Amidst all our gloom and doom these days, I ran across these photos and got a chuckle out of them. That is to say a chuckle, especially after I added a spur-of-the-moment caption to each. So, I thought I’d share . . .
Over the past two blog posts about crisis coping, we’ve listened in on a conversation between the author, Ellyn Kail, and photographer Danny Ghitis about various methods to cope for creatives who have been entangled in the Coronavirus pandemic.
In this, the third and last post of the series, they explore what it’s like finding a sense of community during these very scary times.
In the last two weeks, I have received more than two dozen emails about the temporary closures of galleries and studio spaces amid the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve received several more about canceled exhibitions. This is a period of uncertainty for the photography community as a whole, but in this time, we’ve also witnessed people coming together.
In between those letters about closures and cancelations, there have also been emails from artists who are hosting camera giveaways, publishers who are discounting their books, and non-profit organizations who are offering free talks and photog resources.
Globally, photographers are sharing information about how we can donate supplies to local hospitals and encouraging us all to practice social distancing for the safety and well-being of the community.
Over the past week, we’ve spoken to the photographer and professional development coach Danny Ghitis about how creatives can cope during this time and continue to create meaningful work in unprecedented circumstances.
Photography, like any art form, can be a solitary pursuit, but it’s also full of communities and resources. With all the recent gallery closures and exhibition cancellations, how can photographers stay connected and engaged with one another?
“This is so crucial. One of the main causes of my own burnout was a feeling of isolation as a photographer, and that was way before all this coronavirus mayhem. We are wired to need other people. That lone wolf photographer icon can be really damaging because it makes asking for help look like a weakness when, in reality, it’s a superpower.
“In a way, this moment offers a unique opportunity. Everyone is struggling with the same overarching challenge. Everyone needs help, and we have the technology to easily stay in touch. We’re not as spread thin as usual with a thousand networking events, galleries, meetings, etc. So reach out, offer support, provide feedback, invite conversation, have a virtual coffee, host a roundtable discussion.”
Has the creative community faced any upheavals like this one in recent years, if not on the same scale? If so, what can we learn from that time, and how can we apply those lessons to the here and now?
“I graduated from college with a photojournalism degree in 2006, the year before the iPhone hit the market and changed everything. The newspaper bureau where I interned closed a couple months after I arrived (not my fault, I swear!). I started my freelance career at the same time as the 2008 financial meltdown.
“Somehow, I made it work and grew as a human and professional. And guess what, I’m not that special. Human beings are resilient by evolutionary design. We’ve outlasted and overpowered nearly every other living organism and are capable of incredible adaptation. If you’re reading this and you’re human, you already have the tools you need inside your body.”
What are some ways you see the creative community coming together right now to support and help one another? Any moments that have given you hope?
“All of a sudden we’re in it together. We have a common struggle and purpose. We’re thinking collectively like a tribe like in the good old prehistoric days. Of course, we don’t wish sickness and suffering upon anyone and hope this goes away soon, but it does offer a unique opportunity to see the big picture.
“I keep getting emails and social media posts about virtual gatherings and support groups, and I am getting more messages than usual from friends checking in. I just started an online meetup group, and there are lots of others out there if you’re willing to search. It’s all about taking initiative and reaching out.”
How would you advise photographers and other creatives who suddenly have a lot of free time on their hands?
“This can be viewed as a great opportunity because we’re being forced to evaluate how to spend our time wisely. First, the mindset work. If you’re not in a good state of mind, it’s very hard to be focused and productive. If you want business results, practice self-care. Remember how flight attendants demonstrate putting on your oxygen mask first? Same deal. Take care of yourself to take care of others.
“Ask yourself, ‘How can I serve?’ It’s easy to get caught up in self-centered problem solving during a crisis, while orienting toward service can be more effective in creating action and will make you feel better. What do others need, and what skills do you have that can help them?”
We are truly living in unprecedented times. Deadly times. History has recorded plagues, wars, and various catastrophes yet we’ve managed to survive. Granted, the planet has lost life in measurable means before but we’ve never faced a global pandemic like this before. I guess, in a sense, this could be compared to chemical warfare on a global scale from an invisible enemy.
