Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

Interview :: Dave Moser
by Juanita Berge, 1 Sep 2009

Although based in Philly, the Eastern Corridor is considered his "home" geographical location. He spends a portion of his time working worldwide. Clients include: Digitaria, Dorland Global, GSW Advertising LLC, Saatchi & Saatchi, The New York Times Magazine, Barrons, Sports Illustrated, Johnson and Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline. His work can also be found on Getty Images as well as personal projects appearing in galleries.

PCG: How did you get your start in photography?

DM: I was eleven, seated on rocks with my Dad's Brownie camera watching waves crash into the rocky shore, waiting for the perfect moment of impact. The world and time fell away as I focused on this small-scale drama. I remember feeling exhausted when I finally ran out of film, coming out of a trance. It was the first time I spent an extended period of time observing anything. The magic holds true when I photograph today. I'm very fortunate to have found this.

My high school photography teacher, whom I had befriended, died during my junior year. His replacement not only did not understand photography, but also got the science wrong. He asked me to help with the teaching and I was thrilled. I spent many hours in the darkroom lost in the process

I did not plan on continuing my formal education after high school because I could not take more time sitting in classrooms trying not to stare out the window. Instead, I poured concrete foundations, but soon realized my body would not hold up to such work and the folks I was working with were miserable. I fantasized about reading philosophy in a dorm. By the next semester I was working towards my BFA at the University of Dayton. Four years later, I graduated number one in my class. I still loved taking pictures.

After graduating, I returned to my parent's home outside Philly and began looking into the fine art community. I stumbled upon an agency that supplied support services to the advertising industry and I began to assist photographers. The problem-solving and fast pace of the commercial world fascinated me, meeting very different people each day and always going somewhere different. In August of 1994, I took time off to put my portfolio together and immediately started receiving referrals from photographers, which launched me into shooting full time. We grew these referrals from simple PR gigs into annual reports and national branding campaigns. These projects eventually allowed me to segue into these company's agencies.

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

PCG: What type of photography do you specialize in?

DM: I photograph people. The images are used in advertising, collateral, and magazines. I have recently started showing my work in galleries again due to interest in recent personal projects.

I thrive on the challenges of location shooting as well as negotiating access and embracing the unexpected. Recently, I have started working more in the studio on self-assignments. I find solace in the meditative process with nothing to distract me, just focusing on the connection with the subject. I look forward to balancing these disciplines.

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

PCG: You have an unusual targeted marketing campaign. Tell us about that and where your ideas came from?

DM: This campaign is my first marketing effort. I have been fortunate to run a strong business based on word of mouth for the past 15 years. About 3 years ago I started some soul searching. I wanted challenging work and to find people I could collaborate with to make the best images. I hired a career coach, Ian Summers, and we began exploring how to find work that would satisfy my changing desires.

We interviewed 12 top design firms throughout North America using a strategy that would help us find the agency that would be right for us. We sent out cans of sardines wrapped with Kraft paper and twine to the 12 prospects at the different firms. On the outside was a handwritten note about wanting to hire them to work with me on my campaign. Every single designer, and often receptionists, knew who I was when I called and identified myself as the "sardine guy". There were quite a few things I learned in this process, all quite surprising; a large percentage of recipients opened the package without reading it and ate the sardines, many people had a difficult time understanding that I wanted to HIRE THEM, and many of these folks focused on saving costs and cutting corners without addressing the creative. I found it odd that I had to sell them up, as I was prepared to really invest in this and go for it. This was, after all, my first marketing effort and I wanted to come out of the gates sprinting!

After some consideration, we decided on Partners Design. They really wanted the gig and saw it as an opportunity to really stretch creatively. We flew the copywriter in from LA. It was David Samson, the founder of Adville and author of 24 humorous books such as The Joy of Depression. The team met in Partner's beautiful countryside studio for 1.5 days. There was a great synergy present from the first cup of coffee. By the time we were done, most ideas for the campaign were conceived. Only the details remained.

