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Monday, October 8, 2007

Gary Land - In the Right Place

Working with people who are short on time and don't necessarily love a photo session, Gary Land gets the shot fast, then spends the time placing his subject in the perfect 'background'

Though they didn't want him to shoot, Reebok asked Land to go along on a big photo assignment to see how they work. He brought along his 35mm camera anyway, hoping to shoot behind the scenes while the “real” photographer was shooting rookie NBA sensation Allen Iverson. The other photographer didn't care for the idea, however: “He was like, ‘Hell, no, you're not shooting on my set!'”

Luckily for Land, Esquire also had sent a photographer to the location, hoping to grab a few minutes of Iverson's precious time. That photographer set up a seamless in another area of the building and got his time with the athlete—also allowing Land to shoot behind the scenes for fun.

“So I was literally behind the piece of paper, shooting Allen with a 200mm ƒ/2.8 lens and Tri-X in the camera,” Land says. “I kind of kept it to myself; no one really knew I was shooting. I made some prints for my desk at the office, and people were losing their minds: ‘Where did you get those pictures?!' They made this big stink in the office and they ended up using my shots for advertising. It just kind of exploded from there.”

The Four-Roll Guy
The shock wave lasted a long time. Land began shooting regularly for Reebok, developing relationships with their athletes and celebrity spokespersons. He was popular not only with the company—who utilized his services for millions of dollars worth of advertising photography during his salaried tenure—but with the famous faces he was photographing. Land thinks it was due to his no-nonsense approach.

“I was the four-roll guy,” he explains. “My assistants would call me the four-roll guy: I'd shoot four rolls and if I got it, I got it. The athletes were so used to having people come and shoot the hell out of everything, and my whole approach was, ‘I want to be easy with you. I want to shoot, and if I got it, I got it.'”

He obviously got it because Land's photographs were a hit at Reebok and with the people he was shooting. He continued freelancing with winter sports photography and other noncompetitive assignments on the side until his agent eventually convinced him that he'd have more freedom and more financial success if he left his full-time job. So he did. Last year.


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