Yet, we will live on. We will create and innovate. We have to do that now to find a vaccine to nullify the virus so we may begin to get used to a new normal. Things won’t be the same since we won’t be the same, those of us who will survive. But we will. We have to. Together. Smarter. Stronger. More persistent. Less partisan.
Wait, what’s that? It’s creativity knocking at the door. Let’s welcome her in, shall we!
In this second of three part series by Ellyn Kail, they speak of various tools to utilize for staying creative, especially when stressed. Letting your creative juices flow during times like these does reduce anxiety and can give you a sense of accomplishment. Creativity is a happy, constructive tool that, when applied, can take you to a place normally abandoned during a crisis.
I speak from personal experience. Take my two blogs, for instance. I’m still trying to write them every week and during this Coronavirus outbreak, it’s like a medicine for me. It’s also important to me to provide my take and share with others that information pertinent to this crisis. Speaking of which, here’s part 2.
Creativity doesn’t just improve our wellbeing; it can also reduce our stress levels. Recent studies tell us that creative tasks can unlock our imaginations, distract us from our feelings of stress and anxiety, and even prompt our brains to secrete feel-good chemicals.
That’s something we could all use right now. Still, it can be challenging to find that creative spark when we’re experiencing anxiety and stress. Amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, finding space for creative exploration and experimentation can feel overwhelming.
In the first part of our interview with the photographer and professional development coach Danny Ghitis, we asked him to share some tools for coping during this difficult period. This time, we wanted to pick his brain and get some of his best tips staying creative and motivated.
You might be stuck indoors, but there are still ways to engage your brain and get the ideas flowing. Read on for his advice.
Habits and routines can be especially important when we’re facing uncertainty and upheaval. What are your favorite creative habits?
“I don’t believe in a prescribed habit routine, and there are so many people out there modeling specific approaches. The important thing is to figure out what works for you through trial and error.
“People have a lot of ‘shoulds,’ like ‘I should get up at 6:00 AM and meditate’ or ‘I should chunk my day into rigid blocks.’ Hey, if that works for you then, totally go for it. But there’s a ton of anxiety around being someone other than yourself, and habits are much less likely to stick if they’re not intrinsically motivated.
“Give yourself a break! Take the time to reflect on what does make sense for you, given the circumstances. Ask yourself more proactive questions. What habits will support your goals at this point? What trusted person can help you be accountable for building that habit?”
Do you think stress can ever be channeled creatively?
“It depends on how you define creativity and stress. There’s a broad range of experience there. There’s a difference between the inspired creativity of discovering a new project idea and the focused creativity of cranking out five pitch emails on deadline.
“If creativity is about innovative ideas and broad perspectives, then anxiety and stress are not the best. When your body is in a stressed state, your thinking narrows and focuses on the perceived threat. So, if your goal is to think expansively, you should focus on calming your stress response and getting into a broader state of mind. It’s why people have epiphanies in the shower.
“On the other hand, if you define creativity as, say, a detail-oriented craft, then you can leverage stress in your favor by color-correcting images in Photoshop or keywording your image archive, etc.”
Do you have any skills for calming that “stress response” and getting back to thinking expansively?
“Your body’s ‘rest and digest’ mode takes much longer to activate than your ‘fight-flight-freeze’ mode. Stress is meant to keep you safe, but chronic stress defeats the purpose and can seriously hurt your immune system.
“To regulate this, get into the habit of conscious breathing as often as possible. Your breath gives you a direct line to your autonomic nervous system, which is the otherwise unconscious way your body knows how to regulate itself.
“There’s a common misconception that taking a ‘deep breath’ will calm you down. In fact, it’s the out-breath that triggers a calming response. Try this: breathe in slowly for four counts, hold for two counts, breathe out slowly for six counts, hold for two counts. Repeat.
“Ultimately, managing stress is a huge topic, and there’s no one-size-fits-all technique. It’s important to understand what triggers your stress and address it using what works for you.”
What are some of your favorite (productive and creative) things photographers can do with the time they spend stuck indoors? Do you have any books or resources you’d recommend?
“This is a hard question for me to answer because I tend to look at an individual’s specific needs before discussing a course of action. It’s easy to get caught in a social comparison trap, wanting to succeed the way others do because it looks sexy.
