We’ve covered David Giral’s intimate and infinite knowledge of Montréal before, so it was no surprise to learn that the French-born photographer was contacted by the New York Times to cover a story about his city’s gorgeous Nordic spas.
David, who started working with the Times in 2014, spent about a day and a half at three different spas — Bota Bota, Polar Bear’s Club, and Strom — getting shots of each during the day and night. As he usually does, David read the accompanying article before embarking on the assignment.
In most cases, when I shoot for the NYT, I receive a copy of the article and a few pointers. I usually read the text provided by the editor first. For me it’s important to reflect the mood of the writing in my work.
In this specific case, I was told “to make sure there are people enjoying the spas in the shots and to shoot overviews and also the specifics mentioned in the article at each place.”
Though not a terribly arduous ask, the request to get shots of people couldn’t be fulfilled at every place David visited. Neither Bota Bota nor Strom allows people to take pictures while they’re open, meaning David had to get creative in order to line up his work with Peg Tyre’s writing.
One of the main issues I encountered when preparing for this shoot is that two out of the three spas didn’t allow for photographs to be taken during opening hours.
This forced me to try and find different ways to showcase each location without losing their essence.
That said, David had been to Bota Bota before and knew about its photo-friendly outlay. Though all three places look incredibly inviting, David says he enjoys the views of Montréal from Bota Bota the most.
I had been to Bota Bota once. It’s located in one of the most touristic spots of the city so it was easy preparing for the shoot and find the best moments of the day to capture the place. I think I like it the best as it has one of the greatest views over the city.
Relaxing in the baths while admiring the skyline at dusk does sound lovely, although I would miss not having my camera to capture it.
Not only did this work help David land a portrait commission, it also resulted in a shout-out from Peg, the author of the NYT piece. David felt the compliments were especially gratifying because even though the writer and photographer were at the spas at different times, their combined work melded together quite nicely.
Following this assignment, I was contacted and commissioned a few weeks after by the editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine for a portrait in Montreal.
I also got shout-outs from the writer Peg Tyre on Instagram and Twitter. This is the best compliment I could get because it means I managed to reflect the mood of the article in my photographs.
Writer: Peg Tyre
See more of David’s work at davidgiralphoto.com.
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