Joe Schmelzer Shoots Living Kitchens for Sub-Zero/Wolf

By Barbara Goldman

The idea of "Living Kitchens" offers consumers a unique opportunity to see appliances in an actual kitchen environment. Sub-Zero kitchen refrigerators, freezers and storage units combine innovative refrigeration methods with the high-quality Wolf cooking instruments for the fullest expression of good food and the pleasure of its preparation. Sub Zero-Wolf Dealerships have created showrooms that show both components in action rather than just appliances stacked on shelves in store aisles.

The concept was to show one woman imagining herself at different times of the day interacting with the various appliances in her kitchen and how Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances fit into the home and into any lifestyle.  An easy sounding idea that makes a lot of sense, but  pretty hard to convey visually. What makes the Wolf dealerships so special is that they allow people to visualize how Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances will fit into their homes and lifestyles with a real, working “living kitchen.”  

The Richards Group, based in Dallas, Texas, was the agency of record for the assignment and has worked with this client on other projects. They needed a photographer who could shoot interiors, design a lighting scheme and match it all with great natural lifestyle photography. They did their homework and researched LA interiors photographers, as the job would end up being shot at Universal Appliance in Calabasas, California.  The agency tapped Los Angeles-based  Joe Schmelzer  for the Sub-Zero/Wolf campaign.

Schmelzer does not stick to a single subject matter or style. He likes to incorporate innovative new technology while still maintaining the characteristics of traditional photography. His distinctive images convey a natural, non-staged environment that worked perfectly for Sub-Zero/Wolf. He also has the capacity to help clients realize their creative visions. He has been featured regularly in the editorial pages of Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Travel + Leisure.

Casting was done in Los Angeles and handled by producer Rebecca Schatten and East Side Studios LA . The final selection for the one woman who would show three lives in the kitchen was done with BBR Talent agency. Schmelzer had to shoot in a retail store that features "The Living Kitchen." The store was open to customers during his three-day shoot. He was able to block off an area for shooting but people would walk through during any down time. “We had to prop out the showroom to make it feel like a ‘real kitchen,’ while at the same time making it clear that it is a showroom,”says Schmelzer. He had to lay a hardwood floor over the carpet that completely changed the dynamics of the space. Lighting was also an issue. Schmelzer is known for his natural daylight look, the very feature that attracts clients to his work. In order to maintain the speed and consistency of the lighting across the ads, he had to supplement with artificial light while still being able to maintain a natural window-light look.

Post-production was also a big part of this project. It involved shooting talent that had to be composited into the same frame with consistent lighting to shooting multiple plates to make the stainless steel appliances look their best. Some of the images became a composite of maybe 10 or more frames to achieve the perfect result. David Vincent Wolf, digital tech and retoucher on the shoot, helped to achieve their smooth workflow. While Schmelzer was shooting, Wolf was able to speak directly with the client to see that all frames were captured for the final composite.

©  Joe Schmelzer

Schmelzer shot with Canon 5D Mark III cameras. And all lighting equipment was Profoto, some AC and some battery packs, depending where in the scene something needed to be lit or if anything had to be hidden. "Joe did a great job working together with us to craft the final image. From scouting the shot to styling her three different looks to designing an overall lighting scheme to creating the final seamless composite, Joe and his team were expert, efficient, and just a lot of fun to work with,” says Art Director David Stone.

The images are currently being used in Sub-Zero/ Wolf's 2013 Living Kitchen print campaign with Sub-Zero and Wolf dealers placing the media buys, most likely with regional publications. The warm and inviting lifestyle images may also be used in future promotions for the Living Kitchens for point of sale items and brochures. 

You can see more of Joe Schmelzer’s work and how he conceptualizes, arranges and produces photo/video projects through his studio-production company, Treasurbite Studio, Inc. at his  Web site.  Schmelzer also had his first book released last year, The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces, published by Clarkson Potter in August 2012.  He is represented by Frank Parvis of

Sub-Zero/Wolf Appliances Credits:

Producer: Rebecca Schatten, Arpen Productions, Inc.

Agency: The Richards Group

Copywriter: Alexis Crowell

Art Buyer: Kerstin Fredrickson

Art Director:  Dave Stone

Creative Director:  Dennis Walker

Photographer: Joe Schmelzer, Treasurbite Studio,Inc.

Photo agent: Frank Parvis, i2i Photo

Prop-styling:  Kyle Schuneman

Retouching: David Vincent Wolf for Treasurbite Studio,Inc.


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