“It’s normal to be influenced by other artists, but you have to show up for yourself, especially when it feels hard. This is a great moment to explore, research, plan, and reassess.
“To get your creative juices flowing, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield are always solid staples. For more insight about how you best show up in the world, I suggest taking the VIA Institute’s free character strengths assessment and reading their materials.”
Some of us are using this time to recalibrate and refocus, whether that’s in business or the creative sphere. What are your insights on setting realistic goals, both in the long and short term?
“My favorite method of self-sabotage is perfectionism. I set the bar too high, making it impossible to succeed, and it’s a terrific excuse for getting nothing done. If you never get things done, you also avoid failure and create a false sense of comfort. You’re not failing, but you’re also not succeeding.
“This is super common in creative fields rife with rejection. Aim for scoring a B instead of an A with your projects. Set iteration goals without expecting a specific final outcome. You’ll actually increase your chances of achieving an outcome you’re happy with.”
Any more tips for photographers working from home right now?
“If you want to be shooting while you’re in quarantine, my suggestion is to be proactive about it. Keep your camera with you as often as possible and think of it like a sketchbook.
“Your thoughts and behaviors influence each other, so the more you take pictures, the more you’ll think about taking pictures and feel like someone who can take pictures in the moment.
“Because of cognitive bias, your brain filters what it thinks will be useful for you. If you keep ‘telling’ it to look for interesting compositions through repetition, the more you’ll automatically start finding them.
“This also applies to your mindset about business during these strange times. If you read panicky headlines all day, you’ll believe the sky is falling and hide under your bed, but if you look for opportunity, you will find it!”
During this time of uncertainty and distress, many factors are at odds with our coping mechanisms. Everyday stressors are one thing but having additional ones attack us during a health crisis is quite another.
I ran across a timely series of articles by Ellen Kail for Feature Shoot when they were publicized in Communication Arts. My immediate thought was that I really need to share these. So share, we will, with some input from yours truly.
The experts agree: amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, public anxiety is mounting. The World Health Organization recently released a list of mental health considerations to keep in mind during the outbreak. This is a challenging moment for people around the globe, whether we’re coping with the stress spurred by the latest news headlines or the boredom and uncertainty of self-quarantine.
For photographers, and other creatives as well, the COVID-19 outbreak can also mean canceled exhibitions, fewer clients, and financial uncertainty. If your assignments require traveling and commuting, it means you might face the possibility of radically changing the way you work, at least for the time being.
Those factors don’t help ease the anxiety we’re experiencing right now, but there are ways to cope and navigate through this difficult period. We asked the photographer and professional development coach Danny Ghitis to tell us about some of his best skills for staying balanced and productive during times of uncertainty.
During these uncertain times, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing creatives, and what is your number one piece of advice for photographers who are navigating this challenge?
“While these circumstances are new, the fundamental feeling of uncertainty is not. Creatives tend to be well-acquainted with that primal fear, given the nature of their work. This particular fear convinces you that there’s doom lurking around the corner and locks you into survival mode.
“Since we’re more exposed than ever to a constant stream of freak-outs, it’s easy to get stuck in this belief. Especially if you’re creative and envision apocalyptic dramas and spend hours ruminating on the world’s end.
“The key is to remember you have a choice about how to respond. That doesn’t mean you can choose/control everything–a lot of stress comes from resisting and trying to control the inevitable. The choice comes from examining your feelings and thoughts and understanding how they impact your behavior.
“Your beliefs create your experience of reality. Try this: recall an instance where you felt uncertain and navigated your circumstances successfully. What thoughts did you have at the time? How did they make you behave, and what results did you get from that behavior?”
What are some short-term coping strategies you’d recommend to photographers? Let’s say you read a terrifying headline or tweet, get overwhelmed, and have trouble coping. How do you not let the news consume your day?
“The thing about the news is that it’s not there to help you cope or feel good. It’s there to report the news. When people freak out, the news reports it, and then people read the news and freak out more, and so on. Don’t go to the news if you’re looking for relief. It’s like sticking your head in the oven to cool down.
“The challenge is making the effort to remove the temptations all around us. Know that you have a negativity bias and that your brain will jump at any opportunity to ‘protect’ you. Being informed is good, but most of us are well enough informed just by living in society that we don’t need to read new headlines multiple times per day.
