Canadian photographer and director Mark Zibert used a 4×5 camera, which he hadn’t used since photo school, to capture famed author Margaret Atwood for Bullett Magazine. Shooting Atwood in a “fast-paced kind of style” didn’t feel like the right approach, Zibert said.
The hauntingly beautiful portrait of Atwood, a Canadian author, poet and environmental activist, was submitted to the 2015 photo competition.
Zibert, 37, grew up in Toronto. In high school, he photographed his friends skateboarding and biking with his first camera, a Nikon F-601, and later applied to film and photo school. He didn’t get into film school, so he chose to study photography at Sheridan College. At 23, he moved out of his parents’ house, but still listed his home number on self-promotion mailers he sent to agencies.
Then a call came from an art buyer from Cossette, a Canadian agency, about a Nike job.
“My mom actually let me know that there was a message on the machine about a Nike job and so I called them back and set up a meeting, went in and basically saw eye-to-eye with the art director,” Zibert said. Israel Diaz, then the art director at Cossette, hired him for the job. (Diaz now works as the EVP/chief creative officer at Y&R Canada.)
The Nike campaign went well. Zibert’s insight into skateboarding and biking reassured the agency and client that he was the right man for the job, he said.
Zibert’s versatility is a major reason why he’s become such a sought after photographer and director. He’s shot documentary work for NGOs in Africa, campaigns featuring sports stars for companies like Nike, Adidas and Puma, editorial work for a host of magazines and directed commercials for major clients such as Nike, Tim Horton’s, Spike and Nissan, to a name a few.
He directed his first commercial for Arrow Shirts in 2005 and now directing occupies about 70 percent of his work, he told Graphis.
Working on the Adidas campaign for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (image above) stands out as one of Zibert’s most memorable professional achievements. Initially, Zibert was only going to shoot the athletes for the campaign, but took the tagline, “Impossible is Nothing,” to heart. As a result, he decided he wanted to photograph the backgrounds as well, which were supposed to be illustrated. Zibert persuaded the agency and client to let him shoot the backgrounds.
“I felt like, well, if impossible is nothing we should try and create an image that is kind of impossible to do photographically,” he said. He convinced everyone he should shoot the background photos. The shoot, which took four days, required 300 people.
The decision paid off. Zibert had just gotten back from location when he received a call from Elvis Chau, then a creative director at TBWA\Shanghai. Chau told him the campaign won China’s first Cannes Gold Lion and that he should head to France immediately.
Zibert said that “every job felt risky” when he started out. “There’s this inherent paranoia about messing up that really felt a lot stronger back in the day when I was starting. You learn to realize that things do end up working out,” he said.
Zibert does not want to be pigeonholed as a photographer or director of one subject.
“I was the crowd guy, the paint guy. I’m just coming out of the soccer guy,” he told Graphis, laughingly. “We’ll see what’s next.”
The final deadline for our photography competition, which features some of the most compelling and influential photos of the year, is tonight at midnight. Gold and Platinum awards, along with winning entries, will be published in the Photography Annual 2015.
Submit your work to the Photography Annual 2015 competition here.