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Going Viral

Thursday November 29th, 2012

by Honore Brown

Last July, Paris-based photographer Max Riché, took a jab at a large-scale, single image, photo campaign for the Pasteur Institute. The institute, a world-renowned scientific research and public health organization, had partnered up with Maxyma Agency and Artistic Director, Benjamin Emrik, to come up with a concept for a campaign designed to help raise donations for their research. The idea for the shoot was powerful and direct: boxers with spiky, viral heads duking it out. They knew what they were after, but needed the right photographer to enhance and execute the concept. Enter Max!

AD Benjamin Emrik had previously met Max in Paris. They respected each other’s work and shared a similar approach to business. He recommended Max for the job, and all on board agreed he would be an excellent fit for the assignment. Max has a long history of shooting athletes, and although he hadn’t photographed boxers in the past, was very attuned to the physicality of this type of shoot, and to the particular needs for casting for the shoot.

With just a week to get ready, Max jumped into pre-production—booking the talent and preparing the props. Through his experience shooting athletes, Max had contacts with a few gyms and boxing clubs around Paris. Working these connections paid off, and Max had the good fortune of finding a professional boxer who happened to also be a model. He was hired, in addition to another boxer. Of casting for the shoot Max said, “The choice was pretty obvious to me as he [the boxer model] fit perfectly for the part, with the right stature, while also knowing about how to take a punch if need be. We didn’t have to make the opponent hit too hard during the shoot but it always helps to work with professionals who know what to expect!”

On the set. Pre virus.

Close up of the final poster.

The image was shot in studio on a black seamless, with lighting designed to approximate what you might find in a boxing ring. Props included boxing gloves, white tape, and make up to create sweat on both athletes. Shooting quickly to capture the action was key. Every droplet of sweat became an important detail, and the mist effect of the sweat flying off the body after impact was something carefully worked out by Max and his team. From the make-up artist developing a glycerin sweat effect on the bodies, to an assistant projecting mist and droplets from above, Max worked diligently to capture the precise moment of the punch that he was after. Body position for both athletes was also pivotal in this respect. Every detail had to be right.

As is often the case with this kind of major campaign, retouching was also an important part of the process. After stitching the virus head onto the torso of the boxer in post, much time and attention went to getting the right color, consistent lighting, and details related to the impact of the glove just right in the image. Getting the virus to have a menacing glow was also of particular importance to the final results.

On the streets of Paris

The campaign was a knockout! Not only were the clients incredibly pleased with the results, the campaign helped drive large donations to the Pasteur Institute in a very short period of time. Appearing on kiosks all over the streets of Paris, on subways and trains, and in many prominent French newspapers, this campaign successfully raised over €1M in just three days.

View more of Max’s work at maxriche.com.

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