Launching my new collection is a treat. It has taken me almost 3 years to achieve the budget to create iconic photography for my brand. And I think we nailed it!
I have many ideas for content and iconic photography to express these niggling thoughts and visions in my head, and I am excited to grow the business so I can exercise this passion and invest in what I believe to be art.
In building a brand, iconic brand photography tells a story. It is an embodiment of your brand. It articulates what your brand is all about with out saying a word. Iconic brand photography- speaks for itself.
During my childhood, especially my late teens, I studied models and photography, because I wanted to be part of that world. I saw it as an opportunity to excel quickly with out having to study.
Brands which stood out to me for their creative included:
United Colours of Benneton
I cannot erase their stunning brand photography from my mind. Walking through Oxford Circus and seeing the bright colours, striking models and the use of blank space & plain backgrounds.
Such impactful and unforgettable images. I also noticed the poses of the models and the movement in the images. The photographs exuded an energy that spoke about their brand.
Every campaign was on point and the brand continuity was unmistakeable.
This particular campaign was from 2001, the year before I had my daughter. (http://www.smartologie.com/2011/11/united-colors-of-benetton-fallwinter.html )
Chanel for me has been a HUGE inspiration! I love Coco's life story. She was a resourceful woman who left her mark on fashion and women across the world.
I was interested to learn that Coco Chanel invested in creatives. She was a self made woman in a man's world. She financed and supported writer's, artists, poets and many more intellectual creatives. She was inspired by them and they were inspired by her.
She soaked up their creative flare. She collaborated with them in order to create magnificent pieces and add a magical flare to her brand that makes it iconic!
In addition to this, she was a fighter. She did not have a set of easy cards, she absolutely grafted for everything she had in life. She made some enemies along the way, but she created a legacy that precedes her.
I have tried to find out which was the first perfume brand to use a model in their imagery, because looking back, most were images of the bottles. I like to think it was Chanel.
She understood the power of a network, and the power of association more than anyone alive today. In the images above the pose is unexpected, the model is stunning and she was highly regarded. This was no mistake. Again, unforgettable and aspirational.
I did however find out on my quest for iconic brand photography for perfumes, that Sophia Lauren was the first super model to launch a perfume in her own name. Since, we have seen thousands of celebrities and influencers follow suit.
Ultimately, I think if anyone understood the power of personal branding (and the association of powerful personal brands with their products) it was Coco Chanel.
Nike Air Jordans
We can all learn something here! Nike- Air Jordan sneakers were propelled to insane heights by the power of collaboration. Influencer marketing isn't new.
Brand collabs have been happening for donkeys years. This example epitomises iconic brand photography for me. Not least because the images are shot to utter perfection, but because they inspire your imagination.
Arguably every young person would have been inspired to take part in sports and of course need the trainers to boot. Over decades they have created stunning imagery that encapsulates the aspirational lifestyles of their users. They are relatable and aspirational. Backing from relevant sports super stars this catapulted Nike Air Jordans to fame and cemented their name in the history books of iconic brand photography.
So, what are the key ingredients to iconic brand photography?
I wanted to share what I believe are the key elements of iconic brand photography, in hopes it might be helpful for others who are thinking about creating some of their own.
The story behind the brand
Iconic brand photography isn't just about looking good, it's about communication. What does your brand stand for? What are you trying to convey? Remember, what is not obvious or what's left to the imagination can paint a picture too.
Your brand story through images. Your product in use. Which models you choose, props, colours, styling, weather, the background, the foreground- everything can be used to tell a story.
Another thing iconic brand photographs do immaculately is focus on what else is going on in the image, the product is often a secondary focus. For example- Nike Air Jordan iconic and memorable imagery isn't of shoes! It's of people performing athletic achievements which is then associated with the shoes. (Similar to point one.)
The main subject of the image, doesn't have to be the main topic- if you catch my drift?
Clarity and direction is essential! Yes, you need a good photographer, stylist, make-up artist, model and set- but you also need someone with a clear vision for the brand driving it through the imagery on the day.
Many creatives have their own idea about how things should be done. Ultimately a strong understanding of the brand and what the brand stands for should dictate the end outcome.
Clarity around your brands values, target market and certain vibe for what your brand REALLY wants to convey is absolutely essential. It is the ingredient that is often missing when branding photography is outsourced.
Never underestimate the power of a creative person who is committed to the presentation of your brand!
How I developed an interest in iconic photography
The era & my background
Well, I grew up in the dysfunctional 90's. To be honest I have never been a fan of celebrity- but there were some definite icons being made in the 90's.
Heroin chic was all the rage and fast-fashion was becoming a thing. I had gone from wearing my brothers hand me downs, to earning a wage at a café on the weekends and holidays and being able to afford Vogue and French Connection (at the outlet).
I specifically remember taking my weight and my appearance very seriously, to the point that I banned my mum from washing my clothes and severely restricted my diet. I spent hours making mood boards and cutting out fashion that inspired me and pinning it to my cork board.
