Fitness for All with Ben Wachenje and Blink Fitness
At the end of March New Year’s Resolutions are long forgotten and left on the slag pile of expired intentions for most people. But even if the fire of resolutions has gone out, the impulse for self-improvement never dies, no matter who you are. Blink Fitness is currently going all in on a series of advertisements that show off the diversity and experiences that their members represent in a series of illustrations with Ben Wachenje. Diversity and experience is their focus, presenting a paradigm shift of what gym ads can be, and for Ben it’s an important change. “I am very proud to be a part of this campaign,” says Ben. “Any campaign that says fitness is for everyone is good as far as I’m concerned.”
We don’t have to tell you that every gym has a diverse customer base, but those customers are usually not shown in their advertising. Blink has members that are overweight, older in age, and even have physical handicaps, but Blink has put those folks front and center. And for a good reason. “Whenever the consumer isn’t properly or fairly represented in advertising campaigns it’s almost like saying we will take your money but we would like our relationship to remain private and not public,” Ben explains. “Most gym branding revolves around images of athletes in peak physical condition when in reality the people attending gyms look like the heroes in the Blink campaign, so for me Blink’s approach is brave, refreshing and honest.” Gyms typically sell aspiration and a potential, preferred future. But Blink’s message is one of acceptance and process. Fitness is a journey, and each journey is different. Blink invites us on that journey rather than trying to sell a piece of a goal that cannot be bought.
To create these images Ben started with photographs of real people that Blink had commissioned from B&A photographer Tom Corbett (who also shot this video for the same campaign, with grooming by Sylvester Castellano and styling by Luke Langsdale). Then Ben used his own aesthetic style to develop the photos into illustrations. Although this step removed the initial ideation of the some compositional details, Ben found the process to be incredibly beneficial. Sometimes a concept is developed enough that execution is as fulfilling as creation. “It isn’t always necessary to have creative license when the brief is good and well considered. Sometimes simply executing a good idea can be interesting,” Ben explains. “Since the client had already approved the photography it minimizes the amount of amends and changes that I might normally have to undertake to satisfy a brief.” This process streamlined Ben’s process to create final images that are clean, considered, and celebratory.
The campaign is ongoing so keep a look out for more!
Don Sumada highlights Michael Sam's confidence for People Magazine
When Jason Collins came out as gay on the cover of Sports Illustrated he became the first out player in an American Major League sport. It was a huge moment for the LGBT community, but they were still looking for a win. At the time Collins came out, he had already been playing in the NBA for more than a decade. He was an inside man. Drafted as closeted man, he came out after more than ten years of play, having proven himself on NBA courts in more than 700 games.
The real marker for the LGBT community would be when a league took an openly gay player in a draft. In early 2014 it looked like Michael Sam would be that player, as he was expected to be a third or fourth round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. But, after a disappointing Scouting Combine, his future was uncertain.
That period of uncertainty, before the draft, was the week that People Magazine shot him as a part of a feature on gay professional athletes. At the time of the photoshoot, Michael was not a professional athlete, just a celebrated college graduate with high hopes. Nothing was for sure. By the time the story ran there would be an answer, but on set they didn’t know.
Don Sumada was tasked with styling the NFL hopeful, without tying him to a particular team, and preparing for any possible outcome. As styling jobs go, it wasn’t difficult to source the apparel. When looking for clothes, Don said “Whoever I contacted said, ‘you can have whatever you want.’” Everyone knew who Michael was and wanted to be a part of the story. “As soon as I mentioned Michael Sam people overwhelmingly wanted to give me things.”
In the photos you can’t see the weight on his shoulders, carrying the hope of a community. “He was very friendly, wasn’t guarded at all,” says Don about working with Michael on set. But it was a charged set. They only had a few hours with Michael before he was whisked off to his next interview, and the following event, and the photoshoot following that. It was a frenzied week, all shadowed by the question: Would he be drafted?
To capture the moment, People and Don chose navy blue and blacks for a timeless, teamless look. B&A groomer, Sylvester Castellano, kept Michael looking untouched. We see a football player stripped down. Beyond the pads, beyond the uniform: just the vulnerable person. Confident, secure, but in the moment he was unsure.
