Michael Warren and the Soul of Barbeque with Weber
Don’t confuse barbeque with a cookout. Throwing a couple burgers on the grill is different from meticulously balancing dry rubs and sauces on meat that’s been smoking for hours. BBQ has history in pockets all over the country, with regional tastes and variations as diverse as the people who eat it. One of the most iconic grill companies in the world, Weber, is known for making cookouts happen all summer long, but this year they wanted to bring some focus to barbeque in their annual cookbook this year called “Weber's New American Barbecue: A Modern Spin on the Classics.” The culinary tome is packed with recipes and step-by-step instructions, but they needed something with a little more soul. So they asked Michael Warren to help them out. “The spin this year was barbeque, and different ways of approaching it,” says Michael. “My assignment was to travel around the US and visit BBQ joints that are doing something a little different with a little twist, and then they were used as editorial breaks throughout the book.”
Michael got to travel all over, visiting ten different barbeque joints, getting to know the people who work there, eat there, and make them unique. Traditionally, cookbook photography is rooted in the details and making sure that every floret and au jus is perfectly in place, but Michael offers something else. Something that Weber needed for their book. “They wanted it to feel more personal,” Michael explains. “They wanted to feel the juice. They wanted to celebrate the authenticity of it, and they wanted it to look like you want to eat it, as opposed to want to admire the photograph.” There’s more to making your stomach grumble than symmetry and Michael knows exactly how to make it sing in a photograph.
Part of the joy of traveling all over the country chasing barbeque is that he got to learn about different styles and sample each of them. His favorite? A steak called The Eisenhower in Plano, Texas. “It’s a T-bone steak with the still T on it,” says Michael. “They get the coals going really hot and they throw the piece of meat right onto the grill. They pull it off, and they slice it up. It serves four so it’s kind of put out on the table on a chopping block. It’s absolutely delicious just to see it.”
This is the part of the story where we’d wrap it up with a thoughtful conclusion but we’re too hungry for that. Maybe after lunch…
Michael Warren and the Soul of a Professional
We think of companies as faceless organizations with their own whims and desires that are markedly separate from the heart of humanity. But that’s inherently false. Companies and corporations are made of up people, and those people come together to pursue common goals and objectives that bring them through their own corporate worlds to leave a mark on their industries. When Michael Warren got the call from Boston based investment firm Eaton Vance inviting him to help them create a photographic identity it was something that he knew he’d be able to tackle for them in a way that no one else would. “They wanted the humanity of their employees to come through is really what it boils down to,” Michael says. “They knew I could achieve that for them because they could tell that I’m more interested in real people. And this was all about real people.” It’s not enough to want to take pictures that truthfully show real people, Michael had to get in there and work it out so that his images would be a faithful representation. There’s only one way to do that: do it for real. It couldn’t be faked.
For Michael that meant treating the project almost like a photojournalist. Instead of bringing the staff in one at a time to get portraits, he decided to almost embed with them and get a feel for what it’s like to really be a part of Eaton Vance. These images were going to be seen by potential clients and business partners, and they wanted to give a portrayal of what every day at Eaton Vance is like, without pretension or a false patina for the sake of PR. “I get to know my subjects before I photograph them, orif we’re shooting a situation, I try to make myself a part of the group,” Michael says. “I’m a fly on the wall documenting a real discussion. I’m there to get a moment that feels real, is unobtrusive, and honest.”
“Every corporation has their own soul,” Michael explains. His photos show off this company unadorned because that’s who they are. He’s showing the truth behind the company name. This is a company of people who are proud of their staff and their accomplishments. What Michael had to do was show who they were, truthfully, and that’s exactly what he did.
Michael Warren Gets Real with Intuit
The story of any business is the story of the people who run it. That basic truth is the heart of their latest campaign, and they asked Michael Warren to help them tap the humanity of their users.
In a campaign they’re calling “Artisan’s Pride,” Intuit paired Michael up with a whole roster of their customers to create portraits at the site of their work. “It was celebrating their customer, celebrating the small business, and keeping it as authentic as possible," explains Michael. “The key was that it was all real people, real stories, real pride.” Each of these portraits shows real people in the places of their work, in the businesses they have built and work at every day. The ads offer a human connection that transcends what’s possible with a couple milquetoast stock shots. Michael's photos are real.
Intuit’s products are used everywhere, so the images that Michael shot had to be as versatile as their customer base. The collection of pictures had to work for the current campaign, but also for any new ideas they may have in the near future. “They needed something to work across all mediums. The formats are so different," Michael explains. So they came up with a creative solution that provided unique imagery and versatility: Michael shot every portrait with a small, grey backdrop. The backdrop adds a fun element to each image, but also provides a base for further manipulation to bring the images to any platform they could imagine. "It expanded the possibilities for the various media needs that are out there,” Michael explains. With a diverse customer base it’s crucial to keep each of their representations free of artifice so that their stories can continue to be told across whatever market necessary. Michael’s collaboration with Intuit made that possible, resulting in a collection that show as much truth as it does pride.
