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Rick Smolan is responsible for some of the largest photographic projects ever undertaken. A former Time, Life, and National Geographic photographer, Rick created the best-selling Day in the Life book series and many other large-scale photographic projects, such as America 24/7, 24 Hours in Cyberspace, and Blue Planet Run. He pushes the boundaries of technology with each new project while delivering inspiring books that tell masterful photographic stories. His projects have been featured on the covers of magazines such as Fortune, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside Rick's latest production, where he reveals his unique processes and shows how he reinvents himself for each new project.
(Music plays.) Rick Smolan: I am always just amazed at how dedicated everybody is when they work on these projects and then they become sort of -- I literally was dreaming about editing all last night. I had spent about six hours yesterday reading captions so in my dream I was still continuing to edit the photographs. I like being part of the team. I mean I really like having friends and people that I trust and people with the skills that I do not have in any way, shape or form.
I think I also tend to surround myself with people that I want to tell me what to do. I don't have to listen but I like people with strong personalities who have various strong opinions, who-- I like that idea of being able to sort of push against other strong personalities. I don't want people to say, "yes Rick, you know you are the boss, so we are just going to do what you say." That's really uninteresting and I don't in any way claim to have the ultimate taste or ability to make the decisions but I like to hear what lots of people think.
And then I try to figure out amongst all the opinions which one kind of sticks with me if I think about it longer and longer. I think that for doing these kinds of projects, there is a lot of serendipity involved. I am always amazed how just the right person seems to come along, just when we need them. And that certain skills we didn't need six months ago and all of a sudden somebody calls up and knocks on the door, walks through the door or whatever. Literally I was walking through a parking lot once and struck up a conversation with a stranger and he ended up completely saving a project we were in the middle of. It was like of all of the people in the world that I needed to talk through that day was that guy, who I end up parking my car next to him.
I also think that sometimes when you are trying to do something impossible that just seems incredibly audacious and new and fresh, that you attract a certain kind of people that really love the idea of helping build the airplane and making something that's never been done before. I think there is a certain kind of person that's attracted to that idea of jumping on board and making something work that has so much risk attached to it. Female Speaker: We have a wonderful network of many freelancers around the world that we tap into and everybody has a really unique specialty that they bring to our projects that we get to tap into. And we always try to think of it as a long timeline and we have great talent that taps in at different points throughout the project cycle.
What's so fun when we bring these people back is that they are usually like, wow, that was a crazy project. But now I totally get it and now I know how -- okay, I get how this one works. And so they bring a bunch of great creative ways to help make the next project that they work on together with us even better from their perspective. Rick Smolan: One of things I think people love about working on our projects is that unlike almost any assignment a photographer normally gets, we say please go out, here is your assignment. But once you get out there, if you find something more interesting, you can scrap the assignment and come back with something completely different, as long as it fits within the guidelines of what's going to work in the book.
And that is-- photographers don't hear that very often from people that are hiring them. Now the danger of your photographer is that if you go off and you are enterprising and you come up with a totally different assignment, we may have assigned that same topic to someone else, because the photographers don't know what the other photographers are shooting. So you are taking a risk that by going off topic, you are then decreasing your chances of getting into the book. We don't promise anyone ever that they are going to get it to one of the book. So, people assume, well, if we flew somebody to China or Vietnam and spent all that money and sent them off on assignment, obviously you are going to put their work in the book. But that's not at all true. The best pictures are what end of the book. Our loyalty after the pictures come back is to the reader, not to the photographers.
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