for people in the surrounding villages.

© Kevin Twomey –

We met Tobia and his brother as they were milking their cows. Sonoyo, my sister-in-law, gets her milk products from Tobia and thinks nothing of the daily errand that I found to be such a luxury. Tobia didn’t have any fancy milking machine, no weird tools or suction devices.  A bucket and an old wooden stool to sit on was all that was required, go figure.

After a few introductions and a brief conversation about weather, health, family and how two of his cows will be turned into Bresaola this fall, Tobia took his bucket full of fresh milk and filled up Sonoyo’s liter bottle.

A few days later we went to Tobia’s house to buy cheese. The first thing I noticed was the breathtaking view surrounding his home. Lush green rolling hills as far as the eye can see, mountains upon mountains towering over on all sides. And the garden! He had a rich array of so many different kinds of vegetables, it was quiet a sight and put my town’s community garden to shame.

© Kevin Twomey –

There was a separate room devoted to storing and aging Tobia’s home made cheese. He had some that was days old to a couple years and he wanted us to taste them all. We had our tasting and made some hard choices of what to schlep back to the states. We walked away with about a two month supply.

It was refreshing to see things done old school style with little fuss producing such high quality product. Tobia has been doing things the same way his father and his father’s father and so on and so forth. Generations not obsessed with doing better but instead knowing what works is sometimes the best way to do it.”

© Kevin Twomey –

If you would like to read more of Kevin’s blog posts, please link here.  He has a particularly moving post that he wrote after the earthquake in Japan.

Birth Water- sharing a powerful series by Andy Anderson on Baptism rituals in the south.

Andy Anderson always makes time to shoot for himself.  He schedules it like it is a commercial shoot and is so committed to it that isn’t easy to get him to move the dates!  I have always admired that about him and think that so much of his success is his insistence on making time for his personal work.  He has traveled all over the world photographing more things than many will see in a lifetime.   From bull fighters in Spain to transvestites in Cuba his images are epic and enthralling. We are never disappointed when he shares what he discovered.  That is why when he returned from a trip to the deep south we were expecting something amazing.  And, boy did he deliver.

This series has been the most talked about series in his portfolio. Every portfolio show we attend, people want to know the story behind the series. I asked Andy to let us know about his inspiration.  Here is what he shared.

“A major motivation in my photography is curiosity.  So much so that I named the photography book being published by Rizzoli,  just that; Curiosity.  I am constantly exploring things and seeking out those people that excite me most.  Over the years, many of the relationships with the folks I have met have become more important to me than many of the images.  I value so much the friendship and intimacy that goes into each one of my photographs.

That said, I tend gravitate to the moments in peoples lives that are magical, powerful and sometimes even raw.  I understand that there are very few times in your existence that you are able to actually witness such sacred times so when I do I am very appreciative.   I was fortunate enough to do just that at Camel Lake Campground in Bristol, Florida.

Since I spent my childhood growing up in the deep south, I constantly am drawn back to explore a place that I love dearly. One of my dearest friends that I have gotten to know on my travels is Reverend Shearer.  Over the years I wandered into her town many times and saw countless baptisms taking place.  I always felt privileged to be there but understood that  those were private moments not to be tampered with; but only to witness.  Over the years, the friendships with both Reverend Shearer and her congregation grew.

Well, last spring, I received a call from Reverend Shearer. She told me that she would love for me to come and photograph a baptism that she would be preforming in her home town. So I “Criss Angeled” myself  the next week to Florida.  There are no words that can explain the experience.  Trust me,  the human spirit is alive and well. ”

To see more of Andy Anderson’s work, link here.  And, be sure to consider subscribing to our blog so that we you can be the first to read via email our latest entries.  (Upper right hand corner of the blog)

What is the story behind those Animal Mask images Ron Berg?

Ron Berg recently shared with us a series of images that are getting some attention.  When we were at Le Book Connections in NY, the images were a big hit and everyone kept asking what the story was behind them.  When we got back, we asked Ron to share with us what his inspiration.  Here is what he had to say:

“Over the last couple of years, I traveled some in in France, Italy, and Croatia and it was in those magical places that the root of the idea began.  Like most typical photographers I love to seek out areas that are not the norm and strive to find the areas were the locals hang out.  I occasionally venture out on my own or wander off from my wife.  She would say that I “get lost,” but really I am just exploring the sights and sounds of the local culture and go wherever my instinct takes me.

