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Spotlight On: Philip Edsel

Capture One Brand Ambassador Philip Edsel on the Link between Fashion and Sports Photography. 

It’s uncommon to hear of a creator on the rise who simultaneously steps back to give their artistic ability room to speak for itself and chooses to be most vocal about his morning musings, and yet Philip Edsel does just that. Maybe it’s the degree in Rhetoric and Writing, maybe it’s the sports background, or maybe it’s that you don’t need to shout it from the rooftops when you’re winning. Either way Edsel is equal parts curiously obtuse, psychoanalytic, and post-structural Dionysian. Add a client-list that reads like the sponsor page at the US Open and customary black-on-black attire into the mix, and the result is a creator’s creator that’s less Travis Scott, more Brian Eno.

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If you’ve been in this arena long enough to remember when digital was an anomaly, you’ll have learned that ‘genuine’ as a quality can be hard to come by.  As such, it’s difficult not to be a little skeptical of how sincere Edsel comes across but spend a little time with him and you quickly realize that genuine demeanor and introspective tendency has much to do with the fact that you sense Edsel would truly welcome the day when people go from telling him “I love your work,” to “I love what you have to say.”

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That’s the difference. Edsel’s work has something to say. It has a backbone. It’s intentional. All the best art is.

And brands want what he has to say, and how he says it visually. From a global campaign for Reebok with Conor McGregor in Dublin, to the isles of Scotland for the world’s largest Scotch brand, or getting unplugged with Hozier and personal with Simone Biles, there is room it seems for this thinking man’s creator.  So much so, that even rivals in the telecom world of one-upmanship can’t resist, as Edsel has recently completed a campaign for Verizon’s new company and one with T-Mobile. All this, mind you, in his time as Creative Director for Austin FC, a Sony Alpha Imaging Collective Ambassador, and a Capture One Ambassador.

When asked about his experience matriculating through the courses of the creative career journey, he responds with what seems like a scoop from the top of the platitude grab bag, “If you keep an open mind and make good work, the opportunities are always random, fun and exciting.” But the perfectly punctuated and formatted email betrays this veneer of frivolity, and there’s more insight to come. It also shows that while Edsel is nothing if not calculated, there is this element to his work that’s a bit of Freud’s ‘talking cure’ with imagery, where it’s only after the shot’s been taken that the analysis and discovery occurs.

And it’s this proclivity to analysis and discovery that gives him this perspective to share:

I got into sports by way of fashion. I liked shooting graphic colors, bold attitudes and energetic movement. Both industries share that in common. Also in the last 5-10 years, fashion and sports have basically become the same genre. In the apparel space, fashion brands are releasing fitness clothing, but also athletes are some of the most fashionable people in the world. At the end of the day, it’s all about culture.

Shooting fashion brought me into the fitness brand world which brought me into sports. That’s how I ended up shooting Simone Biles for Mondelez’s Olympics campaign in 2019. Little did I know it would be two years before that campaign would release. She was incredible sweet and easy to work with. I was mostly just caught off guard by her size. She’s only 4 feet tall, which is amazing considering her commanding influence on the world’s sports stage.

You never know the types of clients that will see your work and apply it to their brand. The key is to have a recognizable style, and clients will ask you to apply that style for them.

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Edsel, in his own words, is “drawn to an elevated version of simplicity,” and having read that you’ll see in his work the tendency and ability to capture the common uncommonly well. You could insert the appropriate Clare Boothe Luce quote on simplicity being the ultimate sophistication here and it wouldn’t be out of place – especially in this era of ephemeral social media where the trend is homogeny.

Maybe that’s the real takeaway Edsel is teaching through example, where he defied the cartesian duality of separate body and mind and found success by aligning his work more closely to who he really is.

And if you want to get a dose of who he really is check out his Instagram stories for his morning muses. You might learn more about Edsel and yourself as a creator through the esoteric philosophy he espouses.

True to self – what a concept.

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Philip Edsel

Philip Edsel is an award-winning photographer and director inspired by classical art, modern design, and potential energy. Based in Austin, Texas, his work captures empowered people in motion through fashion, fitness, and portraiture, using new technology to push his art forward. To learn more about Edsel and his work, go here.