Dimitri Daniloff

Posted on: March 15th, 2008 by: Zack Seckler

Written by T.K. DaltonFinal image used in ad
Edited by Jesi Khadivi
Diagrams by Gil Andrei Fontimayor

Since the start of his career, Dmitri Daniloff has proven his ability to get a reaction. But don’t think all he can do is shock. “One of the very first pictures I shot was a girl rolled up in barbed wire,” he says. “So I was already kind of weird.”

The surreal image he concocted for PlayStation began as an idea with no story. Because he had a long and productive relationship with the ad agency, he kneaded the raw concept into narrative shape. Daniloff’s final product stands as an homage to the crowded college apartment.

He worked with largely dancers in this image. Ironically, the photographer most interested in bodily distortion does his best work with not models but modern dancers, Overhead view of lightingpeople incredibly comfortable in and expressive with their bodies. Even more unusual in an age of Photoshop and highly produced shoots, he uses a very minimalist approach based more on content then extravagant post-production techniques. “Some photographers base their style on a particular kind of light. For me it’s a little bit reversed,” he says. “In [the featured image] the idea was to have one side window and one lamp. So you have this kind of balance between the warm light from the inside of the room and then a cold light coming from the window. For every single picture the [lighting] depends on the mood that I want to create.” In this case Daniloff lit the set with four Profoto heads, each attached to 2400 w/s packs. There is one head with no reflector illuminating the background to the far back left of the camera position, one head with a standard reflector off to camera left, one head attached to a 3’ x 4’ soft box to cameraOne photograph used in the final composite image right, and finally a ring flash attached to the camera itself. He created the final image using a composite of multiple exposures of the talent in various positions. Each exposure was captured on a Hasselblad 555ELD with a 40mm lens and a Phase One H25 digital back. The exposure was 1/250th of a second at F/16 on a setting of 50 ISO.

Even if the approach is unconventional, it has paid off; the featured image won the grand prize at Cannes in addition to a host of other awards. Success, though, has only made Daniloff more innovative. “I need to work a lot by myself to renew myself,” he says. “Clients were calling me expecting the same thing [I’d] been doing with Playstation. If I did that all the time, then people will be like ‘It’s boring. He’s always doing the same thing.’

One photograph used in the final composite imageHere, Daniloff bucks the conventional wisdom once more, innovating and evolving in an American market where photographers with an identifiable style are told to stick to their niche in order to maintain their brand. “If I don’t change in the next five years or ten years I won’t be able to be on the top,” he says. “To stay on top means to change and to renew your style.”

Even his personal work is inextricably linked with the notion of transformation. In the future he hopes to shoot plastic surgery to better understand what fundamental need drives people to change their appearance. “In my latest picture I had these porcelain dolls with broken faces. I’m very curious about fragility and the limits of the body. It’s easier to change your body than your soul,” he reflects. “It’s less painful.”

Daniloff was interviewed by our Editor Zack Seckler about his career and his craft:One photograph used in the final composite image

F STOP: Please walk me through the creation of our featured image.

Daniloff: Most of the time you work with an agency for advertising work and they come up with a concept. I’ve been working with this agency for four years and have done about fifteen shoots for them. It’s quite a strong relationship. They call me and send me concepts and then ask me which ones I like. They came up with the layout of mixed bodies, but there was no story. It was more about the idea itself than telling a story. Most of the time I try to bring a story to the concept because the special effects themselves are not that interesting. It’s more about where it takes place and the way you bring all these characters together. Why are they together? What kind of characters they are? In this photo I based the story in a one-bedroom studentOne photograph used in the final composite image apartment, the kind of place where you would have a little party with all your friends and drink a beer. This is why the agency called me. They don’t only want special effects, but a little story around the concept. The fact that we are in a very realistic situation, with this very simple light, makes it even more real than if you have a perfect apartment with very clean walls. That would be too clinical and obviously not real.

F STOP: How much freedom did you have with this? Did they have every gesture and movement and position sketched out, or did they leave it up to you?

Daniloff: It depends on the campaign. With this one I was quite lucky because they came up with the concept, but after that it was quite open for me to do not whatever I want, but quite a lot.One photograph used in the final composite image

F STOP: That’s great. That is rare.

