Client: Play for Dedon
Agency: Buero New York
For a campaign advertising a new line of outdoor chairs from German company Dedon, creative director Alex Wiederin of Buero New York hired New York-based portrait photographer Rainer Hosch to photograph the principals in Studio Starck: the widely recognized furniture and interior designer Philippe Starck, his wife, Jasmine, and his head designer, Eugeni Quitlet. It was Wiederin, Hosch recalls, “who came up with the idea of balancing the chairs.” Wiederin hired Austria-based set designer Philipp Haemmerle to construct a frame that would hold the chairs, making them appear to be balanced one atop the other, and Jasmine Starck perched on a chair that her husband (on the right) appears to be holding aloft. Wiederin wanted Hosch to capture the three subjects and the array of chairs at once, rather than piecing them together in post. Says Hosch, “The hardest part was going to be making it look believable. If Starck was appearing to juggle a chair, but she is sitting on a chair that’s added to the photo in post-production, the light and angles aren’t going to correspond.” In the finished ad, “The chairs are all floating where you see them, and she’s really sitting there.”
Logistics: Hosch says, “Starck was on vacation at his house in Cap Ferrat [France] and he said the furthest he would go was to Bordeaux,” where Wiederin had scouted a rental studio with a cyclorama. Haemmerle drove the metal stands he had constructed from western Austria two days before the shoot. Hosch rented his equipment in Paris, and arrived the day before the shoot to pre-light the set and test the arrangement of subjects and chairs, using the creative director and a Dedon marketing representative as his stand ins.
Hosch says that the actual shoot took less than half an hour, including the time he spent shooting a variation for a vertical, single-page ad showing only Starck and his wife. If he had tried to create the juggling act in post, Hosch says, “We would have spent two days shooting all the elements.”
Camera: Hasselblad H2 with a Phase One P45 back; 80mm lens, shot at f/11.
Lighting: “There are exceptions to the rule but for the most part, good lighting is very simple,” Hosch says. In the back, on either side of the chairs, he set up two standard Profoto umbrellas “to make the background even,” and to give the white cove a light gray tone. At the front, he had a Broncolor Para 330, a large, long silver-lined umbrella with a light source inside that can be focused to make it hard or soft. Typically, Hosch says, he would mount the Para 330 on a tripod, but when he arrived to pre-light the shoot, he discovered the studio was too narrow. “We had seen the measurements online, and thought it would be fine, but when we got there, it was shorter than we anticipated.” Luckily, the studio had a second level, and he was able to hang the umbrella from a metal railing about 8 feet above the camera.
“I always light people with one main light, then maybe add a key light or other elements,” says Hosch, explaining that he saw the ad as basically a group portrait. “There are other photographers who know a lot more about shooting furniture than I do, but this is really about shooting the team that was hired by Dedon, and I think that’s why I was hired for the job.”
Post-Production: Vienna Paint in Vienna, Austria, removed supports on the metal stands, cleaned up shadows and extended the background on the horizontal ad. Though Hosch had several photos of the threesome, in the end the ad was composited using the best photos of each of the subjects. “It’s tricky when you shoot three people,” Hosch says. Back at their hotel after the shoot, he and Wiederin sorted through their favorite images of each subject. “At the end of the day, we picked three different images for three different people,” he says. Wiederin roughed out a comp in Photoshop, which he sent to Vienna Paint, “and they worked from the RAW files.”