“Unless you have a specific and clear reason to be on the news or social media, consider staying away from it, especially now. Spend time outside, call someone on Facetime, reset.”
What advice do you have for photographers who are experiencing a lot of anxiety right now? How do you keep fear and worry at bay?
“First of all, it’s okay. It’s normal. It’s expected. If your income sources have suddenly vanished, you have permission to be upset. Write yourself a permission slip. Don’t pretend that it doesn’t suck if you feel like it does. There’s no such thing as bottling up emotions–they will come out in one way or another, so it’s better to deal with them directly instead of letting them skew your results indirectly.
“Of course, there are the staples: exercise, meditate, eat healthy, sleep well. They sound like cliches, but if you prioritize them, you’ll feel a lot better. If you’re not, then get help from other people.
“And try this: write down all the potential ways this moment could be an opportunity. If you’re feeling guilty because you ‘shouldn’t’ see this as an opportunity, well, let that sh*t go. Consciously helping yourself doesn’t mean exploiting other people. It’s quite the opposite.”
How would you advise photographers and other creatives who suddenly have a lot of free, unstructured time on their hands?
“The busier you keep yourself, the more you’ll get done. This is a perfect opportunity to level up skills that you normally don’t have time to focus on. Create an exciting challenge for yourself, or do it with a group of people (online) for accountability.
“Immerse yourself in an indoor or nature-oriented project, practice lighting setups; take a marketing course; plan out a series of promo campaigns; challenge yourself to read five business books; research the hell out of your next project.
“When else will you have such an opportunity to deep dive? Take advantage and remove physical and mental distractions that will sap your energy. Focus on people who want to see you succeed, and brainstorm about how to help.”
This interview is part of a three-part series with Ghitis on coping, staying creative, and finding community during this time.
WARNING: If you’re squeamish, prepare yourself and, please, don’t throw up on your computer monitor!
In a word, BLEAHHHHH!!!
Last week, according to Adweek, Burger King unveiled a global ad campaign highlighting its commitment to dropping all artificial preservatives. Such campaigns, while laudable, come and go somewhat often without generating much more than passing interest.
This one is truly bizarre. It tests just how far Burger King can virtually thrust its product down its customers’ throats before they gag.
The Moldy Whopper campaign, created through a partnership between three agencies, features intriguingly high-resolution photography and video of a Whopper being consumed not by humans, but rather by the horribly incredible passage of time itself. In other words, we get to see a Whopper rotting. Lovely!
Adweek reports that each ad shows a Whopper whose ingredients are being engulfed in mold, alongside a date stamp letting you know how long the burger has been exposed to the elements (too long, but typically about a month). The tagline, are you ready for this, describes the images as “the beauty of no artificial preservatives.”
Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder?
The work promotes the brand’s pledge to drop all artificial preservatives, which it has accomplished across much of Europe and 400 locations in the United States. By the end of the year, Burger King says it will have removed artificial preservatives from Whoppers in all U.S. locations. That’s nice and laudable.
I’m still feeling nauseous.
“At Burger King, we believe that real food tastes better,” (no kidding) said Fernando Machado, CMO for Burger King parent company Restaurant Brands International. “That’s why we are working hard to remove preservatives, colors and flavors from artificial sources from the food we serve in all countries around the world.”
I’m sorry but this just looks gross! It’s certainly not appealing at all. I get what they’re trying to convey but I wonder if BK ever considered giving out Tums, Alka Seltzer or nausea tablets with their meals.
In addressing reality, Adweek posits that the mold campaign might be challenging to common sense, but it was also a difficult one to accomplish in terms of craft and required months to achieve.
“We are very proud of crafting this idea,” said Björn Ståhl, executive creative director for Ingo, one of three agencies involved. “Mold grows in a very inconsistent way. We had to work for several months, with different samples, to be able to showcase the beauty of something which is usually considered undesirable.”
” . . . the beauty of something undesirable.” Really? Sort of sounds like a contradiction in terms. I’m still feeling nauseous.
