Posted on July 7, 2015 by Elisa Gabor
Jack Ward was fantastic and eager to get to know the photography students at the University of Pennsylvania during a visit to campus. He overflowed with fascinating stories from his times working on the historic advertising campaigns for Marlboro cigarettes. I was thrilled to listen to how excited he was about photography; about the thrill of watching the scenes unfold in his viewfinder. It became clear that the only way that someone could do what he did for so long was through a genuine love for the photographic medium and the American West.
As the class looked through Jack’s portfolio (he had not seen this particular grouping for several years), the photographs of the cowboys and the sprawling, western landscapes did not look like advertisements. Later we saw how Marlboro put their stamp on top of the images. But before they were processed with art directors, clients and witty slogans, the photographs were of refreshing, humble scenes. Jack was right, real cowboys do have a certain “way” about them that only cowboys can portray.
My favorite story that he told us was how the campaign managers had hired a former professional football player to model for a major shoot. Jack commented, although the former New York Giants quarterback was deathly handsome, apparently he could not ride a horse with precision, so from that point on, Jack only photographed real cowboys.
This is what made the Marlboro photographs successful in my view: the posture of the men on top of their horses, the coarseness of their hands, the fact that the general public was observing them doing actual work. Yes, there was a product to sell, but regardless of this, the artfulness of the imagery and the sincerity of the people involved transported me to Marlboro Country.
Photography by Jack Ward, Copyright 2015.