Image via aishazeijpveld.com
Day two of Dublin’s OFFSET conference featured another packed line-up of talks spanning illustration, graphic art, photography and advertising, from Tomi Ungerer, Forsman & Bodenfors, Chrissie Macdonald, photographer Aisha Zeijpveld and Veronica Ditting, art director of the Gentlewoman.
Dutch photographer Aisha Zeijpveld discussed the inspiration for and processes behind her surreal and striking imagery, including celebrity portraits for national publication Volkskrant and abstract illustrations for articles on science and healthcare.
A graduate of The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art, Zeijpveld said she was inspired by the work of Rene Magritte and Picasso from an early age, and studied art before completing a degree in photography.
While her images often look as if they were created in Photoshop, most are made using in-camera trickery, custom-built sets and by shooting and reshooting portraits, resulting in works which toy with viewers’ perspectives. “I like to puzzle the spectator, to [make them wonder] how my work was created,” Zeijpveld said, adding that she was more interested in creating scenes based on her imagination than documenting everyday life.
Zeijpveld developed her highly stylised aesthetic in her graduation project, where she photographed other art students in a series that explores the idea of struggling to cope with the pressure of art school (see images from the series here). She then embarked on a series of personal projects – Feast of Destruction, shot with Aukje Dekker (a response to the overload of fashion imagery in comtemporary culture) was featured on the cover of the 2012 edition of New Dutch Photography, leading to an offer to join creative collective Hazazah:
Images via aishazeijpveld.com
And What Remains, a series shot using custom cardboard sets, was inspired by Picasso painting Woman With a Crow: “I was very struck by the blue graphic background, which looked like it had been placed in front [of the subject],” said Zeijpveld. Another personal project, Hairstyles, featured writer and performer Sterre van Rossem and Dutch national ballet dancer Matthew Sky with ‘wigs’ made of smoke and coffee (pictured top), both of which proved particularly complex to shoot.
Speaking about her work for Volkskrant, from a series with comedian Sanne Wallis de Vries to TV personality Valerio Zeno, Zeijpveld said her shoots for the magazine were inspired by her subjects’ on-screen personas or key themes in their work – her portraits of de Vries, for example, which feature multiple limbs and extra hands, draw on de Vries’ multi-facted career, while a series featuring writer James Rosenboom used layering to reflect the idea of narcissism.
Zeijpveld admitted it could sometimes be difficult to persuade celebrities to take part in such dramatic or abstract shoots – “my work is very outspoken, not all of them get it and they are of course worried about their image,” she explained – but added that most were pleased with the end result.
Several of Zeijpveld’s images are created by shooting a portrait first, then adding effects with water, smoke or layers of paper – her artwork for Giovanca album Satellite Love, for example (pictured above) was shot by placing cigarette smoke in front of a portrait, while another cover illustration for Volkskrant’s Sir Edmund magazine (pictured below) involved meticulously cutting an image using a Stanley knife, photographing every stage of the process and manipulating and shadow throughout to create the desired effect. “A lot of people think I made this in Photoshop – I wouldn’t know how to make it in Photoshop,” said Zeijpveld. It’s an impressive body of work and you can see more at ataishazeijpveld.com
Image via Phaidon
Graphic artist and author Tomi Ungerer received a standing ovation for a conversation with illustrator Steve Simpson, in which he discussed his childhood, his career and how the experience of growing up under Nazi occupation in the Alsace region of France has shaped his work.
As a child, Ungerer said he was surrounded by literature and art – his father was an artist and his older brothers and sisters taught him to read, draw and write. During World War Two, he was forced to learn German in just three months when the region was under occupation, and said he was “brainwashed” by his teachers while at school. After the town was liberated, Ungerer said he was treated with disdain for his German accent, adding: “we were made to feel guilty.”
Commenting on how these early experiences influenced his life, Ungerer said: “I couldn’t stand inequality, violence, injustice…it made me a kind of missionary. I’ve been involved in a lot of causes.”
Fog Island, by Tomi Ungerer, via phaidon.com
While he has published over 140 books, from children’s literature to erotica, some of Ungerer’s best-known works remain his political posters and ad campaigns criticising racial injustice and the Vietnam war. Asked whether he felt his work had the power to make real change, he said: “I don’t know if you can really change anything…a lot of the people who bought my posters had the same opinions as me…but all you can do is raise awareness [and] show what might happen if this goes on.”
