Peter Rodger grew up looking through a camera lens. As a teenager, the award-winning British director and photographer honed his skills by assisting his father, George Rodger, the renowned photojournalist and co-founder of Magnum Photos. The apple did not fall far from the tree, as Peter continued to garner attention with his unique rich brand of photography for commercial campaigns around the world. He sat down with us to discuss the pandemic and creativity and gave us a behind-the-scenes look at his latest campaign for HCA healthcare.
atedge: These are beautiful deliverables depicting numerous aspects of healthcare, from a patient perspective as well the provider’s point of view. Can you share details about what the creative ask was prior to the shoot?
Rodger: Reality. Hence the stark nature of the imagery and the decision to go black and white. The client thought (and I agree) that shooting in black and white reflected the difficult times and challenges we are facing in a Covid world. As a business, they had to pick up the pieces, carry on and make the best of a terrible pandemic. There was no room for contrived aspiration. This campaign, from the beginning, was all about the truth and what the client is achieving for its patients. Above all, the campaign is about honesty and trust and the black and white, high-contrast nature, inspired by great traditional photojournalism helps push that message along.
atedge: What were some of the challenges and difficulties of shooting during a pandemic?
Rodger: Safety was our main concern for such a large-scale job. The job entailed three separate multi-day shoots that used approximately 35-50 principals for each. We were building a library of imagery that would be used for a massive campaign encompasing every aspect of usage (broadcast motion, full print, digital media, billboards, transportation wraps, banners, and exhibition posters).
This would be a difficult endeavor in the best of times, but with Covid, there are strict rules and guidelines for shooting, that made each day a bit more strenuous and nerve-wracking. Fortunately, we were acknowledging mask-wearing on camera so most of the time the actors were in PPE or at the least, in surgical masks, but when we were conducting scenes that required no masks we made sure the protocols for shooting were strictly adhered to. We had a fabulous Covid team who gracefully and politely enforced the protocols so we could minimize the possibility of spread. Thankfully, because of their thoroughness, we had no instances of infection throughout the shoots.
atedge: What is your photographic philosophy and how did it help the challenge?
Rodger: I reverse-engineer every scene. For example, I would find the location, create the scene and shoot it with a photojournalistic approach as if I had stumbled across the scene and whipped out my camera. Working with pre-arranged foreground elements and smart blocking, lighting in a natural, unobtrusive way, I could move freely and hand-held to capture the moment that told the story in the most authentic way as possible. Subconsciously it occured to me that I have always approached shooting in this manner. This campaign exemplified the merits of my approach, and further allowed an audience to engage with the story and the characters on the screen. Reality is tough to fake, but if you create reality and then capture it, you can portray the magic of any given moment.