At what point does an advertising campaign transcend its goal of selling a product and become a piece of art? Perusing the pages of Greg Gorman’s new book FRAMED (Damiani, 2011), it’s obvious that the California-based photographer has the answer. For more than 30 years, he has been creating iconic portraits of movie stars, performance artists, musicians, painters, illustrators and others wearing l.a.Eyeworks glasses designed by the company’s founders Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi. Gorman’s photographs graphically illustrate the l.a.Eyeworks cornerstone tagline: "A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame."
The ongoing advertising campaign has not only thrived, but it has, like all great art, stood the test of time. One of Gorman’s subjects, Jodie Foster, sums it up well, "Greg Gorman and l.a.Eyeworks make wearing glasses high art." John Waters adds, "Greg Gorman is the only person I’d let photograph my corpse."
DPP: How did your involvement with the l.a.Eyeworks campaign develop?
Greg Gorman: The campaign came about because of my cousin Jeff Gorman and his creative director at ChiatDay, Gary Johns. Gary’s wife was working at l.a.Eyeworks, and she suggested that it might be fun to do a campaign with celebrities. They had started the campaign with another photographer, but his style of lighting wasn’t quite what they were looking for. They felt I was a good choice to take over the campaign because of my connections with celebrities and my style of lighting—my use of strong highlights and dark shadows lent itself more to the campaign. The previous photographer’s style was more open, and mine is a little more dramatic.
DPP: Have you ever been doing a shoot for another project and asked one of your celebrity sitters, "Can you put one of these pairs of glasses on?"
Gorman: That’s how probably 60 percent of these images have come about. They had already had their hair and make-up done and were already styled. All I had to do is have l.a.Eyeworks run over to the studio with some glasses from their store on Melrose Avenue, which was a couple of blocks away from my former studio on Beverly Boulevard.
DPP: Wouldn’t the celebrities’ handlers, their PR folks, go apoplectic by that impromptu suggestion?
Gorman: Today, they’d go ballistic, but in those days [the 1980s] they saw it as great exposure for their client—a full-page ad in Interview magazine. Today, it’s much more difficult to get PR people to let their clients participate in something like this, but it does happen. They understand the value of the exposure.
DPP: Advertising shoots have always been more controlled than editorial shoots. How much creative control do you have?