Inspired Thinking from Healthy Living

Inspired Thinking from Healthy Living Jamie Ezra Mark, the Creative Director for Akers Media in Florida, shares another making-of story behind one of their latest issues. (You may remember him dousing his cover subjects at Ocala Magazine.) From Jamie:
Our company publishes a few local titles in a small market North of Orlando. It may sound trite, but we believe what we lack in budget and staff, we make up for with heart. And while we throw our hearts into every single story, some stories truly just have a lot of heart all by themselves. Such is the case with Nick Vujicic.

Nick Vujicic is a successful motivational speaker, author, musician and truly inspirational human being. His accomplishments made all the more impressive by the fact that he was born without arms or legs. Our only challenge with his amazing story is that it's already been told -- many times. To make his story unique to us we focused on how, while he exemplifies the ideas of Healthy Living, he doesn't exactly fit the stereotypical image of a healthy person. That simple thought inspired us to build our entire issue around challenging readers' preconceived notions of what a healthy person actually looks like.

With the issue in focus, our thoughts turned to the cover. Researching Nick Vujicic, we found photos of him in just about every pose imaginable: swimming, skateboarding, crowd surfing, and actually surfing. With our limited resources, it wasn't a given that we could photograph him. Previously, the magazine typically requested existing photography. But while we are a small operation, we always strive for big results. We believe it's not the budget that dictates the work, but the power of the idea.

The question was how to photographically portray "healthy" without being able to rely on physical characteristics. The answer was that our portrait needed to portray him both physically and spiritually at the same time. The solution, doodled crudely onto a yellow sticky note (above), stared from where I stuck it on the bottom of my monitor. There it whispered, "I'm NOT a provided photo." As the whispers became taunts, we committed to see if we could shoot this one. Over the next months, the staff worked together to make everything happen. Executive Editor Jim Gibson secured access to photograph Nick in L.A., while an inside connection with the airline industry secured us travel arrangements we could afford. With our publisher Kendra Akers' approval, photographer Fred Lopez and I headed west!

The one thing yet to do was to speak with Nick about how we wanted to photograph him. As the photo shoot neared, I became increasingly aware that telling a man without limbs that we wanted to digitally add them might come across as offensive. It was definitely not a conversation I was prepared to have over the phone or by email, but as our face-to-face drew closer, the anxiety grew. As Nick arrived at his office, that anxiety was quickly replaced by an uncertainty about how to appropriately greet someone without being able to shake hands. Nick, obviously familiar with the look on our faces, smiled warmly and said, "I'm Nick, come give me hug." And with that, we relaxed.

After greetings and small talk were exchanged, Nick excused himself to check on his staff. We set up in the conference room and watched as each employee got a warm smile and a hug. Nick soon joined us in the conference room and with the cover mocked up - I made my pitch, held my breath and turned my laptop around for him to see.

cover_HL_1111_mock up.jpgIt took just a moment (though it seemed much longer) before he looked up, smiled his biggest smile yet and said, "I love it! What else?" He agreed enthusiastically to the other shots, including a leg version of the arms shot and opening the story on a tight portrait of just his face.
spread2_HL_1111.jpgWith Nick's blessing, Fred went to work. He methodically tweaked the lighting and coaxed many amazing photographs out of the day. We finished simultaneously tired and energized. Nick was as genuine and inspiring in person as he is portrayed in the media.

A larger magazine producing this might utilize location scouts, stylists, hair and make-up artists, photo assistants and a graffiti artist, but for us, those just aren't realistic options. Instead, we are more dependent on the post-production process. Once images are chosen and composed, Designer, Josh Clark went to work in Photoshop to create everything from the concrete wall texture to the graffiti, either from scratch or by modifying existing stock images.

The issue hit the streets and garnered one of the largest reactions we've ever received.

While our readers told us how inspired they were by Nick's story, I dare say this issue proved to be even more inspirational to those of us who got to work on it.

direction: Jamie Ezra Mark
photography: Fred Lopez
photoshop: Josh Clark
subject: Nick Vujicic
  • John

    I cannot say I am surprised by the great concept and execution as, having once worked with both Jamie and Josh on anther publication, I know firsthand the incredible quality of work they are able to create when simply permitted the opportunity: Which is why I am so glad they were granted the MIRACLE of fling to LA from central Florida for a proper photo shoot instead of being forced to use the provided photo.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

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