Los Angles-based photographer Gari Askew had worked with production company Lo and Behold in the past, so when they recommended him to the elite VML advertising agency for a job with Gatorade, he was happy to accept.
VML was creating a national motion campaign to promote Gatorade, its athletes, and some new products they have in the works. They wanted Gari to capture stills to be used in conjunction with the motion on social media and other channels.
During the lengthy pre-production phase, Gatorade originally just wanted Gari to capture some images of their products to be used on social media including some behind the scenes shots.
During the many calls between the art directors and production assistants, Gari saw an opportunity.
Because Gari had a background in photographing musicians and celebrities, he was confident in his ability to capture evocative portraits of big personalities in a very short window of time.
Gari pushed for the chance to make portraits of the Gatorade athletes like Usain Bolt and Bryce Harper. He sent the art directors examples of his work and got them to agree — something that might never have happened if he hadn’t asked for it.
If you have an opportunity like that… you gotta make it happen.
The shoot was spread out over three months. Each athlete was located in a different state, and Gari had just minutes with each of them. Between the portrait sessions, he had just enough time to plan out the still life images of the Gatorade products to supplement the pictures of the athletes.
Gari loved the whole experience. He recalls Usain Bolt as being hilarious – always cracking jokes. Not the kind of personality Gari had expected from an athlete of that disciplined caliber. But once the time for jokes was over, Usain was all business. Watching him run, Gari was blown away by the sheer physicality and athleticism of the olympian. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Usain wasn’t permitted by his team of trainers to run at full speed.
Although the shoot went well, piggybacking on a motion shoot was challenging at times.
Since motion was the main focus, sometimes the photography felt like the step-child.
He had to be deferential to the DPs and other crew and the lighting situation for stills images was not always ideal. A lot of the people working in motion were using cameras designed to reach ISO four million, so they could shoot with very little lighting.
Sometimes I could throw up a hot light up, but sometimes I couldn’t.
At the end of the day, Gari’s experience with this shoot was overwhelmingly positive, and he was grateful for the support of the VML team.
Everyone was very cool….having an agency on your side is just so helpful; they’ve got your back.
Gari has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from his work. He credits his shoot with Gatorade to helping him land commercial jobs with Sonos, Arnett Sunglasses, and ESPN.
For me, it was a big career stepping stone. Because the production was so extensive and drawn out, it served as a sort of commercial photography boot camp.
When he reflects on the whole experience, the campaign holds a lot of personal significance for Gari. He recalls playing pickup basketball when he was a kid and not being able to afford Gatorade. So in a way, he’s come full circle. Not only can he afford the drink, but he’s helping to sell it.
See more of Gari at gla2.com.