At the end of 2012, luxury British fashion brand Burberry contacted Chicago-based portrait photographer Tim Klein about a unique assignment. When launching their Art of The Trench site, they needed talented photographers to capture a gaggle of fashion-forward people wearing their trenches. The site is meant to be a living document of the trench coat and the people who wear it. They needed some killer images to launch the site and the social media/ad campaign surrounding it. Tim, along with several other leading image-makers such as The Sartorialist‘s Scott Schuman, was commissioned to capture some trench coat style. We got in touch with Tim to learn more about his experience with this interesting Burberry campaign.
How would you describe your photographic style?
My style is reality and moment based. I started as a newspaper photographer and transitioned into a commercial shooter. Even though I don’t shoot for newspapers anymore I still maintain many of the same values and ethics.
Was this assignment directly through Burberry or an agency? How did they find you?
The got the assignment directly from Burberry. It was my first time working with them. Someone at the company knew of me and recommended me to the creative team.
How was this assignment presented to you? What attracted you to it?
My agent called me and said, “I hope you’re free this week. Burberry would like you to do a 5-day shoot.” Luckily, I was open that week and the Burberry team sent me their brief. The following morning, the shoot started. This was not a typical assignment — it was the first time I had shot for a major fashion house. I shoot a lot of real people so it felt very natural. I was excited to try something new and to photograph interesting, creative people in really nice clothes.
These photos are very “Street Style/Street Fashion”, how did you approach shooting in this style?
I photograph a lot of real people and shoot a lot of portrait work. I have done similar assignments for magazines. My goal was to photograph the subject in a way that would highlight the coat but also expose the personality of the subject. These people were not models so I wanted them to feel comfortable and have fun during the shoot.
What were the shoot days like? Who did you photograph?
The shoot would start around 8 a.m. and go for about 12 to 16 hours. The challenge with the shoot was the pace. We photographed probably 10 to 15 people per day. We would drive around the city and meet up with people to photograph them in trench coats. Sometimes the trench would be provided while other times the photo subject had their own Burberry trench. The photo subjects were all interesting people in Chicago — from Chef Art Smith to Billy Dec and Naomi Beckwith. At the end of the day, we would edit the images and send the selects to London.
I also captured Victor Skrebneski, one of Chicago’s most famous photographers who is not often photographed. We had set up the shot prior to his arrival and when we showed him the test shots he didn’t really like it. We ended up trying something different. I ran into his studio manager at the Burberry opening and he said Victor was very pleased with his image. That made my night.
What was Burberry’s reaction to your images? How are they using them?
They were very pleased with the images. Several of the Burberry executives were at the Chicago event including Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer, who personally thanked me for participating in the project. The final images were used as ads in bus shelters around Chicago. They also used them on Pintrest, Tumblr, in-store video displays, and the official Art of the Trench website.
Did you learn anything on this assignment?
I learned how to shoot quickly and to trust my instincts more when on fast-paced shoots.