edition we spotlight CAROL OLIVETO, pictured
left. She is an Art Director who RAR first became acquainted with through L.A.
rocker Nikki Ferrari - or maybe I should say because of Nikki. I ran a
photograph of him that was either incorrectly attributed, or not attributed to a
photographer at all. I pretty quickly heard from Carol, who was responsible for
the Nikki shots. She didn't appreciate my error, but far more impressive was how
much she did appreciate my correction, which was immediate.
and I have been engaged in email exchanges ever since having to do with the
commitment at RARWRITER.com to recognize all the artists involved in making the
images and other creative contributions that make ours a more interesting and
colorful world in which to live. Carol introduced RAR to Renee' Lauren, the
Philadelphia-based Agency Director of Click Models who is also featured in these
pages. And Carol has been extraordinarily helpful in educating RAR to her world
of artistic design, casting decisions and lighting calls.
more I got to know Carol, the more fascinated I became. She is a dedicated
visual artist whose work is remarkably personal, which is particularly
interesting given that if folds so seamlessly into the highly competitive world
of big-time commercial advertising and marketing. Carol has left and
right brain functions set to "high." She manages every aspect of her
world, from concept designing to photo execution. She hires creative talent,
books models, manages budgets and schedules. And she apparently does it with
Jordan, who took the photographs below of Carol in the red dress, says this
about her - "I've been working with Carol for many years as an art
director. She is one of the most talented visionary/art directors I've worked
with in my 20 years of being a celebrity, fashion, advertising photographer. She
not only has a great vision but she is a team player and is a talented
photographer herself who understands lighting, technical setup, and composition.
She is a gift to this business and its a blessing to work with her."
Stylist Melinda Tarbell agrees - "Her vision and passion are
contagious and have no boundaries. Carol has a special gift to bring out beauty
and unique perspectives regardless of the project. She is constantly driving
change and helping those around her to think outside of the box. I look forward
to each project with Carol as she brings out the best in everyone she works
and make up artist Rebeca Flores further concurs that Carol is "able
to communicate her creative vision to the crew in an accurate, clear, and
concise manner. You never have a doubt as to what she wants." But lest you
think she is just a cool managerial type, Rebeca adds this. "Besides this
quality there is here warmness and genuine care for the crew. I can speak from a
personal experience about a time we were on a location shoot . I became very
ill on a job and when the day ended she came to my room with a tray of bottle
water and medicine and asked me if I wished to have some one else come on the
job to cover me, although she had specifically requested me because she liked
my work. She is the quintessential professional, but is a warm human
Intelligence, style, grace, artistic flare, the respect of her professional
peers, and devoted friends. That's why Carol Oliveto is a featured artist in
this edition of RARWRITER.com.
"I started out wanting to be an illustrator - that is what I do, I
draw. But by the time I walked into the first commercial photography studio
I had ever worked, I was hooked. It is like creating magic....what you see
in the camera and off camera can be so different. How a person looks in front of the camera, if
they have that magic, is so incredible.
"I have found that magic to be so driving _ I do
my own photography and I love getting to the real person, not the one that stands
in front of a camera and holds their breathe, but when they relax - you get to
the real them. The candid shots that sometimes take your breathe away. To describe
it? Well maybe it's that something different in the eyes and maybe body
language that says so much - that second when you catch someone off guard - when
you really see what you are looking at.
"If you want to compare it to musicians: it would
be someone who just plays because they see the notes on a page and someone who
plays because their heart and soul are in the music they are playing/feeling."
words above, which are Carol Oliveto's, introduce her about as well as can be
imagined. You get the wonder that seems to encapsulate her feelings about
her chosen medium, photography, and her sense of an available magic. That she is
"the magician" is probably intoxicating. Carol is an Art Director
thriving in "toney" professional circles. Twenty-plus years into her
career, she recently joined the staff of a Marin County marketing firm, where
she directs photo-art projects. As the
shots below, from her portfolio (see more at http://homepage.mac.com/oliveto/PhotoAlbum3.html
show, Carol has a great eye, a powerful sense for capturing motion, and an
amazing visualization ability. As photographers go, she is a real time
editor, framing her shots like camera-ready art. In fact, the more you get to
know Carol Oliveto, the more she strikes one with her blend of creative vision
and management efficiencies. This kind of advanced left brain/right brain
functioning is not all that common among people in general, and possibly even
less so in passionately creative types.
