Joe Pugliese Gets Creative with A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky is practically indefinable. He rose to fame thanks to a sparkling career in hip hop but quickly became a fashion authority, and a generally creative phenomenon. All celebrities influence their fans, but few have the kind of impact that Rocky has. It’s not just that he reaches a lot of people, but brands all over the world seek to benefit from his taste and style – he’s a collaborator, not a spokesman. So when Courvoisier reached out to Joe Pugliese and asked him to photograph Rocky for their latest campaign, Joe was psyched. “He’s much more than a hip hop artist, he’s basically a creative force, creative director in his own right,” Joe says. “The opinions he had and the taste level that he brought to the shoot was key. I don’t think a lot of people could have pulled it off like he did.”
The premise of the shoot was different from the work that Joe is normally called to do, but instead of getting caught up in what was different, Joe looked at what was the same and how to use that to the advantage of the project. “I’m generally an editorial photographer so I wanted this to look like a portrait of him that seemed authentic like I would have done for a magazine,” Joe says. “I didn’t want it to be like he was dressing up for the part and I feel like we got to a place that looks like something as authentic as we would have shot editorially.” In order to engender that relationship between the audience and Rocky, Joe needed to be able to control every aspect of the shoot. So he did. They built the entire set from scratch, placing every hanging jacket and swatch book and spool of thread to maximize the communication – and if you notice the bottle of Courvoisier in the shot, even better.
“We wanted to create an intimate space with him,” Joe explains. “He’s someone who has these moments of creative expression and that could happen with no one around and that could happen at the tailor. So we wanted to make sure that he was surrounded by something that is authentic and curated.”
It’s not every day that a photographer gets to work with a subject whose creativity is in demand all over the world. Typically their subject is a personality they must reveal or a model whose shape works perfectly for the desired goal. But Joe was able to work together with Rocky and use him as a creative asset instead of just as a subject. “It was inspiring. I was happy that he had opinions. I was happy that he had an image that he wanted to see accurately depicted, and that was a lot more fun to me than someone who just let us do whatever we wanted, especially in the world of advertising, authenticity is everything.”