Austin-based Cassandra Klepac brings colorful exploration and an authentic experience to her photography. With portrait, lifestyle, and food/beverage images populating her portfolio, Cass has worked with many personalities and brands to explore and translate their essence visually. New on Austin’s increasingly recognized food scene is Cape Bottle Room, dedicated exclusively to certified sustainable South African wine. The owner, Danya Declusin, was seeking to establish a visual identity to promote her new bar and shop. Accordingly, Chelsea McCullough of PR agency Mylk Collective knew and recommended Cass, whose combination of specialties was a great fit for the job. Wanting to communicate the wine bar’s quiet ambiance, Danya needed someone who could light the place up without losing it. In fact, she needed this in the most literal of senses: this bar is underground. Cass was set on capturing and sharing this new establishment’s magic.
Being underground, the space had zero natural light, which might seem like a limitation to some. However, this constraint was actually a blessing in disguise. Instead of just focusing on the visual aspect, we concentrated on evoking the emotions and ambiance associated with a cozy evening spent with wine and friends. We truly got to shape the mood of the images from scratch, enhancing the overall aesthetic.
Undoubtedly, Cass is a planner. She also had three different types of specialties to cover in the hours before Cape Bottle Room opened for business. To shoot portraits, interiors, and food/beverage, Cass put together a tight schedule. But, she also made room for her own style to emerge by including time for spontaneity.
Our half-day shoot flowed smoothly — kicking off with headshots, transitioning into styled wine photos, and wrapping up with interior shots. The set had a cozy feel with just me, Chelsea, one of her team members, and the owner, Danya, in attendance. To ensure Danya loved her shots, I set up a tethering system to my computer allowing her to view and provide feedback on the images in real-time, particularly the ones featuring her. This interactive approach turned out to be really beneficial in making sure she was thrilled with her portraits.
For me, the ultimate goal when shooting portraits is to have people become captivated with the images of themselves. To help them embody their favorite version of themselves, not an artificial ‘perfect’ version. I don’t subscribe to the notion of a “picture-perfect” image. Instead, I strive to capture a beauty that’s grounded in raw authenticity, imbued with depth and genuine emotion.
When it came to working with Danya herself, Cass found a kindred spirit. Intuitively, Danya brought along a selection of clothing that both highlighted her favorite colors and made her feel at home.
Danya is nothing short of a powerhouse. She radiates beauty both inside and out. She had a clear vision, yet was incredibly receptive to my suggestions as well. Since we scheduled the shoot before they opened, it was a personal and focused session, just between us.
With equal amounts of being in her zone and having a loose, collaborative feel, Cass’s approach paid off. Her images for Cape Bottle Room have been featured on television, website content, and promotions across many platforms. She managed all of this by planning for those unrehearsed moments that bring out the best in a subject.
Think of your favorite photographs — of yourself or family members or even photos from your childhood. What makes them special? Could it be the beautiful imperfections that encapsulate real moments?
PR for Cape Bottle Room: Chelsea McCullough Hughes
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