By The Drum, Administrator

April 9, 2004 | 8 min read

Brian Williams, art director, merle

I once met a Scottish photographer in the bar (naturally) of The Loch Duich Hotel. His Borzoi was occupying a good 50 per cent of the floor and, being hound lovers, we’d got to chatting.

He had spied a layout on an Edinburgh designer’s desk and, uncommissioned, travelled hundreds of miles to shoot the visual of Eileen Donan castle. When he arrived it was all but surrounded by scaffolding.

“The only bastarding angle is from the middle of the loch in a rowing boat, but it’s a bit wobbly for my tripod,” he quipped.

I fell about laughing at the time but, foolishness aside, he was to be complimented on going well beyond the call of duty. It illustrates (granted, possibly a little extremely) the extra miles, literally, that a Scottish snapper is often prepared to go.

Try getting that out of some lard-ass London guy who won’t put his coke down for less than 2G. Now don’t get me wrong. In my younger days I would happily take a big stiff one to London for the glamour. But, as I slowly shift from Bart Simpson to Abe Simpson, I’ve long realised that practically whatever you want done you can get done by a Scottish photographer.

Yes, I’ve become unashamedly parochial. We should all support our local industry, not for any romantic reason, simply for the fact that you can find all the imagination and technical excellence you need without getting on an aeroplane.

Looking for a captivating portrait? Call Eustace, Hampton or Wylie. Find the exact spot on location with Prior, Pogson, Close or Corrance or get a still life full of life from Albrow, Mountney, Wilson or Nesbit.

You want D&ADs? Try Gray or Myles. Retouching? See Joe. And there are lots of others, but they haven’t bought me lunch. During these recent times of famine I’m sure many of the guys have gone well out of their way to help on tighter budgets. Let’s all remember that when a time of feast returns.

Guy Vickerstaff, creative partner, Bond

Robert Campbell recently wrote: “What a good advertising practitioner sells his client is something that might be described as voodoo. Voodoo is a heady concoction of talent, experience, intellect, contacts, reputation, confidence, instinct, magic and random luck.”

Good photographers have quite a bit more voodoo than the rest of us and I’m extremely grateful to them for that. So, instead of giving you my opinions of the industry, I’m going to tell you about a couple of campaigns I worked on that I believe benefited from some funky-ass photography voodoo.

I’m immensely proud of the Baxters and National Galleries of Scotland campaigns, not just because they were well liked, looked pretty and picked up a few awards but because they took a dollop of voodoo and a splash of juju to get made.

They both followed a similar path. Brave and enthusiastic account handling team puts the ideas in front of ambitious and enthusiastic client. The client feels the voodoo and the voodoo feels good. Art director appoints immensely talented photographer, immensely talented photographer gets excited about the job, art director stands back and FWOOM the voodoo does its own thing.

In both these cases the photography voodoo was a thick broth of talent, clarity, lighting, detail, models – vegetable and otherwise – texture, retouching and more detail. (Example: one of the Baxters shots was re-shot at 2 a.m. when the photographer reckoned he could get the lighting better.)

Mr Campbell also said “Voodoo is an instinct for doing what feels right.” Looking back, it felt right working with the account teams, the clients, the production guys and the retouchers, but most of all it felt right working with these photographers. They were Jonathon Knowles for Baxters and Victor Albrow for the National Galleries campaign – they do voodoo, they do.

Kevin Bird, creative director, family


“Why photography?”

“Isn’t that really expensive?”

“Can’t we use a stock shot?”

“Can you not draw it?”

“Usage? ... What’s usage?”


“It all comes to HOW MUCH!!??”

“Actually I know a photographer who’ll do it for half that.”

Desperate clients with desperate budgets have produced desperate conversations. Justifying your reasons for choosing to do photography and use a certain photographer has never been harder. But these conversations are well worth having, particularly if you win them and go on to produce a stunning image in a powerful piece of work that really communicates its message. Which is the whole point of what we do, I guess.

I believe that some of my best and, more importantly, most effective work has involved photography.

We’ve just completed what I think is an outstanding brochure for John Partridge clothing. A great design made stunning by photography.

But a couple of my old favourites came from the Herald’s “Open for Discussion” campaign. A debate on GM foods led to a nice simple idea. Two beautiful shots and a little re-touching later produced a great full-page image.

Bizarrely, however, my best example actually combined commissioned photography and stock shots.

The Bulger Boys 48-sheet for the Herald ran at the height of the murder trial as the whole nation debated what should happen to them. The childlike innocence of the old-fashioned school photo frame questioned everyone’s prejudices and feelings towards the two boys. The posters were actually vandalised: words were scratched off them to be replaced by hateful messages.

The public were actually debating the issue on our poster. Even more bizarrely, the Scotsman splashed our defaced poster on their front page. And, most importantly of all though, our client was seen to be leading the debate.

I like work that challenges people, draws them in and gets a response. Photography lets you do amazing things. I’ve sent a tornado down Princes Street, squeezed a whole tomato through a syringe, gutted and filleted a 16-stone man and opened up a Toyota Carina like a sardine can.

I’ve shot the entire Scotland football team, teenagers with no mouths, a Scottish family in a wind tunnel and an 80-year-old woman having a baby. Obviously, I’ve shot a beautiful girl on a beautiful beach wearing (I think it was) two different bikinis.

Oh, and I’m currently smashing all the branch windows of a leading financial institution. I love photography.

Vaughan Yates, Design director, Contagious

Choosing a photographer is like choosing music. Will it fit the circumstances, meet the requirements, capture the mood and will it ultimately exceed your expectations and take you to a higher level?

Do you put on your mp3s, your CDs, your scratchy cassette compilations, your good old 45s or your 33s? When it comes to formats, we don’t really mind, although you just can’t replace some of those classic LPs.

Here are a few of our favourite artists.

If you are looking for carefully crafted images that go beyond prints or trannies, combining materials such as sandpaper and masking tape into formats that lean more towards fine art or illustration, then take a look into the dark, dark world of Warren Sanders. Something akin to listening to one of your Joy Division albums again after a long absence from the turntable.

If you go on a shoot that involves travelling and meeting ordinary people who don’t quite know what’s in store for them, then turn up Simon and Garfunkel on your 8-track and enter the world of Angus Bremner on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery.

For supreme still life photography, where attention to detail is critical, then the meticulous Smokey Robinson approach of Chris Lomas is where we go for smoothly crafted and superbly stylish images.

When speed, quality and digital displays are of the essence, Paul Bock’s Audi can take you, and a fine selection of the latest tunes, to the far corners of Scotland faster than any other photographer we know.

Finally, for ice-cube cool, yet strangely Millie Vanillie, look no further than Fabio, the fashionista internationale, jet set photographer RS. Often described as the Terry Richardson of the North, his shoot-from-the-hip style is well worth a view. If you can get hold of him.


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