FOCUS ON A DV E RT I S I N G42 PDNAPR IL 2002
BEHIND THE CAREFUL GRO UP IN G S, the static poses                    We see the groom in the dressing room in his tailsan...
F OC US O N A DV E RT I S I N G                                                      to g ra p h e r, ” s ays Dolan. He cr...
FOCUS ON A DV E RT I S I N G“JOHN HAS AN ABILITY TO CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF AN EMOTION IN ANY SITUATION,” SAYS CREATIVE DIR...
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  1. 1. FOCUS ON A DV E RT I S I N G42 PDNAPR IL 2002
  2. 2. BEHIND THE CAREFUL GRO UP IN G S, the static poses We see the groom in the dressing room in his tailsand the “say ‘cheese’” smiles of the average wedding and boxer shorts, the bride in the backseat of the car,album, there’s a vast, juicy, swirling novel. For what the revelers in a gorgeous blur of champagne glass-is a wedding if not a great multigenerational family es and disco light. He caught the partygoers in theirsaga, sparking every emotion from ecstasy to sorrow most unselfconscious and intimate moments alwaysand back again? with an eye toward celebrating rather than embar- Fo rt y- ye a r-old John Dolan was one of the first rassing t h e m .“ Lots of photographers start out doingwedding photographers to notice the life spilling out that social-commentary edgy stuff, ”s ays Dolan, whofrom behind a wedding’s careful orchestration. In is married himself, with three young kids, and basedcapturing this great drama on film—first for his old- in New York. “In some ways, that’s a little bit easy. It’ser brother’s wedding in 1997, and then for an in- easy to do sappy pictures, too. That wasn’t my thing.creasingly rarefied group of editorial and advertising I knew my thing was trying to find the essence of peo-insiders and celebrities—he helped change the es- ple and the sensuality of the experience.”thetic of wedding photography. It’s even fair to say According to Darcy Miller, Martha Stewart’s wed-that he created the style, along with a handful of like- dings editor, “This whole idea of photojournalistminded wedding photographers. wedding photos has obviously become a bigger H aving balanced his editorial assignments and t re n d .B u t he does it so above and beyo n d .I t’s a com-wedding photo g ra p hy for ye a r s, Dolan has now bination of his ability to capture the moment ,b e i n gp a r l ayed his style into an adve rtising care e r. O n e that he’s physically close to the bride, but you don’tof his fre q u e nt c l i e nt s, Jane Pi a m p i a n o, manager of feel he’s in the way. I say to every bride: ‘When youa rt buying for DDB Worldwide Co m m u n i c at i o n s, hire your vendors, no matter how talented, you haves ays she became awa re of Dolan’s wedding andpersonal work at “a b o u t the time when adve rt i s- to like their personality. The day of your wedding, your photographer is in your face all day, and he’s got In his ad work as in his weddinging clients we re embracing a more editorial feel fo rtheir campaigns. S ays Pi a m p i a n o, “He was a gre at to know when to step back.’ Brides always say thank you for sending him.” Miller is a recent bride herself photography, Dolan’s specialtyvisual sto ryt e l l e r, and I immediately t h o u g ht h e who says she would have changed her wedding date is capturing emotional high pointswould be appro p r i ate for some of the clients we to accommodate Dolan’s schedule.work with. He cre ates such an intimacy betwe e n Dolan t ra ces his ease with weddings to an odd in a swirl of events. By Michele Herman John Dolan The Stuff of Lifethe viewer and the people in the photo s .” i n s p i rat i o n . As a high-school student in Bethesda, There was a time, Dolan recalls, “if you went to a M a ry l a n d , he liked to shoot G e o rg e town baske t b a l lparty of photographers and said you were doing games—a setting not as re m oved from a we d d i n gweddings, they’d look at you and say they were sor- as one might s u p p o s e. “I honed all my skills, ” s aysry.” The unwritten rule for the wedding photograph- D o l a n , “quick instinct s, c atching moment s, b e i n ger was to stand back a few yards and never catch a i nv i s i b l e , k n owing when to get o u t of the way.”guest off guard. Until around 1997, the year Martha When he was 17 he won the Maryland sports pho-Stewart Wedding published its debut issue with 20 to g raph of the ye a r. Then he we nt to college toDolan photos, wedding photographers tended to cre- study liberal arts at B e l o i t College in Wi