During these particular travels there were these string of occurrences where I kept seeing someone in a mask. Of course this never happened when I was near my wife and it always happened so quickly that I would never be able to document it.  She thought I was crazy or seeing things. And who knows, she could have been right.  Who knows if I was.  Sometimes those local libations have a somewhat unusual effect!

Needless to say, between the masks and the architecture (and local flavors!); I was inspired.

As far as the meaning of the images, I honestly don’t know.   I just know they were in my mind and I had to photograph them.  Maybe they will inspire others to make up a story to go with them.  As Shakespeare wrote for Hamlet, “God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another…”

© Ron Berg

© Ron Berg

© Ron Berg

That in between place as described by David Martinez in his own words.

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I love it when photographers take time for themselves to shoot what has been on their mind.  I love it even more when it is not in their own backyard and they venture out to chase their vision.  David Martinez recently headed east and was thrilled with what he discovered.  Here is what he had to share about it.

“I had wanted to do a personal project on New York City surf culture for some time now. After a little talking around, it seemed like Rockaway Beach was the place –  a beach accessible by subway from Manhattan. My producer and I arrived in New York City on one of the hottest weekends of the year.  As temperatures rise in the city, so do the number of Manhattanites wanting to take the A train out to Rockaway. It was going to be a busy weekend out there.

3 trains, 2 transfers and 6 bottles of water later, we arrived in Rockaway. We had done a little research before the shoot and through a dizzying tangle of personal connections, we found who we had heard was the unofficial mayor of Rockaway Beach. TJ, was a local guy, a lifelong surfer who was kind of enough to meet us at the subway stop and show a couple of us left-coasters around his neighborhood. Among hoards of other city people, we surfed, ate at the local taco shop, and met TJ’s Uncle Rick on the boardwalk (pictured above). Late in the afternoon – blazing sun and humidity turned to torrential downpour- and all 6 of us piled into TJ’s truck to head to the local pub for shelter. I was a little disappointed at first that the weather had turned just when the surf was about to get good.

Amongst the running and laughter and cursing the rain as we piled into TJ’s truck, a beautiful thing happened that always makes for the most interesting and dynamic images. We all just let go. We stopped trying to get on the perfect wave, get the perfect angle, the sun in just the right place.   It happens that most of my favorite images from the trip were created in this way.

Moments between moments.

When the veracity of feeling replaces orchestration. All of these images were made in this space in between….”

To see more of David Martinez’s work, please link here.

Just Sharing. New Work from Andy Anderson and Ram Trucks.

Thank you Jimmy Bonner, The Richards Group and Ram Trucks for the opportunity to work on such a fantastic campaign.  And, of course, thank you to our crew for helping making it all happen.  Dust storms and all.


To see more of Andy Anderson’s work, including other work he has created for Ram, please link to his site.

From the desk of Sady Callaghan: Tips for Producing in the Wild, Wild West

I have worked with Sady Callaghan for years on a variety of productions and she has never let down any of our photographers or our clients.  She is unflappable, professional and a fun person to have on set.   I love that when someone throws us a curve ball, Sady is always the voice of reason and has the perfect solution.

So it was no wonder when Mother Nature sent a dust storm her way she steered the production in a way that got the shot AND came in under budget.  Only Sady.

When I asked her to share her story, here is what she had to say about it.

“When Andy Anderson called me to produce The Richard Group’s new campaign for RAM trucks, I was thrilled.  The idea of shooting in the Wild West was really exciting to me; especially because of the locations.

Of course, there was a quick turn around – isn’t everything nowadays?   We needed to find 6 very complicated locations in very remote areas.  So, knowing that the back bone of a good photo shoot is good scouting,  we hired the best.  We called Joe Wolek and Steven Currie, shared the vision with them and told them to “just find it.”  To do so, they drove thousands of miles through Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  They of course found amazing locations.

Well, as we all know, an amazing location doesn’t guarantee great weather.  The closer we got to shooting the more worried we became about the elements.  Parts of Colorado were still covered in snow and a lot of other areas were still in spring mode: no trees and no greenery.  Challenging but doable.

What we were not prepared for was the DUST. I have called a few weather days in my time for the usual suspects; storms, rain, fog and snow, but that was the first time that we had to call a weather day for 80 mph winds.

The first day of our shoot there were 60 mph hour winds.   Andy wanted to power through and  simply said,  “We can do it.”  We bought shovels, protective coverings for the equipment and outfitted everyone in goggles and hankerchiefs to cover their faces.  The crew braved the elements and after digging a couple of people out of the sand and waiting patiently for breaks in the storm. We got our shot.  It was great day for a shower.

