Alastair Philip Wiper is an English photographer based in Copenhagen, Denmark, specializing in industrial photography. He has worked with the strategic consulting firm ReD Associates on several projects exploring the industrial form of the facilities that make up major brands’ production settings. He recently photographed the Pernod-Ricard distillery in Skåne County, Sweden, that produces the Absolut Vodka brand as part of his long-term relationship with ReD Associates.
First off, can you tell me about this project and how you got involved with it?
ReD Associates advise big consumer companies on the next thing they should be working on. They invited me to collaborate on a project that would document their client’s facilities and the way they do things, in an artistic way – basically I have free range to shoot the facilities in my own style and concentrate on what I think is interesting. Last year we shot the Danish textile company Kvadrat, Adidas, and Pernod-Ricard, which owns Absolut. There are more clients coming this year, and the end result is going to be an exhibition and book. It is probably a few years away though – we are looking at it as a long term thing.
What was involved in planning/preproduction?
Getting hold of the right person at the companies was the main thing. ReD deal with people at a fairly senior level, so they can always make it happen, but orders have to trickle down to the right person on the ground and that can take a while. Once we had dates booked in, it was just a matter of me turning up with my camera and tripod. I didn’t use an assistant or anything, so it was a very simple shoot in that respect.
What was the shoot itself like?
The shoot day was a beautiful sunny day in March (a rare thing in southern Sweden). A couple of years before I had a commission to photograph the old Absolut distillery, and on the way I drove past the newer one which I photographed for this project. I thought “I’m going to come back and photograph this one day”.
In my job I see a lot of pipes and wires, but when they come together in the right way, as I think they do at the exterior of the Absolut distillery, they become sculptural. The sunny day just helped emphasize that.
What challenges did you face with this project?
The hardest part has been getting the right people on board – the people that that work for the companies that can make it happen – everyone loves the idea, but getting dates booked in and flights booked has been the biggest challenge, but it always works out in the end.
What was your favorite part of the project?
Getting the chance to come back and photograph that distillery I drove past one day, in the perfect conditions – it was like ticking one off the list. Also, like most of the places I go – learning about the history and the scale of the operation. Absolut has been producing in Åhus since 1879, and now it produces 99 million liters per year, 365 days per year, using wheat from the local area. The warehouse I photographed contains up to 13 million bottles at a time.
What has the reaction to the images been so far?
It’s been great, ReD and Absolut are very happy and the images are about to be published in a couple of magazines.
See more of Alastair at alastairphilipwiper.com!
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