The Drinks with Creatives series kicks off with an interview with photographers Adam and Robin Vorhees. Discover how they navigate tough projects and creative inspiration.
The Drink of Choice
Larry: The very first important question is what are you drinking?
Robin: Gin and Tonic. What do we have? Citadelle.
Adam: Citadelle, yeah.
Robin: I’m really picky about the tonic. I only like Fever-Tree naturally light. Anything else is too sweet.
Larry: Fever-Tree? What is that?
Robin: Fever-Tree naturally light tonic water. You have to be really careful when you go to this one corner store market because they’ll try to throw something else in your bag and be like “No, it’s Fever-Tree.” You have to be like “No, that’s the Mediterranean. I want the natural light.” Put that back and give me what I asked for.
Adam: I’m doing margarita over here. I think we need Corralejo Silver with a little lime. Just nice and simple. And pretty. It’s like a summer flower, like a cactus flower. Smiling.
Robin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s a really good tequila with not the greatest branding. Here’s the thing. Emily Kimbro is the first person who sent us a bottle of this tequila and it tastes delicious and it’s super reasonably priced. I call it uterus tequila because they have this as the embossed logo. I’m sure it’s like a basket of snakes and something else. You know when you try to emboss an intricate logo and it just doesn’t work? Honestly it looks like a uterus and Fallopian tube is embossed on the bottle. I have to call it uterus tequila because that’s the only thing that it looks like.
Adam: When we send our assistants and interns to the liquor store, which we do, we ask them to buy uterus tequila.
Larry: And they all know it?
Robin: Yeah, I’ll show them the bottle and I’m like “It looks like this.” They all go “Oh, yeah that really does look like the drawing from science class.”
Larry: You guys are monsters.
Adam: We’re not, oh, come on.
Robin: We pay for the gas to get there.
Adam: Yeah, we buy them tanks of gas. We give them stipends and we make them cocktails.
A Creative’s First Gig
Larry: So tell me, what was your first paying gig as a creative?
Robin: I was dating a guy who was friends with an owner of a bar-slash-it-maybe-was-a strip club called The Daiquiri Lounge in Texas and I designed flyers for it. They were atrocious. Yeah. Yeah. I think I got a hundred bucks and a big bar tab.
Larry: Yeah. Were you excited about that?
Robin: Yeah. They actually got printed. I was like “This is amazing.” Now looking at them they were the worst … It had checkered flag girls on the back. It was bad. It was super bad.
Larry: What about you Adam? What was your first paying gig?
Adam: I was in high school and my friend’s mom had a company and their company had a racecar. They gave me a picture of it and I designed a flyer to promote their company. I imagine it was printed out and handed out to everybody in the business. I think I got paid fifty dollars for that. Which is pretty sweet.
I didn’t really know that you could make a living at photography. My understanding of photography as a job involved some kind of gallery art. Of course, your parents drill into your head the idea that you can’t make any money as an artist. I wasn’t really sure it was what I wanted to do. It was a driving passion. It was a thing that never stopped. I took every photo class at school. I built a dark room in my mom’s garage.
I was doing the junior college thing, ran out of courses that I wanted to take. Found out about photography school. Still had no idea you can make a living being a photographer. I had no concept. It didn’t even occur to me to look at a billboard and think, “Oh, somebody was paid to photograph that bottle of beer that’s on that billboard.” Never crossed my mind, but I knew it’s what I wanted to do.
The Life of a Creative Couple
Larry: I’m going to ask a very tedious question. I’m sure you guys get asked this all the time. How is it to be married, be working together, and be living together as a creative couple? Do you find this to be a challenge?
Adam: Can I say something first, Robin?
Robin: Yeah go ahead but you need to make me another gin and tonic.
