One day, I met a man at a networking event, and in the usual fashion was asked, what do you do?
I said, I’m a photographer, and I work with business owners and organisations to capture who they really are, not just what they look like.
They tend to be entrepreneurs and pioneering types, out there in the world on a mission to make a difference. They’re very clear on what they do and why they do it. The world is increasingly demanding transparency and so it’s important to address why you right from the start. So I take them through a 3-step process which allows us to create photos that expresses what really matters.
That way, when they talk about what they do, and show their market in pictures, there’s a clear match, it flows. And because it flows, it helps them build connection, trust and loyalty. So I describe myself as a real-life photographer. What I am creating I am increasingly referring to as their ‘why’ piece.
Oh, so you’re an artist, then?
And it sounds like they buy stories.
Well, yes. Photographs are the tool to deliver the story.
You are impressively setting yourself apart with your angle on photography.
Cool, happy that the answer landed.
Here’s the catch. At first, I have no idea what I’m doing.
You’re new, unfamiliar territory to me.
I am curious, though, to find out what makes you tick, and why you do what you do.
That’s the artist in me, who loves to go to the unknown, willingly.
It can be unsettling if I am impatient to have the answers too quickly.
Because I have faith in the process and our goals, I’m prepared to push me/us through that icky fog to get to the other side.
This happened with Philippe Guichard, pictured here.
Philippe is French, he’s been living in Australia for several years and is an Industrial and Product Designer.
Before we photographed, I was nervous because at first glance I couldn’t figure out how to photograph him. (Sometimes, the ideas come straight away).
But with Philippe, nothing doing…yet.
Then I took a step back and went through three research phases which brought us to a point of knowing how it would come together:
When asked why he does what he does, he said:
‘I want to use those skills as an Industrial Designer in order to build “better” businesses. What do I mean by better? Businesses that care about sustainability, social responsibility and at the same time want to realise comfortable profit margins. And, yes, it is possible to combine all of that. I see Industrial Design as a tool – not as an end to make things pretty – to benefit all, from the user to the manufacturer all the way through warehousing and dismantling.’
Philippe used words like courageous, tenacious, determinate, creative, curious, global, thinker, slow, positive, and empathetic to describe himself.
How do you put that in photos? I really had no idea…keep going…
I let my Google fingers do the walking to find how Industrial Designers typically portray themselves.
The standard seems to be showing the designer in their workplace, at their desk, doing drawings etc, showing clearly what they do and how they do it. This is the literal and predictable road to take, and besides, Philippe isn’t set up with such a space yet.
I wanted to figure out how to embody Philippe’s why.
I did find someone who stands out from the pack by the name of Karim Rashid. Brand-wise you see him in white or pink outfits, wearing bling and a smashing pair of glasses. He has his own way with poses that incorporate his hands and a very direct gaze to the camera. Not a design or workspace in sight. He’s an ideas man with flair and creative vision, and his pictures reflect that.
Photographer credit Cindy Ord
Philippe is nothing like Karim, but the use of hands and considered poses worked well that we could learn from and adapt. It seems like so much goes on inside their heads, as designers, and what they manifest into a physical reality is so practical and aesthetic at the same time.
Good with their hands, they are.
Digging further, I remembered a great master photographer of the 20th Century, Yousuf Karsh. In the studio, in black and white, he crafted extraordinary portraits of significant figures in history.
They were all very clear on their ‘why’ and he explored that with each subject before photographing them. We pulled out some ideas for inspiration from Yousuf for poses, angles, and in particular, his use of hands. Very striking and solid.
Now up to this point, these are all ideas. Nothing is set in stone. I took these ideas to Philippe and asked if he liked the feel of where this was going.
He said yes!
Now it’s starting to feel good.
We settled on a location and clothing. We knew the sorts of poses we would try, in ways that felt right for Philippe.
And we also went for spontaneity, creating bold silhouettes of his profile. Love it!
So, arriving at a portraits collection can take a windy, unknown path. It’s not linear, but we do get there.
I’m an industrial designer.
I already had a head-shot done by a professional photographer, but I had the sense that it could be improved. The photo I had was good, but it was missing something, a bit more “about me”, or most importantly, what I do.
I met Beth at the Slow School of Business in Melbourne, and I decided to hire her for one head-shot. Beth offers different packages for personal branding, the first is “The Real You Business Portrait, or, Hero Shot”.
Then, Beth walked me through a process of questions and interview, so that she could understand who I am and what I do.
We booked an afternoon soon after to do the head-shot, in the Melbourne CBD. I invited Beth for lunch just before the photo-shoot, we had a bit more time to chat. I was impressed because she had done her research on other designers and thinkers, and how they present themselves. She suggested a few options and asked if I was willing to try them out. Sure!
Even though the camera usually intimidates me, I felt quite relaxed by Beth during the photo-shoot.
We sat right after to review the photos, and I started to change my mind about the head-shot. I saw that several photos were good and expressing different aspects of my personality. So, I decided to invest in the next product, a package. Today, I have a collection of photos I can play with; they feel more personal than ever before. My session with Beth was a great experience, I am very happy of the result.
The portraits are revealing my personality and setting me apart at the same time. So far, the feedback has been amazing!
If you would like to explore how we could capture who you really are in business: