Gina Manning Photography has been working with the Bruno Magli team for two seasons now, shaping their brand and new campaign and collections visually. I’ve been fortunate enough to harvest an incredibly collaborative and artistic relationship that has led the way for us to make the art I love seeing in the world!
The art that makes you feel something, the art that makes you wonder. It goes without saying that it takes a lot of people giving any idea a go when money is involved, and Bruno Magli really values what message they want to spread with their campaigns. There are a bunch of great brands today that do the same, and you can see it directly through the quality of their campaigns and the stories they’ve chosen to tell.
I’m still so excited and over the moon with the world we created. We are all honored that WWD included the spread on their list of best fashion ad campaigns for the season! I really wanted to write about this campaign candidly and give a more in-depth look into my process and what goes into a big fashion shoot. If you’re curious about that good and juicy stuff that happens before the shoot date, this is for you!
Creating the World
When I started this project, it was very important for me to continue building on the cohesive world we have been creating through the seasons, and we started big with our dreamy Venetian Summer for SS19. I have always been a strong believer in the importance of creating a visual consistency for viewers to relate to. The beautiful collaboration between Gucci & Glen Luchford does this seamlessly. The Bruno team has also been 100% in agreement with this; they’ve been so wonderful at championing ideas and improving upon them at every step. This campaign came together with all hands on deck. There were many late night calls/emails/texts with the team and all the talented artists involved in this project, and it did not come together without four diligent months of preparation. Whenever the creativity struck, we were in contact, building and brainstorming: that kind of openness to collaboration is what makes a damn good idea come out even more gorgeously. I’m corny, I know.
Quick rant,, but I’ve never believed in taking the easy way out, especially in an era of fashion and art where the most basic shoots and aesthetics are praised for pure cost-saving reasons. I choose to work with teams of talented people, bringing back the look of an image that requires skill and the art that only comes together with a carefully executed concept and the right experience. This doesn’t mean it costs a lot of money, per se, but it does mean that the money is going into all the right places and that it is directly spent pouring into the quality of the shoot. You won’t see a woman on a white backdrop doing an e-comm pose in any of my photos. You will see a story, an emotion, and a lot of color all brought together by the refined talent and experience of so many amazing artists I have been fortunate enough to have built lasting relationships with over the years.
I embed deeply into my projects; they become my life pretty much. The research and prep phases are the most fundamental steps for me. It’s not actually that important to have your idea set in stone right off the bat; it is, however, incredibly important for you to take time to soak up everything you love and everything you want to see, to reflect and to set disciplined sessions of researching great artists who have made it possible for you to express yourself for a living. On this specific campaign, I fell deep into a Federico Fellini hole. I had heard of him before, but hadn’t even watched a single film of his. So, as soon as I was turned on to his work, I jumped onto Criterion and purchased every movie that I felt would resonate well with me. I love Criterion, because their movies are packed with extras. I watched all the extra features: all his interviews along with other iconic directors talking about the influence he had on their process. I would watch the BTS to see how he directed his actors. I wanted to know what a Fellini world looked like, and more importantly, why.
Whenever I research someone whose work I admire, I become obsessed with the philosophies we have in common. Fellini’s lack of care for the “real world” and his obsession with the unknown and decadent fantasy really helped me focus on what I wanted to see from this new campaign. I’d watch his movies with two modes in mind: either specifically for visuals, where I would pause the movie and document what I loved about a scene aesthetically, or I’d be watching the movies to get the essence of his world, how his characters existed in it, and how his personality and philosophies shone through in each and every scene.
Every new project is a perfect way to grow as an artist, and Fellini was such an amazing route for me to take on this one. I am a very obsessive and detail-orientated person, so this step was very important for me to really develop my style and focus on the shoot ahead of me. I am also always very focused on creating things I haven’t before, and engulfing myself in a project helps me develop ideas I haven’t seen before in my work.
After weeks of research, I had an idea of the direction I wanted to go in: I wanted to dive deep into my never-ending fascination with the power of cinema and the curiosity a photo with depth can leave you with. How a photo can make you feel something, remind you of a fond memory, or force you to come up with a story of your own. After learning a bit more about the inspiration their amazing shoe designer had for the new collection, I wanted to build a world showcasing a luxurious, timeless behind the scenes look onto the set of a magical blockbuster movie in the making. I felt very strongly about this concept and showcasing it correctly; my significant other is an amazing director, so I’ve had the opportunity to hang out on the set of some gorgeous movies. And I can say for a fact: being able to see a movie come together is actually movie magic. Being fortunate enough to hang out with industry people regularly, I have been the fly on the wall that I wanted our viewer to feel like they were.
