It Starts With Forging a Connection – and Perhaps a Bond – With Our Talent

We are so excited to announce the debut of Trope Stories, our video series & audio podcast featuring in-depth interviews with Trope photographers.

Our monthly series kicks off next week with Ope Odueyungbo, the creative force behind Parallel Lines. To set the stage, this week we introduce you to series host Terry Maday, an Emmy- and Graphis-winning director and cinematographer, owner of Maday Productions, and Trope’s resident director of film & production.

Tell us about young Terry Maday. Were you always creative? What influences helped shape you into the videographer/director that you are now?

As a young guy growing up in the Chicago area, I played football, baseball and basketball; sports was my identity. But when my athletic journey came to a predictable conclusion in college, I made a decisive move into video production. My brother Tom, already working as a photographer, was nice enough to allow me to assist him on set – shooting with models, collaborating with a diverse, creative team on images for global brands. And then, as brothers sometimes do, we planned a road trip. We decided to go to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. Tom would shoot stills, and I would, for the first time, utilize Tom’s video camera to capture footage of our journey. This is when I really started to have fun. The footage was shaky and the compositions were far from cinematic, but that is where I discovered creativity.

Shooting and directing has become a very important part of your life. How has the process been? What challenges have you faced over the years when trying to become a videographer and director?

In the early days, I wanted to do everything myself: shoot, edit, deliver. I am really happy that I understand all parts of the process, but admittedly, my work got better when I became a more open collaborator. Sometimes we shoot with a small team of 3-4 people, sometimes there are more than 50 crew members; I’ve learned not just how to work with people, but how to truly collaborate so that everyone brings their special gifts and expertise to a project.

Currently, my biggest challenge, which is an exciting and creative endeavor, is to figure out what any given project requires. Are we traveling? What gear do we need? Are we working with real people, or with actors? With a celebrity? On location or in a studio? Motion graphics? Long or short form? Social? We ask a lot of questions early in the process to help us make decisions along the way.

I feel that artists often express themselves in their works, hiding a part of their identity behind every creation. Which part of your own character can be traced in your video work? In which project can it be seen the most?

In our unscripted documentary work, I absolutely feel a part of me is in every project. It starts with forging a connection – and perhaps a bond – with our talent. Our curiosity creates a conversation, and the exchange becomes an authentic reflection of their thoughts and ideas. If an audience is moved because a story feels relatable, inspirational and even aspirational, I think that’s a success.

Can you remember how you felt shooting your first video? Now compare that to your most recent upload; how has your approach to creating content or directing changed?

That first video of the journey to Graceland was forgettable for sure. When I first started using a camera, I didn’t understand how to capture a moment, how to craft it. I would shoot and shoot, hoping for magic to appear in my frame.

But now I can anticipate. Whether it’s lighting or movement, I have a sense of where the camera needs to be. Some moments require a tripod, some call for handheld. Other scenes benefit from a fluid gimbal move or can only be captured from a drone’s point of view.

I became a better filmmaker when I mastered the technology. Once it became second nature, I could focus on the human experience, the interactions between us as crew and who we are trying to capture.

We’re really excited to debut Trope Stories. What sparked the idea for this new project, and what can we expect?

Sam [Landers] and I talk frequently. We have fun discussions about Trope and our network of photographers. How can we tell more stories? How can we create beautiful and engaging content that connects with our audience, and potentially reach a new one? Sam is an idea machine, with the ability to think about presenting images in a dynamic, new way. It’s never really about Trope; our discussions always focus on how to showcase the incredible talent that graces the pages of our books.

In that spirit, Sam and I decided to move in the direction of a podcast. Ours, however, is visual first. It needs to be. The books are so visually compelling – we wanted to create a podcast that feels like a short film.

We are having so much fun developing the initial episodes. From the preparation and research for each photographer, shooting the sessions, selecting music, editorial and delivery; it takes quite a bit of collective effort to create a show that feels special. And that is our hope – that we create a show that puts the photographer first and allows them to share their thoughts and personal stories in a way that perhaps they haven’t before.

You play with humour and have a way of making your subjects trust you, creating a relationship that makes them feel instantly at ease. How do you do this?

Curiosity. Regardless of where we are in the world, or who we are shooting for, I am genuinely interested in who we are working with, how they do what they do, and perhaps most importantly, why they do it. I think that creates a genuine connection because I want to learn more about you and then translate that emotionally and visually to the audience.

Can you tell us a remarkable anecdote from a shoot? AND/OR, or someone who stood out when portraying him/her and why?

