From Varanasi to Bhutan, Brooklyn-based Michael Marquand has chased his love of color across culture and nation to the many intersections of lifestyle and portraiture photography. Both far and near, it was not the banks of the Ganges that lined his most recent project, but the multinational investment and finance service company, Deutsche Bank.
I had always thought of banks in general as having very traditional design and media when it came to photography. It was exciting to see we could do something so different and colorful for a client like Deutsche Bank.
Michael was hired by ThirtyThree, a creative agency out of London that found his profile on WonderfulMachine.com.
They were looking for images that are sort of in between portrait and lifestyle. Images that show young people living in a city and working in a modern way. So they wanted the portraits to be colorful and environmental which is very much my style and my favorite type of portrait to shoot.
Once being awarded the project, the preplanning was conducted remotely.
We had a couple of Zoom meetings with the creative team in the UK where we went over previous shoots they’d done, mood boards with images they like and talked about what they wanted to accomplish with this shoot.
The photos from the project would be for general use, including digital advertising, social media, and internal usage for company such as recruitment purposes for new employees and the bank’s educational programs.
Though Deutsche Bank is headquartered in Frankfurt, as of 2022 the company had 1,536 branches worldwide in over 70 countries. The client chose a Manhattan art gallery for the shoot.
The space had a lot of very colorful artwork, furniture and some plants that we were able to use to give the images some life. The gallery also had an outdoor space and was in a fun neighborhood so with each model we would do 1-2 shots in the gallery space and then 1-2 shots outdoors, and tried to give them each a different setup so we weren’t repeating.
It was actually a fun creative exercise to have to figure out how many totally different environments we could create using this one small space and a few square blocks of lower Manhattan.
As for the photoshoot itself, beyond the gallery and the subjects, it was a fairly small-scale production.
The shoot was just me, my assistant and one accounts person from the agency. I offered to have them live with us on Zoom during the shoot so they could see my screen as images came up as I was shooting tethered, something I often do with my clients—but because there was such a time difference between NY and the UK the Art Director decided they were just going to trust me to execute their vision.
The subjects, however, were not traditional industry “talent.”
All subjects were Deutsche Bank staff members and some of them were in college as well. This is always harder than shooting models because people can be very stiff and nervous and freeze up.
But Michael knew just what to do!
Whenever I have jobs like this, I’ll hire my chattiest, most outgoing assistant. For this job I told both my assistant and the accounts person who came that we all need to try and make jokes, give them compliments, etc.— anything to get them to loosen up or crack a natural smile. It worked perfectly.
With every new shoot, the adaptability of even the most veteran photographer is put to the test.
We were shooting in NYC but the photos had to look like they could be in any city. So we had to shoot around anything that felt specific to New York: yellow cabs, street signs, brownstones had to be avoided. This was actually trickier than I was expecting. Sometimes I would find a good space/idea for a shot and then realize it had one element in it that was too obviously “New York.”
Michael met the challenges of the shoot head-on with a combination of experience, preplanning with the client, and his own field research.
Because I was worried about having to find so many different setups for each portrait, I did visit the space a couple of days before and I came up with ideas for all the different portrait setups before the actual shoot. Of course some of them changed a bit on the day of the shoot, but having that framework ahead of time made the shoot go a lot smoother. I’ve started doing that more often with other shoots since then. Seeing the space and anything else involved just helps me put the shoot together in my head and avoid any potential problems on the day.
A parting word for Michael: when asked, What makes for a great portrait?
A great environmental portrait says something about the person and shows a relationship to the space they’re in. It should emit some sort of emotion and it should make the viewer feel curious about the subject’s life.
See more of Michael’s work on his website.
Creative Agency: ThirtyThree
Photo Assistant: Brian Schutza
Read more about Michael on our Published blog.
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