For the third time in less than a decade, John Fulton has been named one of the 200 best advertising photographers in the world by Lürzer’s International Archive. More than 10,000 images were submitted to the publication, which biennially bestows one of the field’s great honors upon a mere handful of deserving recipients. Every candidate must be nominated by an ad industry professional to even be up for consideration.
The first time I was selected was for the 2012/13 issue, and it was pretty amazing. Being one of the 200 best in the world was a long-term career goal of mine, and it was a surprise and honor to be chosen that early.
As for the most recent issue, 2020/2021, it was a uniquely cool honor because I was selected for personal work, while the previous couple times were for advertising projects. I especially appreciate that I’m featured in the “Work” category. I love capturing blue-collar, industrial, and agrarian types of client projects and would like to do more.
When an actor is nominated for — or, better yet, wins — an Oscar, they give publicists some serious ammo when it comes to marketing an upcoming film in which they’re starring. People are naturally going to be more interested in a movie whose posters and trailers are plastered with labels like “Featuring Academy Award Nominee (actor’s name)” or “Directed by Oscar Winner (director’s name).” The same can be said for John and his fellow honorees. Here’s what the home page of John’s website looks like:
There are a lot of great photographers out there, so having “200 Best in the World” associated with your name and work is one more thing that helps potential clients understand that you’re presumably working at a world-class level.
A veteran of Lürzer’s submission process, John turned in multiple projects with an eye toward his personal work, which he felt the jury would like. From the outset, John believed that the panel would be drawn to his “A Simple Man” series, a project that represented the polar opposite of what the Atlanta-based photographer usually does.
Much of what’s selected for the 200 Best seems to be personal projects or self-promotion work. My “A Simple Man” series is personal work and felt like something the jury would be into. It was also a very cathartic project for me. Much of what I’m hired to do is shoot and seamlessly bring together ideas that can’t be captured in a single frame. “A Simple Man” couldn’t be a more different kind of project.
I was invited by a good friend to something he described as a ‘log cabin building class.’ It sounded interesting so I said I was game, but it was a very last-minute invitation, and I really didn’t know what it was about.
Though this was a seat-of-the-pants kind of endeavor, John bought in and found himself connecting with a man, the gloriously-named Wind Chapmen, who takes the artist’s own love of history to a completely different level.
We arrived on a rainy evening and camped on the instructor’s land that night, which was amazing in itself. The next morning, we woke to find that the teacher was a really interesting guy. He’s a very committed devotee of something called “living history,” the gist of which, for my purposes, means he dresses in authentic early American attire, living and working as people did in the early 1800s.
A welcome change from the detailed, client-driven assignments of the advertising world, this work allowed John to go with the flow at his own pace. As currents of nostalgia coursed through his veins in regular intervals, the photographer culled a series that he wasn’t entirely sure would hit the right notes with neutral parties.
I spent the day letting things unfold on their own, working without any specific goals, and just moving through the scenes to find beautiful things and moments.
It felt like I was 16 again, which is when I first fell in love with image-making and storytelling. It was a deeply personal project that I didn’t know would necessarily hit the mark with the judges, but I took the chance because I love the images.
As did the judges, who completed John’s hat trick of Archive awards soon after submission. In less-skilled hands, this project could’ve come across as gimmicky — or worse, smarmy. But you don’t land gigs with Apple, Barclay’s, or Condé Nast if you’re work smacks of pretentiousness. John’s appreciation for his subject is apparent in the photos, which are as unassuming as the gentleman himself.
I think it’s an odd series that makes viewers fill in their own narrative. It’s an intimate, voyeuristic look at this unassuming man. He’s in the middle of the forest dressed in authentic, 200-year-old clothing, but it doesn’t feel like he’s playing dress-up or doing anything that he thinks is novel or for an audience. He feels extremely capable, but somehow vulnerable at the same time, and it shows how much he’s dependent on good tools and his knowledge of how to use them well. That’s what I like about the series.
See more of John’s work at johnfultonphotography.com.
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