The 2024 Spotlight Awards will be one to remember. With elite photographers submitting their finest work, and some of the world's top creative minds joining our jury panel, there is no shortage of talent at this year's competition! 

In the spirit of celebrating creativity, we wish to highlight some of the game changers and trend-setters on this year's panel. We spoke with some of our judges to get their insights into the advertising industry, their personal philosophies on the creative process, and much more. We are delighted to bring this forthcoming series of interviews to our community - we hope you find it insightful and inspiring!

We are so pleased to introduce Fedja Kehl, one of the judges of the Car Photography and Fashion Photography category. His expertise, coupled with a unique focus on automotive and fashion advertising, makes him a wonderful addition to the jury panel. We spoke to Fedja about his transition from art direction to creative direction,  photography, and much more!

With a background in advertising, focusing specifically on the automotive industry, what unique expertise do you bring to the judge’s panel at this year’s Spotlight Awards?

Photography in the automotive industry has undergone significant changes in recent years. It’s no longer just about capturing a car from the perfect angle. Instead, it’s about capturing a lifestyle, conveying a specific attitude. The goal is to craft an image that embodies the essence of the car brand. My expertise lies in evaluating photos based on their quality and their ability to tell a compelling story and evoke emotions with just one shot.

Your career has encompassed both art direction and creative direction, has your philosophy on creativity and advertising evolved along the way? If so, how?

In my role as an art director, staying attuned to the spirit of the times was crucial. I made it a priority to stay updated on design and lifestyle trends, integrating them seamlessly into my work. Now, as a Creative Director, my main focus is on empowering my teams to do the same. I provide them with the necessary resources, guidance, and freedom to generate exceptional creative output. I believe that to be a good creative, your philosophy must adapt and grow alongside your personal development and the changes in your environment.

The pace of life for everyone has accelerated significantly. Trends shift rapidly, and advancements in technology bring possibilities that were once considered futuristic just a few years ago. People are inundated with information from all directions. As creatives, we face the task of connecting with people in entirely new ways. Creativity is no longer confined to the realm of advertising; it flourishes across various domains outside traditional agencies. As professional creatives, we must compete with this broader spectrum of creativity.

What is the single most important thing you learned at the beginning of your career, and how did it shape and/or influence your career trajectory thereafter?

Constantly absorbing everything around and never remaining stagnant is crucial. It may sound cliché but creativity means never stop learning. Creativity thrives on external input. Personally, I’ve always prioritized staying informed, gathering inspiration from various sources, and experimenting with ideas even if they initially seemed unrelated to my interests. It’s about maintaining an open mindset and being receptive to all experiences and influences.

What are the most essential qualities you look for when scouting creative talent?

Talent, interest, curiosity, and personality are all pivotal aspects, especially in our industry where teamwork is paramount. Assessing whether a creative individual aligns with the team is a crucial consideration.

Whether you’re a freelancer or a salaried employee, collaboration is inevitable in creative work. Tell us what you consider to be the mark of a good collaborative effort, and why?

Effective collaboration requires the capacity to occasionally step back. Creative individuals often have strong personalities, which serve them well in moving on and fighting for their ideas. However, those who excel in collaboration are those who can also listen, embrace different perspectives, and acknowledge valuable ideas, even if they originate from others. These people not only contribute to the team’s progress but also stand out as exceptional creatives overall.

What balance should creatives strike between capitalizing on industry trends, and staying true to their unique visions?

It’s crucial to ensure that industry trends do not overshadow your own unique vision. While it’s essential to stay informed about industry trends, it’s equally important not to let them overshadow your distinct creative perspective. Instead, aim to integrate relevant trends into your vision without compromising its integrity.

It’s said that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying. In your opinion, what role does failure play in the journey to success in any creative role and/or industry?

Failure is the chance to learn, but if you don’t learn from failure, it will hold you back and stop you from progressing. This is the opposite of what you need when working in a creative job. Failure also involves learning how to cope with it. As a creative person, you experience failure regularly. When a customer rejects an idea, it’s a type of failure. If you haven’t learned to handle these failures before, you might end up feeling disappointed and angry throughout your creative career, and even in life in general, in my opinion.

As you know, success in any creative field takes a timeless and steadfast dedication to one’s craft. What should creative professionals remember on their journeys to realizing their full potential?

Always strive to improve. Continuously boost your skills and adapt them to new technologies as they emerge. Stay curious and be willing to evolve with the changing times.

The Spotlight Awards, though a competition, is at its core a celebration of photography and creativity. As a judge, what value do you think our Awards offer participating photographers and judges?

Both honor and satisfaction. Photographers feel honored and satisfied, as their talent earns them a place in the awards. Similarly, judges experience a sense of honor and satisfaction, as their creativity qualifies them to evaluate the photographers’ work. To me it’s an honor having been invited as a judge to the Spotlight Awards. I’m very thankful for the opportunity not just to become a part of the jury, but also to have the chance to discover new amazing work, to keep on learning from other professionals and to keep on being inspired. In this respect… thank you very much for allowing me to be one of the judges.

We thank Fedja for joining this year's jury panel and for engaging in such a thoughtful discussion. If you enjoyed this conversation, we invite you to join us over the coming weeks for more discussions with many of our talented judges! If you have stunning images that could catch attention of our jury - make sure to submit it to our Spotlight Awards!