were among the many aspects of her being RAR asked about when Carol agreed to
Photos by Jim Jordan
off, I love your photographs, which have the look and feel of classic
advertising images, or classic National Geographic shots. Did you actually pull
the trigger on those shots? Were you the photographer, as well as the art
director in each case?
you so much for liking my work. So to answer your question - You would have to
ask me about each specific image. There are the images I direct when I am
working as a photo art director and I am with a crew on a specific project. And
then there are the images I shoot as a photographer.
are obviously accomplished at image making, though I am not sure what of these
shots is the product of great subject matter, and what is the product of
brilliant execution. Is there any way to describe your approach to producing
such shots? And is producing a good word for what you do?
am not sure if producing is the right word - maybe creating - or maybe being
sensitive to what's around you. I believe there is always a story to tell -
you just have to see. Photography (like drawing) is the ability to see your
world differently then those around you and then being able to show it -
communicate it to others. To see every day life and be able to see something
different then what every one else see. Maybe it's the lighting , the camera
angle or the lens.
As a photo art director the story is about what we are advertising /selling.
There are details as a consumer you need to see. The images I shoot as a
photographer tell a different story - it is more about a moment in time (a
moment in that person's life - where you get to see them).
love this saying "Sight is a faculty, seeing is an art"
my recent exchange with your friend Renee' Lauren she was really focused on the
delight she feels in what the creative people behind those photographs of models
create in illusion. As art director, do you pick the illusion? Or do you provide
the execution for something you are contracted to do? How does that work?
is a longer answer then I can write here - so this is a shorter version.
First depending on the project you have - is how big an illusion you can or
can not create. But I agree with Renee about the delight in each photograph
being created. As an art director I work with people to develop a concept and
then execute on or to the concept. But before it gets to the point of
executing the concept - and what I don't think people realize is - there are a
whole lot of people I need to make happy. The CEOs, the VPs, the creative
directors, the buyers, the account exec. (that would be the corporate side)
then there are the people on the photo crew you need to relay the message to
say they can help you with the illusion and then finally once executed and
printed the consumer. If an idea can get passed all those gate keepers then I
did my job well. When you do commercial photography / art etc for a magazine,
a catalog, a cover whatever the project you are always responsible for
interpreting their vision because you are the director on set.
Editing: Good editing is a big part of the creative process, sometimes the
best shots are not used for whatever reasons.
Chemistry: there is a certain chemistry you look for between the crew members
then the relationship between photographer and director / between photographer
What I like to do is push the envelope. Here is what you asked for but here is
where I can take the image and make it different or take it to another level.
So, do I pick the illusion...? not exactly, but can I make the illusion
better?... is the question I constantly ask myself.
I do my own photography well that is a different chapter.
know you are an illustrator at heart. Wasn't that the start of this, love of
I love to draw but I also realized I love photography. Drawing teaches you to
see. It teaches you to study details that others might over look. What I can
appreciate from the drawing then switching to photography is the training (or
disciple) it gives you in details and in composing in a space.
of my personal photography is composed behind the camera (meaning I don't take
a picture then crop into it later for composition) The composition is done
when the shot is taken.
you have other creative outlets for your drawing talents? Or other talents
"we" might not even be aware of?
still illustrate cards. In fact I have been told most people that I send my
cards to end up collecting them. I have been studying Chinese brush painting
not calligraphy but painting people. I played drums for awhile I really liked
playing but haven't done so in awhile. I just don't have the time or my drum
set anymore. Cooking has become a creative outlet - I like cooking for friends
and family - I think it goes back to my Italy heritage - I love when people
are sitting around the dining table having a great time - it actually becomes
you a creative kid? When did this type of urge hit you?
