Louisville, Kentucky-based photographer Clay Cook recently completed an incredible photo project that ended with his photographs painted on the side of two buildings in New York City. The whirlwind began when Clay got word that Stash, a mobile investing app, wanted to launch a campaign to celebrate Baddie Winkle’s 90th birthday while also promoting their happy retirement tagline: “Live Your Best Life, Your Whole Life.” Baddie Winkle is a 90-year old Instagram star who blasted into fandom for her rock-star attitude and seriously edgy style.
It didn’t matter that Clay was on his first vacation in two years – he called up Wonderful Machine’s executive producer Craig Oppenheimer to get a handle on the logistics and estimating for the project. Success! It was time to think about production preparations – not an easy task since everything had to come together in about a week. With the help of his team, Clay pulled together the studio, set, and props to arrive at two colorful setups and end up with two final photographs.
The day of the shoot started early, we loaded in equipment and began setup. Step-by-step we started to build the two sets, which Baddie could jump in-between if need be, without the requirement of changing the setup, lessening the overall time we needed Baddie. After a couple of hours of setup and various different scenarios of light, we finally landed on our final set.
I was nervous. I wanted to make this great. I wanted to be the best possible photographer and director I could be. Leading up to the shoot, every day I processed what I wanted in my head like an old rotoscope clicking through an animation frame by frame.
Our first set was on the purple seamless background and included a massive birthday cake, various presents and a purple couch that Emily, our prop stylist, had to paint to match the color palette. We also threw in some balloons, champagne and the bedazzled Stash necklace. Baddie was used to being in front of the lens. Even at her age, she played with the camera and jumped from expression to expression like a dance. I was very happy with what I was seeing on my laptop to my right and I knew Stash was excited about what they were seeing on the client monitor. You could feel the energy.
At the age of 90, Baddie is unlike any woman of her age I’ve ever met. She likes a good smoke, she’ll enjoy a Pina Colada, and she has no issue being the life of the party. But, at heart, she is just a Kentucky farm girl, who was thrown swiftly into our wild world of social media. In order to form a connection, I immediately started asking questions about her past in Kentucky.
For the second set, the composition would be unique: a shot from directly overhead as if Baddie was floating on a pool and we were looking straight down. The scenario was tricky, because all the lighting had to be flipped 180º as if the floor was the wall.
The post-production process was intense and very short. With a wild deadline, we had to make the proof selection, re-touch and delivery all in less than 4 days, but we did it thanks to my staff and re-toucher Jordan Hartley. Once we made the delivery, the murals were mocked-up by an art director handed over to the team at Colossal Media to begin the mixing and painting process in Brooklyn, New York.
When I think back to the challenges of this project, I have to think of the big picture, figuratively and literally. I’m not sure there is another feeling than to see your photography expanded that large for the world to see.
For an even more in-depth explanation of the technical and creative aspects of the shoot, check out Clay’s own blog post here.
Subject: Baddie Winkle
Executive producer: Craig Oppenheimer
Retouch: Jordan Hartley
Production Assistant: Alexandra Hepfinger
Prop Stylist: Emily Bucker Pierce
Prop Assistant: Rory White
Concept & Art Direction: Allison Quick, Victoria Spagnuolo
Hair & Makeup: Sarah Ryle
Photography Assistants: Ahmad Merhi, Danny Bloom, Emily Maddox
Studio: White Avenue Studio
See more of Clay at claycookphoto.com!
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page.