Boot Camp Assignment #4: Water

EDIT: Corrects the typos; Changes due date to August 17th.

Realizing that the last assignment was a pretty ambitious one for you guys, I am going to give a bit of a break on assignment number four.

But first, a brief story.

About 18 years ago, when I was working for a chain of very visually oriented weekly newspaper, I did a series of portraits of competitors in our state's version of the Olympics.

I was really getting into off-camera lighting for the first time, and was eager to use it whenever I had a location portrait assignment. On one particular assignment, I shot what turned out to be a very nice B&W portrait of a 73-year-old swimming champion named Norris Fluke.

It was shot at the side of the pool, with nice, off-axis umbrella'd strobe. They used it big on the cover, and I thought that was the end of that.

A few days later, I got a call from the city's biggest advertising agency.

"Are you the one who shot the cover of the swimmer?"


"Do you do advertising work?"

Uh, yes, of course I do. (Starting with this job..)

"We are doing an ad that needs to evoke how a boomer would feel when forced with a decision to put their parent into a nursing home. We want something very similar to your swimmer shot, except a little sadder and shot out on the front porch of a row home. Can you do it?"

Sure can, I said.

"Great. Send us a proposal."

- - -

So, there I was, scared to death. I knew I could shoot the photo, but the "proposal" part was total Greek to me.

I sent them a breakout which included modeling expenses, supply expenses and my fee. It was for a little over $1,000.00 (in 1988.)

I did not get the job. And when I finally saw the ad, I was shocked at how pedestrian and mundane it was. No quality to the light at all. No connection to the model. Just a big dud, IMO.

Later, when I ran into someone at the ad agency, I asked why I did not get the job (brash 20-something that I was.)

She said that the creative director wanted to use me, but they were very concerned that my bid was far too low for the client to take me seriously.

( ? )

( ! )

I learned a couple of things that day. First, know what a photo is worth before you try to put a price on it.

And second, "flavor-of-the-day" counts for a lot when people are looking for a photographer to shoot a job. There was absolutely no other reason I would have gotten the call.

Which brings us to your next assignment.

Having seen the story on Tracy Watts, the world is all a-twitter with anything that has anything to do with her. And as the photographer who shot her world-exclusive photo, that quasi-fame extends to you. For the moment.

Two days after the magazine hits the stands, you come home to the following message:

Hello. This message is for Phil Phlashen. This Ms. Whoever from the [You Will Suppply The Brand] bottled water company.

We saw your Tracy Watts photos, and wanted to invite you to shoot a photo in our Water Campaign. It is similar to the Absolut Vodka series which ran in the 80's and 90's. Our series is just about the water, though. None of those fancy, complicated "homage" shots, please.

The photo is up to you, but it should meet the following criteria:

• Vertical - it will run as full page photo in many pubications

• No people

• Simple and graphic

• It should make people want to drink our water.

It's due in one week - 11:59 local time, August 17th.

We pay $10,000.00, but you have to supply the water. Hope that's okay.

So, bam. You've the big time.

• Pros: Major exposure. And then there's the $10,000.00.

• Cons: You have to shoot a photo of bottled water (your brand choice) that is worth $10,000.00.

Here are some more guidelines:

You will use off-camera flash. You may choose the brand of bottled water, and the brand must be visible in the photo. (This is an advertising campaign, you know.)

You may use water in a glass (or somewhere else) in conjunction with the bottled water. The bottle may be full or not. Open or not.

You only have a week, but you do not need to cajole a model into sitting for you.

Talk about it here.

Have fun.


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