Speaking of photo technique, how did you relate to the limitations of getting the photo on the bottle when you were doing the Lydia Hearst shoot for Absolut Exposure?
I was surprised when they told me that it hadn’t been done before. Images can be printed on anything nowadays – so why not glass? But apparently it hasn’t been possible until now, and I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be a photo with thousands of DPIs. In other words, it’s not a photo that will be evaluated for its photo technical qualities. But it worked out fine. Otherwise, there weren’t that many restrictions other than that we weren’t to allude to politics, sex and a few other stipulated areas. But doing something subversive was never my intention anyway. Otherwise, that’s a reaction I get from quite a few of my commercial clients, “We like it but isn’t it a bit dark?”
Was Lydia Hearst a given?
We’ve known each other for ages and we were in a relationship a few years ago. She was perfect for the project. Her face is immensely interesting and she has a natural ability of taking on several different characters. Nothing was decided beforehand – everything evolved during the two-day shoot in Stockholm last summer. Call it an organic character development.
So how did things go?
We tried to give all the characters lives, a name and a history, a past and a future. Lydia threw herself into the challenge, for example, “it’s the 1970s and you live in Miami.” She emulated this, immersed herself into the role before the character was terminated and it was time for the next one. Honestly, I still find myself wondering about these characters sometimes and what they’re up to today?
Were you given free hands when you were approached for the job?
I started by developing and pitching three or four ideas to the guys at the agency Happy Tear. They developed them further and our discussions became more and more philosophical in nature. If something or someone is to end up on a bottle in the form of a photograph for all eternity, what should it be? I didn’t want to shoot an object, let’s say a stone, which just am not me. I have to be able to clearly relate to everything I do. So we decided that it had to be a person.
How involved were you in the bottle otherwise?
Completely. Martin Renck, my brother who’s a graphic designer helped out. The yellow colour bars are a nod to the early 1980s, as well as my own personal house deities in fashion photography back then – Jean-Baptiste Mondino and Guy Bourdin. It’s a flirt with post punk and fashion. No matter what I do, I always seem to come back to the world of fashion and its visual language. On the other hand, I had nothing to do with the flavour. Fruity tastes aren’t really my thing. If the decision had been mine it would have been something more like soot and rust.