“What do you do?”- Anatomy of a shoot for the Royal Navy

May 9th 2010 | 0 COMMENTS

I’ve been going through a lot of old work recently as 2009 was a bit of a milestone, 20 years of taking photographs.

Whilst filing away old boxes of negatives and contact sheets (film and yee olde proofs before computers took over) I came accross the monster that was my shoot for the Royal Navy. I say monster in a nostalgic way as it was a very complicated shoot dreamt up by Jason Stewart when he was an art director at London advertising agency Y&R Rainey Kelly I had also been asked the simple question at a friends wedding recently about what I do. Its a simple answer really but at some point later in the conversation I mentioned using an assistant which was greeted with a puzzling look as photography when you are a guest at a wedding is simple. Point and shoot, bring to boots or load it on your computer and bobs your uncle so of course the answer that ‘I’m a photographer’ doesn’t really explain what I do.

Being a photographer is the essential task but I often feel the critical part in almost any job is the production especially when it comes to advertising when there is so much money being spent on so many aspects of a job beyond the photo shoot. Without detailed preparation you are only making things hard for yourself when you get to the important bit ie pressing the button! I went on to try and explain some of this detail to achieve precisely what an art director wants blah blah and what a client has agreed to blah blah and his eyes glazed over. Quite right too, its a bit dull and there was a wedding to enjoy but when I rediscovered the navy shoot I thought this is an example of how complicated things can get when you let the art directors imagination run wild.

This is an example of how complicated things can get when you let the art directors imagination run wild!

Jason had drawn up 6 Navy recruitments ads with a strong style based on the computer gaming experience. Each ad featured a mini adventure with dropped in scenarios of action as it happened in several locations at the same time. We had a shared love of special effects and fantasy film so it was a language we could talk about. I clearly remember that the Art Buyers weren’t quite sure how we were going to shoot it! To be honest.. I wasn’t sure myself when I saw all the ads together but after breaking it down to a shot list it became clear that a lot of the scenarios were relatively simple.

The shoot turned out to be a fantastic adventure in its own right so I have decided in this new blog age to write about it now as I think it is still the best illustration of what I do as a photographer and how complicated things can get at times. And I don’t believe I will ever shoot anything as complicated as this again. As a taster here is a diagram of how one of the ads was made up from seperate elements. You can see the original line drawing too which is all I was given. I’ll write about its genesis and completion in a separate post.


About Conor

Conor is a photographer and film maker based in London. His images can be viewed on his website on the PHOTOGRAPHY and FILM links above. This blog is a good place to see all sorts of personal work and general projects in progress.

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