Image Source Art Director Tom Laybourne gives his essential insight on gaining access to off-limit locations, why shoot-planning is crucial and working with Sardinia-based photographer Antonio Saba.
How long have you been working with Antonio Saba?
It’s been about 2 years now. We met at our Milan photographer workshop in 2011. Antonio is based in Sardinia which would usually rule out on-set art direction but when he gains access to such great locations like the main airport in Cagliari and prepares three days of shoots, it makes a very strong business case for us to provide on-set direction.
Is getting access to difficult places a particular skill of Antonio’s?
I don’t think there’s anywhere in Sardinia (if not the world!) that Antonio couldn’t get access to, his exceptional level of professionalism and likeable character make it difficult for people to refuse. I’m sure he’ll have some tips and tricks but that’s for him to share. Also being one of a very small group of official photographers for the Cern large hadron collider, only highlights his ability to gain great access.
What kinds of permission did you need to get on this shoot?
There was a huge amount of work behind the scenes by Antonio and Cagliari airport to approve all the crew months in advance of the shoot. On the two days we shot there, we had a chaperone with us the whole time who was fantastic and very patient with us. He took us through security and liaised with all staff at the airport who we were interacting with.
Security must still have been a hassle?
Yes but we tried to keep it to an absolute minimum and planned around it. We all know the frustration of emptying your pockets, taking off belts etc… try doing that along with a full crew of models, make-up/styling, assistants and all the kit. It does slow things down a little. Saying that we did get lucky with some unexpected access to a plane which I understood would be off limits for this shoot but it turned out that we bumped into the perfect person. One of the cabin crew from an airline there had been to a mini workshop I ran in Cagliari the day before as she was a semi-pro photographer and she just offered to let us shoot on a plane, I obviously jumped at the chance and we had access to the whole plane including the cockpit, amazing!
What was the most challenging moment on the shoot?
To be honest, it was surprisingly straight forward and the only trouble was trying to cover everything in the time. We knew we couldn’t do it all but built a good relationship with the airport staff and discussed the opportunity to shoot on the tarmac and in the control tower in future. Again this is down to Antonio’s outstanding professionalism that means we are more than welcome to shoot there again.
Tough call, when you art direct a shoot you’re so closely attached to the images produced and the process of creating them that you can become attached to specific shots for all sorts of reasons. Taking a step back, I think the light and mood to this image is stunning…
In regards to getting access and releases from the staff, this shot highlights what was achieved. Saying that there’s so many more! You can have a look at the gallery here.
To see more of Antonio’s work, visit his website.