If you’ve seen promotional photographs from the BBC released over the last decade, from Louis Theroux to Sir David Attenborough, chances are they had Jason Baron‘s fingerprints. He served as Head of Photography at the BBC and Creative Director of Photography at BBC Creative for more than ten years before launching his own consultancy earlier this year. These days, you can find him art directing, producing photo shoots, and road cycling on his days off.
Later this year, Baron will also join the jury for the Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards, open to photographers of all genres. He’ll be one of our judges for the single-image category, with prizes including street exhibitions in New York City and Los Angeles. We asked him more about the kind of work he’s hoping to see.
You were Head of Photography at the BBC and Creative Director of Photography at BBC Creative for more than ten years. Can you tell us about some of your favorite moments or projects that you worked on during that time?
“My favorite moments usually came from working with the amazing people around me every day. Apart from collaborating with loads of great freelance photographers (they know who they are), the BBC Pictures team were (and still are) great friends as well as colleagues, and they always (well, almost always) made me smile. My specialism was documentary photography, and I have a collection of commissions now that I’m super proud of, especially with regard to mental health content.
“As a keen sportsman, I got to meet some lifelong heroes, usually at Sports Personality of the Year, where I ran the photo red carpet for many, many years. 2019 was a milestone year for me, though–firstly, commissioning Martin Parr to produce BBC One’s ‘Oneness’ campaign, and also putting on an exhibition of the team’s work at Elephant West gallery in White City. My ace co-leader of the team, Jane Record, and I curated ‘Portraits’, a comprehensive collection of beautiful promotional photography work the team had produced over the last few years. It sort of felt like a swansong moment and made me super proud.”
What does a day in your life as a creative producer and creative director look like? What inspired you to embark on this career?
“Photographic creative producers for content providers come up with creative ways of promoting that content through imagery. They talk with production, pitch ideas, create mood boards and scamps, often negotiating based on marketing and communication briefs. Once an idea is signed off, they negotiate with and commission the right team to create the shots (photographers/stylists/MUA’s/designers, etc.) and then go into production mode: booking studios, talking to actors, agents, presenting talent and contributors to programs.
“They have to be multi-skilled ‘one-stop-shop’ creatives. Art directing on set (usually my favorite bit), and doing a bit of schmoozing where needed, they then take the pictures and go into post-production, all the time talking to the people in the mix who’ll eventually sign things off and be happy to release the imagery to the world.
“As creative director, I’m currently helping photographers keep on track with how their projects are developing, which is enormously rewarding and great fun. Basically, I’m enjoying being asked my opinion on things and watching things grow.”
How have you seen the last year influence the photo industry in general?
“Like the rest of the world, it’s been enormously challenging in terms of working and feeling connected. Creatively, I think all artists have had to sort of reset, wonder what the hell it is they’re doing for a living, and how to go about tackling a post-COVID existence. Obviously out of all the madness there were going to be about a million personal ‘lockdown’ projects, about four of which were really interesting. But out of all of this, I hope that photographers have dug deep to really understand what it is they want to do and how to set themselves apart from the others and see the world differently.
What advice would you give to today’s emerging photographers?
“Look at what everyone else is doing, work out what it is that’s different about what you want to discover, and start playing. Be nice to everyone; don’t be a dick about money, and most importantly, make connections. It may take a while, but it’ll come round.”
You’ve sat on the jury of several prominent photo competitions. What will you be looking for in submissions for the Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards? Is there anything, in particular, you hope to see?
“I often say this, but levity in photography competitions is rare to find and always stands out. The world can be crap and funny at the same time. I could get all Chekhovian here but how pretentious would that be?”