The dream gig

Alis­tair Guthrie talks to Adrian Hatwell about his Tourism New Zealand as­sign­ment, tak­ing to the South Is­land to shoot beau­ti­ful landscapes and di­rec­tor James Cameron

The Photographer's Mail - - Assignment -

It’s the job of Tourism New Zealand to show­case our na­tion to the rest of the world, and, for its lat­est ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is spot­light­ing one of our more re­cently ac­quired na­tional trea­sures — Hol­ly­wood big­wig James Cameron. A new pro­mo­tional video shows the Avatar di­rec­tor ex­plor­ing many of the spec­tac­u­lar sights of his adopted home, and pho­tog­ra­pher Alis­tair Guthrie had the good for­tune to be asked to doc­u­ment the ride.

The job was a whirl­wind tour of the South Is­land’s re­mark­able nat­u­ral at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing climb­ing the Tas­man Glacier, vis­it­ing the Macken­zie Basin’s Lake Pukaki, ex­plor­ing the ru­ral Par­adise re­gion, walk­ing the Route­burn Track, rid­ing the Dart River, and gaz­ing from the moun­tains over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu. Over the top of the footage of these re­mark­able lo­ca­tions, Cameron ex­tols the virtues of ex­plor­ing the land in a script he penned him­self. For Guthrie, it was an ex­cep­tional gig.

“It’s one of those jobs where you pinch your­self,” he said with a laugh. “This is why you do it: you work away and you get the op­por­tu­nity to work on jobs that take you to these great places. Get on a heli­copter and fly up the Tas­man Glacier on a per­fect day? You re­ally do have to pinch your­self.”

While it might be some­thing close to a dream job, no­body could ar­gue that Guthrie hasn’t earned his spot in the chop­per. Pho­tograph­ing com­mer­cially since ar­riv­ing in Auck­land in 1990, the pho­tog­ra­pher has been steadily shoot­ing edi­to­rial and ad­ver­tis­ing

jobs since, build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a re­li­able, af­fa­ble pro­fes­sional.

Guthrie cur­rently shoots pre­dom­i­nantly ad­ver­tis­ing jobs, as edi­to­rial work with some of the big­ger me­dia con­glom­er­ates op­er­at­ing in this coun­try has taken on a more ex­ploita­tive hue. Un­will­ing to agree to the pun­ish­ing terms and con­di­tions re­gard­ing copy­right and us­age be­ing forced on con­trib­u­tors by cer­tain pub­lish­ers, the pho­tog­ra­pher has seen that av­enue of work run dry but re­mains ex­cited about the chal­lenges of work­ing in an ev­er­shift­ing me­dia land­scape.

“Here I am in 2016: still here, still with it, still with a pas­sion for shoot­ing and record­ing life. And lov­ing it — I re­ally do,” Guthrie ex­claimed. “I don’t doubt [that] it’s harder now, but you can’t let that stop you. As long as you laugh and have a good time, and those around you have a good time as well, that’s the main thing.”

The pho­tog­ra­pher’s per­sis­tence has paid off in terms of con­tin­ued work with valu­able clients like Tourism New Zealand. He has been work­ing with the or­ga­ni­za­tion for sev­eral years now, in­clud­ing be­ing asked to shoot still images on the back of a five­day TV com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion all around New Zealand last year, which then led to the James Cameron cam­paign. Hav­ing to shoot brand ads around a film crew work­ing on mov­ing images can be a com­mon pho­tog­ra­phy brief in the ad world — a po­si­tion af­fec­tion­ately known in in­dus­try terms as “fuck­ing stills”, Guthrie ex­plained glibly. The pho­tog­ra­pher’s rel­a­tive po­si­tion on the pro­duc­tion totem pole comes with its own share of chal­lenges.

“You get your turn when the film­ing has fin­ished or there’s shitty weather and they’ve stopped shoot­ing. And the pres­sure is on be­cause of time re­straints. So they say, ‘OK, you have a go’. And I say, ‘Why would I want to shoot in this crap, when you’re not shoot­ing in this crap?’”

But com­pro­mise and be­ing fast are some of the im­por­tant tools a pho­tog­ra­pher must bring to this kind of job. Guthrie un­der­stands that hav­ing not been part of cast­ing or the con­cep­tual process of the cam­paign, his role is more to ob­serve and record. How­ever, a wily stills pho­tog­ra­pher should al­ways be on the hunt for op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the images work. Some­times, that’s shoot­ing along­side the mov­ing image set-up; other times, it means steal­ing the tal­ent away for a quick bit of stills-only work.

When your tal­ent hap­pens to be one of the big­gest film-mak­ers in Hol­ly­wood, you might imag­ine giv­ing di­rec­tion to be an in­tim­i­dat­ing prospect, but Guthrie found Cameron — and his wife, Suzy, who was also part of the shoot — to be en­gag­ing and ac­com­mo­dat­ing sub­jects. They were all for do­ing ex­tra bits and pieces once the film crew had stopped rolling, to help Guthrie get the stills he needed.

“I got this great shot of him and his wife in this lit­tle grotto in the Dart River, in their Fun­yaks, look­ing around. They pad­dled in, and they turned around and pad­dled out, and I man­aged to get off a dozen shots. I was scream­ing and shout­ing at them, but they couldn’t hear me be­cause of the noise of a wa­ter­fall — but, ul­ti­mately, we man­aged to get a great shot from there,” Guthrie told me.

Re­leased in mid July, the Tourism New Zealand video has found its star power to be an ef­fec­tive pro­pel­lant, be­ing shared widely across many in­ter­na­tional me­dia web­sites — in­vari­ably ac­com­pa­nied by Guthrie’s gor­geous stills. Shoot­ing images that will only see life on­line is one of the many new facets of the evolv­ing pro­fes­sion, but the pho­tog­ra­pher em­braces it as part of re­main­ing rel­e­vant and pas­sion­ate.

But even while keep­ing up with in­dus­try trends, Guthrie still has his fond­ness for the old-school, and couldn’t re­sist break­ing out his trusty Has­sel­blad film cam­era to squeeze in a quick por­trait of Cameron just be­fore he flew out at the project’s end: “He laughed and said, ‘the last time I shot film was Ti­tanic’. He said he’d never go back,”

When Guthrie got around to pro­cess­ing the film, he may well have started to come around to the dig­i­tally fix­ated di­rec­tor’s way of think­ing: of the half-dozen images he had taken, only one was in fo­cus. Then again, some­times one shot is all you need when it’s done right — Guthrie man­aged to sell the sole suc­cess­ful por­trait to the Hol­ly­wood heavy­weight as a pub­lic re­la­tions image.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.