It’s not often that I get a gift from a client. An honest to god, sweet ass amber-colored gift. Westland Whiskey and 51 Eggs reached out with a cherry of a project: “The Judgement of Westland.” It had EVERYTHING. A solid brief with a fantastic core concept— they knew what they wanted and gave me plenty of room to flex my creative muscle. These guys rock. They have the vision, direction, and a deep appreciation for the creative process. I could not ask for better.
Westland Whiskey is a prominent player in the growing niche of American Single Malt. Go drink them. It’s good stuff. On the liquor side of life, whisky is my drink of choice. In all of its styles and variety, the amber song of American whisky is my high note.
With this campaign, Westland wanted to challenge the “every person” to judge their whiskey. The visual goals were to photograph six “every-person” characters in a chiaroscuro B&W style, holding beautifully lit glasses of glowing whisky.
When I got the RFP, I got a tiny bit (read: very) excited. On my first read-through, I already could see how I would approach it— their sketches, mood boards, and brand story triggered my instinct, experience, and inspiration. On the creative call, the clients said ALL OF THE THINGS I was thinking, and we found ourselves meshed together in pursuit of happiness and rainbows. From there, it was a “yes, and” situation while we hammered out the details.
A thing about the details. I’m being hired to tell the client’s story and take the agency’s ideas and make them real. Those two things drive the third: creative vision. They each support the other, but if you remove one, the other two fall down. My job is not just to be a photographer; it’s to listen, reflect and make sure that I’m a creative partner.
Without getting too deep in the weeds, here’s a glimpse. We cast a wide range of pro talent to be our characters, and the clients selected our winners. On our two shoot days, I lit them to be mysterious and intriguing, with lots of deep shadows and carved highlights. The focus needed to be the glowing glass of whiskey in their hands — but to do that, I needed to recreate the exact hand and glass position as a still life after I finished the portraits. That way, I could control the color and look of the whiskey independently. After the glass shots were finished, I swapped over to a film set up and shot a small library of slow-motion videos of whiskey being poured into the glass.
Doing good work makes me happy. Creativity makes me happy. And this project was absolutely fantastic to be a part of. This was a “perfect storm” project, where the THING I was hired to do was super exciting and lit up my brain. The SUBJECT matter was connected to me deeply (Vodka? I mean, I’ll take your money, Vodka, but don’t expect me to drink you). The CLIENTS were deeply in touch with what they wanted from the project and gave me the CREATIVE SPACE to deliver the goods.
So thanks guys, looking forward to the next gig and raising a glass of the glowing amber with you.
Steve from Westland sounds pretty happy:
Andy can create beautiful and compelling images. But so can a lot of people. He can run a tight ship on set. But so can a lot of people. He can charm the pants off a client. But so can a lot of people.
What sets Andy apart is his talent for being truly tuned in to the full scope of a project and all of its players, from start to finish. He's not just a co-conspirator with the creatives, chasing the next Ad of the Day. He's not simply a gadget nerd, in it to play around with the latest gear and tech on someone else's dime. He's not only looking to spoon-feed the suits what they think they want.
Andy's that rare breed of photographer that fully grasps how and why to steward a project holistically. He can stand at the center of an idea (and its stakeholders) and deftly shape it to be something that, in the end, is better than what was originally conceived. Early in the game, he can see the outcome in his mind's eye and has the skill and experience to help a team realize it. He's part creative, part technical master, part businessman, part soothsayer, part thoughtful guide.
He gets that great work can be both dynamic and enduring. That it's created not just on shoot day, but also in diligent attention before and after. And that real success is measured by more than likes on Instagram.
He revels in the role.
And oh, he makes pretty damn beautiful images.
—Steve Hawley, VP Global Brand Marketing at WESTLAND DISTILLERY
Thanks, Steve. And thank YOU for reading this far. Cheers
PS: It’s really hard for me to write about a project without wanting to talk shop, so there’s a bonus post for my nerdtastic friends coming soon.
All images © 2021 Andy Batt