I received a recent commission from an upmarket optician in the South of France to provide photography for a new advertising campaign. Unlike the usual high street opticians, this stylish family-run boutique in Nice sells all sorts of optical equipment from basse vision tools for the visually impaired to telescopes for star gazing that are as big as me.
Interpreting the brief
La patronne wanted a corporate photographer to produce a series of images to communicate this variety – and more. At a somewhat disjointed meeting on the shop floor, during which she juggled pressing staff problems, customers and an unexpected visit from le fisc, we discussed her creative brief for the shoot. The aim was to produce portraits of her employees, each with a prop to illustrate their speciality. With verbal sketches and big gestures, she explained that she wanted the photographs to capture each team member’s individual character, and the overall series to make viewers smile. Humorous – but not clichéd. Quirky – yet retaining a certain élégance. The photographs were to be produced in black and white, sticking with solid French photographic tradition, with each portrait loosely resembling a photo taken in a photomaton (photo-booth). Oh, plus the caveat that each staff member would have very limited time for their portrait as they all had lots of customers to deal with.
With that, she whirled away and melted back into the apparent chaos of day to day life at the store.
A brief interruption
Georges, my assistant, and I were invited to set up in the corner of a large, quiet room upstairs. My presumption that it was a storage room, based on the fact that it was full of giant cardboard boxes, turned out to be incorrect. Shooting was momentarily paused last-minute when it was announced that clients were on their way upstairs to have their contact lens examination, in a space between the boxes and my lighting set-up (“sorry but we can’t make them wait – they’re from Monaco”).
Bring your own
Every member of the optical team brought their own choice of prop and all fully entered into the spirit of the event. Unfortunately though, no-one had thought to tell the coloured contact lens wearer that we were working in black and white, and the guy from the atelier, who appeared to be alone in the workshop and under considerable pressure, was most insistent on bringing a hammer so that I could photograph him destroying a pair of specs. He had to be gently encouraged into something more ‘on message’…