Now living in Ireland, Ungerer continues to write, draw and paint and is currently working on a book of French children’s poems, inspired by the nonsense work of Edward Lear. He urged his audience to never stop learning and reading, and said he still loved to create – preferring to work in a range of styles rather than settling on a particular aesthetic.
“Every artist is a package deal…if you do only one style, you’re not using your full potential,” he said, adding: “People ask me what my inspiration is. The most important thing to anyone in life, particularly creatives, is to be endlessly curious – the more curious you are, the more information you will gather, then you can use your imagination,” he added.
It was a pleasure to hear Ungerer’s insights into his work – from turning up in New York with just a few dollars and a trunk full of his illustrations – and to hear about some of his greatest influences.
Forsman & Bodenfors
Anders Eklind and Bjorn Engstrom from Forsman & Bodenfors explained the strategy behind the agency’s work for Volvo Trucks, why it doesn’t have creative directors or ECDs and its latest campaign for World Food Programme starring footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
F&B was initially reluctant to take on Volvo Trucks as a client, they said, suggesting B2B agencies for the job instead, before accepting the brief on the basis that the company didn’t want a ‘typical’ truck launch. After studying the automotive industry for nearly a year, it identified a scattered target group: individual truckers, transport companies who would place orders in bulk and companies such as national retailers and supermarket chains, who might not be interested in trucking but would need large volumes of vehicles.
“If you want to reach all of those people, you have to spend money on media in everyday life [such as newspapers] – you need a budget more like Coca Cola’s or a big consumer company, but we didn’t have that. We decided we needed to ‘go wide, but hit tight’,” they explained.
After launching a film to promote the truck’s release in 2012, which featured a stunt performer tight rope walking between two trucks driving towards a tunnel and received several million views (and was accompanied by an online magazine detailing the features of the new truck, plus launch events in six cities which were broadcast online), Forsman & Bodenfors was asked to create a series of follow up stunts for more new trucks, resulting in a series of films in which Volvo employees demonstrated various technical features of the vehicles, from heightened ground clearance to dynamic steering.
The films also achieved viral success, and accompanying technical videos published online received over a million views – an unusually high audience for this type of content. The series culminated in Jean Claude Van Damme’s Epic Split (which won best in book in CR’s 2014 annual and received over 100 million views online and 8 million shares).
While the ad’s impact on sales is hard to quantify, the pair said it generated 20,000 articles with 50 percent of truck drivers apparently saying they’d be more likely to buy a Volvo Truck after watching the film. The success of the ad was unexpected, they said, and made it difficult to do anything else for some time after. “After endless attempts to turn this into a recipe for viral hits, we realised there is no recipe.”
While F&B now employs over 130 people, there are no creative directors or ECDs, just creatives and partners, said Engstrom and Eklind – “we want our best creative to create, rather than judging other peoples work,” they explained. 49 percent of the company’s staff are creatives and instead of presenting their work to a creative director, they simply present to each other, deciding as a team which ideas to pursue. “Instead of having one creative director give you feedback, you have 10, or more” they said, adding: “We don’t think we’re necessarily more talented than other agencies, but we really try to help each other become better.”
The pair ended their talk with a look at the agency’s latest campaign for World Food Programme starring Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The spot features Ibrahimovic scoring a goal then taking his shirt off to reveal the names of dozens of children affected by hunger around the world – a stunt that led to much debate and media speculation when it took place before the ad was launched late last month – and has had over four million views:
Illustrator and model-maker Chrissie MacDonald also spoke about her work with Peepshow collective and Studio Emmi and her charming character designs for Fallon’s I am campaign for Orange, plus a lovely cover and series of editorial illustrations for CR on the theme of different paper stocks:
Veronica Ditting discussed her work for The Gentlewoman, Dublin-based illustrator Steve Doogan presented etchings and linocuts, Declan Shalvey presented some of his comic art and Snask ended the day with a talk featuring a rock performance, self-promotional projects and work for Malmo Festival and and a campaign to encourage Swedes to take shorter showers.
Tomorrow’s line-up inlcudes Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates, Wolff Olins designer Sue Murphy, Emily Oberman and illustrator Andrew Rae. For details, see iloveoffset.com