Director/photographer Tom Gould, who is represented by Sweetshop in Australia and New Zealand, recently directed the new Ralph Lauren Polo Sport ’Submariner’ campaign, shot on location in Aotearoa, New Zealand. This is the first NZ-based shoot for the brand. In this Q&A Gould talks about the creative thinking and approach as well as the remote directing process.
What was the thinking / creative focus of the campaign?
TG: The new Polo Sport collection is based around an Aquatic / Submariner theme – consisting of technical outerwear for adventure. So, when team at Ralph Lauren knew I was home in Aotearoa, New Zealand, we started talking about how we could bring this to life down here.
As soon as I saw the black, the yellow, and these tones of blue in the collection, that whole palette spoke to the black sand beaches on our West Coast. It would be at one with the landscape there.
With every campaign I have worked on with Ralph Lauren, we’ve wanted to capture a story and a reason why we are at these places. So, for the first Polo Sport campaign to be shot here, it was an important focus for us to tell an authentic story that reflected who we are in Aotearoa and our connection to the ocean and land – through the photographs and through our local talent.
All of our talent had their own personal connection to the ocean; some of them were close friends of mine, some had never been in front of a camera before – but all shared that common bond from the land where they grew up. Overall, we wanted to create a campaign that felt like it was from Aotearoa, but kept that Polo Sport feel and aesthetic throughout.
The client was in the US, while you and your crew were in New Zealand? How did this process work?
TG: There was obviously a lot of communication in the pre-production stage to get the location, talent and the styling confirmed. All of our meetings, castings and fittings would be done together via video conference. Our shot list and approach was very detailed – so the team in the US knew exactly what was going to be shot and where. The decision to shoot the campaign on film played heavily into this prep, as we were not going to have a live feed to the team in the US – everything had to be dialed in and approved before our shoot day.
Luckily over the years, the team at Ralph Lauren and I have built a great relationship and one where there is a lot of trust between us – as we know the direction in which the brand is going and the history behind it.
Were there any significant challenges to this set up?
TG: Shooting at such a remote location on the coast is always tricky and as we weren’t sending a live feed back to the US, decisions on the day ultimately fell on myself – which always adds pressure. The fact that we didn’t have to wait until shots were approved, actually made things a lot easier on the day, as we were able to move through all of our various setups and locations and stay on schedule. We were dealing with cars, boats, and helicopters all in one day – so that level of trust to just go out and capture it all was crucial.
Do you think opportunities of directing / photographing remotely are here to stay?
TG: I do. I feel that when there is an opportunity for it to be done in person, that will always be the preference. But the pandemic has forced us to think of new ways to work and to maximize locations, seasons, and worldwide talent to get the job done.