As much of my advertising work has been with technology companies it was a fun change to work with The Garage Team Mazda on their latest print campaign. And, not only did they want portraits, but they looked to feature a number of Mazda employees, creating the potential to bringing gravitas and authenticity to their clever concepts.
I was brought into the process early by Art Buyer Sari Rowe, and worked closely with Creatives Harvey Marco (who I had first met on the now legendary Citibank dog with chattering teeth shoot), Napper Tandy and John Lindblom. On the shoot days our whole crew got a chance to engage with the featured Mazda engineers, who were all relaxed and camera ready (shockingly so), and of course, fascinating to chat with.
I photograph a lot of very accomplished people but something about working with someone whose knowledge and achievements are behind-the-scenes makes them seem like a unique polished gem, only visible to those with special access.
I received a email from Mazda Senior Engineer John Schussler the day after our shoot:
Upon my departure after the day’s shooting, I made a point to reach out to everyone to thank them personally for their kindness and professionalism. That is my way. One staffer kidded me a bit that I was another “Tom Cruise,” and I imagined that maybe he thought I was putting on airs by saying thank you to everyone. Who was I to be so presumptive as to think that everyone on the set would need me to say a personal thank you and good-bye? I know that people sometimes need to put others in their place. I know my place. I’ve always known my place. Having been effectively abandoned by my own family at an early age, I decided that I was going to live a life where I acknowledge those around me – everyone, regardless of role, stature, etc. Everyday I greet the maintenance staff at Mazda. I apologize if had given any mistaken impressions of self importance. I hope that my gesture of reaching out to all was understood for what it genuinely was – my gratitude for making me feel valued and respected yesterday.
I was moved by his letter, but I also thought it important to give him my take on it:
It’s funny that you mention making a point of greeting and saying goodbye to everyone on the set as I consciously did the same on our final day. That’s not ego, it’s just decency, and professionalism. And, frankly, as our talent for the day, you WERE the star! (The crew member may have been teasing you a little but their comment was a note of respect ultimately.)
It’s shooting days like this that truly make me value my vocation.