So how will it go over? According to Adweek’s reporting, in the short term, the likely answer is: not great. Head-scratching advertising tends to generate quite a bit of short-term negative publicity, usually thanks to morning talk shows and late-night monologues.
And some within advertising will call the work “awards bait,” knowing that juries at Cannes Lions and other awards festivals tend to swoon over concepts that challenge every seemingly obvious but unwritten rule of advertising, such as “Don’t make your food look like it will literally kill people.”
But in the process of sparking debate and consternation, the campaign is also likely to resonate across the industry and encourage other brands to take similar moves, knowing that the ideas will be easier to sell when something so “off the wall” (that’s one way to put it) has already been sold to a major global corporation.
This campaign will indeed show something else: How strong are BK’s customers’ stomachs? This is revolting no matter how “beautiful” the photography. Just because a global corporation has gone along with this hideous idea doesn’t make it one to copy. After all, how many global CEO’s have signed off on something that should never have come out of committee?
What will definitely be interesting to see will be the types of “toned down” ideas and executions coming forth that are based on the Moldy Whopper campaign.
In the meantime, BK needs to supply their restaurants with plenty of Tums and barf bags, just in case.
PS . . . Thanks to David Griner (@griner), creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek’s podcast, “Yeah, That’s Probably an Ad” for source material for this blog.
What do you get when you pair an egotistical, genius architect from the early 20th Century with a young Canadian-born illustrator producing incredibly creative work?
Oh, and throw in 100 years difference between the two.
What do they have in common? Extraordinary talent. Extraordinary images.
One was a visionary; the other expresses her visions colorfully. He showed bold and dramatic executions; so does she. He was extremely creative and imaginative. Her: Ditto. That’s what this blog is all about: Various and different perspectives on creativity.
In reading articles recently on re-imaging, I was reunited with the subject of a paper I’d written years ago. This article took a different perspective. About the same time, I was introduced to a new subject of creativity in an article on illustration.
The subjects: Very different and very dynamic.
The subject I wrote about years ago was the infamous and egotistical architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. I was intrigued by his designs and his persona. His works were that of genius. My aunt, being an interior designer, was quite familiar with Mr. Wright, especially after seeing him in Chicago during the fifties. This heightened my interest and pushed me to write the paper.
Since this blog centers around creativity and innovation, let alone imagination, I thought it appropriate to publish some of Wrights work with an intriguing take on some of his designs that were never built. They’ve been reimagined here in the 21st Century. Keep in mind, dear audience, that Wright flourished during the early 20th Century. He died in 1959. His last project, in Phoenix, was recently put on the market for $2.7M.
Spanish architect, David Romero, has created photorealistic computer renderings of unbuilt or demolished Wright buildings. Admittedly, as I was first reading about his process and looking at the photos, the settings seemed surreal.
Romero also painstakingly researched the context and location of the building, including adding era-appropriate cars, traces of rain and dirt on the building, and other details in order to bring the project to life. As a result, at times it can be hard to tell these are illustrations rather than stylized photographs.
The Larkin Administration Building (left) and inside the building (right) made design statements all throughout. However, the building does not exist any longer. Wright’s Larkin Building in Buffalo, New York—his first office building—was built in 1903 and demolished in 1950.
According to Romero, after gobs of research and learning, they had to be works that did not exist, either because they disappeared or because they never came to be built. The reason is simple: 3D rendering tools serve precisely for this, to show what does not exist.
Describing his process of recreation, Romero explains: “I start the model in Autocad, then I export it to 3ds Max + Vray where I add textures, lights and cameras, as well as vegetation and the environment. Finally there is some retouching in Adobe Photoshop, although very light.”
Creativity of today depicting creativity of a bygone era. Fascinating!
From the early 20th Century to present day we go. I find that creativity is not age based. What’s creative and imaginative is creative and imaginative, regardless of when created.
Take the young Canadian illustrator, Lynn Scurfield. She has positioned her career path thusly: “I wanted to be an animator until I saw artist Alphonse Mucha’s work in high school. I knew that I had to do what he did! Drawing insanely beautiful images and then having them used in different commercial ways was mind blowing.”
I was taken with this illustration of a smoke monster-type creature (any Lost fans out there?) apparently poised to eat a woman who is just leaving this house, oblivious to her impending danger.
