Tracy Ward, Art Director: WeightWatchers Magazine
Need to put a face to a name, get the background story, the right advice and the inside track on how to get commissioned? We speak to Tracy Ward, an art director who has commissioned photographers for the UK’s top fashion magazines and is now championing the importance of photography to a major UK brand.
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Art director: WeightWatchers Magazine
How has photography played a role in your career?
I’ve always loved photography, even before I started working on magazines; in fact I bought them just to look at the amazing images. I would say that was what drove me towards a career in publishing. I really enjoy the whole creative process and I think I am very fortunate to have worked with many great photographers and to be a part of that. I love the whole process, from the initial discussion with the photographer to going through the edit.
Are you involved with photography in your current role?
Yes. I commission all aspects of the photoshoots here [at WeightWatchers], from the cover to the still lives. I take into account the ‘feeling of the shoot’, the styling and the location/studio.
Do you enjoy working with photographers?
I do. I like to work closely with the photographer, especially if it’s for a cover shoot. When we work on a shoot, I like to have a discussion beforehand so we all know what is expected from each of us. For me, having a good brief enables the day to go smoothly. I expect the photographer to answer the brief but still add their creativity and personality. I want to work with photographers who give that little bit extra.
Which characteristics make it easier to work with a photographer?
Flexibility is always important. Whether you are working with celebrities or real people you can never quite predict how the day will pan out, regardless of how much preparation you do. A photographer must be able to adapt and still produce the goods. I think an ability to stay calm is a must; if the photographer shows anxiety, the day is over. They also have to be able to listen.
Is it important for photographers to have a certain attitude in order to get the best from their subject?
It helps if a photographer can put the subject at ease. I have come across some celebrities who actually hate being photographed. They are used to seeing themselves in moving film and struggle with the whole stills process. I have been on magazine shoots when the celeb wants only the photographer in the room and no one else. At this point you have to totally trust that you have commissioned the right person to produce what you want, inject their own creativity, while still remembering what is required by the magazine.
In your new role with WeightWatchers you’ll be working on shoots with people who are not models. What advice can you give photographers about working in this way?
Communication is so important. Also, you have to remember that these people have never stood in front of a camera before. In addition, it helps doing things like having a conversation before the shooting starts and running through the process with those involved so they know what’s ahead. Humour is always a winner: even the most terrible jokes can put someone at ease!
What do you look for in a portfolio?
I want to see some originality, something that surprises me. I don’t like clichés, which for me include pictures of blurred people in the background of food shoots or cropped-in hands holding bowls of food. I like to see some passion. If it’s a portrait I want the photographer to bring out the personality, be able to capture a feeling, an empathy with the person they are shooting. I like them to know the publication they are showing their work to, even tailoring their book towards it. I often get emails from people whose work is totally unsuitable.
How has the industry changed?
The biggest change has obviously been the move to digital, which has its good points and bad. Most people feel uncomfortable in front of the camera, but traditional film made the shoot day easier. Now everything is out there for all to see. I’ve seen a whole day ruined because a celebrity saw a ‘bad’ raw image on screen, her esteem was shattered and that was that. The advantages are that there are no surprises. You know on the day that you have your shot, you can stop and move on to the next. Budgets are constantly shrinking. You are still expected to commission in the same way, producing the same standard and creativity, but for a lot less money.
Featured in the November issue of the magazine, back issues are available online or from 01858 438832
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