remember drawing before I could write. I told my parents when I was five I was
going to art school.
this type of work you do an extension of an early passion?
believe so, most photography projects I start with an illustration / sketch of
some sort. I like the ability to create and build things. Everything around
you starts with a sketch of some kind.
you a Northern California girl? Where are you from? What is your family
am a "Philly" girl. I have spent most of my career working / living
between Philadelphia and New York until I moved to California for work. Both
sides of my family are from Italy.
have a great deal of experience doing what I might call project or production
management, arranging logistics and monitoring production schedules. Managing
people and processes. That strikes me as almost a complete left brain/right
brain meld, which is pretty rare. You must be sort of intense? Is that what it
takes in your line of work?
have been told I can at times be very intense at work. But I don't think there
is anything wrong with being passionate about what you do. I have also been
told I have that right brain / left brain "meld" as you call it.
What I have learned through experience is, if you take care of the details up
front then you have more time to play and be creative on set. And that is when
the magic can happen.
at your resume, you have done everything from catalog work to product branding,
print advertising, clothing, on and on. It is a diverse list. You must be more
partial to one type of work over the others. What do you enjoy?
love being out on photo shoots whether it is on location or in the studio. A
layout comes alive when you get good photography put in place.
sounds suspiciously like a job interview, doesn't it? Is it right to say that
you are a corporate animal? Is there any other type of client for an art
wouldn't say I was corporate animal. I would say I set my goals and go after
them. I am usually a little too direct for the corporate world out here in CA.
San Francisco Bay Area is one of the better places to be for other types of
creative design types, like architects, for instance. How does the Bay Area rank
as creative centers go in your line of work? Is there a pecking order?
sure how to answer this one.
are involved in the nuts and the bolts of business deals, negotiating pay rates,
managing bookings, and even casting projects. You even have budget
responsibilities – the mark of a true professional manager in the corporate
world. Do you come from a family background of go-getters? How did you become so
broadly skilled and knowledgeable?
family instilled in us as kids that a job wasn't something you took lightly or
for granted. You keep your promises and work hard. You keep your loyalties and
always look out for others.
are jobs I have taken were the budgets aren't as high so you get to wear lots
of hats, producer, director, location scout, casting, stylist, travel agent,
cater, photographer's assistant and more.
did you get started in art direction?
went to school to be a fashion illustrator and then got into photography. I
did an inter-ship at a photo studio and haven't stopped since then. I started
free-lancing with photographers as an assistant some weeks and other weeks I
would do layouts for catalogs or newspapers. After awhile the bigger picture
starts to develop and I started getting work art directing an photo art
have worked a lot of staff positions, but you have also worked freelance. Does
the type of engagement affect your role?
believe so... When you are on staff there is more office politics to deal
with. There are the people that want to get promoted and the people that
report to you and situations you need to handle when you are on staff vs. When
you are free-lance you come into a project to help. No one reports to you and
there are less meetings you are responsible for. But you have less control or
say in the projects - the concepts have usually been signed off on by the time
you jump in.
What I do like about being free -lance is you be come more diversified because
you are not always working with the same people. As most things in life there
are pros and cons to both sides.
see that you book creative talent of all kinds, a really diverse group of
specialists. Are they independents? Consultant types? Where do you get your
have a great networking system. I have been in this industry a long time. I
work with many modeling agencies both west coast and east coast. I know many
reps for photographers, reps for hair and make-up people and stylists. And
there are the independent creative talents that you can work with that don't
want a rep. Rep = representative as in an agent. Most recently I have been
working in LA with the producers from the Kontent Partners. I love when a
project brings a new connection and a new opportunity to network.
are only as good as your reputation in this field.
you have a great rolodex? Or are you one of those computer people?
me about the crews you work with. Are they strictly professional? Or fun? Is
there a personality type that does the type
of work you do?
question - long answer.
thought that comes to mind. You are only as good as the people you work with.
far as personality types? Well like any other business there are all kinds of
people that do what they do. I work with very professional people (and they
are fun to work with) when I am working on projects that are client based.