Daniloff: It doesn’t happen all the time. It is specific to this agency because we’ve been working together for four years in a row. There is trust between us. The guy on the bottom left with the mowhawk is my assistant. He has appeared in three or four Playstation campaigns because he’s my assistant on photo shoot, so most of the time I like to have him in the picture. In terms of casting, I asked to work with girls who were dancers. I wanted to work with people who had flexible bodies, so I could give them weird, extreme poses. The two girls were dancers, but not the guys.

F STOP: Were they photographed on location in this apartment, or separately in a studio?

Daniloff: No, it’s actually a real shot in a studio. I actually built the set higher than it should have been. The floor was three feet off the ground with a hole in the carpet. People were able to stand inside the hole. Part of the picture is real. The three people in the middle and the guy on the right were all in the same shot. You can’t tell about any kind of post-production between the three male models, because there is no post-production on that. They were really in the set and in the middle of the apartment, same for the guy on the right. One thing which makes the picture more realistic is that basically every single person was already in the spot when I shot them. For me it’s very important to visualize the picture in advance. The hand sticking out from his mouth or the hair and the little girl in front came later.

F STOP: Much of your work seems to be in the same vein as this image. Photographing people and body parts seems to be a large component of what you do. A lot of your ad campaigns and other work deal with people with missing body parts or extra body parts or some kind of amalgamation of that. How did you get involved in doing that type of work?

Daniloff: One of the very first pictures I shot was a girl rolled up in barbed wire, so I was already kind of weird. I’m very attracted by body transformation. Even plastic surgery. I want to film plastic surgery for personal work. Just to try to understand why people are doing that and why. I’m doing kind of plastic surgery in my work, but not in the regular way. In my latest picture I had these porcelain dolls with broken faces. I’m very curious about fragility and the limits of the body. I think you can do a lot of things to the body, but not to your mind. It’s easier to change your body than your soul or your mind. It’s less painful.

F STOP: Tell me more about working with dancers it seems like you really enjoy working with them.

Daniloff: Most of the dance that I like is more like Modern. When you’re working with modern dancers they have just a conscious understanding of how to move. I worked with dancers in the AIDS TV commercial, not because they were supposed to dance, but because they move very naturally. It doesn’t look like they are dancers. They are deeply conscious of their body and have a very natural way of moving. It’s not natural at all, it’s just that they’re so conscious about having the shoulder slightly higher up, or the way they stand. It gives a different feeling to the picture.

F STOP: If given the choice, would you prefer to work with a dancer instead of a model?

Daniloff: Yes. With a dancer you can ask them to do things that they are not used to and they will try it. When you work with your body everyday and someone asks you to do a split, it’s not a problem for a dancer. However, a model who is not trained for that sort of thing will have a problem.

F STOP: You might need to get extra insurance!

Daniloff: Yes.

F STOP: Do you have a technique for shooting bodies or skin?

Daniloff: I’m not a fashion photographer, but I shoot like fashion. The way I treat skin on every single picture is very important to me. I always have a make up artist and hair stylist. Even if you are not shooting fashion, I think it is important for the skin to be glossy and shiny. In all my pictures you can almost touch the picture and feel the skin. An example of Daniloff’s workIt’s important to me to have this kind of appealing touch. When you are shooting something strange it’s important to have a balance between something weird, which is the idea, and something that people are used to seeing. When they see glamorous or shiny skin they think about fashion before special effects. It’s just a way to keep people away from special effects and give them a different approach to the picture.

F STOP: How do you achieve that in your lighting?

Daniloff: I don’t have a special light. For me the light depends on the mood. Some photographers base their style on a particular kind of light. For me it’s a little bit reversed. I light according to the mood I am working in. In this one, for example, the idea was to have one side window and one lamp. Basically, that’s the whole light. So you have this kind of balance between the warm light from the inside of the room and then a cold light coming from the window that could be just like on the right. And for every single picture that I have it depends on the mood that I want to create in the picture. Sometimes I only shoot with one flash. Like my Mr. Potato Head image, this one had only one light, one single flash, nothing around, no accessories–nothing. It did it because it’s part of the mood that I wanted to have–something quite cold and not very personal.