Adam: I don’t see it as a challenge. My perception is, and I’m sure it’s different then Robin’s, is that we are so damn busy during the day. It’s like “Robin, can you do the blah, blah, blah, I got to do the da, da, da, da, da.” It’s intense. Every day there’s all this stuff going on. It’s very different from being at work, going through the gauntlet all day long in this monstrous creative process. Creating all of this stuff non-stop to being still and being together in a quiet moment. It’s not the same thing at all. Yeah, I love being with Robin creatively, and I love being with Robin personally. Both parts of that I cherish and it’s not something that I get tired of.
Larry: That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.
Robin: Okay, if I talk will you make me more gin and tonic?
Robin: I never thought anybody would match that drive. I remember dating people and they would get angry that I was at work past 5:30. No, you don’t get it, I’m really passionate about this. It’s phenomenal to be with somebody who is as passionate as you are. People have asked me if I would like to go style for other photographers and honestly it freaks me out because I don’t know them. I can’t read them. I don’t know what they can do. I don’t know what they can’t do. I don’t know what they can see. I don’t know what they can’t see. Yeah. It’s almost like being able to read somebody’s mind at this point and it just makes it better. At the same time I can get really upset with my co-worker and we have arguments and we’ll have disagreements and we fight.
Larry: No, no don’t tell me that.
Robin: Because we are so passionate about what we do. I feel like it’s okay.
Creativity: The Tough Projects
Larry: What has been your toughest creative project ever?
Robin: Our toughest editorial project from my perspective was our first Atlantic cover. It was one of our very first national covers.
Adam: A library wall being smashed by a wrecking ball.
Robin: I was in tears trying to figure out how to make this wrecking ball. I needed to make it full size because the books needed to be full sized. We finally made it, and then I had to hang all these books, so I had to go to Tractor Supply to get this thick metal grid that I can hang things off of. It was just … It was tedious.
Adam: It was next level problem solving for us. It was kind of the project that took us past a point that we were comfortable in and brought us into a new world.
Larry: I remember when I was watching the news and the press from Atlantic was on talking about it and then it popped up and it had your name on it. I think I took a picture of it and I texted that to you.
Robin: Yeah, you did.
Awakening Creative Inspiration
Larry: Complete this sentence without naming an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance okay? Blank really gets the creative juices flowing.
Robin: Showers. When I’m really stressed and we’re trying to brainstorm, sometimes I’ll ask to just give me the text and I’ll read it and go take a shower. I sit in the shower and let the water flow over me and I’ll daydream but at the same time I’ll think about it. Showers.
Adam: Mine is really similar. I would say driving with the radio turned off. No matter where you are your at home, you’re at work, you’re doing something, there are people around, there’s always demands of you. People are asking things of you. They’re grabbing at your attention, your phone’s going off. It’s endless. Your driving, turn the radio off, it’s quiet… stillness.
Visualizing Your Dreams
Larry: There’s a film director who’s name is Jim Jarmusch and you’ve probably heard his quote where he says “Do you believe this, nothing is original, or do you believe we haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to visualizing our dreams?”
Adam: I think it’s difficult to be original, but I wouldn’t say that we haven’t scratched the surface. We’ve torn a hole in the surface. There is an immense amount of originality out there. Things can be created, things can be found and discovered, things can be combined. I think that you can create new ways of seeing.
Robin: There are still original things out there, but Adam expressed this idea to me a long time ago that ideas are tangible. It’s like the guy that created the microwave. There was a guy who was working in one part of the world and he created this thing and it was a guy who was working in a different part of the world and he never talked to the other guy. The thing is they created the same type of mechanism at the same time.
Looking. That’s where I get inspiration. There was a period of time where we got so busy and so involved in ourselves that we stopped looking. I felt we were getting a little stale. There are so many creatives out there that are doing such great things. It’s not about copying, it’s about being inspired. Sometimes you can be inspired by somebody and see something somewhere and you can do something completely different but it inspired you. I think that’s the biggest thing to just keep looking. To follow a blog, to follow Instagram, to search out new people, to look at things you hadn’t looked before. When we really started to say “Okay, we’re getting stagnant how do we grow our business? What do we do?” That was it. We started looking and we started with the people and then we went to people we didn’t know and we branched out from there.
By Larry Williams