Photographers Art Directing Themselves

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 #1192US Leasing NCR Folder (Cover and inside Cover)

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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 – 221975 — (my job #1450) Consol­i­dated Freight­ways 1975 Annual Report (Cover + Spreads 1 — 9)

Ann Thompson