BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
Thursday, April 4, 2019
BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
by Melisa Kaya
The fact that you are intertwined with the professions of your family members as soon as you were born does not mean that you will be skilled in that profession. Unfortunately, many families keep their children under pressure to continue their profession. However, photography is not a profession that can be learned through education at school, it is the expression of passion and talent. Normally, while individuals choose the professions they will do, arts such as photography choose the talents that will perform them. The first photos that Lorentz Gullachsen had taken with his first camera were published in a magazine, and this proved that he chose the right profession. After his professional career in different cities and studios, he decided to found his own studio in 1988. Since then, he has been providing all kinds of photography and production services in the field of advertising photography to his clients. I talked with photographer Lorentz Gullachsen about his career and the details of advertising photography.
Lorentz, before talking about photography, I would like to learn more about you. Could you tell us about yourself? Who is Lorentz Gullachsen?
I am the son of a photographer, Willoughby GUS Gullachsen, who had moved to Birmingham in 1930s, his background was from Norwegian stock in Newcastle on Tyne, where the family had a furniture business.
Gus was a Theatre & TV stills photographer & I grew up seeing him work very hard - with long days and not a great reward, but he loved his work. I wanted to enjoy a different lifestyle and Advertising seemed to offer that.
My first job was at an Advertising agency and soon I realised I was inspired by the advertising photography, not the business, I was lucky to then get into College to study photography, and started my professional career even before I graduated, working on editorial music press and commercial commissions for Hairstylists and fashion designers.
I tried assisting in London but couldn’t afford the cost of London living, so returned to Birmingham and set up a studio with fellow students & worked as a postman in the mornings till I could get the studio up and running.
I worked on some great projects but was aware I was not getting the ‘Big’ commissions that I wanted even though I was working for good agencies, if a campaign was high profile, it would go to London photographers, that when I decided to move to the Capital even though I still had my family & home in the Warwickshire countryside, I just commuted to have the best of both worlds.
In the 90’s I met a guy who was just starting up as a photographers agent and he wanted to take me on, his name was Peter Bailey and as they say, the rest is history.
My career literary took of working internationally on accounts such as E&J Gallo wines in California, Kellogg's in Texas & many tourist boards & Airlines.
Paddington - Marsh & Parsons - Photo by Lorentz Gullachsen
When did you get your first camera? Do you remember the first photo that you shoot with it?
I bought a second hand Nikon F with my ‘college’ money as it was the best I could afford and I remember taking surfing pictures with the borrowed Telephoto lens, they were published in a Cornish Surfing Zine, one of the few times I shot ‘sports’.
What inspired you to decide to establish your own studio?
I was very driven and didn’t think I could not have a studio or be successful, I was very lucky but I did (still do) work very hard & put the hours in, nothing just happened, I made my luck and not having money early on made me very hungry for success.
How could you define your photographic approach? How did the different countries, cities, and cultures that you experienced contribute to your vision?
My work is informed by the brief and the audience, I shoot in many styles, often the subject dictates an approach, but I often do the opposite to the normal, going to larger format when a portrait would be usually done on a DSLR, I have had briefs that wanted, medium format colour & I delivered an alternative version with 35mm mono, and that was the one the agency went for.
I work the same in any culture, as I am bringing fresh eyes to the location and I try to do that even when shooting in the familiar UK, I have a switch in my head that puts my ‘shooting’ eyes on - it is not possible to do it as a casual visitor or just getting a few images, I’m working or I’m not, I try to work especially with my travel projects with shorter periods of a few hours - then break and ‘rest the eyes’.
I have done, 14 hour days shooting almost no stop, but that becomes too intense & with so much material, it is less quality more quantity, for some clients & social media requirements that is perfect, but I believe a single, great image is what communicates best, but as I say to my students & assistants over the years, there is are only two rules in photography, Rule 1: “there are no rules’ - Rule 2: see rule 1.
ANGEL Marsh & Parsons Brand Campaign - Photo by Lorentz Gullachsen
Could you tell us about your studio?
I currently have access to a local studio near Stratford on Avon, and a production base at home, I set up pop - up studios in so many locations, I find it exciting, and less of an overhead that drains resources, I had a commission to photograph cattle and considered taking them to a drive in-studio, but ended up constructing the studio in a Big barn - ensuring the cattle were happier and not far from home and still getting lighting studio quality for the end advertising campaign.
