By Lucia Accipe
Pulling out his subjects’ personality is Keith Barraclough‘s greatest strength. Over the past 20 years, this New York based photographer has left his imprint on the photography world providing his services for a large variety of advertising agencies, editorial and corporate clients. Not only is he a talented commercial photographer, Keith also shoots stunning personal projects and in this interview, Keith speaks in-depth about his work, motivations and his Redheads project.
Production Paradise: You have been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. At what point did you know photography would be your future?
Keith Barraclough: Photography for me was not “love at first sight”. I am not one of those people who was given a camera at age five and knew from that point on what I wanted to do. I first picked up a camera while taking a course in photography during the summer of my sophomore year of college. I took a few more photography and art history classes and began to appreciate what it had to offer, especially as it related to my life outside of school. At the time my parents lived in Europe, and while visiting galleries in Paris and Belgium I saw many art pieces that I was studying. This was the moment where the relationship between school and home became apparent. So in my junior year I switched my focus from geology to art history – graduating with art history and photography degrees. I was living and breathing photography and at that point knew it would be my future.
Production Paradise: How would you describe your style as a professional photographer?
Keith Barraclough: Energetic, creative and collaborative. I strive to make things fun in the midst of what can be a hectic environment. I’m not interested in having something that looks set up, overly propped or fake. I can be very energetic on set so with the portraits I take it’s all about pulling out their personality and getting reactions.
Production Paradise: Your portfolio is really diverse, from puppies photography, corporate executive portraits to celebrities. What has been the most challenging and exciting photo shoot you’ve ever organized?
Keith Barraclough: The most challenging and exciting shoot was when I was hired by Animal Planet to photograph all 164 AKC registered dog breeds. The first challenge was finding a place where all, or most, of the breeds would be. Animal Planet did not want me traveling across the country photographing for a long period of time, so finding a venue where most breeds would be present was tricky. Dog shows were the obvious venue choice, but none we found worked well. We finally found a five-day event being held in Salem, Virginia.
The concept was to photograph the dogs’ personalities, but how I did that was completely up to me. I expected this to be challenging, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to get the dog owners and handlers to agree to have their dogs photographed. The organizers of the event sent out email announcements telling all the participants that Animal Planet would be at the event to photograph dogs. Animal Planet made banners and flyers to post around the venue. In addition, my assistant and Beth worked the venue reminding the handlers and owners we were there. Other challenges included finding a venue and once there, finding and getting all the dogs on set. Finding a Labrador retriever or a German Shepherd was fairly easy. The rare dogs (e.g. a Xolo or Puli) were obviously more difficult. But, with the help of countless dog owners and handlers who knew many key dog owners, we were able to photograph many more than we would have doing this alone.
The most challenging aspect, however, was taking the photos. The smaller breeds had so much energy they wouldn’t sit still; some of the larger ones had their own challenges keeping focused or becoming skittish when the strobes fired. Trying to make all the breeds look attentive with personality took time and patience. Since we only had a few minutes with each, every shot counted. We came up with many “inventive” ways to get the dogs to sit still or to have them look in a certain direction (e.g. squeaky toys, throwing food in a certain direction or having a dog in heat on the set – yes we really did that)!
Production Paradise: Besides your professional work, you have undertaken the “Redhead Project”, a personal project in which you take portraits of redheads. How did you come up with this idea?
Keith Barraclough: I got the idea for it about two and half years ago while processing images from a corporate shoot of an executive who had red hair and piercing blue eyes. I was struck by the contrast of the subject’s features against the white Oxford he was wearing and the light seamless backdrop. I thought that a series of redheads wearing white against a white seamless and contrasting that with portraits of them with their favorite items that shows their personality (clothes, food, hobbies, etc…) would make an interesting project.
Being able to take portraits of people who are not use to being in front of the camera, or have never had a professional portrait taken, would be a perfect fit for both advertising and editorial clients. Each photo shoot is a collaborative process and there is always an element of surprise since I never know what each redhead will bring in terms of wardrobe, props and personality. I shoot tethered to the computer so we can periodically review the images together and come up with ideas of how to use the clothes and props in creative and unique ways. By working together to orchestrate the direction of the photo shoot, such as the look and feel of the images, and by jointly editing down the images, subjects who are not accustomed to professional photo shoots are able to relax and let their natural personalities shine through.
Production Paradise: Most of the models are not professionals. What is their motivation for being part of this project? What messages do they want to send out to your audience?
Keith Barraclough: Most say their motivation is to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable. So my job is to make them feel comfortable. Since part of the project is based on them bringing props they are able to show who they really are – their personality through clothes, their hobbies, what they collect, etc. It is also about showing the relationship between the redhead and their hair, and it gives each redhead the ability to show off. The overriding message I think the redheads want to send is that they now embrace (and want to show off) the red hair, freckles and light skin they once were teased about and at times hated. They want to show the confidence they now have and that being a redhead is not something to hide from.
Production Paradise: What have you found most useful about being a Production Paradise member?
Keith Barraclough: The worldwide reach each photographer has is one of the most useful aspects of Production Paradise. The customer service is also very valuable. Being able to email the stuff and get instant feedback on images or questions you might have is extremely useful.
We would like to thank Keith Barraclough for taking the time to answer our questions. Find more about Keith´s portfolio on our latest New York Showcase and Portraiture and Celebrity photography magazines. You can find more New York-based photographers in our New York photo directory.
If you want to show off your latest work to the industry in the next edition of Production Paradise’s Spotlight or Showcase magazine, contact us now at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.