s consin andate beauty by imposing an artificial order on the e n co u nt e red the first of his t wo major mento r s,day’s proceedings. p h o to g ra p hy professor Michael Simon. “In a period Dolan took the opposite stance. He dove in, find- of six mont h s, he changed me from a S p o rts Illus-ing a world of untapped beauty in the swirl of events. t rated p h o to g rapher to a more t h o u g htful art p h o- Opposite page:A sample of Dolan’s wedding photography, which attracted major advertising clients. This page, top right: Work for IBM with the Wunderman agency. Above,left: Fashion work for the Sundance catalogue. Right:An outtake from the Lexus campaign done with Team One Advertising. APRIL 2002 PDN 43
  3. 3. F OC US O N A DV E RT I S I N G to g ra p h e r, ” s ays Dolan. He credits Simon with back. She showed me it’s a gimmick they use to hide teaching him to t a ke responsibility for all aspect s behind, and their pictures are cold as a result. She has of a photo g ra p h’s co m p o s i t i o n . “ You don’ t t a ke a a magic way of melting people’s exteriors.” p i ct u re , you make a pict u re , ” was a phrase Simon At the end of his three-year apprenticeship, Dolan drilled into Dolan. “ I t was ve ry high-level t ra i n i n g, printed Plachy’s book Unguided Tour and the 400 (16 ve ry subtle, n o ntechnical and philosophical.” S i- x 20) images for its companion exhibit. This job gave mon also t a u g ht him the value of re a d i n g. “ L i t e ra- him seed money to strike out on his ow n .A round this t u re affe cts the way I photo g raph more t h a n time he took photos at his brother’s wedding and had p a i nt i n g, ”s ays Dolan. “My pict u res are much more another epiphany. “I was the best man with a little n a r rat i ve than lyrical, and since the beginning Minolta in my pocket. I just took a few pictures of him t h ey ’ve always had a sto ry within t h e m .” getting dressed.” But during the re ce p t i o n ,t h e re was Dolan’s second mentor, after he came to New York a wild Hungarian circle dance. Without much in 1984, had an equally profound influence on him. thought, Dolan jumped inside and started shooting. Clockwise from top left: Women relax on the He met Sylvia Plachy on a rainy afternoon at her Vil- “What Sylvia said about being part [of the wedding], lawn at a wedding;an outtake from an IBM shoot; lage Voice office. By that point he had learned anoth- about n o ts t aying outside and being cool became to- more fashion work for Sundance. er valuable lesson about himself: he wasn’t a very tally clear.” When he developed the photos, he was good assistant ,b u t he was a very good printer. “I did- thrilled. He realized he had trusted his instincts so ful- n’t like watching mediocre photographers,” he says, ly he hadn’t thought about his craft all day. somehow managing, in his low-key way, to sound Shortly after, sitting in his Lower East Side apart- honest but not arrogant. “It’s really depressing, ment plotting his career, he understood what he had watching them miss pictures.” But he says he learned to offer: a gift for working amid chaos. “I realized that good technical skills and discipline from these jobs, I love situations where I don’t have control and don’t “how to make perfect prints for advertising, how to have to direct. It’s my advantage that I get calm when work fast and hard ,d eveloping 300 rolls a day.” people around me are getting crazy.” Dolan joined an Plachy re co g n i zed his abilities as a printer and unofficial club of fellow wedding specialists, includ- hired him on the spot. “She offered me $5 an hour ing his officemates Philippe Cheng and Holger Thoss, plus soup, ”s ays Dolan, “and it was the best business and Edward Keating of The New York Times wedding deal I ever made.” Where Simon had given Dolan a page, who supported each other’s documentary-style philosophical grounding, Plachy taught him about work and shared ideas and camaraderie. the nexus of a photographer’s life, personality and Early in his solo career, Dolan balanced editorial pictures, bringing him into her home-cum-studio in jobs during the week (for Martha Stewart Living, Queens. “I always had the argument in my head Travel & Leisure, In Style and others) with shooting about how much of a picture is owned by the pho- the weddings of his friends on the we e ke n d s .B e fo re tographer and how much by the subject,” explains long, the two blended seamlessly. He would call mag- Dolan. “She taught me that it’s a bargain between azines and “the 28-year-old editor would say I don’t the two, and you meet halfway.” have a job, but I am getting married in October.” Like many photographers, Dolan had a natural ret- When the editorial work did begin to flow, it had the icence he needed to come to terms with. “A lot of added blessing and intimacy of the friendships photographers think you should stay separate and forged at the editors’ weddings.44 PDN APRIL 2002
