Promos We Kept: Travel and Explore

October 4, 2017

By Sharon Ber

Because it’s often a job requirement or just because they love it, photographers tend to spend a lot of time traveling. The four promos featured this month focus on travel and exploration, whether far away or close to home. A desire to learn from people and connect with places shines through the images. The promos succeed at making the viewer not only want to know more about the subjects, but also about the storytellers behind the lens.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Kelly Marshall

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Kelly Marshall.

Kelly Marshall

“If I am home for over three weeks straight, I start to get itchy,” says photographer Kelly Marshall. Marshall, whose work takes her to locations around the world at least once a month. “When traveling I want to connect, be challenged, try something new, push my boundaries.

Marshall’s 9×13-inch newsprint promo documents her journey through South Africa, a personal trip she took to coincide with the New York University-sponsored Black Portraitures Conference that was held in Johannesburg. “I didn’t go with the intent to do a promo or a portfolio, but to step out of my comfort level, both on a personal and spiritual level, as well as creatively. I didn’t know why I was going, just that I had to go.”

It wasn’t until her return, when she showed the photos to friend and designer George McCalman, that the idea of turning the images into a promo was formed. When McCalman saw the photographs, he encouraged her to put the images out into the world. “He would not allow me to let this live only in my archive.”

McCalman, who Marshall calls her “creative soulmate,” had previously designed and edited her portfolio for two printed books. The pair have also collaborated on multiple photo shoots. For this project, McCalman suggested using newsprint. “I loved the idea because it felt egalitarian and political in nature, both concepts invoking the spirit of South Africa,” she says. It took several months to complete. “We went back and forth over the images, the design and the narrative many times. Because it was work and a trip so deeply personal to me, I wanted to make sure that it was honest and authentic to myself, but even more so to South Africa. I didn’t want it to sound cliche or trivial, but was unsure how to cover such big topics such as race and politics in a succinct way.”

The text in the promo, which came from journal entries Marshall wrote on the trip, posed some challenging questions such as “What is Blackness?” and “Are we all African?” Marshall says the questions are open-ended. “The questions I pose are ones I grapple with day-to-day as a person of color and as a woman. Consciousness shifts and so do our answers to these types of questions from generation to generation. I feel that my job as an artist is to pose questions, then to keep asking, and keep digging because that is where the work lies and where shifts occur, not necessarily in the answers.”

Iowa-based company White & Wolf produced 1,000 pieces for a cost of $800. They were mailed out in special-sized vellum envelops to Marshall’s network of editors and to past and potential clients. The envelopes cost about $500 and the postage to mail out each envelope was $1.20. Marshall plans on spending about $4,000 annually for future promos.

Marshall has received many phone calls and emails with enthusiastic feedback. “I was surprised by how many people responded to it. It initiated some illuminating discussions with colleagues, something that may never have happened otherwise. I realized that people still like interacting with content non-digitally, and the importance of my network to continually see the work I am producing—whether they have the ability to hire me or not.” Marshall says, “It’s imperative to share your vision with the world. You never know where it’s going to land or who will see it.”

Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>. © Guillaume Megevand.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Guillaume Megevand

Guillaume Megevand

Before leaving on a trip around the world eight years ago, a friend gave Guillaume Megevand a camera to take with him.  Megevand says that it was on that journey that he became addicted to photography.

“A camera is a great excuse to go to places where it might be weird to go just by yourself,” says the Swiss travel and lifestyle photographer. “A big part of why I’m into photography is because I can travel a lot and have a good reason to meet new people and places.” Megevand, who lived in Bangkok for two years, says he’s always been attracted to Asia. “I had always wanted to go to Korea,” he says. “I went there with no plan at all. Not prepared either. I just wanted to discover,” he says. “Just discover and shoot.”

Megevand says the two things that attract him the most in his work are people and food. “I always prefer going to a place a bit less nice, a bit less famous, because I know the locals will be nicer and the food much better.” In Korea, he found a nice Airbnb with cool people. “They guided me first and then I found my way.” He says he didn’t have “any precise ideas” about what he wanted to shoot, but he knew he wanted to avoid the typical travel photos. “I wanted something more contemporary and abstract.”

The cover of the 6×8-inch book is shocking pink. “I needed some Korean craziness without being too cliché” Megevand says. “I wanted a little K-Pop feeling without going too far in that direction. I think the bright pink cover with the small titles does it well.” Megevand says he was also inspired by the Portraits de Villes series of little travel guides created by the French agency be-pôles. Made by photographers in different cities, they are like collectable postcards, each with the unique vision of the photographer and location.

“I wanted to make a piece that people would be willing to keep more like a small book or a magazine than a commercial promo piece,” Megevand says. Megevand did the first edit of his 50 images from the trip and then worked with designer Vincent Schambacher from Superposition, a creative studio based in Geneva, on the final edits and overall design. “It’s difficult sometimes to make the right choices when things are so personal. I think two brains are always better than just one.”

Megevand also enlisted the expertise of the staff at Geneva print shop Look Graphic. They assisted with finding a pink paper for the cover that had the weight and feel that Megevand desired. “For the inside, I wanted it to look rough, as if there was some history with the papers.” Megevand knew that the grainy, watercolor-like paper he chose might “lose a bit of punch or detail” but it had the feel he wanted for the piece. “Without going that far, I kind of wanted the feeling of a passport.” 

Look Graphic produced 400 pieces, with the cost of printing running around $1,500. Megevand spent $200 for the envelopes and around $500 on postage. Megevand says he tries to do one promo a year, plus a couple of newsletters. He sends his promos to his current clients and to clients he hopes to work with. “The feedback is always good. I know that for every promo, I always get a least one or two new assignments which will cover the cost. I think the effort is totally worth it.” For this promo, Megevand was contacted by one of the best communication agencies in Geneva to request a meeting. “We haven’t done any concrete projects yet but I’m sure it will come.” Last year’s promo resulted in a connection with Swiss Airlines, which now sends Megevand all across the world for assignments.

Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>. © Sasha Gulish.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Sasha Gulish

Sasha Gulish

“I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with a career that has taken me to see and experience a large section of the world,” says commercial photographer Sasha Gulish. “As a photographer, I have found it’s a natural part of the process to become deeply immersed with the locations and environments of a particular shoot or project. I have met some of the most amazing people and seen so much more because of these experiences. Those are the moments when I feel most connected with exploring—when you are engaged with the culture, people, and subjects you are surrounded by, learning and telling their story.”

Although Gulish often travels for work, she relishes time at home with her family and the opportunity to discover new places nearby. “For me, the heart of exploring is about reconnecting with what is meaningful to you, and creating memories and experiences with those most important in your life.” Gulish and her family began going to the Warnecke Ranch, a 300-acre family compound in Sonoma County in Northern California about four years ago. She calls it a “haven and inspiration for creativity.”

When Gulish started taking pictures there, she never had the “intention of it going beyond catching moments of the kids and their discovery of the environment and their imagination.” When an image taken at the ranch showing a happy baby on a couch was noticed in a photography competition, Gulish began to think of “The Ranch” as a body of work. Once she came to the realization that she was creating a larger body of work, she began looking for images to tell a complete story and to capture nostalgic moments as they naturally unfolded.

Like many photographers, Gulish says she finds it challenging to edit her own work because there is an emotional attachment connected with each image. “I relied on many in my inner circle of trusted people in my personal and professional life. It soon became obvious which images were the crowd-pleasers.” Many of Gulish’s peers from the industry—photographers, producers and creative directors—encouraged her to take the project further by creating promos and sharing the work. “The feedback and point of view from those who know me best and understand my artistic and life perspective provided invaluable guidance to the final selection of images for the project.” Gulish says as a photographer it’s important to “stay true to your vision, but welcome feedback. The edit will rise to the top once you take in trusted opinions.”

Gulish worked with designer Shauna Haider at We Are Branch for the newsprint promo. “I have worked with Shauna for years. She is a wonderful collaborator, professional colleague and just overall an awesome person.” Each piece in her mailer, which included not only the newsprint promo, but also a notebook and a pencil, was individually designed to become a cohesive collection. “We were diligent to look for and select the right texture and quality that would evoke the senses that matched the story and true feel of ‘The Ranch.'”

Gulish used an array of vendors to get the mailer just right. Newspaper Club in the UK printed the 300 newsprint pieces.”They were a pleasure to work with and I was pleased with our final product,” Gulish says. The notebooks were created by InkHead; the envelopes by; the pencils by; the stickers by and the rubber bands by Uline. The total cost for just the printed piece was about $2,500, which did not include labor and professional staff. Gulish says postage was the largest expense, coming in at $3 per mailer. She sent most of the mailers to creative directors in the U.S. Gulish sent an additional 2,000 postcards that cost roughly $1,100 to print and ship, as well as a newsletter and an e-promo that went to 3,500 contacts.

“I don’t put [an annual] budget on promos,” says Gulish. “I have never felt the need to send one just to ‘promote myself.’ If I don’t have a story to tell and a message to share, it is an empty cost I can’t justify,” she says. “As a photographer, all my projects evolve when I have a ‘message’ or ‘philosophy’ I want to share. For me, the intention of this promo wasn’t about promoting myself, but more about reminding people how important time together and exploration is at any stage in life.” Gulish intentionally left her name and contact information off the notebook and pencil included in the mailer. “The thought behind the notebook and pencil was for the recipients to have their own pieces of inspiration to discover their journey—without a piece of branding attached to it. My intention was for the words to resonate on their personal discovery and exploration, whether that is in their minds or in their travels.” To Gulish, inspiring “someone to tap into that world is much more valuable and rewarding than receiving a phone call for prospective job.”

Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>. © Guillaume Lechat.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Guillaume Lechat

Guillaume Lechat

“I think all photographers are inspired by traveling and seeing different things,” says fashion and portrait photographer Guillaume Lechat. “I love to travel both for work and pleasure. For work, it is always fun to shoot in different locations. It keeps things interesting and fresh and when a team works on a shoot abroad you build a nice little family whilst you are shooting and you are inspired and energized by the place you are.” When you travel for personal reasons, Lechat says, “It’s great to get back to your creative roots and just shoot what you love and feel. It also always refreshing to break up your routine, get away from the computer and just live in the moment.”

Lechat started his personal project “People of Paris” about a year ago, documenting the city’s young, creative generation. “They are artists, designers, musicians, entrepreneurs and all round creators.” One of the reasons Lechat wanted to do the project was to “re-inspire” himself. “I wanted to see what was going on in this city and I wanted to look at it with fresh eyes,” he says. “There was a whole side of Paris I never knew existed with people doing really cool and interesting things that I’m really happy to share with others.”

Lechat worked with graphic designer Adèle Levy from studio Mute Twelve who is photographed in the series. “I wanted to work with someone who knew and understood the project and Adèle was really great.” Together they came up with the bright yellow that is featured throughout the 7×10-inch promo. “I really wanted something fresh and bright and different from the promos I’d seen recently. The project is all about the new creative generation so I didn’t want to it be anything traditional or muted.”

PaperTwins in Berlin printed 2oo promos, and the cost for the project was around $700. “I send them out to previous clients and people I would like to work with or people that have requested more info on my work.” He’s received great feedback from the mailer and has landed a few jobs from it, he say.

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