The more I can keep my mind open and not task oriented the better pictures I make. This may sound obvious, but on an ad job where I have been prepping and discusing the minutia of the shoot for weeks beforehand it’s challenging. With advertising, there is almost always a specific idea or image that I am hired to produce. The concpet has endured many levels of analysis and discussion at the agency and the client. Just because there is a task I have been hired to do does not mean that I should begin the day with a mission state of mind to march forward until the preconcieved image is produced. I have producers on set whose job it is to have that state of mind. But for the photographer, that is not so good. It is not why I am paid the day rates I am. It is my job to stay open to everything and everyone on set and to see what arrises out of the specific chemistry of the day. That is my specific value added contribution.
Years of working have taught me that what can be is always greater than what I thought would be. What happens in the moment can be prepped, casted and scouted, but the magic lays in the unpredicted.
When I am doing an editorial or personal job I only want to know the most minimal information beforehand. What has the subject done, where do they live, any total freakout areas I should avoid. I don’t really want to know much about the place or the fashion. For practical reasons, I often review location snaps, am deeply involved in any casting and am in constant contact with my stylist. I have to, but I try to come into the room that day as a child, with wide eyed marvel. That is my goal, to have no preconceptions that may prejudice me to the wonders that may be there unseen.
There are movie directors who every night after the shoot re-write the next days dialogue based on the performance of the actors that day. The plot stays the same, but the flavors may change. I once read that Werner Herzog never wants to see location scout photos, is never on the pre-light, and wants nothing to do with the propping. His cinematographer has to light the entire area, not just the blocking. When Herzog arrives, he decides on the spot where the shots will be. There is a certain madness to this, especially on a film set. But without scaring my clients, it is an element of my working process I have come to appreciate.