British photographer Laurence Ellis has recently finished three short films for Topman Denim. Having previously shot stills for the brand it’s his first foray into moving image for them. Teaming up with Lucianna Britton Newell and Duncan Riches the three films offer something different to conventional adverting, we caught up with Laurence to find out more…
Hi Laurence, can you tell us about the recent Topman Denim films, how have you found the transition to film and do you still see yourself as a photographer in the role of director?
I’ve never really seen myself as just a photographer. I like taking pictures, but i also like writing, making films. Murray Partridge once said to me (former creative director TBWA) that he finds it quite strange in this day if someone just does one thing. Its a sentiment I agree with. I think most photographers underestimate the difference between the two mediums. Often fashion content seems to lack any real depth, just pretty pictures without reason. Film is much more of a collaborative medium, creative relationships in film are much more important than in photography. Its often the making of great films when these relationships really work – Larry Clark (director) and Harmony Korrinne (writer) with Kids for example, and a great cast of course. These films were very much a collaboration between Lucianna Britton Newell (art director), Duncan Riches (writer) and to a large extent the brand itself, headed up from their side by Kelly Reed (head of press).
It’s a very brave approach to adverting, where did the idea come from and how hard was it to sell in?
Creatively the brand were very open to what we wanted to do. They had a core brief, to show some jeans and appeal to a very savvy and media saturated consumer but how this was interpreted was left down to us. One of great realisations from the Topman side is hits don’t necessarily equal the success of a campaign. They could have orchestrated a silly viral campaign achieving millions of hits but in a way it seems obvious and insecure, and often doesn’t leave you with a great impression of who that brand are – apart from the fact that they’ve hired a clever ad agency. We understood that these films were slightly different from what had been done before. They have integrity and a subtle beauty to them. With such a huge brand behind them there is something quite beautiful about this combination. They are not at all what you would expect from Topman – the unexpected is always much more interesting.
Where can we expect to see the three films?
Even though they were intended for use online we decided to shoot them all on film (Super 16mm). Maybe this was our way of trying to keep a sense of timelessness in a world which is completely of the moment. A small opposition to disposable culture and the inherent stylistic obsolesce of the ‘The Now’.
Will we be seeing more film work from you now?
Before this project I had spent several months working on a book (also a collaboration with Lucianna Britton Newell and Duncan Riches). The films also took almost three months to achieve completion. I enjoy these longer projects within the world of fashion, which is so used to the instant, The New. I would prefer to create one project a season I am truly happy with rather than multiple compromises. I am undecided what the next project will be, it may be a film. The current cultural zeitgeist for sensory overload is sometimes disconcerting, I’m interested in working with still images and audio at the moment. It feels like a welcome slow-down. After a holiday that is.