To many, travel by rail might seem like a thing of the past. So it was a refreshingly unique opportunity for London-based photographer Richard James Taylor to capture a new beginning of an old-world experience.
International hotel and leisure client Belmond (formerly known as Orient-Express Hotels) commissioned Richard to shoot new material for their Andean Explorer luxury sleeper train service in Peru. This train is the first of its kind in all of South America.
Belmond’s Creative Director, Adrian Hulf, had encountered Richard’s work in National Geographic Traveler magazine and followed him on Instagram prior to involving him in the project. Initially, Richard worked with the Belmond creative management team at their headquarters in London. Then, once on the ground in Peru, he worked alongside the communications team at Peru Rail, operators of the service.
The pre-production was completed in London at Belmond headquarters. The shoot was to be divided into two parts. First, Richard would travel the route that the train would operate on in order to shoot a series of travelogue-style images. These included landscapes, portraits, and attractions that the passengers would experience during the journey. Because work on the actual Andean Explorer train had yet to finish, Richard would travel back several months later. This is when he would capture the finished interiors and develop shots of the train within the surrounding landscape.
At the production meetings, I was informed that during the first stage of the shoot I would have a single locomotive at my disposal, which could stop anywhere along the route at any time in order to shoot the necessary landscapes. When I questioned how this would affect other scheduled services I was told that Peru Rail would be able to halt other train traffic at any time in order to allow us to get off and shoot!
Once in Peru, and armed with only his kit, a local guide, and a driver, Richard set off to get the shoot underway.
As well as covering the actual route via the locomotive, we also visited some of the destinations the passengers would experience themselves along the journey. Working with a local guide and driver, we visited some extraordinarily beautiful locations such as Lake Titicaca in Puno, the Colca Valley, and Cusco. The brief was to shoot only around sunrise and sunset to ensure a consistent quality of light. While this made for some long days with travel and recess in between, it’s the sort of brief every location photographer dreams of!
The first set of images exceeded Belmond’s expectations, and they were quite pleased with how everything worked out during production. The images were used both on the newly-constructed Andean Explorer website and also by Peru Rail to generate interest and excitement in the forthcoming service.
The second phase of the project began eight months later. Richard traveled back to Peru with assistant Susan Camplin, facing a tight schedule:
We had a limited amount of time to complete this because as soon as the interiors were given final approval by the design team in Cusco, the train was on its way to Arequipa, where it would pick up members of the travel press and complete its first run. This gave us around 48 hours to shoot the interiors, food and drink, service, and portraits of the crew.
The team faced several issues while shooting on a moving train. The main issue was the vibrations occurring throughout the longer interior exposures. By consulting with Peru Rail marketing representative Rafaela Garcia Ayulo, Richard’s team was able to devise a shooting schedule that allowed the train to stop for photos at strategic points along the route. The portraits and service images ultimately had to be shot while the train was on the move.
It was a hectic 48 hours, with all the final touches to the train and its service also needing to be ironed out, so fitting the photography in around that was challenging. We also had some interesting weather to deal with when shooting images of the train in the landscape, not least the cold at such high altitudes!
The final images were retouched back in Richard’s studio in London. Belmond was thoroughly delighted with the images. They generated publicity across the travel press, notably in House & Garden’s Destination Guide 2018 and in National Geographic Traveler magazine. The images are now used in marketing communications for the Andean Explorer service. Richard has subsequently worked on a number of other shoots for Belmond. These include several of their luxury hotels in Peru and South East Asia as well as the Grand Hibernian train in Ireland and luxury barges in France.
Creative Director: Adrian Hulf
Assistant: Susan Camplin
See more of Richard at richardjamestaylor.com!