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Toronto Diary (Leo Burnett, Fashion Magazine, Totem Communications)

Thursday September 1st, 2011

By Craig Oppenheimer

The latest Wonderful Machine international portfolio adventure began with a 3:30AM wake up time to catch our flight from Philadelphia up and across the border to Toronto. After touching down and clearing customs, Sean and I were greeted by the friendliest car rental representative in the world, which was a clear sign of the Canadian kindness we had anticipated.  We loaded up the cases into our new ride, and were off to our first meeting at Leo Burnett.

After a quick portfolio drop-off from Toronto-based photographer Anya Chibis, we took the elevator up to the Leo Burnett lobby. We maneuvered our cases around their ping-pong table to set up shop in a window-lit conference room with plenty of space to display 20 of our photographer’s portfolios. The room quickly filled with their art production team as well as other creative folks. The group admired the books of Claire Benoist, Dana Hoff, Raymond Patrick and Eric Kiel to name a few. One creative remarked how Claire Benoist’s femininity showed beautifully through her images. Sean and I discussed photographic styles and trends with them, and they told us about recent projects for their clients that include Procter & Gamble, Bell, IKEA and Kellogg’s.

Sean chats with Leo Burnett creatives as they flip through portfolios.

Eric Kiel’s portfolio video:

As the meeting wrapped up, we exchanged business cards and obtained a fantastic lunch recommendation for a quick bite down the street at Camros Organic Eatery. We downed some quinoa salad and raisin-filled rice balls to fuel up for our next meeting, just a short drive away at Fashion Magazine.

After barely fitting our cases into the elevator, the doors opened and we were led into Fashion Magazine’s beautiful hardwood floor lobby. We were greeted by the magazine’s photo editor and primary art director (both well dressed, of course) and sat down to discuss their current photographer roster and to introduce them to new local and US-based shooters. The books and promos we laid out included those of Adrien Broom, Seed9, Tamar Levine, Greg Vore, Carmelo Donato and many other top-notch fashion and still life photographers.

Fashion Magazine’s PE and AD browse through books.

Seed9′s portfolio video:

Adrien Broom’s portfolio video:

We discussed their mixed use of environmental and studio portraiture, and chatted for a bit in regards to the recent documentary on the father of street fashion photography, Bill Cunningham. Overall, the books were received very well, and we even caught a glimpse of a video production being filmed on our way out. We squeezed back into the elevator and left just in time to load up the car and make our way over to our next stop at Totem Communications.

Totem is a multi-channel branding and publishing company full of incredibly friendly art directors and designers who create content for clients such as Geico, Mazda, British Airways, Frito Lay and Coca-Cola/Nestea. We were greeted with enthusiasm and escorted to a large conference room that had amazing retractable walls. With plenty of time to set up (and grab a quick cookie and coffee from our catering) we placed books on their perfectly sized table. Some favorites were Robin O’Neill, Michael Krauss, Adam Ewing, 8183 Studio, and Jill Hunter.

Totem creatives.

8183 Studio’s portfolio video:

The turnout was phenomenal, and promos were snatched up left and right while we introduced art directors to the work of photographers via printed book and iPad. The meeting flew by, and before we knew it, we had to pack up once more in order to head over to our happy hour.

After a long day of fantastic meetings, we met up with a few local Wonderful Machine members to unwind at a beautiful bar called Against The Grain Urban Tavern. Situated on the coast of Lake Ontario, we sat outside and enjoyed the refreshing breeze as we shared local brews with photographers Michael Krauss, Anya Chibis, Sang Nguyen, and photo team Thomas Bollmann and Ingrid Jones of Seed9.

Wonderful Machine photographer happy hour.

We discussed everything from the Canadian photo scene to marketing, to recent projects and portfolios while we savored a bowl of poutine (A Canadian staple of french fries, cheese and gravy). Eventually we grabbed the check and headed back to the airport for our flight home…or so we thought.

After clearing customs and anxiously waiting for our flight to board, an incredibly intense lightening storm overtook downtown Toronto and ceased all operations at the airport. After spending 3 hours waiting to reclaim our luggage and attempting to reschedule flights home, it became apparent that we would have to spend the night and bunker down at a local hotel after our 23-hour day. Remaining optimistic, we thoroughly enjoyed our complimentary continental breakfast the next morning (complete with waffles, french toast sticks, fresh fruit and some much needed coffee) before heading back to the airport.

It turned out that the lightening storm from the night before was still impacting flights, and our trip home was cancelled…again. Fortunately, the kind folks at Air Canada were able to reschedule us for a flight home later in the day, and we safely returned and had our portfolio cases waiting for us on the luggage carousel in beautiful Philadelphia. While we may have spent 24-hours too long in Toronto, it was well worth it.

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