Seriously. At least to me.
Yesterday, the news broke that I was leaving Element 79 for the CCO job at OLSON in Minneapolis. As part of this transition, I needed to take a press photo. A tough gig given I’m a writer, not a model.
Despite my new employer hiring a big name photographer, the first shots didn’t work out so well. I looked like a tired and overweight Mrs. Doubtfire, if Mrs. Doubtfire were an investment banker–not exactly the look I was hoping for to impress my new agency.
Panicked, I Facebooked a friend of mine who’s taken photographs of Element 79 staffers since we opened: Todd Baxter. Basically, I begged him to save my bacon.
Todd found some time and asked if I had any ideas for the shot. I thought of this photo which I’d seen online a few weeks earlier…
Something about this legion of mini-snowment made me laugh. So I attached this sketch and sent them to Todd…
Todd jumped right into the concept. Unfortunately, just as we shot last week, the three feet of snow piled on the deck behind his studio melted away during an unseasonable thaw. Before it all disappeared, Todd found one lingering patch of icy slush down the street in a church parking lot. His intern Ryan and studio manager Debbie packed it into ten jumbo garbage bags and lugged them back.
For the portrait, Todd sat me on some pillows covered with a white sheet on a white sweep…
The snowmen proved hard to form and almost impossible to decorate, mostly because by this point, they were melting quickly. Somehow, he was able to get enough shots to mix and match bodies, eyes, noses, and mouths into an army of tiny snow people.
But there was still the matter of my drab dress. Todd suggested changing my wardrobe, and created this PhotoShop sketch to show the color he was thinking: bright yellow, a color I never wear. But I had to admit, he was absolutely right about its impact.
Essentially, through the wonders of Photoshop, Todd wanted to dress me far more stylishly than I would ever dress myself. He ordered a coat online and asked me to drop off my boots at his studio. This is the coat he ordered, as worn by a legitimate model.
Tuesday, Todd worked late into the night, modeling and shooting the coat and boots himself to make them match the raw portrait. Then, overtop everything, he sprinkled large flakes of snow. The end result is remarkable–a seamless portrait that is both artfully believable and a total fabrication.
In the advertising business, we manipulate images every workday. But when the image is your own, the stakes feel somehow higher. Finding a creative partner who not only shares your vision but improves it markedly is one of this industry’s true pleasures.
Thanks Todd. You made me look far cooler than I ever have. Or will.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
PS: Todd is currently up for an AMD Visionary award. Check out his video and vote for him here.
8 thoughts on “Todd Baxter Is Chicago’s Best Photographer”
Todd Baxter rules!!! I knew there was frippery afoot.
So so cool! Chicago is losing of of the greats with your departure, but those of us who have been lucky enough to have you laugh at our jokes wish you great happiness and luck. Although you don’t need luck because you have talent. And good looks.
We are all so excited about this image! It was great meeting you Dennis!
I knew yellow was never your color- and i’m not sure you
are really the Iceman cometh, but the snow, the snowmen, you looking
CCOish as always, it definetly worked.
Mr. Ryan, again, you are a genius..You will be missed…
The photo is great! Wish you and your snowmen the best up there in Minnesota!
Congrats on the move Dennis. Hope our paths cross again someday.
Hats off to a creative going old school and thinking with his sharpie. The photo is almost as nice as your sketch.
Very cool! I love the photo. Enjoy the Minnesota winters!