“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it,” observed 
photographer Edward Steichen. And that’s why creative content studio Napoleon turned to Eljay Aguillo to photograph the company’s staff for a new brand launch in 2015.

As the founder of Instagram’s hugely popular Why I Love New York City feed (@whyilovenewyorkcity), Aguillo has shot thousands of portraits and he captures the essence of his subjects by making them forget all about the camera. His smart and spirited urban style was exactly what Napoleon was seeking.

“Napoleon’s people are Napoleon’s brand,” says Marketing Manager Larry Closs. “Our staff is the reason new clients become recurring clients and established clients can’t wait to come back. We wanted a photographer who could capture both the individual and collective character of our team. We also wanted photos that say ‘New York.’ Napoleon is an international enterprise but Manhattan has been our headquarters for 30 years and we’re very proud of that. ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,’ and we have.”

For all of those reasons, Closs selected Aguillo as the photographer for the job.

“Eljay captures people at their best,” says Closs. “His portraits are gritty, colorful, casual and friendly—the exact attitude and aesthetic we were hoping to express.”

Aguillo was initially taken aback by Closs’s request.

“I honestly thought he was joking,” recalls Aguillo, who had never been asked to do a corporate photo shoot and had his doubts about what was expected. “I didn’t know how to respond other than with a one-word email, ‘Yes!’ and I left it at that. But after several conversations, Larry convinced me that he picked me because of the style I use for Why I Love New York City. So, that’s what I used.”

For two days last fall, Aguillo led Napoleon’s staffers to locations throughout Napoleon’s Flatiron neighborhood, from Madison Square Park to the Flower District, from Shake Shack to Citi Bikes, from rooftops, water towers and fire escapes to subways, sidewalks and storefronts.

“This was a new experience for most of the staff,” says Closs. “Many were not looking forward to having their photo taken because they were too self-conscious. But, after the fact, every single person said they had a great time and that’s a testament to Eljay’s ability to put people at ease and not even realize they’re having their picture taken.”

One look at the resulting grid of portraits on Napoleon’s new website and the success of the shoot is obvious. From Founder Marty Napoleon, President Doug Miller and VP/Senior Creative Director Ken Kresge to Senior Producer Angela Gianforcaro, Technical Director Dave Pietricola and Facility Coordinator Tonia Letang, the staff’s energy, charm and professionalism are apparent.

Even better, the shoot proved mutually beneficial.

“I was honestly inspired by my shoot for Napoleon,” says Aguillo. “I developed a new sensibility, finding a deeper wave of my own style and respect for the subjects I shoot. All of those elements reinvigorated my Instagram feed and I have to give props to all the people at Napoleon for contributing to that. It was a rewarding experience for me and I hope that my next project will be just as eye-opening as this one.”

That seems a sure bet: Aguillo’s next project is a book based on Why I Love New York City. Look for it in 2016.

About Napoleon
A previz powerhouse since 1985, Napoleon has not only endured, we’ve expanded, using our previz prowess as a springboard to a full portfolio of products and services that now includes art, audio, broadcast and digital/content. Thanks to a trait programmed into our DNA from the very beginning—the ability to adapt to meet advertising’s ever-changing needs—our longevity is unrivaled, our talent untouchable, our client list unparalleled and our facility incomparable.

Nothing sets Napoleon apart more than our New York City headquarters. In 2013, at a time when much of the industry was downsizing, Napoleon seized an opportunity for growth and, after 15 years in midtown Manhattan, moved to a custom-built facility in the city’s new nexus of creativity and technology, the vibrant Flatiron District. Gutting Kate Spade’s former offices, Napoleon created a one-of-a-kind, bi-level 14,450-square-foot contemporary office and production studio that makes our diverse capabilities clear.

The new project-centric space features a 12-camera Vicon Bonita motion-capture system, a spacious green-screen stage, stylishly efficient edit and audio suites and a sleekly modern kitchen that allows our peerless client services to shine, all seamlessly tied together with a state-of-the-art infrastructure. The studio boasts an open-air workspace for 50-plus creative directors, animators, editors, designers, illustrators, modelers, compositors, scripters, character artists, motion-graphics artists and producers, expressly designed to foster creative collaboration among staff and clients alike.

Savvy agencies and brands seeking peerless experience and expertise know there’s only one place to turn: Napoleon.  napoleongroup.com