I wanted our world to stand out in its undefined time period and have a strong take on powerful characters regardless of their gender. I never let my characters be defined by their gender, age, or any constructed feature of their existence. I shoot my models based on their character. I shoot them based on what it is about them I am in love with. I’ve found this helps give a photo a feeling, an emotion, and a personal backstory.
I wanted to focus on the portrayal and adaptation of the 80s and 90s and the powerful wardrobe shapes and females that came out of it. I wanted to focus on the David Bowies of the world who broke the boundaries of what “men could wear” and “how they could express themselves.” I wanted to capture my obsession with decadence, beauty, color, and strength in vulnerability.
The first thing I knew we needed if we were going to pull this off were actual crew members from the cinema world. We needed actual gaffers, lighting designers, set designers, set builders, stylists, a hair and makeup team, and the production teams that have brought the real thing together before. I wanted to shoot with constant lighting so we could capture these scenes the way they would be crafted on an actual movie set. I wanted to shoot digital photos and have corresponding 35mm film photo inserts taken with vintage cameras and cinematic film. I worked closely with my assistant camera and had him study up on how to read, adjust, and monitor the three different film cameras we used on set so they were getting ready to be handed to me after I was done shooting the digital portion of each setup. I also went to a 35mm film theater in town and worked with them to collect film frames and learn about the process more in depth. I am a huge nerd and love the process of preparing and equipping myself with the knowledge I will need to create something; I feel like a detective.
Finding the right talent is another important step for me. They are the face of the project and will bring the world to life. I believe in having a heavy hand in every aspect of my shoots, and for this one, I was able to self-cast through our personal modeling connections. We had in-house casting/fittings, which really helped us make informed decisions curated to exactly what we were looking for. Getting to meet your talent before the shoot is so important to get a vibe for what they are like.
I teamed up with an incredible set design and set-building team that worked with me on developing the look and set layouts. We scoured the big movie props house in town and hand-picked every gorgeous prop. This series was going to be a very heavy color story; usually, on a shoot, you are working with a preexisting house/location that has its own character, but we were fortunate enough to built this entire campaign from scratch. From the colors of the walls, to the textures of the wall, to the size of the room and everything in it: every choice was ours.
I love the look of a set that feels curated; the ordinary isn’t enough. I don’t believe in showing the viewer something they can see every time they leave their house or in their everyday life. Our lighting was another amazinly curated aspect of our shoot; the lighting director sat down with me for days building out the lighting diagrams for each shot. I had a small crew actually pre-shoot the set on a local sound stage with basic lighting, angles, and character-posing in mind so we would be prepared on the day of the shoot to execute the real thing with the most efficiency. This helped the entire team be able to visualize the shoot day and our predetermined layouts ahead of time.
We had a build day in the studio to rig the set and a single shoot day to execute everything. On the day of the shoot, we had 10 hours from the second the models stepped into hair/makeup until the last stage wall was disassembled. When you have that tight of a schedule and you have 11 unique setups to shoot, you need to make sure everyone on the team is overprepared. We had a crew of over 30 people who worked their butts off.
We kept the set fun and creative; even with such time restraints, everyone felt confident and committed to the concept. The production team I work closely with does a killer job of making sure everything is tangible and orderly. Managing expectations of timing and deliverables is also key: you want everyone to feel like they are in the know, so when things get tight, everyone is on board with where we are at and what we can expect. Being flexible is also key: things go wrong and things change and ideas develop on set; being open to all this will only make things better. A shoot is an ocean, not a pool. There are waves. Ride them like a surf pro.
I am huge on visual guides. I also wanted to include a breakdown of what my teams have readily available as reference on a shoot along with the final image, so you can see how an idea comes together.
Photographer: Gina Manning Photography
Assistant Camera: Ian Spencer
Lighting Director: Mike Pecci
Art Director: Suja Ono
Production Designer: Lawrence Sampson
Talent: Jake Dietrich (Wilhelmina) , Michelle Dantas (The Industry Mgmt)
Exec. Producer: Jennifer Sargent (Hayroad Productions)
Production Supervisor: Alex Wayne
Stylist: Michelle Carroll
Stylist Assistant: Denticart Exil
Hair/Makeup: Lauren Citera
Hair/Makeup Assistant: Aedel Park
BTS Photographer: Katie Donlon
Gaffer: Jesse Hicks
Key Grip: Dave Taylor
Digital Tech: Jason Frank
Studio Manager: Marc Jameson
Location: High Output
Tailor: Kristen Lombardi & Orlando Andreas
Set Dresser: Olivia Detoma
Carpenter: Rob Carlson
Production Assistants: Harrison Wayne, Ben Daniels, Conor Minihan
Camera Equipment: Borrow Lenses
Catering: Planted Gourmet
Electrical Equipment: High Output