Californian Vegar Abelsnes follows his passion by being a versatile and international photographer. However, this is not enough. With his team he ventures into a new way of production; producing stills, video and web content at the same time. We got the chance to talk to him and find out more about his work, Team Vegar and an honest and holistic approach to production.
Production Paradise: You are originally from Norway, which is certainly an extremely beautiful and scenic part of the world; did this influence your creative style?
Vegar: Absolutely. In part I grew up in the north of Norway, ~ 200 km north of the Arctic circle on the Lofoten Islands, where you have winter and hardly any daylight for 7-8 months and in the summer, the sun actually never sets. You have the famous midnight sun. The winter storms would shut down the whole community on weekend sometimes. Roads closed by massive amounts of snow, power outages, with your world just lit by candle light and fireplaces to keep yourself warm. So you have extreme differences with the lighting, you spend a large portion of the year in the dark, then several months of no darkness, yet the natural surroundings are absolutely spectacular. I think it would be impossible for ones sensibilities not to be affected by such intensity and beauty. I think most Norwegians are very tuned into this, and affected by this. I also grew up on the coast where the light, and the weather is constantly changing, often in the most dramatic ways.
Production Paradise: Your work has taken you to many fascinating places where you have shot energising images of people, locations and food. What is it about shooting internationally that attracts you?
Vegar: At the age of 19 I packed a small backpack and an instamatic camera and left Norway to go traveling around the world in search of a greater purpose. From exploring, experiencing, seeing, and tasting much of what the world has to offer I gravitated towards a desire to photograph. Photography became a true passion in my life. It is for me both my vocation and my avocation. So in other words, traveling internationally, seeing the world and engaging in adventures is originally what inspired me to pick up a camera and start shooting, and so my love for shooting internationally is still rooted in this sense of adventure. I love discovering new places, exploring the incredible beauty that many places have to offer, tasting diverse cuisines, and meeting amazing people. The fact that I can travel the world while making a good living has always been a dream of mine, and I feel very lucky and privileged that I have been able to make it a reality.
Production Paradise: As a Californian based photographer and filmmaker how important is it for you to have a solid team behind you, both at home and abroad?
Vegar: As far as I am concerned, having a great team is the be-all and end-all. You are never stronger than your weakest part and I feel that one of the main reasons of my success is that I work with an amazing team. I have always preferred to work with friends, and I am fortunate to have some great friends that happen to be some of the best people in the business. My team are the coolest and hardest working people you will ever meet. Life is short. It’s important to work with people you like! In my opinion the reason we have so many repeating clients is because of my team. Of course my pictures have to be right, but the fact that we have a lot of fun together while we work creates a very contagious and positive work atmosphere. A photo shoot should be fun. Agencies and clients have often been working together on concepts and ideas for a campaign for months, so when they are finally on set to put their ideas into life, should not be a time for things to become stressful and difficult. I strongly believe in creating an environment which is fun and relaxed, no matter the size and complexity of the production. Everyone involved, from client to agency, crew, and of course the talent feels more relaxed which makes my work a lot easier and the end product comes out better. It’s a process, and you have to believe in it.
Production Paradise: What is Team Vegar?
Vegar: Team Vegar is a group of incredibly talented and creative film makers, photographers, musicians, writers, production Ninjas, and just good friends that have known and worked together for a long time. Together we have over 150 years of experience in this ever evolving industry, many of which have been together. We are a tight knit group that works seamlessly together, and we believe in creating a highly collaborative environment. The best work is always produced when people are allowed to do what they are best at, so, when we work together, I think it’s essential that all of us can take some ownership on the creative direction and process of a given project. So far, we have gathered an amazing team so we can wear all the hats with the best fit, while staying focused on the end result; which is mainly creating the best content to our clients through single epic multi-platform content marketing shoots.
Director/Photographer Vegar Abelsnes
Photographer Travis Shinn
Dp/Editor Bobby Hewitt
Dp Fab Fernandez
Production Tenth & Hudson
Wardrobe Jasmine Hamed
Props Justin Segall
BTS David Rowe
Hair/Make-Up Angelina Butera
Digital Wrangler Chris Nowling/10 Digital
Production Paradise: Where did the idea originally come from?
Vegar: Well, it’s a brand new world out there. Digital technologies are advancing and changing gradually, and so are the media channels and the need for content. When I first started out, we were still shooting 4×5 and 8×10 chrome. I had to adapt to the digital world at a very early stage. Almost too early. In 2004, I published my first book on digital files (Harper Collins) and at that time the printers were not adjusted to such files. Fast forward to 2015 we are now looking at images shot with phones published on social media where often little to no technical or craft background is required to generate interest in ones work.
The notion of production is changing – moving away from a broadcast-first mentality to focus more on a holistic content approach – and Team Vegar is on the forefront of this new way of thinking. It’s not just about content, it’s bigger than that. It’s really about authentic content and authentic ways that this type of material is shared (i.e. Instagram, Twitter, etc.), and this really needs to be considered before a production even begins. What Team Vegar has come up with is a production structure that while being new, is still in part familiar to the existing industry.
With social media assets holding increased value in the current media market, Team Vegar incorporates and involves social media content creators (sometimes with less production experience) into a combined still and motion production structure. It is Team Vegar’s belief that larger, well produced and coherent content marketing shoots can have a greater and longer lasting impact than layering disparate content across multi-platform channels. Team Vegar is thus elevating and contextualizing the social media content created into an existing and effective world of marketing; hence a production structure is being introduced with lower production costs, while increasing production value, by bringing everything under one roof.
Production Paradise: Tell us about The Adventure Road Trip Go Rving 2015?
Vegar: This is where it all came together. Last year while on a shoot with Go RVing, I thought to myself “If we want to create a campaign that demonstrates the benefits of RVing across all channels, why don’t we actually just get a team together, some really cool RVs, and go on an actual road trip somewhere beautiful documenting our experience as we go? The idea is simple, but while we are at it let’s not only shoot motion and stills, but also bring with us a team of influencers that can also bring the experience to audiences in real time?” This type of content was exactly what our longterm client and friend Go RVing was looking to add to their new Away microsite, launched by their longtime agency partner, The Richards Group.
Production Paradise: What’s in the pipeline for you and Team Vegar?
Vegar: We have other bids in the process, one of which has asked us to put together a social media marketing plan as well. Meanwhile we are promoting our services to a lot of potential clients. I think there is a real need and interest for this type of production, and the kind and quality of content that we create. We are just looking for the right clients to collaborate with.
Production Paradise: What have you found most useful about being a Production Paradise member?
Vegar: To be part of an international community of creatives and production people. I recently had a shoot in Los Angeles, with an agency that focuses mainly on the Hispanic market. The agency worked with an art buyer and producer who had just moved from London and somehow has managed to reach me through her connection with Production Paradise. I love that it has become such a global market place and production community. PP is also a great research tool to find production support anywhere in the world.
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