A Risk Worth Taking

Successful business people are almost always more colorful than they let on. I recently met Bjorn Green, the new CEO of TowerPinkster, while photographing some of their staff for a magazine piece. TowerPinkster is an architectural and engineering firm in Grand Rapids, with Bjorn recently taking on the role of CEO last year. He’s a marvelously interesting person. When I learned he’d done some child modeling for Solo Cups many years ago, I knew I could talk him into doing something a little riskier for the shoot.

Rather than posing him in front of an architectural background or on a staircase (as is common with portraits of architects), I had him lie down on top of piles and piles of blueprints and photographed him from above. It’s an odd concept, and he had to really trust me with it. It was creative, different, far from safe.

The most difficult bit of this project was how little time we had to get the shot. A CEO’s time is very valuable, and they generally don’t have much to spare. With our short window, it was crucial that we spend a lot of time setting up, placing the blueprints just so, and taking test shots, ensuring everything was ready before he arrived. I had to have a very clear, precise vision of the shot I wanted. I couldn’t waste time experimenting with ideas that wouldn’t end up being used.

I also was able to get some fun shots of the TowerPinkster interns. They have a pretty laid back culture, so we wanted to play with that and reflect that in the photos. We encouraged the interns to be spontaneous and impulsive in front of the camera. They posed with props as we loosened the atmosphere and tried to get them to laugh on camera. Photos are always more genuine when the model is completely engaged. These photos turned out much more interesting to the eye than if we had taken typical headshots with the model standing and smiling.

Going outside the box is always risky. It takes a willing participant and a great deal of trust. There’s a definite correlation between risk and reward. Trying out an atypical idea is never a safe bet, but there’s an opportunity to get truly unique and alluring photos.