Portland, Oregon-based photographer John Valls was contracted by Pail Design to create images for Great Western Malting‘s global rebranding campaign. As the oldest malting company in the Western United States, they have a rich 80-year history of supplying the beer and whiskey industry with grains for production.
Seeking help with their branding and marketing in the craft brew industry, Great Western Malting partnered with Pail to overhaul their strategy. John had worked with Pail’s Art Director, Jessica Bernert, on beverage projects in the past, and she was aware of his broad range of skills. She knew they would come in handy for a shoot with several distinct locations and encompass agriculture, lifestyle, still life, and industrial photography.
The overall goal of this project was to depict the full range of processes that are involved in transforming barley into great malt and how that, in turn, makes great beer. This campaign was aimed at breweries, distilleries, and brewmasters on a global scale.
When your product grows in a field and looks just like everyone else’s, what you say and how you say it matters.
During pre-production, Jessica helped John and producer Theresa Valls conceptualize the global audience for the images. Knowing the breadth of the audience enabled John to develop images that distilled the visuals down to very simple ideas. The photos would emphasize wide skies, bright efficient factories, and the individuals that made the malt production work.
Aside from barley harvesting in the fields, John also needed to document the grain being processed into malt. The team would shoot images inside a processing factory in Pocatello, Idaho that has been in operation since the late 1950s. Finally, the scope called for supplemental images of fully-brewed beer, illustrating the malt’s final product poured and enjoyed by everyone.
Set with a vision for the fields, factory shots, portraits, and products, John and Theresa flew to Salt Lake City and rented an SUV to travel around the various farms in Pocatello. They met with Dustin Camphouse, a Field Representative for Great Western Malting who helped them devise a plan to locate the most picturesque areas across the farms. Dustin taught John how much of the large machinery operated and gave advice on where to stand for safety and optimal shooting angles. Throughout the shoot, he helped position the photo equipment to capture great backgrounds and compensate for the intense sunlight.
Getting the right shots and sight lines on the heavy machines as they kicked up dust and moved across vast fields wasn’t the easiest task, and John had to continue moving, constantly adapting to incidental situations, waiting for the perfect opportunity. Theresa found humor in the process:
It was kind of funny watching John running around in the field trying to get his shot. The farmers were overheard saying that they’d never seen a city boy run so fast!
John and Theresa proved to be an intuitive and efficient team. The biggest challenge ended up being the removal of sharp “stickers” that clung stubbornly to the socks of all involved.
They thoroughly enjoyed meeting and interacting with all of the rough-and-tumble personalities that harvest the barley and work in the factory.
The people there are really salt-of-the-earth types. They were calm, friendly, and helpful throughout the shoot.
John has received great feedback on the project. Jessica relayed to the team that the photos John provided were integral in smoothing the way for the rest of the large rebranding project. Developing the images was the first phase, and the client’s overall reservations were assuaged by the quality of imagery that John produced. This comes as no surprise to Theresa:
Finding beauty and distinctiveness in the prosaic is one of John’s main strengths. I see a field and he sees color, light and shadow. I see a farmer and he sees a hero. It’s always fun to shoot with him as he teases out features that are just plain gorgeous when all I can see is dirt and dust.
Great Western has since used the images in marketing materials as a part of their rebranding campaign and on the company’s website. John had an excellent experience working with them and is excited to tackle more interesting projects that require a variety of skills and a healthy dose of dedication to accomplish.
Client: Great Western Malting
Field Representative: Dustin Camphouse
Agency: Pail Design
Art Director: Jessica Bernet
Producer: Theresa Valls
See more of John’s images at johnvalls.com!
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