Tiger Savage: Director, Tigers Eye
Need to put a face to a name, get the background story, the right advice and the inside track on how to get commissioned? This month, we speak to Tiger Savage, one of London’s leading advertising creative directors, about her approach to working with photographers and how she commissions.
How did you get started and how did your career progress?I studied at the School of Communication Arts in London, then joined Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson as art director, moving to BBH as senior art director. After that I worked as deputy creative director and head of art atLeagas Delaney before joining M&C Saatchi in 1999 as deputy creative director and headof art. I left in June 2010 to found my own style and brand consultancy, Tigers Eye.
Explain how your new company incorporates the world of photography.Tigers Eye is about my eye and my take on the worlds of style, fashion, luxury and beauty in today’s fast-moving, often digitally-driven, creative environment. The heart of any successful brand is the way it uses imagery and creativity to communicate its power of desirability to the consumer. For example, I love the look of the Chanel commercials by [Australian film director] Baz Luhrmann, but I think the print [campaign] could be much stronger. Photography is all about telling stories, emotion and escape; I’d love Tigers Eye to be given a chance.
What Tigers Eye brings to the luxury, style and beauty sector are big ideas with iconic imagery. There have always been some great images, but I want to put the icing on the cake, the ‘think big’ into Chanel, or the ‘just do it’ into Prada. With my background in advertising and knowledge of photography, illustration and art, I hope to bring something both unique and commercial to my clients. I’ve spent my life looking, learning and watching talent, it astounds me how much there is. I just need to find the right clients to fit them.
Has the industry changed since you first launched your career? The industry is now even more 24/7 than it was just a couple of years ago, and creativity is even more important in the cluttered, multi-platform digital age in which we all live. From a photographer’s perspective, everything is accessible so quickly now, I can digitally look at a book from an NYC photographer within seconds, rather than within days but I still prefer to see the real thing. Plus, obviously when you shoot using digital, you can see there and then what you’re going to get and rework it straight away if necessary. The bad thing about this is that if the client is on the shoot, they don’t necessarily understand there is still a process and that what they see isn’t exactly what they’re going to get – it will be retouched, and enhanced. There’s always a certain magic that happens in post production.
Do you employ much post production tocreate the effect you’re after? Personally, I like to play a lot in post, maybe even do a print, then scan the print etc. It really depends on what we feel we need. I don’t think there’s enough ‘play time’ these days; budgets are so tight, everyone wants results twice as quickly at half the price. But, where there’s a will – and a Tiger – there’s a way.
Is there ever such a thing as going too far in post production? Post production has its place but sometimes it’s like when celebrities have surgery because they feel the pressure to look perfect, then they take it too far. They’ve forgotten where they started, gone too far, too quickly and ended up ruining the subtle effect they were going for: you have to know when to stop. I like to use a mixture of old and new, scanning original prints because I want a soft texture. Blurring type is my favourite thing, only a smidge, just so it sits properlyon artwork, rather than ‘standing off’ an image.It’s all in the detail.
Do you enjoy working with photographers? I’m a great collaborator, and I think that’s when you get the best results. We all get somewhere better than we had ever imagined. That’s the most exciting, rewarding bit. I suppose it’s only hard when, as in any relationship, there’s no give and take at all.
What advice would you give to anyone putting together a portfolio? Don’t try to be good at everything – no one can be. Only put what you’re passionate about in your book, photos that have a real story and pain to them. I can tell when books are filled. I’m a ‘less is more’ sort of girl. Also don’t put made-up ads in your book – it’s one of my big bugbears. Just show me your photograph. You should think about including your personal projects. I want to see what you’re experimenting with; after all, it’s about creating unique imagery, and you never know what your personal projects might inspire.
What skills do you think a photographer needs to work with you? Apart from the technical skills, it’s always great when you can get on with a photographer and collaborate, shoot the commercial, then maybe have some fun pushing it somewhere else if they are up for it, have a little fun. That doesn’t always happen but then, for me, that separates the ones who just take the money from those who are truly creative and love their art.
Do you work with the same bank ofphotographers or do you nurture new talent? I work with a mixture of photographers, it all depends on the project, the turnaround. I recall having Jean-Baptiste Mondino on a pencil for a job that kept moving back and back, and then I was suddenly given 48 hours’ notice to shoot. That’s not going to happen – so you have to go with someone you trust who’ll do an equally fantastic job. I’m really lucky to have worked with some amazing photographers – Elliott Erwitt, Jeanloup Sieff, David LaChapelle, Miles Aldridge, Richard Burbridge, Tim Bret-Day, Rankin, Guido Mocafico – to name but a few. I also love the way photographers such as Mert & Marcus and Nick Knight are constantly pushing the envelope, moving the profession – its creativity – forwards. [Art buyer] Choi Liu and I would always talk about photographs and see up-and-coming people – go to exhibitions, for example, and I’m absolutely obsessed (to my bank balance’s detriment) with magazines, so I’m constantly looking at photographers and artists.
Why would you choose a particular photographer for a shoot? I’d definitely commission a certain photographerdepending on the feel I want to achieve. For example, with a Thomas Pink shoot we wanted to exaggerate the soft texture of the shirt next to the ruggedness of the guys, so Richard [Burbridge] shot them with no make-up and lit them so you could see every pore, scar and detail of their skin. Furthermore, shooting in black and white only exaggerated the effect even more. www.tigerseye.org
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