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Gallery

Selections from three series—one in the studio and two in the street—where the photographer waits until his subject finds a moment of perfect lighting.

Adrian Samson was born in 1974 in Slovakia to Hungarian parents. His award-winning work includes clients such as Motorola, Ford, Microsoft, Sky, and Piagio, and agencies including BBDO, Ogilvy, TBWA, and Lowe. He currently is based in London and is represented worldwide.

Images courtesy Adrian Samson. All images © copyright the artist, all rights reserved.

The Morning News:

In both “The Setup” and “The Guarantee,” the lighting tells the story—it sets a theatrical frame. But one’s a studio production and the other was made on the street, right?

Adrian Samson:

Yes. Both of the series have quite a dramatic underline to it. “The Setup” is an execution, a clean-up in a dark alley somewhere that could be anywhere. It’s the underground world of the good, the bad and the ugly. I shot the series in my studio with actors and some modified lighting that gives an incredible depth of field to the final images.

“The Guarantee” carries a similar theatrical tension but execution-wise it couldn’t be further from “The Setup.” I shot the series in the City, the financial district of London, because I was fascinated by how little I know about the individuals behind the huge corporations that reside there. I was observing what these bankers, traders, insurers do when they get out of their skyscrapers for lunch or a coffee.

To keep it nonintrusive, I shot the entire series through reflections of situational flat surfaces, mostly shopping windows. Pointing my short camera lens to an inoffensive direction, my subjects stayed unaware of the fact that they were being photographed—even if we were sometimes just two meters from each other.

The Morning News:

Are there different satisfactions from personal and commercial work?

Adrian Samson:

Commercial projects are usually much larger productions. Clients, producers, account managers, and writers are involved and have their say. The needs are more defined and everything is very well prepared. With personal work it’s more instinctual, and there is more freedom to what I create because I’m my own boss .

However, one can hardly exist without the other—they basically serve each other. No one gets a job without doing a lot of personal work to prove their competence, and you can’t do your personal shoots if you don’t have the money from the commercial jobs. I am fortunate enough to balance the two. The personal work is of course your own baby, but it’s really nice to meet new people from new agencies and work on challenging ideas with talented people.

The Morning News:

Do better pictures come from accident or design?

Adrian Samson:

A couple years ago I was a firm believer that a great image can come only from a well-prepared production. But then I saw more and more work that wasn’t made like that—I realized it’s possible to take beautiful pictures out of any situation as long as you know what you’re looking for.

But if we are talking about accidents, even in a studio setting we often take hundreds of shots of the same motion because there is a slight randomness between each take. When I’m doing the edit I always find great shots that I wasn’t in control of, and sometimes these are exactly the shots I end up using in my book.

The Morning News:

How do you stand on postproduction—is it a tool, or a type of meddling?

Adrian Samson:

I try to get the most done in the camera and leave only a little for post. Most of this comes down to a simple color and contrast correction unless a new layer helps the image express itself. I hope that being able to capture the most in the camera will stay adequately valued in the future, but I guess both processes are here to stay. Just like a you have great electronic music, but good instrumental music hasn’t faded away.

The Morning News:

What are you working on now?

Adrian Samson:

I just finished shooting my last series, so it’s time get back to the office and do some work there—stuff that creatives don’t like to do. Next, though, I’m hoping to travel a bit, maybe to Shanghai for a month and shoot something there. I’m very fascinated at the moment by the Chinese, by South and North Korean culture, and would love to spend some time there working on something engaging and beautiful.

The Morning News:

Bread or butter?

Adrian Samson:

Both everyday.

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded The Morning News. He is the author of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There. His next novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. His Kindle e-book for The Morning News Editions, about visiting different American towns called Paris, was selected as a notable essay for Best American Essays 2013. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin