Photography is not what it was ten years ago. That’s a deeply layered statement because technology has changed the form and the amount of photographs but not the actual intent. As with any art form, photography is about communicating emotions, whether that be in association with an advertisement that is selling you a lifestyle or capturing a special personal moment. Elsa Melero is of the new breed of professional photographers. She has the same artistic purpose and drive as her predecessors and yet she exists in a cacophonous environment of imagery, making it hard to speak and be heard amongst the din. One need only look to her early years, vacillating between Barcelona and France in her childhood to understand that Melero possesses the ability to have a conversation with images that supersedes words. Her insightful lens has led to her work with some of the world’s largest companies while still retaining her integrity as a photography artist. In her estimation, Elsa always has something interesting to [photograph]say regardless of who she is speaking about or to whom.
The photos of Melero can be deceptive, that’s not too imply anything duplicitous but rather to highlight that they are more than singular objects in a frame. While the average person is empowered with a smart phone to capture the aesthetic pleasantry of their meal, their own body, or a celebrity sighting, Elsa is always creating depth in her work. Storytelling is paramount to her and the influence of sibling art forms like film, music, and others is inspirational to this end. She relates, “I try to take pictures which speak for themselves, creating a discourse that might define me and are very satisfying. I think that the key to creativity is having a bank of knowledge and resources to draw on. Life is the main inspiration and mixing that with movements in art and culture and reinterpreting them within the context of the current times, as well as your own unique position within it.” This statement communicates the artistic perspective that has led to so many advertisers seeking out Melero to create ways to reach busy and distracted consumers. It’s her understanding that the role of a modern photographer is to achieve much more than simply manifesting great imagery; one must have a deep understanding of what a brand wants to communicate.
A number of times, Melero has crossed mediums and expanded her role with a company based on her talent for relating lifestyle. Bill’s Watches of Switzerland contacted Melero to create a photo campaign which would relate the California Dream to consumers. They were so taken with her ideas that they agreed to have her develop the campaign into a short film/commercial. Working with acclaimed cinematographer Leco Moura, her creation resulted in one of the companies most successful advertisements to date. The photographer followed this with a campaign for Barcelona’s Matchboys Collective. A lifelong skate and surf enthusiast herself, Elsa’s understanding of the lifestyle was so inherent that the photo shoot morphed into a video campaign titled “Vanguards and Visionaries.” The consumers being reached care little for labels but greatly about the skate ethos. “Vanguards and Visionaries” was a massive success for Matchboys Collective and acclaimed at fifteen festivals around the world including the Mexico Fashion Film Festival, La Jolla Fashion Film Festival, and Fashion Film Festival Milano.
Melero has no disdain for photography in social media…when it’s done well. In fact, she’s the primary photographer for the Social Media and web-based presence of PepsiCo’s newest offering Drinkfinity. PepsiCo (with a net income of $5 Billion last year) placed Elsa in the role of producer, art director, and photographer for a number of shoots to communicate Drinkfinity’s healthy lifestyle. It’s her body of work which led such an established global company to hire her. She explains, “More and more we’re looking at social media. Clients look at Instagram pages for photographers to see if we are telling a story that’s connecting and building an audience. That’s always incredibly compelling to us. If you have a unique perspective, shoot something that tells a story, and it seems to be resonating and people react to it—that’s where social media audience is an interesting gauge of [whether a photographer] would be worth bringing into a campaign. To me, authentic storytelling is the best brand marketing.”
While many photographers point to social media as a degradation of the art form, Melero is not so quick to write it off in such broad strokes. In the din, there’s always some unique voices which emerge. Social media also allows one to share their work quickly and without (much) censorship. Yet, Elsa does offer her own professional cautionary advice, “There’s some truth to the complaint that we're taking pictures rather than living in the moment and that makes us experientially poorer. I think that most of the times we don't even remember the stuff we take pictures of, making the snap-happy nature of modern photography doubly mindless. I also think there's a depth to a print you don't get with digital. I don't think photography's dead, it's just become lazy. People are taking lots of pictures but nobody's looking at them. When a photo stops someone and they ask themselves what is happening…and what happened before this photo…and maybe what will happen after…that’s when you know you have a great photo.”