New Season of Nat Geo Channel's 'Life Below Zero' Premieres With Joey L. Promos
"To make a long story short, I had photographed some portraits in an indoor blizzard setting and shared them online," he explained on his blog. "The images were then shared around quite heavily … and got a lot of traction. L.A.-based design company Cold Open was in the process of pitching ideas to National Geographic Channel, and were chosen to lead the design and creative for the new campaign." Coincidentally, the group brought along Joey L.'s blizzard images as reference imagery, but wasn't aware that the photographer had worked with the channel before. Nat Geo Channel creative director Andy Baker and design director Carla Daeninckx mentioned it to Cold Open, which would ultimately pick the photographer, and everything fell into place in Joey L.'s favor.
He flew to Anchorage to shoot Sue Aikens, one of the program's subjects and the warden of Kavik River Camp, miles north of the Arctic Circle (and 500 miles from the nearest city and 80 miles from the closest road). "Although I think Sue is actually quite beautiful and charming in real life, the image of her chosen for the main key art isn't exactly flattering, but it is honest in representing exactly what the show is," Joey L. noted. "Sue didn't mind this either, and would rather be depicted authentically as someone facing a harsh climate rather than 'a girly-girl with a pink rifle,' as she put it." He added that aside from technical knowledge and artistry, portrait photographers have to develop social observational skills: "Sue is a lovable person and easygoing, but this is still the first time she's done a photo shoot like this. She hadn't met us previously ... we listened to what she had to say and made her part of the creative process. We did our research by watching episodes and reading material about her life, we took recommendations on what she'd actually wear and even the way she'd hold certain props or objects."
Joey L. also paid particular attention to creating the faux precipitation. "When it's extremely cold, snow is not puffy and large," he remarked. "Beyond making the light more dramatic and less feathered and soft, something as simple as reducing the size and speed of the snowflakes themselves could even change the feeling of the photograph."
The second season of "Life Below Zero" premieres Thursday, April 17 at 9 p.m. on the Nat Geo Channel.