Earlier this year, Toyota partnered with three award-winning Getty Images Reportage photojournalists — Shaul Schwarz, Sara Lewkowicz and Benjamin Lowy — to create high-end cinematic storytelling around a very important topic: safe driving for teens.
Using real subjects in real situations, the three explored driving as a rite of passage through TeenDrive365, Toyota’s comprehensive teen safety initiative. The results are raw and powerful — not surprising, given the award-winning photojournalists’ backgrounds. Lowy has covered major stories worldwide, from the Haitian earthquake to the Libyan uprising; Lewkowicz is known for documenting gender and sexuality issues; and Schwarz has covered international stories including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as directed a feature-length documentary “Narco Cultura” exploring the Mexican drug war.
“Janique Helson and her team at 360i loved the projects we showed them, and together we worked on the concept of creating a series of mini-documentaries for their client, Toyota,” said Getty Images VP Editorial Content Aidan Sullivan. “We all agreed we would be able top approach this project as we would for any editorial client, using real subjects in real situations. Toyota and 360i were incredibly supportive and allowed us creative freedom on all aspects of the assignment with no restrictions. The only stipulation, understandably, was that the teenagers should be driving Toyotas.”
We caught up with Schwarz to learn more about this project with Toyota, and what it was like to take on a different kind of assignment. (Interview below)
What did you enjoy about this project, compared to the other work you do?
What’s cool about this s that the client let us tell a documentary/real-life story. That’s similar to how I go out and shoot a film about a man going to space for a year, or the rebuilding of the Twin Towers. To some degree, this was very much the same.
I think what a lot of people are looking for are the skills that the Reportage photographers have — getting into stories, being that raw, being able to penetrate closed worlds, and getting real life stories out in a compelling way. What is unique here is translating that into film and doing it for a commercial client. …It’s borrowing that journalistic style, approach and tenacity to get into real life stories and then making that exist in film and in a commercial way.
What was it like getting to know the families?
The project was to get real families from diverse backgrounds and see how people handle this very fragile time in a teenager’s growth [learning to drive]. We’ve all been through it — it’s a unique time. On the one hand, it’s exciting and liberating … but on the other hand, is the worry for the parents. I think we featured some cool parents that are trying not to worry. At my age, in the middle between these parents and teens, I totally get both sides. So we wanted to show these real family stories happening at this really special time of getting this ability to drive. to some degree, in this day and age, it’s part of becoming an adult.
Do you remember what it was like for you, being a teenager and learning how to drive?
My family was a little bit more relaxed about my car driving given that I first had a scooter (I lived in Israel at the time). They were nervous in the beginning, but they learned to trust me.It was a game-changer for my life; you feel free, like an adult — you can go on a date, see friends, take care of things and do all these things, but that comes with responsibilities. You have to be careful. That said, teenagers are teenagers, and sometimes do dumb stuff — it’s a thin line. For example … if you drink and drive, it’s a HUGE deal. It’s that border of trust that is built inside a family when you start driving.
My parents warned me, “We know you’re going to mess up, everybody does. Just don’t be stupid. Call us if you’ve had a drink and need to leave the car.”
What do you hope this project achieves?
Getty Images Reportage has great photographers. What this project shows is that we can spread our wings and get involved in other projects. Personally, I have evolved into a filmmaker, so it was amazing to bring this expertise to help Getty Images deliver this kind of project. We live in a time when visual storytelling doesn’t have to be restricted to stills. This project reminded me that there is a commercial appetite for great content, and if you find the right client and the right team, great work is possible.
Getty Images has a core team of 16 elite Reportage photojournalists and a global roster of more than 650 photographers and videographers around the world representing all different specialties – from photojournalism to fully produced commercial shoots. Learn more.