F STOP: So you achieve the look of your skin with the make up more than the actual lighting?An example of Daniloff’s work

Daniloff: Obviously the light has a little bit of impact, but the make up itself already gives the smoothness of the skin. You can also clean up the skin in retouching afterwards.

F STOP: Do you ever have difficulty getting talent to open up for the camera when they are wearing something revealing or nothing at all? Do you have any techniques to get them to open up?

Daniloff: It happens. Most of the time people know what they are coming to shoot. It’s important for them to know. Mostly when you have this kind of picture they need to know what they are coming for. When I have a problem it is usually because someone is the wrong person.

F STOP: And what do you do in that case?

Daniloff: Try to find someone else on the set.

F STOP: Like your assistant.

Daniloff: Yes. On one shoot we spent the whole day working with someone that was approved by the agency and client, but at the end of the day I was not happy. I looked at the art director and said, “Look, do you mind if I shoot with my assistant because I think it would be great,” That ended up being the final shot because everybody realized that he was much better than the cast that we had.

F STOP: A lot of your work is obviously fantasy based. I mean, you don’t see people with detached or third legs walking around the street too often. How did you get involved with this kind of fantasy based photography?

Daniloff: I guess because of the first pictures that I had in my book. At the time I was not able to afford much post-production, so I was a little bit more simple. No special effects, but the mood would be weird. For this kind of post-production you need to have quite a strong team. I now work with model makers doing real special effects and heavy post-production. When you’re just starting out you can’t afford to have that. It’s way too expensive. One of my first stories was a very old woman, like eighty years old, with a very young guy and they were together. The picture was kind of moody and that’s why I think I went to this kind of heavy post-production.

F STOP: Do you see yourself continuing in this direction?

Daniloff: Without being pretentious, I think I’ve been around quite a lot of special effects, to me it’s important to move forward and try to do something different because I think you’ve seen that all around. I think people will get bored with it. It was great in the last five years, but I think in the future the idea will be to use special effects seamlessly, putting two worlds side by side so that nobody would notice.

F STOP: So tell me about what you’re working on now.

Daniloff: I’m trying new things and trying to move away from the heavy post-production. I’m trying to work with post production differently. Something not so freaky, something a bit more fun and approachable, not so weird.

F STOP: Is there anything specifically you can talk about that you’re working on?

Daniloff: I’m working on TV commercials. It’s quite fun. It’s a different approach because it’s something that I’ve never learned. So I’m exploring what I can do with it.

F STOP: How are you learning?

Daniloff: Basically on the shoot itself. And having the right team to work with. It can be difficult, but you have so many people involved like the Director of Photography and special effects. You have many more people working on it, so it’s quite helpful when the team is very professional and each guy knows what he has to do.

F STOP: Going back to still photography, you were mentioning moving away from the special effects oriented print work. Do you think that’s going to be a trend in the industry?

Daniloff: We’ve been through quite a lot of campaigns with these kind of special effects. We had Levi’s and Coca Cola, things like that. So all the biggest clients did things with this kind of work. It’s like a trend. There will be a new trend for the next ten years.

F STOP: Would you say that this Playstation work that you did is your most recognizable campaign?

Daniloff: Yes. All the Playstation work that I’ve been doing won awards. It won Clios, the Grand Prix at Cannes, etc.

F STOP: What kind of impact did that have on your career?

Daniloff: It was helpful, but put me in the situation where I need to work a lot by myself to renew myself. Clients were calling me expecting the same thing as been doing with Playstation. If I did that all the time, then people will be like ‘it’s boring. He’s always doing the same thing.’An example of Daniloff’s work

F STOP: It’s interesting that you mention that because, and I always find this difference when I talk with European photographers versus photographers in the states, in the states they put photographers into certain categories, just like you were saying. A lot of people actually recommend staying within that vein because it’s branding yourself and it’s easier to succeed in a market that’s highly competitive. So do you thing that’s nonsense?

Daniloff: No, I don’t think it’s nonsense. It’s just that fashion–I mean, when I say fashion, it’s not the fashion itself but the fashion of the Playstation work now goes very fast, and it’s like a new season in advertising. So even if I’ve been doing that for four or five years, like I was saying, I think if I don’t change in the next five years or ten years I won’t be able to be on the top. And I think to stay on top means to change and to renew your style.

