Jody and agency McGarrah Jessee are frequent collaborators, working together since 2011 on a variety of short and long-term projects and assignments. Jody was excited when he heard that the agency was working with Case and was eager to get involved.
When I turned six my dad gave me my first knife – a Case sheath knife with a stacked leather handle. I wore it everywhere for years, made forts and countless spears and arrows. I still have the knife, though it’s mostly relegated to opening letters these days. My love for Case knives runs very deep, so it was a particular honor to work for them – something I could not have even imagined when I was a boy.
Case has been handcrafting classic pocketknives and collectibles for 120 years. After being recently acquired by the iconic Zippo Manufacturing Company, Case sought a fresh revitalization for their brand. McGarrah Jesse has been responsible for some very successful campaigns for clients like Yeti, and was an ideal partner for Case.
Jody was called in to produce supplemental images for the 2018 catalog. The concept for the shoot was simple, aiming to show the knives being used by “working hands,” and showing a range of different people interacting with them. Starting with a larger list of craftsmen to be represented, this was ultimately narrowed down to four: a farrier, a farmer, a leatherworker, and a fisherman. Using his local Austin connections, Jody was even able to find and schedule some of the talent himself. Everyone they hired was a true working person, not an actor.
There wasn’t a lot of time between the initial creative conversation and the beginning of the shoot, but that’s always fine by me. I prefer to get right into it.
Jody scheduled three days for the shoot, which took place across five separate locations in and around Austin. The still life spread shot was done in Jody’s studio, but the rest were handled on location. Taking advantage of the abundance of local spots and locations, the crew never had to travel far. The fly fishing sequence was shot at a local lake and the farrier sequence was done at a local ranch not far from the city limits. The longest hike was an hour west of Austin to take pictures of the leatherworker in Johnson City, TX.
Because Case was a new client and everyone was excited to follow the production, there were many people involved on set. Photographers often find that this can lead to a “too many cooks” scenario where complications arise more frequently. Though the sets were packed with people, everyone knew what they were responsible for and worked flawlessly with one another. Jody enjoyed watching the creative process unfold before him as an initial discussion of each shot idea moved toward consensus in real time.
All of the art directors were present for the duration of the shoot, and each one had a little bit more ownership over different segments. Developing the shots went smoothly – we had plenty of time and good subject matter, and got things done.
The production didn’t take place at the actual W.R. Case warehouse, so Jody and his crew were tasked with making shots that felt authentic. Jody is particularly proud of how the workbench images came together.
We found a tiny anvil that would – in reality – be screwed onto a work table, so we ended up shearing the heads off of bolts and laying them on top of the holes so it appeared to be bolted down. They liked the attention to detail that we put into it.
A keen attention to detail was also present during the farrier portion of the shoot. In lieu of an actual blacksmith shop, the production set up was in a local barn and used props and items from the environment to create a scene, including the centerpiece – a weathered anvil stacked on an ancient stump. Showing a farrier fashioning a glowing horseshoe was paramount to the authenticity of the image.
To maintain the red glow of the horseshoe throughout the shoot, a portable forge had to be constructed nearby. Secured to a garden cart and hooked to a propane tank, the forge was kept right out of frame to minimize the cooldown time after the shoe was withdrawn and placed back on the anvil. Having a production team that was prepared for contingencies and armed with solutions like this afforded Jody the opportunity to focus on the shoot and create a catalog-full of great images.
Case loved all the work and the art directors were very happy with how the photos turned out. McGarrah Jessee felt like the final images had fulfilled their vision of the project.
Ultimately, I think the client was pleased that we were able to pull together a lot of concept and detail without a great deal of specific direction.
Since finishing this first project with Case, Jody and McGarrah Jessee have been involved with them again, shooting for other catalogs and images for their website.
It’s always encouraging when you do a shoot for someone and they’re happy enough with your images to shortly thereafter schedule you for another shoot!