Stephen Wilkes, Michael Warren, and Joe Pugliese Among Communication Arts Winners
Every year Communication Arts, one of the premier creative publications in the world, releases the "Photo Annual" that includes a list of photographers whose work they consider the best in visual communication around the world. Three of our photographers won the distinction of being recognized for stories they contributed over the last year. We congratulate Joe Pugliese, Michael Warren, and Stephen Wilkes for this honor.
These are the stories that grabbed Communication Arts' attention:
Joe Pugliese had the chance to photograph the cast of Mad Men for the cover of The Hollywood Reporter immediately ahead of the series finale. Joe had been a fan of the series since the beginning, so it was an honor and a personal achievement to help them strike the perfect tone. I didn’t want it to feel period,” says Joe. “I wanted to just ride that line between the characters we all know and their actual real life personalities.” Communication Arts pulls out the photograph of Jon Hamm as the perfect example and encapsulation of this show that was at once a period piece but also a portrait of how the American psyche has developed, how the American dream plays on a life, and what a man becomes to succeed in our culture.
Check out the full story here:
For weeks, Michael Warren traveled the world to understand Total Energy and how they impact the world. As Michael reminds us. “France has no [energy] resources of their own so they have their fingers in all these other places all over the world. They’re trying to do something good.” Total Energy takes responsibility for the world because the world is their partner. Their reach is global, so their outreach is equally global. They are giving back in as many communities as possible, including communities in Africa where they’ve constructed solar powered lights that allow the local workers to continue producing after the sun has set. It’s improving their productivity and changing their local government for the better. Communication Arts highlighted one photograph of some women in Indonesia that perfectly encapsulated how Total is committed to powering people.
Check out the full story here:
Walking through Terminal 3 at the Dubai Airport could be described as walking into the future. But as Stephen Wilkes’ story with Vanity Fair proved: it’s very much the present. The West has fallen behind when it comes to commercial aviation and few reminders are as stark as the hub in Dubai. Stephen was granted unprecedented access to get a full view of the working at Terminal 3, including the opportunity to create a sweeping time-lapse video. Communication Arts focused on the scope of the airport (and their gigantic AirBuses) that looks almost like an enclosed city. Here’s to a lifestyle of travel we can all look forward to.
Check out the full story here:
Michael Warren Travels the Total World
Light is power. In the west we take it for granted that we can hold the night at bay by flipping a switch. We can remain productive far after the sun sets and do so safely. In countries and communities where there isn’t an electrical grid, when the sun sets the day is over or the gas and oil lamps must be turned on. In places like Africa and Haiti, gas and oil are very expensive and combustion creates dangerous fumes. As soon as the oil has burned off, there is no more, and stores must be refilled again, at great expense. It is a vicious cycle.
Total, the French energy company, has set out to combat this cycle with their “Committed to Better Energy” campaign. Michael Warren spent two solid months (plus some) in nine countries in four continents to capture the full breadth of Total’s initiates and get a taste of the company. Total’s response to this energy problem is portable electric lights that run off of solar energy. “In Africa there are a lot of these villages that have no power at all. And they’ve come up with a solar system, that is low cost to purchase and can bring a light bulb, or a bunch of light bulbs, to a village. It really changes the way that they see life and see the day,” says Michael. As he explains it, Total saw the problem this way: “If Total could figure out a way to make a very inexpensive solar panel that they could sell at a low cost, it can have an impact on these people’s lives. And it did.” It’s a way to begin to step out of the cycle of buying and burning expensive, dangerous fuel.
In the last decade, international energy companies haven’t been getting the best attention for their practices. So one stands to wonder why Total would go against the current and offer alternatives to their products in communities that represent a small consumer base. The answer is that Total is tied to the global markets and the international community. The company is based in France, and as Michael reminds us, “France has no resources of their own so they have their fingers in all these other places all over the world.” They are responsible to the world, because the world is their partner. “They’re trying to do something good,” Michael says.
In addition to shooting the campaign, Michael also spent a month touring the world meeting and learning about Total as a company so he could shoot some recruitment materials for them. These materials aren’t just crucial for the company, their crucial for the future of energy. “It’s getting harder and harder to get young smart students coming out of school to want to work for energy companies. It’s an old school, old industry,” Michael says. “So I was trying to show the world that working for one of these companies is not so bad.”
Ars Thanea and Michael Warren Launch New Campaign for GE China
Ars Thanea and photographer Michael Warren worked with TBWA Shanghai to launch the latest ad campaign for GE China. Ars Thanea and Warren used the iconic visual texture of Chinese porcelain in a series of visuals that tell the story of how GE technology transforms the lives of Chinese people.
The two project had the illustrator and photographer collaborating closely with the agency to ensure the mix of photography and 3D and 2D illustrations integrated seamlessly together. Three ads launched late last year in Chinese airports and in print media. The fourth ad is set to launch this spring.