F STOP: Let’s talk a little bit about your personal work. You have a lot of work that you do for yourself that’s more beauty related and then you pitch it to magazines afterwards. Tell me a little bit about that process. Where do you get the initial ideas from?

Daniloff: From anything. I must say that recently I haven’t had so much time to work on that. I would love to have more time for my personal work. I’m trying to stay away from photography just to make sure that I ‘m not doing something someone has been doing before, because sometimes this can happen. I think a lot about dance and I have many friends involved in conceptual dancing. Conceptual things are quite important to me. I’m working on a project that is not just photography or dance, but is more like an event. I don’t want to only stick to photography.

F STOP: When did you start off as a professional photographer?

Daniloff: In ’99. It’s going to be ten years, next year I think.

F STOP: What kind of work were you doing?

Daniloff: My two first campaign were for a jeans brand and a shoemaker. One was actually with 3D and with people with kind of technical wings. Even then, there was a link between fashion and heavy post-production because the wings, in ’99 ,were made in 3D, which was very, very new at the time.

F STOP: How did you become interested in photography?

Daniloff: It was quite late. I was studying mathematics and science at the university. One day my mom gave me a camera and the next day I went to take pictures. When I came back that night, I told my mom I want to stop university and I want to be photographer. She was like, ‘ok, if that’s what you want to do. Just do it.’ So that’s the way I started.

F STOP: How old were you then?

Daniloff: I was twenty-six. At the time I was thinking of doing photojournalism. Then I did some tests with models and still-life. I tried everything out to see what I liked.

F STOP: You’re represented by a couple of reps, but you don’t have a personal website. I’m curious because it seems like today everybody and their mother has a personal website for showing their photography. Has it been a purposeful decision not to have one thus far?

Daniloff: No, it’s just a question of time and what I want to have. Basically, for the commercial parts, my agents are doing the work very well. Every single agent has the work, I think, that is good to show in each country. And if I don’t have my personal website it’s just because I’ve been quite busy in the last three or four years,. I would like to do a website which is not only for selling my pictures. Because if you want to see my professional and commercial pictures, you can see my agents’ website.

Garry Simpson

Posted on: March 1st, 2008 by: Zack Seckler

Written by T.K. Dalton
Edited by Jesi Khadivi
Diagrams by Gil Andrei Fontimayor
Final image used in ad

Garry Simpson has earned a reputation in United Kingdom photography as a diplomatic problem solver who manages complicated logistics. “I kind of like the battle of the big production,” he says.“There is something quite satisfying about it when it all works, even with all of the stress.”

Simpson assisted for five years before leading a VW shoot at age 30. His book, initially all landscapes, landed him that crucial first job, and ever since, he has remained tranquil amidst the brouhaha of commercial shoots.“It’s important to make the people feel that they have some ownership, rather than being barked at by some egomaniac photographer,” he says.

Side view of lightingBut restrictions abounded in the Nike shoot starring England striker Wayne Rooney. Simpson and his crew shot from a nearby railyard and lit the shoot with the assistance of a production company, who helped set up a 40′ x 30′ lighting rig suspended to a crane and weighed down with four heavy sandbags. The rig held 16 Profoto 7a packs and heads, one pack per head, each with wide angle reflectors and a translucent glass cover over the flash tube. The lighting alternated between two power settings. The first used a minimum power setting to achieve the fastest flash duration while capturing action poses of Rooney. He shot these images at F/4 and 1/250th second on a Canon EOS 1V using Fuji Provia 400 RHP111 film and a 120mm image stabilized lens. The second power setting used the rig’s maximum power to photograph ambient exposures for the backgroundBehind-the-scenes on the day of the shoot image that didn’t contain Rooney. These were shot at F/16 for 30 seconds on a 8×10 camera using Fuji Provia RDP111 with a 120mm lens and an 80B filter. Simpson popped all of the flash packs three times at full power during the 30 second exposure. Simpson was juggling many concerns in his lighting design.“It was a compromise of long exposure for the blank landscape, then high-speed flash and 35 mm for the action, then stripped together,” he says of the 1800 exposures he made that day. “Perspective-wise, it worked.”

