First, thank you to those few of you who submitted. I have to say that I am really disappointed that so few people participated, but I’m hoping that is just a function of people not knowing/forgetting/and the crappy weather out here that made lots of lives difficult.
Below are each submission and a few comments by me. I encourage everyone, not just those who made these images but everyone, to think about the work and to comment. One rule: don’t be a jerk. If you have negative criticism, be kind with it. While it is important for artists to be able to hear the bad as well as the good, it doesn’t do anyone any good to say things like “Well he obviously sucks” or whatever. I want cogent, thought out comments. Be precise and informative. Offer ideas and solutions when you find problems.
As for the photographers whose work is below, be open to everything you get from others. Some may be hard to hear, some may be great to hear, but try to hear all of it and learn from it. And again, thank you all for putting your work, and yourselves, out to the world like this. Takes guts, and I admire that.
Oh, and there is no ranking of the images below–just because your pic is first or last in order doesn’t mean anything. Just random placement. And each image is larger if clicked on, btw.
Keith Barraclough made our first image. This is a “caught” image rather than a “manufactured” one– that is, I’m sure he didn’t set these people up but rather made the image as he saw the scene unfolding. Though with Keith, it’s sometimes hard to tell–lots of his advertising images really have that “honest” feel about them. I like the juxtaposition in this image and find it really interesting that the monks are the ones in the shadows. What does it mean for peace? It evoked questions in me, so yeah, it works.
Kathryn Wagner (please ignore the file name where I got her name wrong, bad me!) made this image of a great old Nash… one of my favorite old cars, so I have a natural soft spot for this image. It’s a bit of a different interpretation of the peace theme, but it still works with the clouds, sky, and soft light. It could be read a bit darkly, if one was in that kind of mood, but does that preclude the “peace” part? I don’t think so. Ever hear of the calm before the storm? I get that kind of peace from it.
Ken Wilder takes a darker turn with his image. Honestly, though, I had mentioned to a friend something about a grave and this theme, so I wasn’t shocked that someone went this way. Ken submitted a small image, so I can’t tell for sure but I think it’s a new grave, which adds to the slightly disturbing and yet still peaceful-ness of this image. It definitely has the light of someplace with a winter, even if there is no snow on the ground, and that light quality works here, at least for me. It’s a colder light, and breaking through the trees adds to the slight “disturbing” feel of this. But unquestioningly peaceful at the same time. I like that it walks that line.
This image by Ryan McGehee I think almost needs its title to make clear its connection to the theme: Angel. The ethereal feeling could definitely be read as peaceful without the words, but I think it could also be read as sci-fi creepy too. Of course, that is because of what I bring to the read– a long history of sci-fi movies in my brain.
This is an important thing to remember when creating an image for others: what you have in your brain and what the viewer has in theirs may not result in the same reading of the image. Neither one is right or wrong, but if you can keep that in mind then the next time a client “doesn’t get it” you can be more understanding and less defensive. You just have different brains.
I love visual puns and visual wordplay of any kind. It’s just one of my natural likes. We all have those tendencies. For example, I’m the perfect person to edit a book of kid images because I am not kid-friendly, so the image has to work for itself. On the other hand, when someone does something like this image made by Kelly Ng, I have to pay close attention to my inherent liking to be fair to the image as a whole.
Kelly is a wedding and portrait photographer so this is not her usual kind of work, but I think she did a good job particularly because of that background. So much of her “normal” work would have fit the theme, but instead she pushed herself to find a different solution and I really respect her for taking that risk. And, yes, it works. The only thing I would have done differently is entitled it “give peas a chance.” But I like bad jokes, did I mention that?
Rodney Yardley (for whom I can’t find a site, I’m sorry) went more traditional with this image of dogs. That is, I assume it is more than one dog or it is very curled up. Dogs, cats, and kids are popular solutions for a theme like “peace” but there is a reason for that: humans (mostly) respond to the work in exactly the way the photographer intends. A viewer can’t look at an image like this without at least a hint of the warm fuzzies, even if later the cynical brain kicks in and says “too easy” or “too soft” or whatever. Technically, the image is fine (and the beast is darn adorable and it definitely is peaceful), but I do have a more cynical brain and I’d like to see Rodney take a bigger risk with the next assignment. At the same time, many clients, especially the smaller and less creative ones, would definitely respond well to this. This is a good example of thinking about your goal– if Ryan wanted to get local clients, this would probably work, but for advertising targets, it wouldn’t.
Ryan Gibson definitely took a non-traditional read on the theme, no question. Honestly, when I opened his email, I laughed. Now, not every client is going to want a solution like this so Ryan took a risk in his interpretation, but for the right client, it totally works.
Generally speaking, this image is is a good example of evoking an immediate, positive emotional response, which means it would be good for a promo (as long as the work on the photog’s site matches in vision–that’s important). You’ve got about 2 seconds to connect with your targets– if I were Ryan’s target, I would totally have clicked through to his site.
David Zaitz provides us the last of our entries. Now, full disclosure, David is a friend and I’ve been a fan of his work for a while. He definitely plays with the visual/verbal in his own work and whenever he can for clients. That being said, he like others above took an individual turn on the theme and this is a Zaitzian image. If I got this image without identifying info, I would probably know it was his work– there are only a couple of photographers who might make something like this of their own accord. That means David has carved out his vision in my mind, and likely has done the same for his targets.
While this image’s impact isn’t as immediate as the Peace BBQ above, as soon as the viewer gets it, it works. I think that buyers would react well to this image on a website but maybe not as an email promo because of that slight delay in “get it” time (depends on how the image is used, too).
This is something everyone should think about when selecting images for different marketing purposes: for email promos or even print postcards, you need something that will smack the viewer immediately. You’ve got a very brief window to grab ‘em so test your images to see what people think immediately upon viewing. Ask a few people “what did you feel when you saw this pic?” for example, before deciding to use it in your marketing.
Relatedly, if your portfolio images require you explaining them, they aren’t doing you any good. This is different than the images invoking questions in the viewer (that’s good when they ask questions, usually). But if people are just looking silently at your book and you chatter to fill the void, you need to rethink your selections. They may be too flat, average, blah and not showing the real thinking you.
Okay, enough of my babbling… your turn. What do you think?