There are all different "types" of crews. I start with the project -
then define the crew.
If I am shooting lingerie there is a certain type of photographer I look for
and then the rest of the team falls in line from stylist to make up and hair
stylists to models. If I am putting an outside shoot together say in a park or
on a beach then there are different photographers that I would want to work
with. Same with still life shoots in studio. But still life does not involve
as big a crew as a fashion shoot.
also still like to do testing. I get to let loose when I test because there
aren't the rules I have to play within.
there anything exclusive about art direction in general versus photographic art
direction? The photographic machinery aside, are there aspects of photographic
art direction that makes it an entirely different pursuit?
start art/photo directors that work in photography, TV and movies deal with 3
dimensional elements of design vs book, magazine / web design deals with 2
dimensional elements. There are art directors that deal only with graphics and
typography, there are web designers these directors / designers don't deal
with photography at all. There are art directors that do both the layouts and
the photography directing. It all depends on what field of art you get into.
are the qualities of a great art director?
have to have an eye for design and details. The ability to read people.
Translate what the right brain is thinking to the left brain. The ability to
communicate with people and lead them down the right creative path of a
project. Understanding your client if you are doing commercial work. I don't
always do what people tell me to do - I always do what they want. It can be
two different things.
attention to detail is a natural extension of your personality. Do you
unconsciously straighten frames on walls?
think it is a little bit of both. I love the details of a project because when
the details are taken care of then you can play. If you don't understand the
details the bigger picture falls apart. You have to understand the bottom line
because there are budgets, deadlines, kinds of equipment used so you know how
or what you are directing. It is like being a musician if you know your chords
and the scales then you get to play and make music.
you play well with others? Or are you bossy and authoritarian? I see that you
believe whether you work in a "creative field" or not work it's
always better if you play well with others. I love the collaboration it takes
to do a fashion shoot. I like being able to mentor people and learn from them
also. But the other side to that is yes I make the decisions as the director
on set. I have the final say because in the end I am held responsible for the
photo shoot. I also took the liberty of asking a few people how they felt
about working with me. So hopefully you will get some interesting answers.
seem to have been one of those lucky people who found their calling while young.
Do I get that right? If so, how do you account for that?
am not sure. I just know I always wanted a "creative" job. I like
being around creative people because they see the world differently. They hear
the world differently.
have been pretty determined about your career, it seems. Or are you just a
naturally good worker?
think if you love what you do it comes naturally. If you read about all the
great artists/ people that are successful at what they do they all have that
element in common: love of_____________. They don't view their work as "a
9 to 5 job". It's not something you shut off because you punched a time
clock for the day.
is your favorite type of shoot? What do you enjoy most?
like doing fashion and people. I love being able to travel to different
places. You always meet such interesting people and see such wonderful sites.
is the toughest shoot? Or gig?
photography follows Murphy's Law: When you need to be out on location and it
pours rain or when you need the sun to come out and it won't. When the
camera breaks in the middle of a shot. When the model doesn't show up.
Animals are always interesting they don't always do what you want them to
do. What do you do in these cases? Go to plan "B".
art directors know each other? Is there a community of art
directors that commune?
many art directors know each other and many photographers know each other. Art
directors get awards - Clio awards - for example - like musicians get Grammys.
There are all kinds of websites, groups and magazines for commercial artists
and photographers. Communication Arts Magazine / Graphic Artist Guild /
Society Of Illustrators / ASMP: American Society for Magazine Photographers to
name a few.
you look at a photograph and search the credits for art
if there is a credit on a photo it is the photographer's name. Sometimes
magazines get into more credits on a feature but it is more likely the styist,
hair and make-up and model.
do you want to be when you grow up?
but much better. If I don't push myself who will? Although, there are a few
movie directors and DPs. Directors of Photography for film I would love to be or
at least meet and work with.
do you feel pretty grown up?
anyone ever grow up? I feel I should never stop looking, searching or reaching
for something new.
thoughts you'd like to end on? Anything you've been dying to say?
you lose the joy of discovery then you don't see the magic. Hopefully, I am just
getting started - wait till you see what I can really do.