Throw in concerns about waterproofing equipment and synchronizing cameras and it’s a headache few can handle. Simpson, though, is not only calm but modest. He gave credit for the shoot’s success to his whole team, and to the art director at the agency that conceived the ad. Even after the shoot, Rooney’s athleticism impressed Simpson: “It was like watching lightning go off.”

Simpson’s strengths in the commercial setting carry over into his personal work. Off the clock, his technique differs—always usingBehind-the-scenes on the day of the shoot film, rarely using Photoshop. (“I like photography to look like photography.”) With his new work, he says, “what I’m trying to get across is people’s vulnerability. There is a slight loneliness to it. I want people to engage in the picture through the story. The aim is to take pictures that have layers of stories and more depth than what is immediately apparent.” Compared to his whimsical commercial work, Simpson reflects, “my personal work with people is a little bit more melancholy. I’m more interested in pictures where you have to find the clues. Hopefully the viewer’s interest will hold onto the page a little longer. “

Simpson was interviewed by our Editor Zack Seckler about his career and his craft:

F STOP: Tell me about the production of the featured image. What was the basic idea and how did it progress?

Simpson: The idea came from the ad agency. The ad is to promote a new five-a-side soccer strip for Nike. Five-a-side has five players on each side. It’s just like soccer, but it’s faster, slightly more aggressive game. Wayne Rooney, England’s striker, was used in the shot. He’s probably one of the most famous strikers at the moment in British football. Wayne is represented throughout the game. He’s playing an imaginary team on the side. The agency wanted cutouts of Wayne playing the game around the pitch. This would fill the pitch and there would be the odd little cameos of the referee, or spectators, or the players that are defending against him. You only see a little bit of them. It’s really homage to Wayne Rooney’s football ability. One of the agencies specifications was that it be shot at night. They used the picture I had taken of a tennis coach at night as a reference, which is partly why they chose me.

F STOP: Tell me about the production behind this image. How did light everything? How long did you have Wayne Rooney?

Simpson: One of my first questions was, “how long am I going to get Wayne Rooney?” I was initially told two hours. This was reduced to 45 minutes. Obviously, what I needed to do was high-speed motion. He was playing with four or five other players during the shoot, so we got this natural interaction of him dribbling, weaving past them and striking. I instantly knew I had to use some sort of high-speed flash. We lit the whole pitch in one go because we only had an hour with him. We had a huge gantry above the pitch that was about 10 x 15 meters. The whole gantry was lifted by a crane above the pitch that is just out shot. We several Profoto packs, all set at the absolute minimum power. You get the fastest flash speed at minimum power. It cracks and freezes movement much quicker. The problem with this is you don’t get a great aperture. So every place of Wayne playing is all shot on a 35 mm. We were shooting about four frames per second. It was really fast. It was like watching lightening go off.

F STOP: How did you setup the lighting?

Simpson: A company called Direct Lighting custom built this rig. They normally do lighting for big events. The generators and the heads were all mounted on the gantry. There were three sparks and one main gaffer. We also had another three guys from the rigging company, a crane operator, a producer, and another producer above that. A lot of people were involved. Wayne was doing other things that day. He was shooting TV, then he went to some other studios and shot some point of sale stuff. Then he came back to me at the end of the day.

F STOP: Are the two lights in the frame also Profotos?

Simpson: The actual pitch is lit by the flood lighting that it normally had. It was a compromise of long exposure for the blank landscape, then high-speed flash and 35 mm for the action. Then stripped together. The focal length for the 35 mil was the equivalent that we were using on ten-eight. Perspective wise, it worked. When Wayne was close to me his scale was right in relation to when he was far away on the other side of the pitch. We were obviously on a scaffold tower, probably about 20 feet up, looking down.

F STOP: Did you do the retouching yourself or did you outsource it?