It is very difficult to narrow it down to some of our favorites. But here is just one example of how lucky we are:

We spent a week in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in rural Tennessee. Our client, Riddell, wanted to tell a special story. As part of their Smarter Football initiative, Riddell was providing new helmets, shoulder pads and accessories to a deserving small-town middle school football team. It seems simple on the surface, but when we heard Coach Bailey say, “football here is life-changing,” we felt compelled to share their story in a powerful way.

It certainly helped our cause that Riddell’s strategic business partner is NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. After we had been shooting for several days in the school, in the locker room and on the gridiron, Peyton arrived quietly in this charming little town, about 70 miles from where he played college football. He is a legend everywhere, but he is perhaps a hero in these parts.

Yes, he delivered the new helmets and shoulder pads and accessories — but in a way that only Peyton could do, and larger than life. He brought smiles, joy and memories that will stand the test of time. We stood by with cameras rolling as grown men and women were moved to tears; our crew feels so honored to have been there to capture that moment, and also to experience their pure joy.

The Trope documentary One/Frame, currently in development, profiles emerging photographers from around the globe, capturing their stories, successes and failures and giving a glimpse into their photographic world.

You’ve already captured hours of insightful footage and spoken to many different photographers. What were your first thoughts when you were first approached on the project?

Sam invited me to lunch to discuss an idea. I didn’t know what it was, but I was excited because Sam looks at the world in a beautiful way. Writing. Design. Photography. Film. Creativity. Not small ideas, big ideas.

When Sam and I sat down to discuss the concept of Trope creating books with emerging photographers from around the world, I understood the idea immediately. I wanted to be a part of the exploration and discovery. I wanted to learn more about the talented photographers and how and why they capture their cities.

Tell us a bit more about the filming, the process and planning. Each city must have presented its own unique challenges and adventure!

We have shot in Chicago, London and Hong Kong, with more cities to come. We traveled as a small crew of three from Chicago: Jeremy Garchow, Oscar Ayala and I have worked together at Maday Productions for many years and our collective skill set is a powerful combination of creative, technical, organizational, logistical and storytelling abilities. We experienced the cities through the eyes of the Trope photographers, with access to neighborhoods and alleyways and tunnels and mountaintops that most tourists never see. An interesting note, we certainly accomplished our step-goal as we traversed the cobblestone streets of London and the chaotic streets of Hong Kong; we walked more than 140 miles across 25 days of shooting!

The international trips require planning and coordination. James Hamidzadeh, the talented brother of photographer (and Trope producer) Lucy Hamidzadeh, (link to her book or interview?) was our patient driver in London who helped us load our expensive and fragile equipment and navigate the congested London streets and neighborhoods. We strategized every day to maximize our short time with each artist, and work with the light from sunrise to sunset and beyond.

In Hong Kong, our longtime friend and collaborator Danny Ho, was essential to the shoot’s success. Danny partnered with the photographers to create a plan for us to shoot in as many locations as possible. This was not easy to do – there were days that started at 3:30 a.m. We wanted to be on the ground – amidst the frenzy of Hong Kong Island, or atop the mountains overlooking Kowloon - as opposed to being stuck in traffic.

What about the photographers that you met whilst filming? Tell us about the experience of shooting these creative individuals ­– all different, but united by the medium of photography?

It was a privilege to see how each photographer approach their city. Each one took us to their hidden gems: window reflections, rain-soaked streets, gritty bridges, local markets, rooftops, graffiti tunnels, chaotic intersections, wild mountaintops – we experienced amazing visual variety.

It takes a lot of skill to take a photograph worth sharing, to communicate an entire story with one image. What we do on the motion side of storytelling is so different; there are 24 images per second, and we can stitch together wide shots and tight shots, static compositions and fluid movement. To accomplish a striking image – one frame – that makes a viewer feel something is extraordinary, and we are so impressed by the talent in this group of Trope collaborators.

Talent is one very important ingredient. But work ethic – wow. That’s a whole other component to success that we saw day after day. How do you capture a normally hectic London scene with only one person crossing the street? Wake up at 4 a.m. so you can be poised for the moment. How do you share an image from a busy tunnel with no traffic? Wait at the hidden entrance until the final moments before the tunnel closes, move swiftly, and click. How do you get to the top of the mountain before someone steals your vantage point? Get in position at 3:30 a.m.

I think combining talent and creativity with hard work leads to success, and we saw this again and again across Chicago, London and Hong Kong.