A Conversation with

Benoit Lagarde

Benoit Lagarde didn抰 intend to have his office in the midst of Vogue photo shoots, Calvin Klein model castings or Ralph Lauren 搗irtual runway tapings. Before he relocated from the Caribbean to New York, he planned to open a restaurant until a 搇ong night in a bar led him to launch Splashlight, the studio space favored by the likes of Bloomingdales, Louis Vuitton, Nordstrom and more. As co-founder and principal of the company which has locations and New York and Miami Benoit is innovating how top retail brands and magazines capture images and video for a new generation of shoppers and readers.

We caught up with Benoit to talk about the 搉ew e-commerce, what makes a great shot and which repeat model guests he loves to see in the studio.

How did you get involved with Splashlight?
I grew up dreaming of opening a restaurant, but when I moved to New York City from the Caribbean, photography became my obsession. I began studying at the International Center of Photography, where I met my first partner in Splashlight, Henry Geddes.

After one long night in a bar, we emerged with the concept for Splashlight: a New York [studio] serving the finest of food and beverages and state-of-the-art digital photography equipment. We saw the studio as a space where the atmosphere would be like being on vacation, where we would offer an experience that placed an emphasis on the small details and the kind of five-star experience you get at a hotel.

What抯 your office like?
We have a very non-traditional working environment, as about half of our staff works in the production office, while the other half is working on-set with clients on a day-to-day basis. Our production office is a large open space, to facilitate collaboration. The space is decorated with both vintage and new fashion photography and features a cozy lounge library area.

What are the keys to capturing a good image or piece of film?
Selecting the right talent team for the creative concept. Here at Splashlight, we place a strong emphasis on brand discovery and listening to the client [about] the specific project they are working on. We then harness that knowledge to select the best photography crew for their vision and budget.

Tell us about a project captured in your studio that was especially striking to you.
We抳e now produced three virtual runway shows for Ralph Lauren抯 Lauren line. Utilizing green screen, a treadmill, marker and CGI technology, we are able to create this innovative and dynamic selling platform.

The concept allows the brand to engage users who want to access the glamour of a fashion show but can抰 come to New York for Fashion Week, while also providing enhanced product information through fashion-editor commentary. The use of adjacent purchase links also increases usability and the likelihood of conversion by shifting the experience from passive viewing to active shopping.

A number of top magazines shoot in your space. What have you learned about the editorial process by having these clients in Splashlight?
Deadlines are of great importance on all shoots, but with editorial shoots, the deadline directly affects execution of beautiful photography and the final delivery of images卼eamwork is critical.

Any favorite models you like to see at Splashlight?
Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Gisele B黱dchen.

What抯 a typical day like for you?
I begin each day by reading the trade publications, such as WWD and The Daily, and I check Nowness.com to see what they抳e posted that day. I also spend time every morning catching up with my partner and CEO of Splashlight, James Ingram, to review the status of client and Splashlight projects.

From there, it抯 a mixed bag of client and internal Splashlight meetings, creative brainstorming sessions, visiting with the talent that I know in the studios, checking in on the operations of our in-house restaurant, and so on, and working on marketing initiatives and strategic business alliances.

What抯 the biggest misconception about your job?
For a long time, e-commerce photography was considered the ugly stepsister of the imagery production business. However, we are now seeing brands and retailers shifting their focus and becoming increasingly multi-channel businesses.

The digital space simply cannot be ignored any longer. One of the most important drivers of the retail market recovery (which began in earnest last year) was the dramatic increase in e-commerce.

Where do you find inspiration?
Books, magazines, art and galleries, music, blogs like Nowness.com, movies and, most importantly, travel. As Splashlight was founded on the premise of five-star service and hospitality, I always pay close attention to what new hotels are doing to set themselves apart.

Describe your personal style.
Classic hip. I am not afraid of color just ask anyone about my bright pink socks!

What are you reading right now?
Born to Run by McDougal Christopher, and I read Vanity Fair cover-to-cover every month.

What is your current state of mind?
New York.

- JILL HILBRENNER

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