Hot Shot: Randal Ford

RANDAL FORD IS ALL ABOUT MONKEY BUSINESS. And that’s but one reason he’s tapped in Texas, his home state, and beyond for animal photography—from stylized cow portraits to costumed cats and dogs. Two- or four-legged critters   love his camera, and the upbeat and outgoing shooter can get as much out of animals as he does with people.

“Animals give off funny expressions—sometimes for just a split second, so you have to really be on your toes all time,” he says. “You can’t tell a Capuchin monkey to look like he’s blowing fairy dust off his finger, but I was there with the camera when he did.”

Whether it’s a reinterpretation of Norman Rockwell, a cover for Texas Monthly, or a humorous campaign for the Austin Humane Society, Randal is known for his high production values and high concepts. His work has won over national clients such as AARP, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Home Depot, Microsoft, Nestle, Petco and Southwest Airlines.

“I think it’s a good exercise to move between the worlds of commercial and editorial. I love staging and creating an interesting set and controlling that, but at the same time it’s much nicer to capture a moment.” He did that recently for his second consecutive cover for Texas Monthly featuring 40 cheering college students from all over the state.

“They just mowed us over with their energy—it was that moment where the camera pans the crowd and they go ballistic, and we caught their excitement.”

Randal describes his work as high-definition, incorporating illustrative production values, but still creating a narrative. He’s fond of Americana, and that shows in some of his work—an image of a family road trip (a cover for Texas Monthly), for example, which “tell a million stories of what’s going on inside that car.” Another example of storytelling: “The Amazing Faith of Texas,” a full-feature book of portraiture and landscape that narrate the religious landscape of the Lone Star State.

 “The faith book didn’t have all this heavy production. When you’re able to let go of some the control that we all love in the ad industry, some amazing things can happen.”

His always-evolving inspiration means he’s always looking for the next thing that tests his creativity. Personal work keeps him nimble, he says. In a recent project that visually interpreted records from the Guinness Book of World Records, Randal chose something with a nod to his Texan roots: the record for most rattlesnakes (87) for the longest time in a bathtub (45 minutes) [click here to shake, rattle, and roll].

“Some of my ideas are too outlandish to recreate,” he admits.

“I think there’s a brightness or sassiness or an ‘in your face’ aspect that comes through in my work in a humorous way,” he says. “Maybe some of my work is a little loud sometimes, but it’s Texas. My personality is Texan in the way I’m outgoing and bubbly. I’m not much of a tortured artist.”


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