Art and Advocacy: A Chat With Lindsay Adler on Her Psoriasis Awareness Campaign and Life Behind the Lens

What do you get when you pair an industry titan in creative beauty images with a campaign promoting psoriasis awareness? You get images you're anxiously curious to see, and an interview you want to watch. For the lucky New Yorkers, you also get the perfect outing for this weekend. I sat down with Adler to talk about the “Clearly Me” campaign she shot, which will be on display this weekend at Nine Line Galleries, NYC. If you follow my writing, you know we took rabbit trails into all kinds of tangents that will keep you learning, laughing, and hopefully leave you inspired with takeaways that will apply to your own photographic journey. 

Lindsay Adler, an American icon known for her use of dramatic light shaping and creative gel use, partnered with AbbVie to create a series of images to bring awareness to the skin condition of psoriasis. 125 million people worldwide suffer from psoriasis, including celebrities you may know, such as "Scandal's" Katie LowesDaQuane Cherry, Joanne Pomerantz, and Ayesha Patrick were also subjects of Adler's work for this "Clearly Me" campaign.

Katie Lowes Photographed by Lindsay Adler

This is not a series of images about Psoriasis. This is a series of images about people and about people that are fully living their lives and are not being held back by their condition.

DaQuanne Cherry by Lindsay Adler

Above is our talk for a more in-depth discussion of Adler's latest work and the surprise ending where I drew cards from my "Therapy in a Box" game. Here are a few takeaways from our chat.

How Adler Prices

Price on Scope of Work, Not on Deliverables.

Have you ever found yourself knee-deep in a photo assignment, frustrated by how many hours you've worked that were not included in your "15 image" package price? Everything from ideation, to prop shopping, phone calls, emails, proofing and more can easily double or even triple the time you spend on a job outside of shooting and editing. Adler advises,

In the past people would have their day rate, but now, it's leaned more towards creative fee because it's encompassing all the things we just talked about.

She describes the laborious scope of work that went into this shoot from interviews to calls, printing, a gallery exhibit, and more. Every aspect of your work should be included in your "creative fee."

Ayesha Patrick by Lindsay Adler

Does Adler Ever Have to Create Work That’s Not Her Style?

Sometimes You’re a Creative, Sometimes You’re an Executor, and That’s Okay.

In going through the images for this shoot, and some commercial work on her website, some images surprised me. "These are very Adler-ish, but these I would have not thought were hers, though they are beautiful." It made me think of some of my experiences. In most jobs, I'm hired for my style, but on occasion, I'm commissioned to create work that just doesn't feel "me." I wondered if Adler also had these fluctuations. To my surprise, she did.

Part of Adler's assignment for the Clearly Me campaign was to photograph one headshot in the same matter for each person. 

Sometimes, you get the brief or the creative deck, and it can really drastically vary. Sometimes, they tell you exactly what they're looking for, and basically you're a little bit of a technician at that point, and other times, they're giving really loose overview of the goals of what's trying to be achieved and they're looking to you for your photographer's treatment. It's very nice for me when a brand hires me to do what I do, to make images that look like me and look like my style. That is really rewarding, but let's be honest, that's not usually what pays the bills.

What Would Adler Tell Her Younger Self?

Sometimes You’re a Creative, Sometimes You’re an Executor, and That’s Okay.

Katie Lowes by Lindsay Adler

People will tell you there's one major path to success, but they don't realize that the job you will have doesn't exist yet. When people told me to pursue my path that [what she is doing now] didn't exist. The tip to my younger self and to other photographers is if you're trying to emulate what someone else has done, you might be restricting opportunities for entire careers or niches that do not even exist yet.

Closing Thoughts

When reading Adler's biography: author of five books, 17 classes, designer of one optical spot, Canon Explorer of Light, international educator, the first woman to win the Rangefinder Icon of the Year Award and so much more one could wonder: "How can someone have accomplished such a proliferate body of work at such a young age?" After having spoken to Adler, a quote I once read comes to my mind.

 Talent will get you hired, but the experience will keep you working.

Daquan Cherry by Lindsay Adler

It seems to me that Adler's unique and cutting-edge style, paired with her passion for her job, an unbothered focus on following her unique path, and her dedication to learning are some of the many factors that have led to her wildly successful career. This vibrantly celebratory "Clearly Me" campaign is another example of how Adler keeps us surprised and impressed. We talked about so much more, including using AI for editing, the criticism of beauty photographers for creating an "unrealistic standard," and some wild cards from my question card deck. I hope you'll watch the interview. I apologize for the imperfections in the recording: I'm a photographer, not a YouTuber, but I plan on getting better!

Thank you, Lindsay, for sitting down with us and sharing about your work and your journey. Your Fstoppers family gives you a digital high-five, and we look forward to watching what's next.

Michelle VanTine's picture

Michelle creates scroll-stopping images for amazing brands and amazing people. She works with businesses, public figures, sports & products. Titled “Top Sports Photographers in Miami” in 2019 (#5) and 2020 (#4), she was the only female on the list both years. Follow the fun on IG @michellevantinephotography @sportsphotographermiami

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What a fabulous interview. We can always learn so much from people at the top of their game and there are some important lessons here. Thanks for the article, Michelle.

Great job! I really like the advice of not trying to emulate what someone else has done because you might be restricting opportunities for entire careers or niches that do not even exist yet. Each person is uniquely gifted and has something different to contribute to the whole.