Blending reality and surrealism to tell a story: Kai Bastard, Advertising Category winner in the Spotlight Awards


Kai Bastard, Spotlight Awards 2018 Winner in the Advertising Category, has forged a prodigious buzz in the advertising world through his powerful imagery. Kai has a background in post production that combined with his commitment to find a purpose behind every project allows him to create images that are both conceptual and evocative.

′Putting on a Brave Face′ by Kai Bastard | Advertising Category Winner – Spotlight Awards 2018

Production Paradise: Tell us about the winning image – the idea behind it, how was it shot?

Kai Bastard: The idea is to make people aware of depression. There is a stigma around the subject and people opening up and this really should not feel like a taboo. People sometimes are hiding behind a mask. With a false positive emotion that they project outwards for others to see, while their true feelings are kept hidden. The concept is a minimalist construction, with our undivided focus on our subject. So the most important thing was capturing the correct facial expressions, that reflected these emotional states and told the story. It’s about the viewers connecting with our subject and entering a state of self-reflection themselves.

Our world has become emotionally disconnected. Through social media, we are projecting a reality that we control allowing people to see only the positive moments of our life that we wish to portray. These moments are then artificially enhanced through filters and special effects overlaid on the image, building upon this false projection of people’s identity. ‘Putting on a Brave Face’ is a visual interpretation of the emotional/psychological state that is all too commonly hidden. Depression, unfortunately, holds an air of stigma, making people find it extremely hard to speak about, masking their true emotional state behind a positive projection of themselves.

Production Paradise: How would you describe your style?

Kai Bastard: My work is fused together by reality and surrealism. I bring together individual elements that tell a richer story. I don’t see myself as a photographer, but an image-maker blending traditional direction with the digital space to create interactive and emotionally engaging experiences. Narrative and purpose are what drives me to create.

Kai Bastard | Spotlight Awards 2018 Winner – Advertising Category

Production Paradise: How did you end up behind the lens? Tell us about your career path.

Kai Bastard: Photography has always felt like the correct medium to express myself. I studied fine art alongside photography, from there I worked for some of the top London creative retouching houses. This lead me to develop my craft and eye and building my own London creative production studio. I then, unfortunately, went through my own issues with depression and walked away from everything I had built. Taking time to reflect I naturally gravitated back to my passion and wanted to take ownership of the projects in their entirety.

Production Paradise: What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?

Kai Bastard: I’m fulfilling an inner desire to create imagery, the by-product of this is working as a commercial image maker. Fundamentally you need to follow your own beliefs and passions. People have an insatiable appetite to consume imagery/videos, your desire to make needs to match this.

It’s also not just about only being a photographer, in today’s climate you need to understand production, marketing, budgeting, styling, post-production, video, CGI. You don’t need to know everything, but things are much more complicated and require a larger breadth of understanding.

Production Paradise: We believe you are not resting on your laurels – what are you working on now? 

Kai Bastard: I have a perverse desire to constantly create. With sketchbooks of ideas, screen grabs for mood-boards, and around five projects that are in all different states of completion. The most recent of these is a self-indulgent personal piece that reflects on the struggles of humanity called ‘Rise’.

Production Paradise: The Spotlight awards had a judge’s panel composed of potential clients for commercial photographers – did that influence your choice of image(s) selected for your entry?

Kai Bastard: Yes it did. Getting your work in front of the right people is not an easy task with a barrage of marketing material constantly filling their letterboxes, e-mail inboxes and constantly ringing mobiles. I chose ‘Putting on a Brave Face’ because I believe it has that human connection that people can relate to along with a clear narrative.

Production Paradise: What made you want to participate in these Awards?

Kai Bastard: Exposure and the potential of getting your work seen by a new audience.

We would like to thank Kai for taking the time to share his journey with us! To see more of his work, visit Member’s portfolio or website.

Production Paradise has issued a special edition of Spotlight Magazine featuring all the winners. Make sure you subscribe to our blog and Spotlight Magazine to stay connected with top creative talents and services in the international commercial photo and film industry!

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