Friday

The Real Life Story - Behind Our Christmas Card

Steve Jobs and A Man Who Has Indelibly Changed Our Lives

Each year I am presented with the daunting task of creating the "Mark Jordan Photography" Christmas card that is on a par with the previous year. Some contend that my attempt should be more lofty, and that I should strive to top each year's card. Whether or not I embrace such pressure is not my concern, but instead prefer to simply concentrate my efforts on designing and expressing something new, fun and creative. I don't think in terms of better - only that a Mark Jordan Photography Christmas card represents excellence. It's to this aim I commit myself, each and every year.
The Inspirational Headshot of Steve Jobs


With that said, this year was especially challenging. Why? Believe it or not, my goal is to not only create impactful family photography, but that my design in some way reflects a meaningful event of the year. As you might recall, the third leg of the Mark Jordan tag line, immediately proceeding Timeless and Simple, is Meaningful. As such, it's not only relevant for my family portraits, it's important for me to infuse meaningfulness into the various facets of my portrait photography. 

This year, one of the most significant events of the year for me, and millions more throughout the world, was the passing of Apple's progenitor, Steve Jobs. Say what you will about Jobs, no one can argue he was not solely responsible for altering the way the world goes about its business. There's not many men in history who have left such an indelible mark.

The challenge then was how might I intertwine a portrait of my three children into the untimely departure of the behemoth icon? What possible design element could I pull together to render the faces of my most cherished gifts in a relevant manner to the "God of the The New Apple"?

To be candid, after mulling it over in my noggin I figured the contrast was too diverse and there was no feasible way to draw a parallel. I nixed it from the list of possibilites and went on to the next. Regardless of putting great effort into the another interesting concept, the challenge of making a credible link to such a strong divergent contrast kept nagging at me - unrelenting so.

The internal pestering refused to diminish, which had me wracking my brain for an apt allegory. This, in turn, had me scanning Google images for photos of Steve Jobs, hoping it might trigger the hook I was looking for. As fate would have it, I came across the headshot above. The proverbial light went on - ideas began to formulate. 

Now then, I don't know if anyone is all that interested in what transpired over the following weeks and the detailed narrative of incubation, but suffice it to say, the journey from initial concept to execution was anything but linear. It was one revision after another. Or put another way, re-vision after re-vision. Each time I thought I had it tacked down, a new wrinkle surfaced, causing me to question my interpretations and approach the divergence in an unlikely way.

Once my concept solidified into a workable cast, another seemingly insurmountable obstacle arose: how to overcome the limited dimension of the card in relation to the substance I wished to incorporate - too little space for too much content. I then began to chip away, but to my surprise the answer was not in elimination but expansion. Instead of incorporating only the kids, the answer was adding our two dogs to the mix. Synthesis then became my operative taskmaster!
The Front of Our 2011 Christmas Card 
At that point, having already overcome the dilemma of identifying relevance and design, other quandaries could no longer generate sufficient friction to slow this train from chugging forward. I didn't question whether the vision was possible and instead bulldozed ahead feeling confident the solutions would arrive. You know, a kind of "build it and they will come" scenario. 

The trick then was to synthesize every detail relating to the inference of Steve Jobs, while maintaing a subtle, clean aesthetic, which might tickle the eye as well as the heart. Tall order, but doable. John Wooden, who knows a thing or two about success (and who I had the joy of photographing), once said, "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." 

The snowflake for instance, a minor detail, yet actually has greater significance than simply suggesting winter. Without revealing too much, let me remind you that snowflakes are six-sided. Did you know the price of the very first Apple was $666? I'm sure you also recall that Jobs designed his logo which conspicuously reveals a bite taken out of an apple...
First Apple Computer: Price tag - $666 
Possibly, Steve Jobs was telegraphing his intentions all along, hiding in plain sight. I've even heard him speak from his pulpit, expressing his plans of global domination where every human will be touched in some way by Apple's reach - which arguably has "indelibly changed our lives."

Clearly, I also strove to craft each portrait as a parody to the much celebrated and renowned studio portrait of Steve Jobs. I'm not much for relying on assumption, but reasoned my astute friends would readily detect each kid/dog costumed in Jobs' trademark uniform. 

Even our card's sentiment, "Homage To A Man Who Has Indelibly Changed Our Lives," was carefully designed to direct the reader into connecting the dots, making the association to Steve Jobs. On the one hand I wanted to make sure there was no possible way for anyone to miss the tongue-in-cheek reference, yet plant just enough ambiguity so that when the tables were later turned, all would make sense. 
Snowflakes are Six-Sided - This one has a bite taken out of it...
At the risk of being too apparent, I couldn't resist taking a bite out of the snowflake. I questioned whether I then rambled over the top by posing our Schnoodle's paw upon her chin. However, if all the questions I've received is any measure, apparently not...

I know what many of you were thinking, but no, Kacy cannot actually touch her chin with her paw. And in case there are any PETA campaigners reading this blog, we did NOT forcibly contort Kacy's paw into this position - I accomplished this feet [sic] in Photoshop. 

As to our verse, once I baited the viewer into concluding that our Christmas card was in honor of Steve Jobs, the next step was to flip that understanding - in an instant. The abruptness of the small lone word, Jesus, at the top the verse, quickly proclaims that we are not as whacky as it would seem, and that any other possible focus of our affection the reader supposed was simply a product of an overactive imagination. Everything is as it ought to be - of course. 

Tension...followed by resolution.
The Inside - Verse 
Lest you're wondering why I would invest my time to write this blog post to simply explain a Christmas card, I'm doing so to save time and sanity. This way, each time I either meet someone on the street, get an email, or receive any sort of inquiry, I can quickly point them to my blog. I would appreciate greatly if you might consider doing the same.

Mark
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