Photographers Who Art-Directed Their Own Photographs.
My schooling and first jobs as an illustrator /graphic designer had been varied, but I had no experience in directing a photographer—on location or in a photo studio. After viewing an art director’s layout or being informed of a client’s wishes—most, or maybe all, professional commercial photographers have the talent to capture a required image. The art director attending is probably only there to witness the photographer in action, suggest minor changes or is just happy to get out of the agency for the day.
Below, I show a variety of subjects for a commercial need where the photographers needed no “art direction”.
In the late 1960s, I was still at my location at the south-east edge of North Beach, S.F.—the home and work locations of many Italian/Catholics. I was offered designing assignments from one of my steady clients, Alessandro Baccari, who had his office (always a wonderful walk to and from) the Maybeck Building at 1736 Stockton Street, near the Saints Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square. In 1967, he referred a representative of the Catholic publication, Catholic Home Messenger, to my studio. I was supplied all of the photos that were to reflect the copy that was written for an eight page insert for their publication. The subject was “Loneliness”. The only additional photo that I needed was one that had to have a vague background image that would cover the first and last page of the insert. It needed to be ambiguous by showing an unidentifiable person. A weekend visit to Golden Gate Park was the first time that I art-directed a shoot.
1967—(my job #223) Catholic Home Messenger 1 Pg : “Loneliness”
Photographer, Tom Vano, had his own personal pet-project for the College of Holy Names in Oakland. Tom’s photos of the campus and the classes were delivered to me at the time that I received the assignment to design a brochure. Its purpose was to include an invitation to financially support the new planned developments for the college. I was to draw the map with each proposed building and open area, shown with dashed lines. The brochure was written by Morrison Stewart and offered in three languages : English, Chinese and Spanish which were type-set by Reardon and Krebs.
My paste-up boards went to the agency, Alessandro Baccari and Associates—then sent to Hogan-Kaus Lithography for printing. A week later, a set of printed copies was sent to me.
I never even met Tom Vano, but I received word, much later, that he was very pleased with my arrangement of his photos. He knew his subject very well. Had I been to the photo shoot, I would have learned from him, but I would have been of no help. Before this assignment, I hadn’t even known of the college.
1968—(my job #321) College of Holy Names 1 cover + 5 pages (#3,4,5,6,7)
Later, in 1974, when working on a brochure for U.S, Leasing, I needed the simple subject of marbles. The cover needed a photo of a child’s hand as in a game of “Marbles”.
A call to photographer, Earl Wood, was all that was needed. Earl had an extensive portfolio of his photographs showing his past efforts in shooting intricate subjects. This job was simple. He left the studio and returned with a lot of shots of various marbles. He had called our mutual friend, Dave Nelson (a top lettering man at the Logan, Carey & Rehag art studio)—and arranged for Dave’s son, Chris, to be the model. Earl directed his own “table-top” (or ground-level?) shot. The photos were exactly what the client wanted.
1974—(my job #1192) US Leasing NCR Folder (Cover and inside Cover)
Larry Keenan. Jr. was known for his “reporting syle” of photography. (See his link at the column at the right.)
As I was sketching thumb-nail ideas for the up-coming San Francisco Ballet’s holiday poster for the “Nutcracker”, Larry visited the studio and offered to try some experimentation using an existing photo from the ballet’s collection. On his return, days later, Larry said that he tried a series of filters and achieved this ”Holiday Ornament” look, transformed from the original image. He had worked without any direction. The client accepted this effect, exactly as he presented it. The image was used for full-sized posters, small posters, direct mail (which offered ticket prices and performance times). All items were printed at Pisani Press.
1974-1975 (my job#1271) “Nutcracker” 1 Poster
December 22, 1975. I had never met George H. Knight before he appeared with a full envelope of the photographs that he had taken, from all across the country. He had been contracted directly by Consolidated Freightways. The photographs had been taken along one of the many routes of the CF trucks. Who could go wrong, designing around photographs like these ? I tried to imagine all of the planning that this man had to do before capturing each subject.
We, in the studio, affectionately referred to George as “the cat in the hat”. George was a nice and hard working photographer who seemed to always be wearing his plaid, pork-pie hat : rain or shine, outdoors or indoors. I knew, or knew of, many commercial photographers in San Francisco. Here was George Knight, a low-key and unassuming talent. I learned later of his respected reputation that included historic reporting of the changing views of San Francisco.
I had the assignment of designing the 1975 Consolidated Freightways’ 200th Anniversary annual report. I had no influence on photo subject matter other than the selection or cropping of George’s photos.
As the photos were laid out, in the sequence that a CF shipment would make on its journey east to west—it was the perfect opportunity to show the old and the new views of each location depicted. Adding old images and photographs available from archives—the report became an entertaining story, along with the charts and financial copy important to Consolidated Freightways stockholders. As an ”extra”, I had the idea of creating a map of our country’s original trails. I was glad that the client “went for it”!
This story is also about the way the representative of Consolidated Freightways was kept from knowing that a female was designing their annual report. I supposed, that he believed “trucking” was a man’s world. I had to hide all images of the project from my work area, whenever he visited the studio. I was kept out of the conference room when my layout of the full thirty-six pages, was presented by the two men in our studio.
By March of 1976, this CF client may have found out that I had designed the whole job—this was when a framed award arrived in the mail for me, showing my name as graphic designer “for the 1975 Annual Report of Consolidated Freightways, Inc.” (An additional report of this award—might have reached him.)
Without George Knight’s expertise in choice of location, timing and general hard work that was needed to provide me with these highly professional photos—I would not have had the inspiration to put all of these pages together making a unique annual report celebrating the CF’s 200th year.
12-22-1975—(my job #1450) Consolidated Freightways 1975 Annual Report (Cover + Spreads 1—9)