What kind of services do you offer to your clients?
I like to think I provide the service they need, if it is a big production with crew and lots of Post, I can put that together, but if the project is low budget and more ‘real’ it is just me and possibly an assistant, the landscape of an advertising photography has changed forever and clients require so much more than a single image, content is king and video’s gifs, and what I call ‘Instagram fodder’ are all part of the mix I deliver, visual content possibly sums it up, I am a commercial photographer as I make a living doing this, I know that the client needs to protect their brand and see that quality is still maintained - I hope that I supply the right images & video material appropriate for the brand and the audience. A small charity can communicate in the same media as the largest corporation, and with effective concepts and execution have a massive impact.
How did your interest in advertising photography has begun? What is the most special aspect of ad photography for you?
I was inspired by the great 60’s-80’s advertising images and thought that was a way to enjoy creating great images & seeing the world, I then realised that great concepts and great creatives were the real heroes behind the ads, I enjoy working with great teams and helping them produce the vision they have, hopefully adding to the final images rather than just technically delivering.
You have worked in numerous campaigns for many globally recognised brands such as Rolls Royce, Bentley, and KLM. What are the key points that you pay attention to most before accepting a new project?
Often it is just reading the layout & brief, if the creative team have done the work, choosing the right photographer for the project is one of the key decisions they make, I see the layout and I will very quickly have a way forward, but often there is lots of research, casting and production issues that take time to sort, I love that part of the process as finding the right location, model or prop can be the difference between good & great.
Regency Charm - Marsh & Parsons Brand Campaign - Photo by Lorentz Gullachsen
How would you describe the effect of the quality of the ad photo on the customers' decisions?
A premium brand may find a look that communicates the right message to the audience, but it can be to communicate a raw emotion that does not need or want slick production, that is often a totally subjective but like fashion and the audience, get it right and it is right. Get the look wrong for the communication and it can damage a brand. That is where good research helps, even if I know what is right, it requires the audience to agree or not, ideally getting that done before media launch can save a brand. I have worked on the Marsh & Parsons Brand campaign for the last few years, and even when a concept looks great, when it is executed and goes to research, it can be rejected, it is a brave and intelligent client that does that, I also have an input to such campaigns that have been informed by my travels across the world, helping inform me of visual communication in many cultures, my later academic background has certainly helped to avoid some issues that have slipped past research with a few clients.
Portrait photography has an important place in your career. What do you enjoy most about photographing people?
People have always been a subject, my personal projects were mainly people based, I love meeting and interacting with all people although I’m not that demonstrative I am told. Maybe I want them to tell a truth about themselves, each person on this planet is different so each portrait has that new challenge, I love change.
What kind of other photography fields do you like to work on?
I love my work and ideally it shall always be varied, I have just returned to food photography as an extension of the lifestyle / travel work and as a foodie I love making images that are yummy & not just ‘Instafodder’, I enjoy using my skills to make a difference, causes I believe in and will help improve lives, at present I am working on project that will take a year to complete, under wraps but it is something that I hope will change lives and that's as good as it gets.
Porcupine Close - Marsh & Parsons - Photo by Lorentz Gullachsen
What are the advantages of an award-winning photographer? Could you tell us about the awards that you won?
Awards are like having a Top 10 single, great at the time, but they are soon forgotten and yesterday's news, however, they have helped my career, having an award gives people the confidence to use you, and it may be that you will help them get more awards with the work and everyone likes that.
I remember at College I won a Telegraph Young Photographer of the year award and thought that was cool, even though the image was only OK, I realised it does make a difference and if you don’t enter you can never win, I have not won more times than I have won awards, but its because I took the rejection and kept going, I suppose the AoP awards I have won that have meant the most, you are in such great company and the judges have great knowledge. Winning a Gold for a personal people project (Red’s Shoeshine Parlour) was special but just having work in the AoP book is a great honour and is respected in the industry.
Besides your awards, could you tell us about your exhibitions? How does it feel to accept congratulations?
