Over the last half of the 20th century, the corporate annual report became the premier vehicle for communicating a company’s work, spirit and vision to shareholders. Many of America’s most iconic brand images were created for annual reports, including a rich portfolio of photographs by Houston photographer Arthur Meyerson for Coca-Cola. We featured his vibrant portrayal of dancers at Fiesta San Antonio in the Single Image journal. Arthur generously shared his insights with us about shooting for Coca-Cola.
Design Print Impact: You shot annuals for Coca-Cola over a twenty year stretch, traveling across the globe many times. How did you snag such a terrific assignment, and how did you keep the relationship going for so long?
Arthur Meyerson: I was invited to work on the project by the late graphic designer, Critt Graham. Back then, you were selected on the basis of your portfolio, and they liked my work enough to allow me to finish several assignments I had already committed to. As for the longevity, the Coke people were wonderful clients who trusted me and let me work as I thought best. They gave me an opportunity to approach their assignments the way I approached my personal work.
DPI: And at the same time, you talk about the importance of collaboration and creating a common consensus for the creative direction.
AM: Of course. Our work is to solve problems for the client, and certainly two heads are better than one. A photographer is only as good as his client, and great work grows out of the interaction between the client, art director, designer and photographer. Sometimes the designer drove the truck, as we say, but just as often the client relied on me to capture what they were seeking to communicate. Because we were often traveling in remote locales under conditions that could be unpredictable, I had to think on my feet and find ways to make great shots in places that weren’t the most visually appealing. Having the benefit of input from the client and designer beforehand was critical.
An important point is that there must be a clear understanding before starting out – either there’s a strong consensus about the direction, or the photographer has the authority to create autonomously. Before cell and internet communications made real-time decisions possible, that was essential. Today, clients in the home office can immediately review shots sent in from across the globe. It’s important to not let that access water down the creative process on the ground.
Our work is to solve problems for the client, and certainly two heads are better than one. A photographer is only as good as his client, and great work grows out of the interaction between the client, art director, designer and photographer.
DPI: The international scope of your work for Coke is inspiring. How did the idea to travel the world come about?
AM: Coca-Cola has long been an important global brand. At the time I first met with them, they were projecting an international image, but doing so through studio sets with props and actors. My recommendation was to shoot on location instead. It could be done for the same budget, but more importantly, it would speak with an authenticity that would resonate.
DPI: And the results prove that theory. Can we ask, how does being a Texan inform your aesthetic approach?
AM: Well, being from a place is as big a part of who you are as your heritage and family. I really can’t answer how it makes me different from other photographers, but I can tell you that being a part of the Texas design community was a huge benefit. The great designers like Woody Pirtle, Lowell Williams, The Richards Group and others were gaining international fame and the work we did was featured in design annuals across the country. That visibility allowed me to begin working with clients from all over.
DPI: Finally, what projects are you working on today?
AM: Besides teaching workshops, leading photo tours and mentoring, I’m doing mostly personal work now. I published a very successful book of work titled The Color of Light a couple of years ago and am currently working on a second book with a third in mind as well. After 40 years of shooting commercially, I’m having fun being the client now!
Arthur Meyerson has done photo assignments for many of America’s most iconic brands. Besides his commercial work, Arthur’s fascination with light, color and the moment continues and has culminated into an impressive body of personal work as well and in 2012 culminated in his highly acclaimed book, The Color of Light. His photographs are in the public collections of several major institutions and have been exhibited internationally.
He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Santa Fe Center for Photography as well as serving on the Board of Advisors for the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and the Houston Center for Photography. A three-time winner of Adweek’s “Southwest Photographer of the Year” award, he is on Communication World’s list of top 10 corporate photographers and was named one of the 30 best advertising photographers by American Photo.
Upcoming workshops by Arthur Meyerson:
Maine Media Workshops, Rockport, Maine (July 12-18)
Pacific Northwest Arts Center, Coupeville, Washington (August 10-14)
Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (October 18-23)