September 14, 2009

levi's casting

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.

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.



  1. Anonymous6:35 PM

    Doughy midsection? Oh, please. You're cute as a button.

    I like the look of a lot of Ryan's photos, but I hate feeling like you have to be crazy and wreckless to be truly youthful. Good for you for shrugging. Why should you be something you're not on demand. Levi's ads be damned.

  2. hey! good to see you, as always.

    yeah me too, although i have to admit to have drunk the kool-aid a bit. still, if you read his comments on the subculture, he admits that it's a fantasy. and of course it is: beautiful nude 20somethings running with abandon through nature? endless partying? road trips forever? the ideas come from reality, but of course they're abstracted.

    what's curious to me is that to like the look of his photos, you must like how they feel, the things they imply—or do you just like the surface effects, the colors, the lighting? i don't suppose you'd argue that being inactive and overly cautious is the better way to depict the 'truly' youthful? can't we just say that he's reflecting singular aspects of youth? i think that's what's interesting about the two campaigns: that they're telling different stories about the same thing.

    anyway, i'd still like to have been a model.

  3. Anonymous5:03 PM

    I guess shrugging teens in jeans wouldn't make a very good ad. Or WOULD IT (Calvin Klein, early '90s)? The lesson is, you're only allowed to shrug if you're also an addict.

    You're friends with a former model.

  4. lol, if you showed him a picture of you jumping 20 ft. into a cenote in Mexico, in jeans, he would totally have to hire you!

    That would also make an awesome ad I think!

  5. his moonmilk series blew my mind.

  6. all right. sorry jen.
    still good to see you.

    yeah totally kei! did we get any good pictures of that? or alex, diving into OBLIVION...?

    jonathon, yeah, they're pretty badass. i like em!

  7. Yeah I know Ikumi or Dave posted a video of Alex's jump on for pics, maybe Ikumi has some or Sarah..I still regret not bringing a camera!