I used to design fashion books even before then. On my fashion wheel, I would spend days chopping and changing the interchangeable parts and running my crayon over the top of my paper to create a silhouette I could design an outfit for.
My appearance and forming an idea of who I wanted to be when I was older started to form. I imagined myself being someone else. And sure enough, I left school and my plans were starting to roll into action.
I did 3 college courses at 3 separate colleges for a month each, followed by 1 month on an administration apprenticeship which made me want to gouge my eyes out.
I just wanted to reinvent myself and move to London. Was that much to ask? All I knew was I wanted to 'make it'. I fanaticised when I was younger about being the next big thing or being good at something but I didn't know what I was good at.
I don't know what I am good at even today, but I do know that I am passionate. I can learn quickly at whatever I turn my hand to, as long as I am interested!
Moving to London
When I moved to London, I moved in with a boyfriend. He was friends with people who fascinated me- they were hedonistic, but creative and interesting. Photographers, Producers, Bands etc.
It really gave me an insight into the conversations these people would be having. I got to see how they would plan projects and review their work in a really natural setting- often the living room. He also had a deep knowledge of photographers and lots of random and cool things- I was like a sponge and soaked it all up.
References & influences
We had some cool coffee table books and pieces in the home. I started to watch some cool movies and got some awesome music references too. He would talk me through what really took off and why. He would observe people, brands, videography, photography and music obsessively and I really picked up on his knowledge.
I started to get more of an understanding of designer clothes and what was cool and what was not. I understood what I should do, and what not to do. I have to admit half the time I was out of my depth and often terrified. But it taught me how to handle myself well and how to hold adult conversations.
Looking back, I have mixed emotions- but ultimately I think I was in survival mode and I learnt a lot.
I began to learn about photographers and seeking our resources to feed my brain- Helmut Newton and David Bailey really peaked my interest. I began buying books on photography in Islington Market. But it wasn't for a couple of years that I bought a camera and tried to teach myself (rather unsuccessfully) how to use it. A dear friend also introduced me to the fish eye lens! SO COOL! And gave me an orange film camera.
Spending time on set & with creative people
From the age of 17 until 22 I was a model, so I spent a lot of time of photography and commercial sets. I got to see the tips and tricks, and how they created a set- optical illusions and the power of lighting. I got to speak to all of the professionals involved. The runners, the engineers, the stylists, the MUA's, the photographers.
And during my time modelling, I even managed to work with a photographer called Merlin Bronque's. We actually worked together for the whole day before I realised he was him! Because obviously, a photographer is rarely in front of the lens. Funnily enough I recommended his own book to him- and then I went back to an after party and had a shoot with him there- I never did get those photos though.
When I moved to Sheppard's bush just before I fell pregnant I lived with a very talented stylist who was working on the Mighty Boosh at the time. She worked on some incredible projects for MTV and all sorts too. We used to love coming home to see what weird and whacky creations would be in the hallway!
From enormous moustaches to INSANE head pieces, fluorescent onesies etc. I was lucky enough to know her and sat up late, just a few times following instructions to finish the outfits and help her hit her deadlines.
Photography AS level
Once I had my daughter I had to admit defeat and leave London. I pretty quickly realised I would be raising her on my own and thought I ought to grow up a bit a become the adult I had always dreaded becoming.
A sensible job, a relationships, a house and a stable human. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it really does not come naturally to me at all! I am pretty sure after having my daughter I had some kind of identity crisis. I didn't want to be me again! I wanted to be responsible and normal and a good mum.
I temporarily moved in with my parents for 2 weeks, while I sorted out a place to live. My mum said to me "YOU NEED to enrol into college, you will be bored by September and regret it if not!" So reluctantly I applied.
Yet again I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I naturally picked Photography as it was the ONLY thing that appealed to me at the time. I did my AS in Photography and passed with top marks. My nan was a huge supporter of this.
After that it was all a blur and I embarked on my adulting journey, getting distracted by a couple of men along the way- I finally completed an administration qualification (which nearly killed my soul), got a number of proper jobs and managed to do well.
But ultimately it all came down around me- and looking back it's because it wasn't me! It was who I thought I should be.
Launching Carter Bags has enabled me to build my own job. A job that works for me and a business I can use as a vehicle for all of my passions:
- Women's rights
- Female empowerment
- And so much more!
Carter Bags Iconic Brand Photography
My most recent shoot, I was able to work with the stunning and simply iconic Gail Porter, I ordered a specific back drop for the studio- I had a brilliant MUA. In previous shoots I have taken pictures on my phone or used a photographer 'on location' AKA- anywhere I can get away with shooting.
I am so unbelievably happy with the new images which will be launching just after Christmas. The phrase for the day was "forget laptop bags- think National Portrait Gallery". I hope you will agree that Gail looks incredible and these pictures really reflect her vibrant personality and life experience as well as her natural beauty.
Gail's personality perfectly aligns with everything my brand stands for: Justice, vibrancy, kindness, packed full of personality, a real fighting soul and absolutely gorgeous!