These are not offered as examples of Carol Oliveto's portfolio - as
far as I know she wasn't involved in these shots - but the familiar faces
here are representative of her work in the fashion industry.
Carol has worked with all of these
people and many more. The comments on each are hers.
CREATIVE DIRECTION - by
The best part of creative direction is starting with a concept and seeing it
through to fruition.
"Being able to know all the hard work and hours
that went into planning a project can actually accomplish a finished project on
the other end. I love the details of a project. The budgets / the planning / the
team it requires to get a project off the ground / and of course the deadlines.
"Take for example a photo shoot on location for a
catalog. I use a photographer, photographer's assistants, hair person and make
up person (sometimes they are one person but I prefer to have both), a producer,
models, stylists, stylist assistants - in a way it is like a crew for a movie
but smaller and we are doing stills. (No tracks for the camera) And let's not
forget the RV driver - the location van is very important to any project and the
cater. After the project is all agreed too - the team is
the most important element to get right . It has to be the right players to
create a certain spark you are looking for on film.
"I have worked in the country and outside the
country. I have taken crews out for a month at a time. I think they were the
most fun trips. We had a bus (like a rockstar bus) with a living room and a
dressing room. We would go to different areas and shoot for catalogs depending
on the season. The Great Sand
Dunes of Colorado was a great place to shoot.
"When you shoot for catalogs you are always one or
two seasons ahead so the print date falls in the right season. You shoot
Christmas around August. Swimwear in January for the summer season. We would
travel to Miami / Jamaica / Caymen Islands for swimwear catalogs in the winter.
"Mountains for winter catalogs in the summer.
Telluride in the summer may still have a bit of snow depending how high you go.
The highest place I have ever shot was on the top of the Canadian rocks in
Banff. The crew had to be helicoptered in. I got some great pictures from the
helicopter of the landscape.
"I have worked with the biggest modeling agencies
in America: Click, Ford, Wilhelmenia, Next, LA Models to name a few.
Some people I have worked with who you might
know (included in left and right panels):"
Learn more about Carol
OIiveto by visiting her site at www.carololiveto.com
(site under renovation, August 2007).
From May 1, 2008 Edition
Catching Up With...
Carol Oliveto: Creative
Director / Photog
In August 2007, RARWRITER.com ran a feature
on the talented photography and creative director Carol
Oliveto (right), who at the time was on staff with a marketing firm
in Marin County, California. Carol has since left the corporate gig to
work freelance. She writes - "These days I am an independent
contractor - creative director - art and photography. Since I last talked
with you these are the words that come to mind: excitement, creativity,
collaboration and fun.
"What I like about this world? I get
to branch out of the "job description" that holds true when you
take a corporate job. Now I can be the art director / photographer /
designer and/or creative director in all or some of those parts.
The other great thing about working this way is the freedom that I have to
work with other talented people. You can see the creativity and
partnership it brings. You might have a great idea and they might have a
great idea but together it's brilliant.
"I wanted to share two samples with
"Raffaele Ferrara: a men's
I have been working with Rafaelle Ferrara Clothing on the branding /
advertising for their line. I partner with a wonderful person, Gil
Devlin, who is a great driving force. I
shoot the photography and design the catalogs. The creative is a
partnership. Gil is the web creative / web designer. I feel we have an
elegant example of where you can take a company's identity when left to a
"For World of Luxury Publication
I had been working on some new images: still life and people. I have been
working with make up artist Rebeca Flores and some very talented models.
Again, when you get a chance to partner with talented people wonderful
things happen. Since I have worked with Gil on other projects this seemed
like the perfect fit. By working the images into concepts for this
publication we can show how their publication could be presented with
options for design formats for their covers, fonts and themes / topics in
Carol has some great photography sites,
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Alan Rice (RAR),