How did your studio and blog, Ann Street Studio, begin?
Kevin: Jamie’s blog From Me To You started in 2009 when it was just her and the work was very personal. Then, we published the first Cinemagraph in 2011. As we began to work together on larger projects, it was clear that we needed an identity change.
Ann Street is a small street in the financial district of Manhattan. Our first photo studio overlooked this street and we would casually refer to it as Ann Street Studio when people would visit. When we decided to change the blog’s name from From Me To You to Ann Street Studio, it was an easy switch since we already had the domain name and social media accounts.
How has your blog impacted your career?
Jamie: It has been a great tool for meeting and collaborating with other creative people. We’ve met stylists, makeup artists, models, hairstylists and floral artists through our blog and social media. Their blog and social media accounts give you a sense of their personality and style and an inkling if you’ll work well together. Like attracts like.
Our blog also lets us show our personal work and share our client work. It’s opened the door to opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise, like travel and fashion experiences. For example, we recently went on a trip to Spain with the prestigious champagne maker Dom Pérignon where we were able to enjoy food prepared by acclaimed chef Ferran Adrià.
It’s also marketing. The blog can be viewed around the world and it keeps you in the front of people’s minds so they can be updated on what you’re creating. We’ve done some paid advertising on Facebook, but we find the best way to market is to get your work out there organically. If people love it, they will share it. For photographers who are just starting out, when you start from scratch, you do have to engage with your community and let people know about your blog. But good content is far and away the most important thing.
Kevin: It’s incredibly important for photographers today to have a social media presence. Even if you use/post to Instagram only once a week, it shows that you’re active in your work. It’s also a free way for thousands or millions of people to see your work, so it’s a no-brainer.
How much of the work that you do today involves the Cinemagraph?
Kevin: It’s about a third of our work. We have stills-only projects and also video projects. For a recent project for the beauty brand Origins, we went on a multi-continent shoot around Europe, Australia and Africa to shoot a video around the natural ingredients used in Origin’s products.
The Cinemagraph and video projects usually come with more production. Both the shooting phase and post-production of motion material is quite intensive. Post-production of Cinemagraphs can be a frame-by-frame process depending on the complexity or subject matter. Human movement is particularly challenging if a piece of motion doesn’t loop perfectly and jumps out at the viewer. This can be incredibly distracting. So, I’ll spend up to a few days working on the details of a Cinemagraph to make it great.
What excites you about the future of the Cinemagraph?
Kevin: Imagine a print ad, or what you think is a print ad, for something like sunglasses. There’s a woman and she’s looking away, but as you walk by she looks directly at you. There’s a “holy shit” moment when that happens. We were able to tap into that at the very beginning of publishing Cinemagraphs when people weren’t expecting it. But now with the proliferance of GIFs and motion everywhere, it’s tougher to surprise people—we’re looking to new platforms to make that happen again.
We see this as the infancy of something very big—Cinemagraphs getting bigger! Size matters in art. A big photograph can have more impact when it’s printed on a large scale—you stand in front of large photographs in a museum and get lost in the details. We want to take Cinemagraphs off of digital devices and into the real world. Since we travel a lot, we’re always seeing ads—especially for the luxury market—in airports around the world. We’re still waiting for display technology to catch up, but the ultimate goal right now is to see a Cinemagraph on a huge ultra-high-resolution display that has photographic quality.
We also try to add complexity and depth to the images. A Cinemagraph can be a single loop of motion, or we often incorporate many loops, all working in harmony. Each little detail can bring the image to life and make it more interesting.
What equipment are you using now?
Kevin: We shoot and master everything now at 6K on a RED Epic DRAGON 6K camera. The RED camera is the perfect marriage of stills and video, which is exactly what we’re doing with Cinemagraphs. Each frame of video is around the same quality and resolution as a DSLR photo, which means a great deal of detail to work with. We’ve been shooting with RED cameras for about three years and it’s without a doubt the best camera out there for what we do.
Are you getting more attention from brands who want to use Cinemagraphs to advertise?
Kevin: Brands are getting on board with Cinemagraphs in a big way. We were told that Facebook circulated a memo to advertisers on ways to use autoplay video to advertise on Facebook’s website, with Cinemagraphs playing a key part of that strategy.
There’s a certain amount of novelty to overcome, but we are confident that Cinemagraphs and any hybrid photo-video mediums have a lasting and real appeal. I envision a general blending of the traditional way we think of still photos and videos. As more and more people grow up around Cinemagraphs, it won’t be a novelty, it will just be part of the creative fabric.
What is the best platform for Cinemagraph advertisements?
Kevin: Advertising is still very traditional. But social media is a new frontier and there’s more experimentation happening there.
Instagram is the best platform for Cinemagraphs right now. Cinemagraphs work so well on Instagram because of looping and autoplay, plus we can use modern video compression so the colors and quality are top quality.
For example, we recently made the first Cinemagraph ad campaign for shoe brand Stuart Weitzman that ran on Instagram. We discovered that the coolest thing about advertising on Instagram is the instant feedback and metrics that Instagram provides. A brand can see exactly how their ad dollars are performing. We plan on doing even more Instagram campaigns—we’ve created some for a new card from American Express for SPG.
Right now I’m on a plane from Paris to New York, and I count 28 digital screens just in my field of view. All the digital screens out there are fertile ground for Cinemagraphs.