Laurie Frankel’s background as a creative director is evident in her photography: she pays careful attention to composition, light, and color, evoking lush, moody tableaux. Her distinguished editorial and commercial client list includes Burberry, DDB Worldwide, Dwell magazine, Google, HUGE, Kinfolk magazine, Leo Burnett, TBWA/Chiat Day, and Wieden + Kennedy, among others. We caught up with the Graphis Master Photographer to hear about what she’s been at work on lately.
Graphis: Your “Recycled Beauty” series is interesting in that the composition, lighting, and color is beautiful, until you take a closer look. Was this series a reaction to consumerism?
Laurie Frankel: “Recycled Beauty” had two sources of inspiration: First was the fundamental challenge of taking discarded items, many of which people find disgusting, and making them look beautiful. Second was exploring the tension between natural and man-made trash. The first decays relatively quickly and, in doing so, serves us in new ways (e.g. through compost). The latter is often thrown out before its useful life is over and survives long, long after. In that way, consumerism was a part of the story, yes.
G: How does it relate to the commercial work you do?
LF: There isn’t a super a strong connection. “Recycled Beauty” was a challenging exercise and a message. But, now that you ask, I see a parallel. I’m lucky in my job to be able to photograph things more immediately attractive than rusty paint cans and food wrappers. But much of my responsibility is to make those things look even more engaging and fetching than they may appear every day.
G: Your still lifes resemble Dutch master paintings in some ways. From where do you draw inspiration for your studio work?
LF: I have always loved the Dutch masters, their attention to detail, and their ability to find grace in the everyday. But more recent artists like William Eggleston, Cornell Capa, and [filmmaker] Pedro Almodóvar have also inspired me. And I really love how [filmmaker] Jacques Tati taught us to see the surprising beauty in everything.
G: What excites you most about being a photographer today?
LF: With digital photography and social media, there are many sources of inspiration. There are so many great ideas out there. They spark in me new approaches to my work. Media are being integrated in many ways. That gives me new challenges, new sources of creative expression, and more fun ways to work with clients.
G: If you could sum up your work philosophy in one sentence, what would you say?
LF: One sentence? Collaborate and deliver more than asked for. The business is full of people with great ideas. Working closely with them, finding the best in what everyone on the team has to offer—that helps make the whole much greater than the sum of the parts.
G: What’s on the horizon for you?
LF: I have some fabulous regular clients with whom every shoot presents its own creative challenge. I look forward to working more with them. “Autentico,” an Italian cookbook I just finished comes out this fall. I’m thrilled about that. And I want to use my photography to give back more, to donate my services for social awareness and overall social good.