Image © Mark Seliger/Lavazza.
Italy is the country of love, proclaims Lavazza. And for its 2011 calendar, the coffee company has chosen love as its theme – or more precisely, falling in love in Italy. But when it came to shooting the seven images, which will also be used for its next advertising campaign, it went to the US to recruit Mark Seliger
Mark Seliger made his name as Rolling Stone’s chief photographer from 1992 to 2002, joining the magazine 10 years after Annie Leibovitz (who shot the calendar two years ago) left the same position. His speciality is portraiture – mostly actors and musicians – and he likes to create tableaux scenes, an approach that fits the Lavazza style.
“We always try to find the best interpreter for our concept,” says creative director Michele Mariani. “This year we chose Mark because of his style – classical, yet modern. We thought it was perfect for the concept we wanted to explore. He could bring the right balance to create the pureness we wanted, but with a modern style.”
Seliger follows in the footsteps of photographers such as Helmut Newton, Elliott Erwitt and David LaChapelle and, like his predecessors, he was allowed the freedom to bring his own ideas to the thematic brief. “We wanted to show love in all its shades,” says Mariani. “We try to tell different stories – one is more romantic, another is more passionate. We wanted to show the different nuances.”
“My team and I gave them ideas and they took them and carved them with their theme,” says the photographer. “The discussions were a little general at first, and then it started to become more specific. There was a lot of freedom, but we worked as a team. It wasn’t the kind of shoot where the photographer comes in and asks everyone to stand aside. It was a collaboration.”
The calendar is made up of a cover image and six set-ups, each relating to a different region of Italy – Capri, Naples, Verona, Venice, Florence and Tuscany – and an associated story, such as Romeo & Juliet [left] or Toscana [right]. But, Seliger admits, he didn’t go on location, instead opting to shoot all six images in the same Milan soundstage over the course of a week. But, he says, nothing was faked. “Everything that you see was built [and shot] in-camera. We did some tweaking in terms of colours in Photoshop, but everything, for the most part, is shot pretty honestly,” he says. “It’s not like we went and photographed scenery and dropped it in. It was all done to look like a painting. It was not supposed to be an actual depiction of the scenery.”
To create them Seliger brought his own crew of collaborators, who worked closely with Lavazza’s team of set designers and builders. “I brought my set designer from LA, who also works with David LaChapelle. When we got back, she told me that her Italian counterparts were by far the best she’s ever worked with. It was a great collaboration.”
The resulting six images – plus two of Cupid, who brings together the six couples portrayed – will become the motor of the Lavazza’s entire advertising and marketing strategy for the upcoming year, though which particular image will be chosen for billboard posters in the UK has yet to be decided. Meanwhile, work has already started on the 2012 edition, which marks the calendar’s 20th anniversary.
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