Ian and Erick focus on the eye of the beholder
Updated: Nov 13
Ian and Erick Regnard, Photographers
Ian and Erick share more than the Regnard last name. The brothers, initially from Mauritius, settled in Perth with their parents at the tender age of 16. Erick started to become interested in surf photography. 1992 Ian joined his brother in making a living with surf photography under the business name Tungsten, and in the early days, their work was for Tracks magazine.
From 2002 onwards, the brothers decided to diversify their work and became internationally known as “Ian & Erick” for their advertising, lifestyle, portrait and action images.
For this 50 Grounds chat, Erick was not available as he was still in Brisbane for family reasons. The Perth sunlight quality has lured back many photo pros, so it is not a surprise that Erick will soon join his brother in Perth for golden beaches and the outdoors.
I am meeting Ian in a coffeeshop busy with customers who spilled in all at the same time because the popular coffee haunt across the road closed earlier. Tables, glasses and counters are rather sticky looking. I hold my breath when a cockroach hurries across our table, and I feel the urge to join a fat fly in search for a fast way out.
Squeamish or not, I focus back on Ian, who remains sitting calmly beside me.
'These days, it's quite hard to shoot global projects. The competition amongst photographers is fierce.'
'Our agent in L.A. has recently retired, and we are on the lookout for a new one to represent us besides the one we have in Sydney. COVID travel restrictions also made it impossible to travel for work this year,' says Ian.
Over the last two decades, the brother’s photography portfolio amassed the who-is-who of global consumer brands, sports magazine celebrities, politics and resources industry titans. Richard Branson, Helena Christensen, Fidel Castro and Danny Green, to name a few were all in front of Ian and Erick's portrait lenses.
The Regnard brothers work as a two-headed entity on set.
'I think people often struggle to understand how we work. On set we alternate as assistant or photographer during the photo shoot; Erick will come over and see something from a different angle or the other way around. We constantly give feedback to each other, it's like finishing off each other's ideas,' explains Ian.
'We see a trend of companies using us now directly instead of approaching us through the traditional advertising agency. Clients still use the agencies to conceptualise, but inhouse marketers are directing the shoot and are sitting down with the photographer to sort out a shot list and stuff like that.
'We are now asking clients and ad agencies to bring the ideas early to us so we can tell them whether it is a viable photography concept.
'First and foremost, I'm interested in what the client’s brand stands for. People in tough times will still want to associate themselves with a meaningful brand.'
It reminded me of an article about business to business (B2B) marketing being too logical and not emotional. The research showed that in B2B purchasing decisions, emotion has its place.
Ian agrees that our Job in marketing and brand building is to confirm customers made the right purchasing choices. And this is connected with the sensory experience of the journey how you get there.
'Connection is all-important to building trust. If a client walks away with doubt about your professional or personal abilities, there's nothing worse.'
Experience of working with scientists and engineers has taught me a lot about the rational and emotional sides of the brain's decision capabilities and has shown me many blind spots on both sides of the rational vs emotional spectrum in business decision making.
Ian agrees says that creatives often are labelled upfront as emotional or irrational. When trying to achieve buy-in, creatives often have an uphill battle to really add their full creative value to a commercial project that is driven by client inhouse logistics, politics and budgets.
'We had a client recently who wanted to spend 15 hours post-processing photos to make them look like they were shot on Polaroid. I said we can shoot directly on Polaroid. Knowing what we can do upfront saves everyone money and time.
At this stage, I wonder about generation knowledge gaps between creatives. I mean, long before 'Polaroid' became a Photoshop filter aesthetic, it was an essential tool of any professional photographer shooting on film.
'You might have a great design idea, but is it really possible to photograph? We always try to make an impact and make it beautiful. For instance, we had a large Insurer come to us because they liked our previous work in youth photography.
'The insurer wanted to reach the youth market. Sometimes our client's intent differs from the reality of what we are being asked to show.
‘In reality, growing up is about rule-bending, pushing against boundaries; it's not about adhering to safety protocols. So we were looking for some creative freedom to bring the message across and be credible for the market.'
‘It is crucial for good outcomes, that people check our work before they engage with us and understand what results they can expect if they only take a little risk to set their message apart from the rest.
‘Magic happens when they call us and simply say ‘We love your work; we'd love to work with you’. Then we know we’re going to contribute something great.’
When they are not commercially shooting, the Regnards equally push each other's creativity in their personal photo essays and their much-cherished art projects.
Of course, the brothers would prefer to entirely focus on their artistic side.
'The commercial constraints all fall away; it's no secret we love our art projects and telling our personal stories.’
Ian points out the 2014 'Floating Bits' exhibition.
'It took us a year of technical preparation to shoot the underwater stingray series. The exhibition went around the globe three times and opened a lot of doors for us.'
It is this underwater photography series that impressed me the most—the black & white stingray series is simply mesmerising and floated majestically along art gallery walls and onto the covers and spreads of many magazines.
The result, captured with modified large format cameras using Polaroid film, sets the Regnard brother's artistry miles apart from digital trickery photography and shows the full scope of their talent.
The purpose of art for me has always been encapsulated in the saying ‘the message is the medium’. As a commercial artist, I find incredible relief and scope in the possibility of art that simply holds its own.
‘Sometimes, there is no story! Sometimes there is no WHY, and it's just because!’ explains Ian.
‘We continue testing and evolving the craft within the portrait, sports and lifestyle boundaries we set ourselves. This is why every year we sit down and check out where the trend is going. ‘Personal growth needs time to try new things, and we keep testing and experimenting.’
‘When the industry was disrupted with the arrival of digital technology, we were shocked to see so many angry Photographers. Erick and I felt photography had become technically stale over the years. It was ruled by exposure, chemistry and strict aesthetic compositions.
‘Digital came, and photography got in everyone’s hands, suddenly it opened up whole new styles, but the downside is now more people see themselves as professionals without deeper backing.’
Ian pauses briefly and says, ‘I still think though if you are good at what you do and bring value to the client or advertising agency, you can make a good living without just ticking boxes.’
The Common Ground:
Commercial and artistic facets can coexist in the same talent
A camera is a tool, the result is based on human capability
Testing, discovery and continuous improvement are vital for personal growth
Investment in collaboration with experienced professional photographers pays off if you want to set apart the story.