We were not as lucky on the second day.  The wind was so ferocious and the sand so painful that we could barely leave the hotel.  It was just too dangerous to shoot so we called a weather day.

Even though it was a no brainer to postpone the day, we were sensitive to the fact that weather days are expensive and the client was worried.  So, Andy and I devised a new plan.  We rearranged the entire schedule; including talent and locations, so that we could still finish on time.   It was no small feat, but it was worth it.  In doing so we were able to get all the shots AND still come in under budget. 

Needless to say, everyone was happy and went home with some great stories from the desert.

So, if you are considering shooting in the Wild West anytime soon, consider these inside tips.

1. Stalk your location owners.  Be creative and resourceful.  Many people do not expect a scout to call them and will have no idea what you are talking about.  In one instance, we hired someone to stake out a house night and day to get permission to shoot.  In another, I called seven different levels of management to get approvals for a fertilizer plant. They were puzzled as to why we wanted to shoot there!

2. Call the Navajo Film Commission every three hours.  There is no sense of urgency in the desert.

3. Bring lots of cash.  You don’t know who you are going to have to pay.  Our scout warned us that different Navajo families owned different parts of the land.  I had a couple of families in the motor home every day – and they would only take cash!

4. Hire a great stylist.  Sourcing things in the wild west is very difficult.  We brought along Colleen Hartman and she managed to pull 2000 lbs of railroad ties, antique barrels, sheet rock and large machinery out of her magic bag of tricks.

5. Hire a great local guide.  The Navajo Nation requires productions to have a guide with them at all times.   Sisco was our street scout and our secret weapon.  He told us where to buy beer in a dry state and he dug our assistant out of sand storm.  His brother was our caterer.  We kept it all in the family.

6.  Be prepared for anything.  There are lots of surprises out there.  That’s what make our job so much fun.

7.  Appreciate your crew and your client.  We had a fantastic team on this shoot – and could not have pulled this off it we didn’t all work together as a team.  Everyone from the PA to the client were crucial to making it all happen smoothly.

To learn more about Sady’s production magic, visit her website.

Jim Smithson wonders, “What would Ansel do?”

On a recent shoot in the back woods of Georgia, Jim Smithson had an experience he had never had on a shoot before.  When he shared it with us, we thought it was a perfect story to post on the blog.

Here is what he had to say.

“As a photographer, I’ve always felt that a camera in the hand (or tripod) was a magnet for attention. Some good, some bad. Some of that bad came my way recently shooting deep in the woods of Georgia.

Starting in Clearwater, Florida, I rented a car and proceeded to canvas the southeast states of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas looking to capture natural elements that would be comped together in post to construct a “Nature Train” for the freight company CSX and Mullen.

On day 4, I had made it all the way up to the northern reaches of Georgia. Pulling into a state park that will remain nameless, I parked my rental car off to the side of the road, grabbed my shooter and headed for the hills. I meandered freely (or so I thought) through the stands of georgia pines capturing the needed material for the gig. As I emerged from the forest towards my car I was approached by this imposing figure dressed in camo gear, dark sunglasses and packing a firearm. Instantly, scenes from the movie Deliverance started haunting my mind. I was slightly shaking inside. I could see he was obviously agitated as he proceeded to ask me what I was doing parked on his “property” and walking around his “backyard”. I explained to him that I was a photographer on assignment taking pictures of trees, rocks, streams, blah blah blah.

It wasn’t until he informed me that he was a park ranger (albeit off-duty) that the banjo music in my head finally subsided. He asked to see some identification, and since he was packing heat, I respectfully obliged. Upon seeing my Washington state drivers license, he immediately became even more perturbed with my rental car having Florida plates and expired tabs. Yeah, Hertz really cheesed me on that one. He called for back-up and informed me that I was not allowed to leave until I faced further questioning from the Head Ranger. So at this point I truly think he thought he had uncovered a terrorist plot to create some kind of mayhem in a small rural park in the remote hills of Georgia.

I’m not sure what he told the Head Ranger about me, but in the extremely cautious way he approached, I think he was more scared of me than I was of him. He ran me through the same battery of questions then took my ID and disappeared for 45 minutes, surely checking all the bad boy lists. Well, after all that it turns out I wasn’t a bad ass terrorist as suspected and I was free to go.

As I drove away, stirred and slightly shaken, a thought occurred to me, “I wonder if Ansel Adams ever had days like this?”

To see what else Jim Smithson has been up to lately, link here.

And, a quick thank you to Mullen, John Rosato, Justin Mace and of course Taylor James for the amazing opportunity!