She describes her approach as . . . “My art style, which utilizes a mix of media, really confuses people because they never know how much of my work is done traditionally versus digitally. People are also intrigued by how emotional my work can feel. I’m usually hired to create images about emotionally difficult topics, like death, mental health and separation. The fact that I’m being hired to make illustrations that emotionally connect with a general audience is special and amazing.”
. . . and her philosophy as . . . “Don’t overthink your work. When I was in school, I was always worried if my work was good enough, if it was cool enough, if I was a two-bit artist. Since I’ve started working in the industry, I’ve realized that thoughts like these aren’t healthy, and they don’t make you a better artist. I like my work more now that I care less about what people think. As long as my clients are happy with the final results, I’m happy!”
Interestingly, both Wright and Scurfield, though a century apart, expressed their work in striking and dramatic ways while emitting strong, emotional qualities. Imagination is at the heart of creativity and the images exhibited by these two talents stirs that imagination.
Born of different generations, one has left his indelible mark in the world of architecture while the other continues to illustrate hers. Take heed; the rest of us can learn something. Creativity and imagination are not constrained by time and space, and to a lesser degree, neither are we. Think about it!
Winning an award in the advertising business is a big deal. The really big deals come annually during the sun-baked, beach-worshipping, booze-enhanced party in France known famously as the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. This year was no exception.
Except. One campaign that did win a Lion was done by MullenLowe/SSP3 for Hyundai called Speeding Emojis. As their brief explained, “Every day, more people are involved in car accidents for texting and driving. To make drivers aware of this issue, we decided to use one of the most common elements, when it comes to writing: emojis. But we wanted to use them in a different way. So, we decided to show how they would look at 69, 85, 43 and 76 km/h to prove that texting and driving at the same time just doesn’t make sense.”
The explanation given in the brief by the agency obviously doesn’t appear in the ad, nor should it. Given this, how is one to know what the image is? While the single line of copy is pretty self-explanatory, the big-ass image of a color swirl is not.
The campaign also uses several different emoji varieties with accompanying swirls of different colors, tying in with that emoji.
Given that the image dominates the ad and the tag line is sort of lost, it sort of begs the question: What the Hell does the image represent and/or why isn’t that explained in some fashion? Given an art director’s or designer’s perspective, one might wonder, “How’d they do that?” or “What is that supposed to be?”
Well, this is where it gets even more interesting. According to a post on Twitter, a very “similar looking” image is available from Shutterstock. Now, it’s not unusual to use stock imagery in spec work or presentations but unless an agency is in partnership with a stock footage and imagery company like Shutterstock, this is highly unusual and probably not even kosher. There’s not even a credit given to Shutterstock in the ad nor to the designer who created the original artwork, Rik Oostenbroek.
I’m surprised that, to my knowledge thus far, neither Shutterstock nor Rik Oostenbroek have contacted the agency or Hyundai about about this; of course, this assumes that approval was given beforehand. Even if it was, where’s the credit?
In reporting on the story, Adweek requested a response from MullenLowe who sent the following:
“In regards to this particular campaign, the images were identified as the most fitting way to illustrate the important ‘don’t text and drive’ message for our client. The appropriate rights for the four images were purchased through the correct channels and we acted legally within the terms of the licence. We have been in contact with the artist claiming credit for the work on social media, with a full explanation of the creative process and the surrounding legalities.
“D&AD investigated the entry and deemed it eligible on the evidence provided.”
But . . . where’s the originality? Some folks may not have a problem with using stock imagery in ads while I’m sure some do. Are we seeing some sort of trend in advertising? What’s the proper use of stock photography and when and where should it be used?
“If you literally copy and paste something and stick a line of copy on it, I don’t think it’s worthy of an award,” said Chris Garbutt, global CCO of TBWA\Worldwide and a frequent awards juror. “I don’t think it’s enough to do that anymore.”
I believe this ad and its campaign has a few issues. Feel free to write in the comments section of this blog and let me know your thoughts.
Personally, these images remind me of something caught in a time warp, but absolutely nothing concerning automobiles. The concept of “don’t text and drive” could apply to any cell phone provider’s message, for that matter.
The images do illicit one’s attention. However, their reaction may produce a “WTF?”