Simpson: It was outsourced to a company called Core. They actually do quite a bit of retouching for the ad agency. I think the art director had the hardest job because we did not have two days of editing and putting it all together in our budget. I had Wayne various positions around the pitch and all these little stories; like him chatting with the ref, attacking here and there or running to the camera and celebrating, it was the art director’s job to put that together into a low-res kind composition. We had a conversation about how we felt it went and made some changes to have it flow a little better and make it feel like there was actually linear movement running across. Afterwards, it was handed to the retouching company who put it all together. They did a good job. Although it is cut and paste, there’s still a balance to it, which they brought to it brilliantly.An example of Simpson’s personal work

F STOP: Did the agency approach you specifically because it was a big production image?

Simpson: In the U.K. I have built up a bit of a reputation as a problem solver who can deal with large productions. I was fortunate enough in my early days to shoot with British Airways. That was like a worldwide production where we went to a number of different countries. We did a shot where we had beds all going up an avenue in New York. I have a history of being able to manage large-scale productions.

F STOP: Are you a fan of big production shoots?

Simpson: Sometimes it can be a hindrance. The scale can dictate its direction too much. Although there were a lot of restrictions on this shoot, especially with the time we had with Wayne, I’m pleased with the way it has come out. I kind of like the battle of the big production. There is something quite satisfying about it when it all works, even with all of the stress. I always spend weeks of time and effort planning things, checking and double-checking things; so that I know that it will all go smoothly on the day of the shoot. I had a military background before being a photographer, which I think I use for planning and logistics on these larger shoots. When I left school I joined the marines here in England. I served for about eight years.

F STOP: I would assume that working with the marines prepares you for the teamwork necessary for a big production photo shoot.

Simpson: There is a teamwork element to it. There is structure; there is a way of getting the most out of people. These shoots can be stressful, so it’s important to make the people feel that they have some ownership, rather than being barked at by some egomaniac photographer.

F STOP: Your personal work is certainly not highly produced. Tell me about the difference there. What inspires you in your personal work?

Simpson: There’s very little production in my landscape and cityscapes. They are motivated by a purist love of photography. I don’t do any post-production work on my personal work. I’m not a huge fan of post-production treatments with color and contrast and that Photoshop look. I’m more of a purist. I like photography to look like photography.

F STOP: Some of the work you do in advertising has big production component and some of it is obviously retouched. How do you feel about that considering you’re a purist in your personal work?

SIMPSON: I do enjoy both. My personal photography is about enjoying what I’m doing with my camera and advertising is about communicating the idea. Although a lot of my commissioned work is composited, I try to achieve as much as I can in camera. After that I try to make sure the retouching is seamless. Being shot well makes it fit together beautifully. It’s becoming more and more difficult to control retouching. I used to always outsource to one company that I was familiar with. There was a dialog between us. They knew what I wanted and I knew their limitations. Nowadays ad agencies in the UK have retouching done in-house. That becomes more and more difficult. You need to get yourself back into the ad agency in the post-production process to direct your work.

F STOP: How do you deal with that?

Simpson: Diplomatically. It’s the only way you can do it. At the end of the day, the ad agency is trying to make a better profit margin. I’ve had projects go so horribly wrong that I’ve pulled the job out of the agency and had it retouched at my own expense. It is getting better. Retouching in agencies has certainly improved, as long as you have a good operator. You tend to learn who the operators are. I’m more and more comfortable about internal retouching.

F STOP: When did you start off doing commissioned work?

Simpson: About six years ago. Before that I assisted. I left the marines and traveled and did the low paying jobs for a while. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to retrain as something. I was looking through a night school brochure and thought photography could be interesting. I did a year at night school, two years full time at college and then came to London and assisted for about five years before going out on my own. I didn’t start assisting until I was thirty. So I came to it quite late.

F STOP: When you started out on your own, did you approach ad agencies with the kind of personal work that you have now?

Simpson: My initial portfolio was personal work. It’s difficult. The advice I give to assistants that I work with is that you’re going to struggle when you have a book with no ads. Your portfolio should be a surgical tool. It does one thing and it does it very well. A lot of people starting out try to cover too many bases. My first book was all landscapes and it all had a certain style. By the end of the book people knew what they were getting. I had a book with a singular voice, which made people more confident. It worked. I got a VW job from it, which was instrumental in my start.

An example of Simpson’s personal workF STOP: It’s a nice way to start, for sure. Your first book was all landscape. You direct a lot of talent in your advertising work. Was it an issue transitioning from pure landscape to dealing with talent?

