One of the benefits of freelancing abroad, especially in a country where people speak a different language, is that it allows someone like Colin Dutton to both pick up work in his new home and land shoots with clients based in his old haunts. The Brit recently did an assignment with Bentley Motors through United Kingdom-based content agency Archant Dialogue. Colin surmises he got the gig partly because of the quality of his work and partly because of the practicality of communicating with someone fluent in English from the agency’s standpoint.
This was a commission for Archant Dialogue in the UK who produce an award-winning luxury lifestyle and brand content magazine for Bentley Motors. The brief was to shoot a series of portraits of Luca Barilla, one of the owners of the Italian pasta company Barilla, with his Bentley at the factory’s headquarters near Parma, Italy.
My portrait photography is mostly environmental, so it fits well with this kind of profile feature. I’m not a studio photographer, and I enjoy working on the fly in this kind of situation. They mentioned in the first email that they liked my approach to portraits and I guess the fact that I’m a British photographer based in Italy also meant that communication was going to be easier than with a local Italian photographer. I’m sure that’s often an advantage for me.
This was Colin’s second time shooting for Bentley, but his first through Dialogue. The concomitant story is as much about Luca and his childhood as it is about cars, with the write-up discussing how Luca’s father, Pietro, would drive him and his two brothers around Italy and pass along life lessons from the driver’s seat. As a result, the Bentley is “almost incidental” to the story.
Dialogue sent me some PDFs of the magazine so I could get a feel for the type of images they used. They also sent me a mood board and a pretty comprehensive brief describing what they were looking for. They needed about 12 final images for the publication, including portraits of Luca with his car in different locations around the factory, some shots of the car on its own, and a few dynamic images from the pasta production area.
They were hoping for some graphic architectural elements in the portraits and they wanted the car itself to be almost incidental, so not just a simple ‘man with car’ shot. Beyond that, I had the creative freedom to produce the kind of images I felt would best fulfill the brief.
The shoot itself lasted one day, with Colin hitting the ground running early in the morning to scout the vast expanse that is the Barilla factory. Alongside his assistant, Colin scoured the campus in search of appropriate locations for the afternoon session with Luca. The portrait photographer kept in mind that the lighting would be different later that day, so he mentally planned ahead.
On the morning of the shoot, I spent a couple of hours touring the site with my assistant to find suitable locations for the portrait session that afternoon. I knew I’d only have limited time with Luca, so I wanted to have at least three locations ready to ensure things would go as smoothly as possible. I also had to bear in mind that, while scouting locations that morning, the position of the sun was going to be different in the afternoon. That required some calculation and guesswork.
Happily, Luca was more than accommodating during Colin’s time with him, so much so that he even granted the Brit extra time to create a larger package of final deliverables for Dialogue.
The shoot went well, although there was a lot to cover on a tight schedule. Luckily, Luca was relaxed and generous with his time, so he was a pleasure to work with. That meant I could push to get a couple more options.
I also managed to get some observed portraits during an interview session. Although they weren’t used, it’s nice to offer the client something that goes beyond the brief whenever possible.
Colin was quite laudatory with regards to Dialogue’s page layouts, noting that the agency’s aesthetic lines up perfectly with the sleek, modern feel of a Bentley. Sometimes, a photographer’s favorite image doesn’t even make the final cut, let alone get used the way the photographer envisioned. In this instance, however, Colin’s personal highlight sat front and center when the piece was published.
Dialogue have won awards for the design, content, and print quality of the magazine. It’s beautifully produced, as you would expect for a luxury brand like Bentley. I particularly like the way it uses photography, giving the images room to breathe on the page. It has a certain style and elegance, reflecting the brand.
I think my favorite shot is the one that was published as a double page. The sun was about to pass behind a building so I remember being a bit stressed about having to reposition the car to catch the last bit of light. I only had minute or so to make that shot. My assistant was hiding behind the doorway there with a strobe to catch Luca as he walked out. I think the graphics work well and the shot shows him in the context of the factory, which is what we wanted.
Not only was Dialogue pleased with the work, Luca was as well. Colin sent the pasta magnate a few prints after the piece ran, and the billionaire was so happy with the results that he asked the photographer to shoot portraits of him and his family this coming summer.
The AD sent me an email saying ‘Awesome – what beautiful light…these will certainly fit the bill!!’ so I guess he was happy. After publication, I sent some prints to Luca as a gift which he was delighted with. He even commissioned me to make some portraits of him with his family, so I’ll be at his home later this summer to do that, which is very cool.
See more of Colin’s work at colinduttonphotography.com.
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