earlier this year, while out for coffee, my friends and i were asked if we'd be interested in going to a casting for a levi's jeans ad. i said yes. it was raining and the cab ride was paid for, and i was terribly interested to see how all this worked, so we drove off, signed information sheets, got numbers and stood around and waited. we inched closer to the front of the line and then this is how it went:
first they photographed you from the front and sides, you know, to get a good representative view. maybe some closer shots, some farther back—i can't recall. the only thing i remember clearly were the last two demands: first, for the guys to take their shirts off. i did this and exposed the doughy front of my person for the photographic scrutiny of a studio full of people. next, "okay, now do something fun." which is a much more difficult request to fulfill than you'd think. my hesitant shrug was probably about as useful for them as my formless midsection.
anyway, i wasn't called back. i did however later learn that the casting was for a series of adverts featuring photographs by ryan mcguinley, youth photographer extrordinaire, and someone who's work i had been looking a lot at. had i known the shoot was for him, i would have stripped down to totally nothing, set off some fireworks and thrown myself out the window—you know, something fun.
anyway, there's been a lot of talk online recently about these levi's ads, mostly because they follow in the wake of a campaign that wrangler launched over a year ago.
what's interesting to me are the differences in the campaigns; that such divergent, contrasting photographs came from the same photographer, and that they both evidence his handiwork—intimate, casual, surprising compositions of youth in the wild; a feeling of unencumbered, free, independent fun—and yet are totally different in tone and storytelling. i do tend to think the wrangler ads are more successful—as ads and as photographs—but all in all it's great to see how one person tackles similarish problems in similarish ways and arrives at related but utterly different solutions. it's good to see some range, and it's interesting to deconstruct the ideas in the ads, in the photographs and see how ryan has used light, composition, environment and subject to tell us a story: about the optimism of america and the freedom of youth, and of the dark, primal, wild animal inside youth.
check out the photography of ryan mcginley.