It’s not surprising when camera companies hire photographers to pitch their products. But photographers have also been enlisted to sell other types of products — the result of Madison Avenue trying to romanticize the occupation, even though the reality often fails to meet the expectation. Nowadays photographers are more likely to spend the majority of their time sitting at a desk in post-processing or trying to collect on invoices that are 6 months past due.
Nevertheless, we’ve seen a number of companies in a variety of industries employ photographers in their ad campaigns in the past few years, spanning the gamut from the old living icons to the newest generation of light chasers.
Elliott Erwitt for Cole Haan
As a part of their “Born in 1928” campaign launched in 2013, shoe brand Cole Haan teamed up with the legendary Elliott Erwitt to celebrate the “off” year 85th anniversary of the brand. The cherubic-faced Erwitt looks smartly dressed in a pair of Cole Haan kicks while draping his camera over his shoulder. Photographer Daniel Jackson shot the campaign.
Lynsey Addario for Audi
Decorated war photographer Lynsey Addario’s decision to appear in a 2014 Audi ad wasn’t without controversy given the glamorization of the job vis-à-vis the death of her driver at the hands of her captors. On the other hand, the choice to use a female war photographer undoubtedly had an impact on the public’s understanding and definition of war photographer – showing that both men and women put their lives on the line to cover the atrocities of war.
Steve McCurry and David Alan Harvey for Filson
In 2014, Filson, the longtime purveyor of outdoor clothing and bags, teamed up with Magnum Photographers Steve McCurry and David Alan Harvey to design a set of camera bags that Harvey described as “something I could use in the Favelas in Rio, but still take to a dinner party.”
Although the bags had a limited run, Filson cleared banked on the mythology of two of the industry’s heavyweights.
Pei Ketron and Paul Nicklen for American Express
Photographer and educator Pei Ketron burst to prominence as one of the early “recommended” photographers to follow on Instagram, helping to make her one of the first photographers to gain half a million followers.
Biologist/photographer Paul Nicken’s incredible undersea images and prominence in the National Geographic’s Instagram feed has helped to propel him to over 3.8 million followers and growing.
The significant social media reach likely influenced American Express’ decision to tap both photographers in early 2016 for a series of travel-based ads touting the benefits of the AMEX Gold Card. Double and triple points, plus no foreign transaction fee!
Barbara Davidson for Volvo
Former Los Angeles Times photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Barbara Davidson was tapped by Volvo in 2017 to show off their XC60 urban camera safety system. Volvo’s unorthodox approach used Davidson’s skills as a photographer combined with the car-as-camera to create a commercial and gallery exhibition.
Andre D. Wagner for Cole Haan and Theory
The Omaha-born social worker turned NYC street photographer, Andre D. Wagner, has been blowing up lately. His timeless street photography has gained him an appreciative audience and broad media coverage with simultaneous comparisons to photographers like Garry Winogrand.
Young, talented, black, and handsome – it’s no wonder that brands like Cole Haan and Theory have started to flock to him as an authentic voice of a generation. Plus, he’s still shooting and developing black and white film!
About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.