#GIJENS: The most epic self-promotion ever made in the history of photography
Since the first day as a professional photographer, I haven’t made any kind of physical send-out. All the amazing people I’ve had the chance to work with have come through word-of-mouth and persistent networking. But I do love new experiences, inspiring acquaintances and challenging opportunities. That is the main reason why I, a few months ago, received a shipment containing a 400-headed army of… me.
This is the story of why I and a few other really creative people created 400 action figures of myself and how it was done. And no, they are not 3D-printed, this is old-school.
WHY AN ACTION FIGURE?
Well, first of all: why the hell not!? Many photographers spend a lot of cash to design the perfect portfolio, print it and send to the people they want to work for. Just to have it disappear among hundreds of similar mailings. If you’ve ever been in touch with an art director, art buyer or owner of an ad agency, you’ll know that they have a zillion things to do and as many people to meet. Unless you make an epic impression, you’ll be forgotten. I needed more than a paper folder to stand out. Besides showing my work, the marketing piece we were going to produce had to be something that:
- People would like to keep on their desk
- The owner would like to show to others
- In a second would present what Jens Lennartsson Photography is all about: raw and natural lifestyle and travel photography, without too much gear and photoshop.
We posted a job description on Alibaba.com, a site where manufacturers (mostly Asian) showcase their work and take on new jobs. Out of the around 20 replies we got, we picked the one that we felt were actually able to produce what we wanted. From my previous experiences with asian manufacturers I’m aware that quality isn’t the main priority and we were very careful and asked for a lot of work samples and read through countless reviews.
Before we could see a test figure, the manufacturer had to shape a model in clay, that that then was used to make the molding form. After sending pictures of myself from four different angles, the clay-prototype-thingy maker began creating. It took quite a few rounds to get something that looked like me even a little, a few more to make it epic! We compared the grainy images taken at the factory with the first images we sent, returning instructions on how to make it more Jens-like.
When the prototype was finished and the molding form done, a single figure was created and hand-painted. Sent by courier to Sweden, we were more than nervous that someone totally messed up and that we’ve spent half of the total cost on something we had to remake. Luckily, the only thing not matching reality was the color of my jacket, due to a bad color correction from our side.
We gave the green light, and three months later the four hundred, individually packaged figures arrived. While all hand painted, a few were completely cock-eyed, one had the skin color of someone with a bad stomach disease but most of them looked great. The most critical part of the project was done.
While the action figure was the most essential part, it was important to have a package that enhanced the brand. It needed to be raw, simple but in the same time beautiful. We decided to design a box made of cardboard, with a one-color print on the outside. Since we wanted the cool people we reach out to to keep the box visible in the office, the logo and brand name was priority one on the front page.
We designed the back to give a quick brief overview of Jens Lennartsson Photography as well as giving a call to action; “contact me now!”. It took a few rounds of prototypes to make the window in the front the correct size. It had to be large enough to show most of the figure. Inside the box, a piece of cardboard was shaped to keep the figure in place and to hold the portfolio.
Even though my actual pictures were a very small part of the whole portfolio concept, they were of course what we wanted people to look at in the end. The portfolio itself was designed as a map, that you are able to unfold to see the rest of the images.
One side was dedicated for the travel photographs, the other one for the more commercial ones and was designed to show a large body of work but at the same time showcase the special style of the images that you would expect from Jens Lennartsson Photography. It was printed by a Swedish printer we’ve been working with several times before.
THE RECIPIENT SELECTION
Most of the figures was going to inspiring, cool and interesting people that we wanted to get in touch with people, in agencies and magazines in Malmö, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Many days were spent to complete a list of all the agencies and people that was doing awesome things and whome we thought we could help out.
Inge, the virtual assistant from Zirtual, helped us get all the contact information – including name, e-mail, addresses and such. A bunch of the figures was also going out to magazines, editors, agencies and companies in the rest of the world. All recipients have one thing in common; they are doing awesome stuff and we want to help making it even more epic!
I´ll get back to you as soon as we know what kind of creators this little stunt did put us in touch with!