To coincide with World Photography Day on 19th August, Wunderman Thompson London launched an exhibition of beautiful photography taken by members of the agency and submitted for an internal competition. The results revealed that it isn't just creatives that have buckets of artistic talent but data geniuses too.
Wunderman Thompson London creative director Paul Rizzello reveals more about the competition and judging great photography in the age of smartphones and Instagram.
LBB> What inspired the competition?
Paul> Ironically enough, “inspiration” is what inspired it. Our philosophy at Wunderman Thompson is that inspiration fuels growth in all its forms – whether that’s commercial growth or personal growth. We wanted to give everyone a chance to reveal a side of themselves they don’t usually share in their day-to-day role. So, for World Photography Day, we invited everyone to show what inspires them.
LBB> In an age where everyone's a photographer and we're constantly fed photographic imagery, what makes an image stand out against the mass of stuff out there?
Paul> The fact that there are more photographs and photographers out there doesn’t necessarily make it harder to spot a good one. The abundance of high-quality images we’re exposed to everyday has made connoisseurs of us all. Ultimately, the images that get noticed and remembered are the ones that capture your imagination or move you in some way.
LBB> How does pursuing photography change the way you look at the world?
Paul> In marketing and advertising, we’re trained to always draw a line back to the problem we’re trying to solve, and to interrogate our creative decisions through that lens. But photography is unashamedly subjective. It can be very liberating to focus on something just because you find it fascinating or beautiful.
LBB> Why is it important for agency people who don't necessarily have 'Creative' in their title to have their own creative projects or at least experiment with creative activities?
Paul> An unfortunate consequence of labelling a whole section of an agency as “Creative”, is that it encourages people to think the rest of the agency isn’t. The reality is of course that any discipline becomes creative when you take it to a high enough level. And just because you’ve built a career in one area doesn’t mean you don’t have strengths in others. It’s important to remind ourselves that in our business we have the privilege of being surrounded by stimulating and creative people of all descriptions – and we get to work with them every day. That’s why we all wanted to work in an agency in the first place, isn’t it?
LBB> What were you looking for in the judging?
Paul> There was a technical side to the judging for sure, but the rapid evolution of camera technology has meant that high production values are par for the course now. We were looking first and foremost for shots that sparked the imagination – whether by telling a story, capturing a person’s character, or simply by evoking a strong feeling.
LBB> What surprised you looking at what was entered?
Paul> There was one entry titled 'Bejewelled' that looks at first glance like a sparkling array of gemstones but on closer inspection is actually flies sitting on shit. We weren’t expecting to see that.
LBB> Which images really resonated with you?
Paul> The images that rose to the top were the ones that not only demonstrated technical ability and an eye for composition, but also made a strong impact and left us feeling inspired. There was a particularly arresting shot titled 'Ippon to Follow' by Rachel Cooksey (main image), in which two people appear to be levitating. In fact, the image depicts the final milliseconds of a Judo competition – where upon landing one competitor will be named the winner.
But the clear winner for us was a portrait by Yoshi Okubo entitled 'Dorothy: Housewife' (above). We loved the eeriness of the shot, the almost subliminal suggestion of the crucifix, the intriguing details like the lone set of knives on the worktop, and the striking graphic nature of the shot that gives it an almost Kubrickian quality. Yoshi described his portrait: “After successfully raising three children, Dorothy lived with her husband in Kent, England. To me, her kitchen seemed like her own church. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago.”