This new Conceptual Creativity series is a collaboration with my friend Daniel Mallard. Dan has been a photojournalist for a major Canadian daily newspaper for over 35 years. In this “Golden Statue” edition, he is showcasing valuable tips and techniques on how to unleash our creativity to create state of the art images.

The concept

For this assignment, the newspaper Daniel was working for asked him to create concepts for two different portraits of the same person — one for a cover and another one for a spread. They were developing an issue about Canadian athletes who were getting ready for London’s Olympics. Alexandre Despatie, one of the best divers in the country, was his subject.

Concept 1

As Alexandre was a serious contender for the gold medal, Daniel imagined him as a golden statue — like Rodin’s Thinker. Why not, he even had the body match the look! He studied Rodin’s work to make sure he would nail the posing and make the diver look as true to reality from the original work.

Rodin thinker statue
Inspiration 1: Rodin’s Thinker statue. Photo by Valentin B. Kremer on Unsplash.

Concept 2

For his second concept, Dan envisioned Alex’s sport as a flight into the heights — both figuratively and literally. His diving career was flourishing and he was a huge medal hope for Canada. He decided he’d freeze the athlete into the air with London’s flag in a Superman-style.

Inspiration 2: Flying Superman

Communicating the concept with Alex

The journalist working with Daniel made the approach with Alexandre’s agent first, who liked the idea. Daniel explained his concept with her and they planned the day of the photoshoot.

Fast forward to that day, the team came in ready only to realize the agent hasn’t advised Alex he was supposed to be painted in gold … only wearing his tiny speedo. Fortunately for Daniel, the athlete remembered very well his work from the previous Olympics (with the bed in roses concept with figure skater Joannie Rochette). He told him he had a green card to do whatever he wanted.


Two setups have been installed outdoors: One in the shadow with a green backdrop and another one with the trampoline they brought out from the training center. During that time, the makeup artist painted Alexandre in gold. (Dan already made his tests prior to the photoshoot and was ready to roll.)


Concept 1

A flash with a softbox has been used for the Rodin thinker shot.

Nikon D3s + 70/200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, 1/400s, f/4, ISO 400, exposure compensation -0.7

Concept 2

Two Nikon Speedlights were used for the trampoline shot to add a shine effect to Alex’s legs.

Nikon D3s + 24/70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, 1/1000s, f/7.1, ISO 400, exposure compensation -0.7. Daniel purposely underexposed this shot to preserve details of the highlights in the flag.


As most of the work has been thought beforehand and done in-camera, there’s been very little editing needed. And remember, as a photojournalist, Dan was barely allowed any editing. He cropped some of the images, enhance contrast and saturation and dodged some areas to highlight specific details.

It’s a wrap!

The images turned out to look even better than what Daniel has imagined. This hasn’t been due to luck: It took him between 5-7 hours or preparation for each concept. And the photoshoot took only 45 minutes for both of them. Preparation is key when you work with very busy people (and athletes).

Moral of the story: The more efficient, confident and disciplined you are, the more you are likely to connect with these kinds of people. Show you are just like them and they will allow you to be as creative and bold as you want to be!

Diver Alexandre Despatie as a golden statueDiver Alexandre Despatie as a golden statue

More about Daniel

Daniel Mallard

His impressive professional career required him to travel internationally on a regular basis. From covering Haïti earthquake aftermath photos essay to the Vancouver Olympics to being embedded in Afghanistan with the Canadian troop, Daniel proved himself being a master in his field.

Every time I sit down with him, I always learn something new — he’s like a walking encyclopedia. Even though he is now retired from his career at the Journal de Québec, Dan keeps on reinventing himself with new concepts and creative projects to fuel his eternal passion for photography. I decided to write and share what he taught me through this text so you too could benefit from his knowledge. Of course, all the images and ideas in this article are Daniel’s.

I hope this will spark your inspiration and creativity. Until next time! :)