Agency: TBWA Shanghai
Client: GE China
Creatives: Dwayne Koh, Jimmy Wang
Producer: Allen Chen, Joanna Zhao
Photographer: Michael Warren
Illustrator: Ars Thanea>
Michael Warren and Stephen Wilkes in Communication Arts
Michael Warren and Stephen Wilkes win in Communication Arts 53rd Photography Annual. Both photographers were awarded prizes in the Editorial category. Only 125 winners were selected from nearly 5,000 entries. The publication's annual selects the best photography from the past year in categories such as Advertising, Editorial, Self-Promotion, and Institutional.
Warren's photograph is of Jim Maki for the Boston Magazine article "Top Doctors." Maki, a Vietnam Vet, is the second person in the United States to receive a partial face transplant. His injury was the result of blacking out and falling on to the third rail of the subway.
Wilkes's winning photograph was of former I.M.F. chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's house arrest for the Vanity Fair article "Pepe le Perp." The image contrasts the luxuriousness of the townhouse with the fact that Strauss-Kahn was under house arrest and intense media scrutiny.
The 53rd Photography Annual is in Communication Arts's July/August 2012 issue, on newsstands now.
See more of Michael Warren's photography here.
See more of Stephen Wilkes's photography here. >
Michael Warren Exhibits "Somebodies" at TEDx Boston
Michael Warren exhibited his project "Somebodies" this past weekend at the TEDx conference in Boston. TEDx is an individual initiative based on the TED conferences that bring together people in the community to share ideas and collaborations. Warren's photographs were displayed for the conference's participants to view before they began the panel discussions.
"Somebodies" is Warren's ongoing photographic project about people and the stuff they love. The people featured were asked to bring something-living, dead, or somewhere in between-that has a significant meaning to them and to tell the story of their relationship with it. For example, a man explains how now that his wife has passed away, the Kleenexes that she used to leave around the house no longer annoy him but rather remind him of her.
Warren's photographs were chosen for TEDx Boston as everyone featured is from the New England area. The exhibition was a chance for him to meet new people interested in sharing their story for the project. Warren hopes to expand the project to include over 200 people.
See more of Michael Warren's photography here.
Michael Warren's "Somebodies"
"Everyone has stuff they care or obsess about," states Michael Warren. He asks people to bring their most treasured objects, dead, alive, or somewhere in-between for his "Somebodies" project. The only requirement for the objects is that they are able to be carried by hand. The results run the gamut - a boy brings his favorite toys, a father brings used tissues of his late wife, and a sculptor brings a mysteriously formed rock. Each week on Warren's "Somebodies" blog a new portrait will be posted with that person's object of value. The chosen objects give insight into each person as the viewer learns about what makes the objects so precious.
"Hi I'm Lisa
The trash that I've brought today is from the beaches of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth Rhode Island. It shouldn't be there so I pick it up."
This is the also the area of the state in which I live. I became passionate about the trash when I became involved with the Surfrider Foundation in Rhode Island.
My name is Ayden
I am 6 years old.
Today I brought some of my Bakugans.
I don't know why I like them, I just do.
My name is Ron and today I brought Kleenexes of my late wife Lisa.
The joke that we had, (which really wasn't a joke) was the fact that she was always blowing her nose and leaving the Kleenexes all over the place. I'd find them in the bed, on the bed, in the sofa, and on the sofa. She'd just blow her nose and leave the Kleenex and I would always complain, "Don't you know what a wastebasket looks like?"
One time she said, "Well one of these days I'm not going to be around and you're going to find one of these Kleenex and you are going to feel sorry for giving me such a hard time about them."
Ironically, that was the case, because Lisa died suddenly of septic shock.
After she died, I was going through some of her bathrobes and found these Kleenexes. I just laughed because I remembered the conversation we had and I never thought that she would die.
When something like this happens you just want to keep things. Anything.
It's weird because since she was cremated I couldn't get a lock of her hair. I have some of her hairbrushes with a little of her hair. I actually cleaned the bathtub that was clogged, so I have a 'clog' of her hair.
But the Kleenexes are the only things that really I know she touched on this planet so I keep them.
It's strange, but what can you do?"
The young girl the picture is our daughter Kiki. She was only three when she lost her mom.
If Warren had to choose one object, it would be a wisteria bloom from his back porch. "After 18 years of never producing flowers, the tree finally decided to bloom this spring," explains Warren. View more of Michael Warren's "Somebodies" project.>
Summer Redneck Games in the Communication Arts Photography AnnualMichael Warren was on hand to witness some of the shenanigans going on at the Summer Redneck Games in Dublin, Georgia. Warren has always been curious about his subjects and passionate about telling the stories of real people. One of his eye-catching images of a woman being baptized in mud was chosen as a winner in the Unpublished category of the Communication Arts 2009 Photography Annual.