Mad Men, Again

Jan 24, 2010
Photographer News

For the third straight year, the Golden Globes presented its award for Best Television Series – Drama to the show portraying advertising industry culture in the ’60’s. The show has also become a perennial favorite for modern day ad folk and photographers.


Benjamin Reed‘s image above has become a favorite as well for PDN, as they use the photo to promote their upcoming Faces portrait contest. Benjamin was with the Los Angeles Times when he photographed several of the show’s stars, though he’s now based in Portland, OR.


Being fans of Mad Men, we asked Benjamin what it was like shooting on a period-era set.


I was given this assignment and I had no idea what Mad Men was. I heard the show won something in the Golden Globes but that was it. You can’t tell people that these days, everyone knows about the show now because it keeps racking up awards every year. The angle of the story was focused on the women in the series.

The set was pretty amazing. That sounds like a cliche’, but you wander around the office setting, or the house and kitchen scenes and it’s impeccably detailed. You see cigarette butts in the ash trays with real ash (at least it looked that way) and kitchen condiments my great grandmother had in her farm house. I remember seeing old LIFE magazines as well, with normal wear and tear that would expect to see in that period. I mean it when I say everything was close to the real deal. You could imagine yourself in that era and literally feel what was like. I imagine you can really appreciate the attention to detail as an actor or actress and feed off of that in your work. January Jones was shot in the kitchen scene, while Christina was shot in Don Draper’s office and Elisabeth Moss in the bedroom.

What I like most about this type of work is shattering my expectations about the subject. You always have an idea of how your subject is going to be and that’s usually based on the persona they create in their work…and 9 times out 10 it’s wrong. The interesting thing about this particular shoot is that I didn’t know who the characters were so I had no preconceived notion of what to expect. You could talk to them just like normal people and they were very warm and genuinely interested in helping you get the best shot. When they moved into character after makeup and wardrobe they became different people entirely, and that was just with body language. I watched the show for the first time later that week and became hooked.


Our Los Angeles photography team Larsen & Talbert rounds out our cast photo lineup with their portrait for Reader’s Digest. The only difference is that this shot is of the actor Jon Hamm, who plays the show’s lead, Don Draper. It’s interesting to see him off-set and not all slicked-up.


And of course we’ve already blogged about our man in Austin, Michael Thad Carter‘s Mad Men-inspired work, which also made its way into our recent Communication Arts ad:


Personally, my wife and I only started watching the show in 2009 on Netflix, so I’m still waiting to see season 3 on DVD. Please don’t tell me what happens yet, because I’m hooked, too.

-Neil Binkley

Tags: austin benjamin reed larsen & talbert los angeles mad men michael thad carter portland