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"I try to have a conversation with the client beforehand and I ask them, 'What do you want the audience to think when they see these pictures?' "

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snapshotsInsights from Bill Gallery

First photography job
Out of film school, I worked for one director as a cameraman on an industrial film for General Electric. His next project was to direct a slide show for Polaroid, and he asked me to work as a still photographer on that job. So I shot that, but I didn’t even have a camera bag--just a couple of Nikkormats.  After the shoot, everybody was really ecstatic because I shot it the way I would shoot a film: close-ups, long shots, reverses, wide-angles, establishing shots, etc. You see, still photographers back then didn’t normally shoot slide shows that way, so all of a sudden I became the busiest slide show photographer in the country.

Under contract for Polaroid
What happened was, Polaroid just latched on to me. They hired me primarily to document their worldwide operations and their products. They sent me all over the world to shoot people using Polaroid products. I was in operating rooms in Copenhagen, on water-skis on the Amazon, the Pasadena Space Laboratory, the royal family of Saudi Arabia, just all over the place. I had five years of incredible world experiences courtesy of Polaroid. It was wild. It was crazy. It was wonderful.

Clients
My favorite kinds of clients are those who are really excited about the job. They want to solve the problem for their client, their boss, their company. They want to win prizes, and they want to do the very best work possible. They really want to personally knock it out, and they want to professionally knock it out. Working with those kinds of people is truly inspiring and motivating.

Approaching a shoot
I try to have a conversation with the client beforehand, and I ask them, “What do you want the audience to think when they see these pictures?” Let’s get down to basics, because we can engineer, to a certain extent, the audience’s response. That desired response can become part of my mental filter on the shoot. Knowing what you’re looking for is a big part of success, and clients can really help you by articulating what they’re looking for. It’s amazing what a little conversation can do to improve the impact of the work. It’s not about me making art, it’s about performing a service for the client through photography. If serendipitously, my photos happen to be well-composed or thought-out, then great.

Using the documentary, “fly-on-the-wall” technique
I am like the copy machine repairman. You know he’s there but you don’t pay him any attention. It’s amazing, everyone is afraid of photo sessions, but I try to make my presence so unnoticeable that it’s not a photo session. I say ”Look , think of it this way, you’re just doing your regular work but there’s a guy in the corner with a camera. He’s not expecting you to perform or look smart—just ignore me—and I’ll get what I need and be gone before you know it.” Here are the givens in regard to subjects and shoots: I am not going to light it and I am not going to stop it from what it’s doing. I have to shoot it as it’s doing what it’s doing. I have no control over it, so how can I best get this shot? I look for shape and form and light and speed—it doesn’t matter if it’s a human, a llama, a Redwood tree in the forest, or a ship in dry dock. It all comes down to position, timing, and getting that right light. A lot of my clients like that because they don’t want to—or can’t—disrupt the workplace.

Bill Gallery Now You See Him, Now You Don't

Bill Gallery would be the first to tell you that h­is photographic style isn’t for everybody, but, then again, champagne isn’t for everybody either. Bill is a master, make that the master, of the documentary, photo-journalistic approach. It is a style that has compelled him ever since his undergraduate days at NYU film school when his editing teacher was an aspiring young film-maker named Marty Scorsese. Bill’s approach to a shoot is to be as unobtrusive as possible, the proverbial “fly-on-the wall,” and that means no lighting set-up—not even a flash--whatsoever. He likens himself to a skilled laborer who comes in to your office, does his job, and leaves quietly. Yet, whether the shoot is in a laboratory, factory, or a CEO’s inner sanctum, the result is some of the most remarkable, most natural photographs that have ever graced a frame or a corporate report. His first ten years in the business were spent traveling around the world shooting documentary photographs for Polaroid. Since then his clients have included Apple Computer, MasterCard, IBM, and, most recently, a global shoot for Lehman Brothers. In many ways, Bill Gallery is a fortunate man, as he is quick to note: “I am a photographer. It just turns out that I am one of the lucky ones. I am doing what I love, and I am making a living doing what I love.”

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