Thursday, May 5, 2022

Award Winning!

I am an award-winning photographer now. I can no longer talk to you unless you have also won an award I'm afraid. It's a cruel but necessary rule.

Here's the proof: Jolt Awards

You may admire the Award Winning Photos here.

Snappy Kraken is a marketing company, and they really really like off-beat stuff. Which, it turns out, is kind of what I am good at. I've done an ongoing campaign in the form of a long series of photos for my wife's business blog, which Snappy Kraken noticed, and they gave me an award. So there. As part of this, I wrote up something of a discussion of "muh pro-cess" and here it is.

When my wife launched her financial planning practice in 2016, I offered to supply her with at least some of the photography. Since I am not a professional as such, she used (with great effect) an actual professional to create the pictures for her main web site. I ended up making pictures for the blog portion, which is to a degree a separate little world of its own. Being generally around, I am conveniently available to make these pictures!

We began with a LEGO minfig, a whimsical and charming miniature female character that seemed to suit the mood of the blog pretty well. Rapidly, though, we realized that this would lead to copyright problems. The LEGO Group is generous, but likely not that generous. I had read within the last few years a book by Molly Bang, Picture This: How Pictures Work, in which she uses a little red triangle to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and to illustrate how emotion and story can be carried with simple graphical shapes. I was pretty sure that a pink triangular block was unlikely to trigger anyone's copyright rights, and so I painted an appropriate scrap of wood, a scrap about 2 inches high.

I'd like to pretend that the concept fell into place fully formed at that point, but that wouldn't be true. What is today a pretty well fleshed out set of ideas has grown fairly organically, by fits and starts, over several years. Rather than try to reconstruct those half-remembered twists and turns, I will instead tell you where we are today, the complete concept. Not every photo succeeds, but I think that en masse and occasionally even one-by-one, the photos hit all or more of the marks.

Block woman, the little pink triangle, is deliberately intended as the avatar of the blog reader, in a sense the ideal customer of Flow Financial Planning, LLC. Pink, despite all efforts, remains resolutely feminine in the modern West. Block woman struggles with the kinds of decisions which that reader might also struggle with; she triumphs likewise in the same ways. The intent is that she should be relatable. She connects the reader to the problem in the blog post.

Using the ideas from Bang's book, I try to create simple scenes which capture some essential idea from the accompanying blog post, ideally some moment of confusion or difficulty or triumph. To be honest, often that's simply too hard to represent visually (how does one photograph a Donor Advised Fund?) and we end up with some silly visual pun, which may or may not even read. Nevertheless, ideally we see block woman palpably struggling with, or solving, exactly the problem the blog post is trying to shed some light on.

At the same time, the pictures try to connect with the Flow brand. Block woman herself is more or less the pink color from the corporate logo, and I will sometimes work in the green or the gold color as well. Every photo has a largely imperceptible vignette applied which is done with the Flow logo's blue. I honestly have no idea if the vignette "reads" but at the very least it helps bolster the common "look" that the blog photos have.

I remind myself regularly of the notion that 50% of marketing doesn't work, we just don't know which 50%, so we do all of it anyway.

Normally, but not always, I try to create an airy, open, warm sensation in the photo. Technically, I lighten up the middle tones a trifle, and render the color palette a little on the warm (yellow/red) side. This openness and warmth, combined with the slightly whacky vibe of an anthropomorphized little-pink-triangle, is aimed at creating an overall vibe of optimism and comfort. The goal is something like "she struggles just as you do, but it's going to be ok, it's a sunny day in block-land!"

To create the emotional content, such as it is, I spend a surprising amount of time getting block woman positioned and/or tilted just so. She leans in to listen, she jumps back in surprise, she hunkers down in worry. Props lean in to threaten, are distant and out of focus to be inaccessible, or loom over the little pink triangle who, we hope, tends to glare back with confidence.

In the ideal blog photo, we have an avatar that the reader can relate to, in an optimistic situation relative to some problem that the reader has or can imagine having, which is also subtly connected to the Flow brand through the use of color.

If the result is funny too, well, so much the better.

If you are one of the little group of shitweasels who are now thinking "I should send a vaguely threatening email about How Problematic Molitor Is to someone" know this: a) I will find out b) I will publish your email and c) I will relentlessly mock you for being so attentive to someone you loudly claim to pay no attention to, ya weird little stalker.


  1. Well, look at you, being all award-winning! Nicely done. I have to say that Block Woman strongly reminds me of my daughter's favourite eraser.

    But, how is it that *both* of you have surnames that look like anagrams? What are the chances? Is there some sort of special dating club, or what?


    1. It's an app called Tidnr, a hookup app for people with easily misspelled last names. Swipe Rihgt!

  2. Congratulations! I really like the picture of Block Woman watching a rich block person on TV, the glow in the darkened room. Shades of Grace Weston's work.

  3. I only have one question: does she know about the skulls?

    1. She does. She loves the crazed halloween sculpture obsession. More on the way.