I have enjoyed a selection of many works over the years often in places I never get to, I am again in this years AoP awards, four years in a row. I am probably most proud of work that is selected in the context of the ‘Fine Art’ exhibitions, where photography is hung with painting, sculpture, video and multimedia, I even won the West Midlands Open (Fine Art) with a portrait while I was back studying for my MA, a project for the course I was doing, providing the new direction that has informed my current practice. Having my images hung in the museum that I visited as a child was very special.
Is it possible for abroad clients to work with you for their projects in their own countries?
I love working in any country - it is a great honour to be asked and hopefully you can bring an extra fresh approach to a project. Some of the most enjoyable commissions have been shot with teams across the globe, it is often a budget issue that gets in the way, but I have happily flown on budget flights to ensure a shoot happens and the money goes on the production and not logistics & ego.
Which factors determine the project budget?
There is no one issue with budgets, after a basic realistic fee is agreed, the way you cost and execute a shoot is often a balancing act, good pre-production costing gets the right figures right, but unknowns such as weather and talent can be difficult, as I often produce my own shoots, I know where I can juggle costs, but I never try and do something that is too risky, always allow for good post production, build in a safety day or more, and ensure assistants are paid well and respected, a happy crew that is not working for peanuts will go the extra mile and deliver miracles. Some issues with talent and model agencies can be the worst as they have a ‘unique’ assets and often create more problems with time on set & although I have worked with many expensive models and talent - I will always try and work with actors & unknowns that I cast direct or get thru a realistic model agency, we all need to work together and there should be no Divas on my sets.
Paddington - Marsh & Parsons - Photo by Lorentz Gullachsen
What are your expectations from your clients for a successful collaboration?
Realistic budgets and time expectations are a concern, I can turn thing around fast, but with good planning and realistic budgets, the process should be enjoyable, without too much stress, a good lead time makes thing go well and I enjoy having clients and agency on set, they see the process and they can 'own it’ as it progresses, the choice of the photographer should be on style and ability but also chemistry, ideally I like to meet the creatives if only for a quick coffee, I have never had a clash or problem that was not resolved, but maybe that's because I have a meeting or just Skype chats before the shoot. Communication is essential even if it is bad news I like to hear it as soon as possible, problems can be solved only if you are aware of them.
Smartphones and affordably priced DSLR cams made everyone is more enthusiastic about photography. How did this affect the professional photography industry?
Yes, technology is great and for some jobs appropriate, have delivered images from my iPhone and used on campaigns, but with HD 8K resolution a top end medium format camera or exceptional DSLR with the best glass will work on social media across platforms to 8K screens - if you want your brand to stand out, its at the high end resolution that you have to shine, as soft pixelated images look like amateur rubbish and can destroy a brand.
What advice would you give to photographers who want to pursue a career in photography? How could they choose the right specialty?
Study, research and gain skills in all media, there are specialist areas that may have opportunities, but the world changes daily, and you need much more than a good eye and charm. Learn GREAT skills in Post in still & moving images And NEW technologies as they appear.
What is your favorite photograph that you have ever taken?
Flowerman - Photo by Lorentz Gullachsen
I try not to have favourites but if there is one, it is my Venice Flower man, shot on a morning trip to Venice after a ten-day shoot for Bentley across Europe, I was very tired, but wanted to take advantage of the quiet & morning light on my first visit to Venice, I walked along the Grand canal and saw this Red splash of colour walking toward me, I shot a few frames and then ran ahead to frame the guy, I got him at the perfect position as he passed, I misplaced the image, but eventually exhibited it, it was published in Creative Review, and I was asked to place it with a stock agency that became Getty, it went on to be used worldwide for Jonnie Walker Whiskey poster, British Airways & Prozac, a very success mornings work. I still visit Venice and it is one of the images that make me smile still.
What do you think about social media? How can our readers follow you?
I love the democracy of the media, but there are problems that it has to be tamed, it has many faults, not least the polarisation of society as propaganda can get out unchecked and divide.
I am on Instagram and have two feeds one is my portrait/advertising account and the other is a new brand -GULHOS I have developed for the hospitality market,
What is next for you?
I am excited by the new project I am working on and hopefully working with some new creatives & clients it is an ever-changing world and hopefully I shall change & adapt my practice producing more moving images and producing work that can have a positive effect.
Thank you Lorentz for your time.