Monday, June 23, 2008
George Fulton - No Time For Haters
George Fulton is all about peace, love and making funky photographs
Some people always seem to be in a good mood: Jay Leno, George W. Bush, Richard Simmons. Based on the portfolio of photographer George Fulton, it's easy to make the same assumption. After all, the first thing you're greeted with upon visiting his website is his new motto: “Love Hurts. Photos Tickle.” More than just a marketing gimmick, it reflects Fulton's fun-loving way of life.
“One day it hit me that love is still where it's at,” says Fulton. “I wrote the tagline to reference the humor in my shots and my new take on love. I've got no time for haters.”
A self-described “psychedelic historical revisionist with a camera,” Fulton says that he's hired to make photographs for advertising that put a spin on archetypal moments.
“A more sober explanation would be that I try to take engaging photographs,” he says, “but I try never to lose sight of the fact that my photos are used to sell things, to capture market share, to motivate people to do things. To me, a great ad shot gets the story told quickly. Readers have seconds to ‘get it.' But once they get it, I think the next thing a really great ad shot does is stop the reader and make them study deeper, take a second look. If you hold them that long, you have a better chance that they will read the copy and maybe even buy the product.”
So if you're going to sell your soul to the devil and work in advertising, you might as well have a good time while you're at it. That seems to be Fulton's thinking, anyway, and it's hard to argue with the logic—at least when it comes to having a laugh now and then.
“I like a belly chuckle,” he explains, “not necessarily a belly laugh. I like an around-the-corner funny, the kind that hits you a second later than usual. I like the punch line that sneaks up on you. And, yeah, I'm a fun-loving guy. My shoots are about good times. People ought to have fun on shoots. It always makes for better results and productions that people remember.”
As much as the crew is bound to remember the fun of a Fulton production, viewers of his photographs are likely to be struck by the fun of the finished product. There's a lot of work that goes into making those lighthearted photos, though, and by all appearances Fulton takes that aspect of his work very seriously. For years, he worked with in-camera masking and compositing to create his work, which lately has been unified as much by its sense of humor as by the slightly psychedelic look he achieves both in-camera and in postproduction.
“I've been doing this kind of heightened post look for well over five years now,” he says. “Back then, you could count the number of people doing similar things on one hand, not counting thumbs. Seriously. I think the demand is diminishing now because it has been done. By the time photographers are chasing something like this, the bulk of the market has seen it and it's time to move on. It's no longer novel. The last thing people should do is hang their hat on a ‘look' alone. If you do, your hat will fall to the ground before you know it.”
Because of the recent pervasiveness of this heavily postprocessed look, Fulton has been consciously moving away from it in an effort to get back to the basics. “The look of this kind of work is being knocked off excessively,” he says. “When I started doing this, I didn't start with a look, but with content. My focus was on a story that was deeper than just what was going on in the foreground. I wanted to play with things happening in the background that would add humor or counterpoint what the main subject was doing. And that's still my first important focus today—the idea.
“Content and conceptual strengths will hold your hat long after certain looks have come and gone,” he adds. “I did work hard back then to find post techniques that complemented those narratives, but not the other way around. I don't recommend starting with a look and then creating content around it. There's a good bit of that out there now. My recommendation is to focus on what you put in the frame first and foremost, and get the light right.”