  4. 4. FOCUS ON A DV E RT I S I N G“JOHN HAS AN ABILITY TO CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF AN EMOTION IN ANY SITUATION,” SAYS CREATIVE DIRECTOR SALLY HOGSHEAD. Don Morris, a New York- t i m e , Dolan discove red he have a self-conscious quality to their composition,based designer who hired l i ked the energy of adve rt i s i n g but John has an ability to capture the essence of anDolan years ago to shoot his p e o p l e. “ T h ey ’re wo n d e rf u l l y emotion in any situation.”wedding on the strength of his n u t s . . .and t h ey get s u p e rex- H aving photo g raphed the weddings of Benmailer, explains what sets cited to have a photo g ra p h e r S t i l l e r, Will Smith, G e o rge Stephanopoulos andDolan apart from other pho- who will keep up with t h e m , ” J e n n i fer Lo p ez , among many others, Dolan hastographers with stylistic simi- he says . So befo re long, t h e n ow shifted most of his energy to adve rt i s i n glarities. “Once we met him, he weddings blended into an ad- wo r k . With Morris he did t h ree years of Sundancewas disarming, immediately ve rtising care e r. In 1997, D o l a n c atalogues (which inevitably led to a friendshipfriendly, he’s not about putting h i red Judy Miller as his agent. with Ro b e rt Re d fo rd and his daught e r ’s we d d i n gup barriers or airs. “Judy took what I do with ed- s h o o t ) . H e ’s wo r ked for IB M , AT&T and the Gap as “When I think of John,” he i torial and personal [wo r k ] , we l l . “I get a s ked to re -c re ate the sensuality, t h atco nt i n u e s, “a word comes to and she bro u g ht i t to the ad- co re of authentic emotions, ” he ex p l a i n s . “A lot ofmind, and that is ‘instincts.’ He’d look at a room and ve rtising wo r l d ,i nt ro d u ced me. She bro u g ht me in t i m e s, people are t rying to get back to the sim-see the drama or comedy, or just the interaction go- at a time when pict u res became homey and au- plicity of a snapshot,” w h e re nothing is fo rce d . “Mying on, and zoom in to it.” Morris was especially im- t h e nt i c ; t h at’s how she pitched me, as making re- rep and I came up with the term ‘s o p h i s t i c at e dpressed when, a month after the wedding, Dolan al people look beautiful.” s n a p s h o t.’ ”asked about a blonde woman in the wedding party Says Sally Hogshead, who is now creative director H e ’s proud of the Lexus campaign, in which hewho had seemed tense all day. Sure enough, says of her own agency, Robaire and Hogshead, and who was asked to shoot the essence of people who ow nMorris, she had made the wedding cake. “The night was instrumental in getting Dolan a Lexus campaign the cars. While he was loading his film, he wat c h e dbefore, the hotel fridge broke down, so her husband two years ago: “John was my wedding photograph- the model’s young son come by with his baby- s i t-had to drive the cake around all night in the car with er, and my wedding party was a rolling bandwagon ter for a visit. “I saw her int e ra ct with him. I t wa sthe AC running so the marzipan wouldn’t melt.” of top art directors and creative directors. All of them a beautiful little moment , and I snapped a few pic- Dolan says t h at this pro cess of netwo r k i n g were immediately struck by his effortlessly exquisite t u re s .” One of them ended up in the campaign.t h rough wedding photo g ra p hy “ was an acc i d e nt a l style.” That style, she says, made him well suited to “The less hard I work towa rd making a pict u re andm a r keting plan t h at was genius. If you rock at “lifestyle” ads that put a premium on naturalism and fo rcing it, the better t h ey are , ” s ays Dolan, w h otheir we d d i n g s, t h ey love you fo reve r.” At the same spontaneity. “Too many advertising photographers j o kes t h at h e ’d like to call his co m p a ny “ Wing It P h o to g ra p hy.” “ I t’s co u nt e r i nt u i t i ve. I t’s incre d i b l e Clockwise from top left: Personal work from Cork Island,Ireland;a wedding;a magic moment captured for Lexus;kids, for IBM. when you find art d i re ctors who get t h at.” s46 PDNAPR IL 2002

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