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

PCG: Where does the tagline, 'Reality Amplified,' come from?

DM: Samson simply said it to me on the drive to the design studio that first day. He had been looking at my work and putting thoughts into words, or however good copywriters' minds work. It resonated with me. I wasn't looking for a tagline. However when I heard it, it felt right.

I believe my images do amplify reality. I see certain things in an environment and subject that I want to bring to the forefront of the experience; I guess this is "my reality." In a sense, I am amplifying what I see.

PCG: What has been the response to your campaign?

DM: We have had great responses. All of the goals we set for the campaign have been accomplished. Each mailing is being opened by the recipient. Each mailing is memorable, creating a strong impact with each touch. There has been viral energy with each mailing so my name and work spreads beyond the intended recipient. The mailings are seen as keepers. My name and work stays in front of my top prospects. The campaign has opened many doors allowing me to arrange for face-to-face meetings with my top prospects. I wanted the mailings to come across as fun and whimsical, showing I am fun to work with and understand this business and know what it takes to get noticed in an extremely saturated and sophisticated market place.

An example of this is an agency that received our second mailing, a gizmo/robot. The robot was sent in a custom designed wrapper with playful 1930's-feeling sci-fi illustrations surrounded by some funny tongue-in-check copy and clever comparisons between robots and me! When you open the package there is a little wind up critter holding an 18 panel, two inches by six feet gatefold of my work. When you wind up the gizmo, which has my name screened on the key, it dances around in an odd way waving my work. The agency liked this so much that they now use the gizmo as an "idea generator". When they meet for brainstorming they wind up my gizmo and brainstorm until it stops dancing.

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

PCG: Has there been any viral spread of the campaign?

DM: Yes, there is much perceived value of the items I am sending out. People pass them around, call people over to look at them and sometimes give them to their kids. I have gotten numerous calls from folks who were not the "intended" recipients. I have received unsolicited national press initiated by none other than a top prospect!

PCG: What role did your creative coach, Ian Summers, have in all of this?

DM: Ian was instrumental in keeping me on track and helping me find solutions to the parts of marketing that I did not want to do. He had a huge role in helping me assemble my team, which also includes Anna Adesanya, my marketing coordinator in Atlanta. He suggested Samson and has also been very involved in the creative on the project. He has been and continues to be an excellent sounding board, mentor and friend.

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

PCG: Your campaign represents what must be an extraordinary outlay of cash. What convinced you to do this now?

DM: The process started in the summer of 2007 and really did not go into full stride until January 2008 with all production complete by spring 2008. I did not see any reason to change my commitment once the economy started faltering. I am in this for the long haul and have already weathered some tough cycles; I believe there is always room at the top, and always revenue to invest on growing businesses. It was time to grow my business and redirect it to the dream job I have always wanted. With all this in mind, money seemed fairly minor.

PCG: You currently reside in the Philadelphia area.  Since you work nationally, what has made you decide to locate here?

DM: Philly is a very livable city with great restaurants, a thriving music scene, world-class museums, and shows. We have the largest inner city park in the world with some of the country's best mountain biking within city limits, affordable and still undervalued real estate, easy access to NYC, DC, Boston and beyond, and a strong local economy with thriving industry despite the city's considerable challenges. If I need wide open spaces I can be in the countryside within half an hour. In short, Philly has easy access to all the major East Coast cities and all the support/services of a world-class city without paying the price of a world-class city.

Dave Moser | Dave Moser Photography

PCG: You started this campaign, you say, because there is so much more you want to do. What is that 'so much more'?

DM: Thank you for this question! I would like larger sustained projects collaborating with top creatives on a more consistent basis. I would like to be hired more for where my work is going, rather than where it's been. I want to be hired for my style. I want to work with people who see what I am doing in my work and are not caught up in the details of the subject matter. I want to work with people who feel they are making art that communicates and sells products, services, and ideas.

You can see Dave Moser's work at

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