Of course now we know Michael was drafted to the St Louis Rams. He was the 249th pick, which was later than originally anticipated, but an overwhelming relief after a trying few weeks. And it was a moment of victory for a whole community who had been marginalized in the arena of professional sports for generations. As the gates opened to Michael Sam they opened to people who had been left behind, forgotten, ignored, and sidelined. But as Michael gets suited up for his first game this Fall we all see that you will be judged on the your abilities and nothing else.
Jonas Brothers and More by Sylvester Castellano
FAULT magazine enlisted Sylvester Castellano to groom the Jonas Brothers for its fall cover story.
"The shoot entailed changing Joe, Kevin, and Nick's image; the photographer told me to 'think London,' and create a, dark moody look," remarked Castellano. "On this particular shoot I had to approach the Jonas Brothers in a smooth way, since their mien was going to be drastically changed; they're young men from New Jersey. I used a bit of psychology, taking into consideration their persona – one they've kept for many years." Because they are of Italian-Irish descent, "their hair is dark, but their skin is light, so by giving each musician a trim, it made a great, natural contrast. I put a bit of gray eyeshadow on each and the look was completed."
Castellano was also on set with Bill Hader for Wired's spread "The Cheat Code to Life." He paid close attention to the different characters played by the actor, adding redness around his eyes to give the illusion of distress in a frame where Hader shoplifts from a bodega. For Hader's portrayal of a businessman carrying a briefcase stuffed with (presumably stolen) money, "I made his face matte with oil-free products that neutralize the skin's pH, so he would appear normal, even confident," he explained.
The groomer recently tended to Milwaukee Bucks center/power forward Larry Sanders as well. He didn't do much to the basketballer for Athletes Quarterly – to his surprise. "I Google-Imaged him beforehand and when I met him in person, I realized that the pictures I saw online didn't do him any justice," Castellano said. "He has great skin and is very put together, so I powdered his face a bit, but that's all." He added that men these days are more accepting when it comes to wearing cosmetics: "These people are being photographed and if they don't have the proper makeup, they can show up on film looking quite different than they are."
Photographer for FAULT: Udo Spreitzenbarth
Photographer for Wired: Art Streiber
Photographer for Athletes Quarterly: Ahmed Klink
The Selby Smiles for the Spring/Summer 2010 Converse Jack Purcell Campaign
The Selby traversed America from coast to coast for the Spring/Summer 2010 Converse Jack Purcell campaign by Anomaly. The signature Jack Purcell navy crescent on the toecap forms the smile for each campaign model, similar to the smile that Canadian National Badminton Champion Jack Purcell displayed when playing Badminton. Says Anomaly creative Dennis Payongayong, "We wanted to tell a story of interesting individuals in their environment surrounded by interesting stuff. We felt that people who wear Jack Purcells are just as interested about the curation of their lives as much as what's on their feet."
The campaign stars Harry McNally, Mirabelle Marden, Charlie Casely-Hayford, Clark James Gable, and Skye Forsyth-Peters. The five well-rounded individuals were chosen on the basis of their background, personality, and ongoing projects. McNally runs and designs his clothing label, Pegleg. Marden is the founder of the Rivington Arms gallery in New York. Casely-Hayford and his father Joe design an eponymous menswear line in the United Kingdom. Gable spends his days surfing and riding motorcycles. Forsyth-Peters is working on developing a TV show for MTV.
Regarding the look and feel of the campaign, Payongayong offers, "We're big fans of [Todd Selby's] work so it was important to keep a Selby-esque quality to the shots."
Jack Purcell retired from badminton in 1945, but his shoe design is still alive and well today. The legacy of the Canadian national badminton champion continues on the feet of the young and old across the world. The campaign is currently running in magazines, on billboards, and across the Internet.
Creatives: Jon Zast & Dennis Payongayong
Prop Stylist: Amy Henry
Wardrobe stylist: Luke Langsdale
Hair and Makeup: Liam Dunn, Sylvester Castellano
Producer: Elle Sullivan Wilson
Photography: The Selby
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