Simpson: Not really. There aren’t many campaigns in the UK that are just landscape. The landscape photography got me car work as well. I was shooting a lot of car work. I could see the car work was moving in a slightly different direction. Some of the early stuff I did was idea based and the car wasn’t too big in the frame. We were telling stories. Now the car is larger; it’s all becoming quite formulaic in the car world. Plus, CGI is cutting into the market, so I wanted to move into other areas. Taking pictures is like telling little stories. You can tell bigger stories with people, so I was keen to move into shooting people. The Nike shoot was people based and some of the other commissioned work I do is as well.

F STOP: Tell me about humor in your work. A lot of your commissioned work, specifically advertised on your site, has a subtle, but funny sense of humor behind it.

Simpson: I think from France. The French use humor in their advertising and I shot something on a very low budget for a French agency that I did a lot of car work for. The image did well at Cannes and many other shows.

F STOP: Does humor resonate within your personal work at all?

Simpson: No, not really. Perhaps I should develop it in my personal work. It’s something that I’ve fallen into rather than looked for. I think my personal work with people is a little bit more melancholy. I’m more interested in pictures where you have to find the clues. Hopefully the viewer’s interest will hold onto the page a little longer.

F STOP: A lot of your personal work is done abroad. That seems to be a strong theme. Do you decide to go out and shoot some personal work after the assignment? Or do you go specifically to a place with the mindset of taking pictures for your personal wok?

Simpson: There’s a bit of the former. Yes, I’m fortunate enough in my job to go to lots of different places. If I have some down time I’ll take some pictures. I also try to take a trip someplace new once a year to take pictures. New, unfamiliar countries inspire everyone. That’s probably the reason behind it. I’ve never really tackled London. It’s quite a complicated city to photograph. America always works. I think a lot of photographers go to America to photograph. There is order to urbanscapes that is very beautiful and photographic.

F STOP: Do you shoot in medium format when you’re out and about doing personal work in a foreign country?

Simpson: No, mostly large format. A lot of the time it’s 4 x 5.

F STOP: I’m curious about your process. Do you have someone drive around for you and scout?

Simpson: I’m on my own.

F STOP: What’s your process like when you’re trying to make an image? Do you happen on a location you like? Or do you go out the day before with a little point and shoot and location scout?

Simpson: It’s the complete opposite of how I work commercially. Commercially, everything is tied down and locked up. My personal work is much more fluid. Sometimes I’ll just get into the car and drive and if I see something that I like, I’ll take the picture. If I like it there and then, great. If I don’t, then I’ll find somewhere to stay that night and re-do in the morning. If it doesn’t work again, I’ll stay on it and shoot it in the evening. It’s kind of fluid. I don’t want it to be ordered.

F STOP: Do you have a certain message or feeling that you want viewers to take away from your personal work?

Simpson: It’s a little too early for me to articulate for the new narrative work. I think what I’m trying to get across is people’s vulnerability. There is a slight loneliness to it. I want people to engage in the picture through the story. The aim is to take pictures that have layers of stories and more depth than what is immediately apparent.

F STOP: Any projects you’re working on now that you care to talk about?

Simpson: I have a research book, which has loads of different ideas in it, but it takes a while for one to bubble to the surface that actually has the strength. A lot of times I get an inkling of an idea and I’ll cross-pollinate it with something else.

F STOP: Did creatives have any issues with the fact that you hadn’t produced images in your book at that point?
Simpson: I’d imagine there is a little fear using a new person. I think it’s easier here in the UK to get a foot on the advertising ladder than in the US. Having a respected agent behind gives the art buyer within the advertising agency more confidence. It also helps to have worked or assisted with good people. They always ask you in your first years who you assisted. It gives you a pedigree. If you’ve got that and a strong book that’s the first step on the ladderin the UK. Unfortunately, in the States it’s a lot harder.

F STOP: Why do you think that is?

Simpson: Shoots are larger and I think people are fearful of giving large-scale shoots to somebody starting out. Whereas here, you can have a great, small-scale idea with that can be done with a little. They can give it to someone starting out and it can be the foundations of somebody’s career.