Can a creative career be traced back to one moment, one experience, one picture so powerful it changed forever the viewer’s perspective on the world? As part of the recent issue of The Drum guest-edited by Trevor Beattie, co-founder of BMB, a special edition of Creative Works invited a cross-section of creative minds to share the one image that influenced them most.
Trevor Beattie: David Bowie on Top of the Pops
I was a scruffy impressionable school kid, unwashed and slightly dazed, slumped in front of the TV for Top of the Pops.
He was nothing short of a living, breathing, visiting, (singing?!) space alien, beamed directly into my Birmingham living room from the planet I Know Not Where, but bearing a message expressly designed for me and me alone.
David Bowie stared down the barrel of the lens and sang “I had to phone someone, so I picked on YOU (ooh, ooh)”. So utterly convinced was I that I had been chosen by a Superior Creative Being for an as-yet unspecified but vital future creative task, I raced to school the following morning to share the exciting news with my dull, Earthbound chums...
The only problem was, every single one of them seemed to have received exactly the same signal. They were ALL the Chosen Ones. They too were Spartacus. Then we were Ziggy’s fans. And that changed everything.
Matt Lever: Rik Mayall on Comic Relief
It must have been about 1986. I’d have been around seven. And I can vividly remember my dad waking me up and getting me out of bed at about 9pm, in tears.
“You have to come and see this,” he said, and downstairs we went. Mum drained her Liebfraumilch and dad pressed play on the VCR (in my head the remote control was on a lead, but I can’t confirm whether that’s true or just a trick of the mind).
What happened on that video has stayed with me ever since. A man in a red beret (turns out it was Rik Mayall, but I was too young for The Young Ones at that point) pranced on stage and performed a three-minute version of the song Do You Love Me, with alternate lyrics that centred around whether the audience would like to see his pants, nipples, bottom and (sorry for using the word) willy.
It was the best, most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen. Dad’s tears were tears of laughter. The video was a Comic Relief live performance.
I went back up to bed that night with the life-changing realisation that even when you’re a grown up, it’s probably OK not to take yourself too seriously. Invaluable advice if you want to work in advertising. RIP, Rik.
Matt Lever @Matt_Lever is deputy executive creative director at London creative agency VCCP.
Fern Berresford: Singing in The Rain
As a kid I would go to my grandparents’ every Saturday and my grandma would put on old classic movies from the 50s and 60s. I loved the joy and energy of these old films, the vibrant Technicolor, the styling, the dancing, the songs.
Back at school on a Monday morning I’d write a ‘play’ loosely based on the films I had watched that weekend. I couldn’t really remember all of the words but I had the tunes down and that was enough to get us started.
I’d enlist a bunch of theatrical mates and together we’d plot out little dance numbers and a basic storyline and then by the end of the week we’d have a show to put on in assembly.
I guess, that was my very first taste of directing.
Fern Berresford @Fern_Berresford is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker who has directed commercials for clients including Renault, VO5, eBay and T-Mobile, and music videos for artists including Little Comets and Diane Birch.
Chloe Hamblen: Gustav Klimt's 'Fish Blood'
I find inspiration in such a diversity of places that it is hard to say which one image spurred me on towards my current career path, but if I had to choose it would be Gustav Klimt’s ‘Fish Blood’. I love its etherial, erotic quality. To me it represents sensuality with a graphical edge – the power of the female form combined with a black sinuous line; something which has inspired a lot of my design choices.
Chloe Hamblen @ChloeHamblen is designer, founder and creative director of luxury British lingerie label Lascivious.
Ilse Moore: Andy Goldsworthy's 'Rivers and Tides'
I dabbled in a lot of different kinds of art as a student, but between all the images that made an impact in my career, a specific moment helped significantly in shaping the way I look at photography. Perhaps not in my style or technique, but in the way I would approach it.
During my Visual Art studies I explored Land Art and the work of Andy Goldsworthy really caught my eye. Not only did his precise understanding of harmony and balance inspire me, but so did the fact that his work existed only temporarily, often unseen by anyone other than himself. Some of these pieces existed for only a few seconds and often his efforts failed before he completed a piece.
In a short video of him working on his series ‘Rivers and Tides’, he can be seen working on a fragile twig installation. After hours of work, a small breeze causes it to collapse down on him. It was then that I realised how powerful the camera can be in immortalising something so fleeting.
In my own work I cannot control the environment underwater, but have the opportunity to capture a perfect moment that can never exist again and can never be recreated. In this way I am merely an observer and while so much of my joy lies in the creative process, his work acts as a reminder that nothing is definitive.
Ilse Moore @IlseMoore is a renowned South African underwater photographer.
Steve Henry: The Beatles on the first live, international, satellite TV production
For me it was the Beatles singing ‘All You Need is Love’ on the first ever TV transmission on Eurovision. For the first time ever, people all over Europe were watching the same thing at the same time. And they weren’t watching a politician with zero integrity or a TV presenter with zero intelligence. They were watching four young guys having a laugh, who just happened to be giving us a very important message. It seemed possible at that time that the whole world would come together and build a great future and have a laugh doing it. Shame that didn’t happen, really.
Steve Henry @oxforddick is the founder of Decoded, a company that teaches anyone to code in a day, and was founder/creative director of HHCL.
Justin Tindall: Michael Craig Martin's 'An Oak Tree'
‘An oak tree’ changed my life. I was 15 years old with no interest in art. I’d never been to a gallery and wasn’t even doing it as, what my dad would have called it, a ‘soft option’ at GSE.
I first saw it in a book that was being passed around at school together with a soundtrack of laughter and derision.
There on the page stood a glass of water on a small glass shelf accompanied by a few paragraphs of text explaining that the glass of water was, in fact, an oak tree.
Like my friends, I thought it was stupid. A joke. That the artist, Michael Craig Martin, must surely be a madman or, more likely, a conman.
But it stayed with me. Made me angry in fact. I couldn’t stop thinking about the impenetrable audacity of it.
A month or so later, I took myself to London to see it at the Tate. Small and seemingly insignificant, it stood largely ignored surrounded by white space. But rather than stubborn, now it seemed beautiful, moving and, above all, brave. So very brave. Far from being obscure, the artist was completely exposed.
And that’s what I saw in room after room that day at the Tate. ‘An oak tree’ opened the door to a world that changed my world and my path.
A month later I enrolled on the Art A-Level course. Three years after that I joined Goldsmith’s college to study Fine Art under the guidance of Michael Craig Martin himself, who taught me that the idea is the purest form of art.
Now, I write adverts for panty pads. Where did it all go wrong?
Justin Tindall @JTindall_ is chief creative officer at M&C Saatchi London.
This piece was first published in The Drum's 20 April issue, guest-edited by BMB co-founder Trevor Beattie.