Lara Wyatt talks to commercial photographer Ross Brown about his gravity-defying new work that casts vodka in a whole new light
You may have seen them around your city — acrobatic fruits balancing on glass bottles, honeycomb dripping down the face of a rock melon. The Smirnoff Pure Potential images demand your attention while you’re strolling past the sidewalk posters, or stuck at the traffic lights lazily glancing at the billboards.
Meet the man behind the well-balanced creations: Ross Brown has been interested in not only photography, but he’s held a specific interest in advertising photography since a young age. At 13, Brown had already worked and saved up for his first camera.
“I loved photography and I was inspired, even at that age, by images from around the world, and through magazines. I’d even look in awe at some advertising images — not just the good photographers,” Brown explains.
“I’ve always been interested in advertising, and back then there was still a lot of smoke and mirrors about what was shot and what was real. It was kind of a time where if you needed pigs flying, you’d find a way to get them to fly somehow and shoot them.”
The Special Group had been tasked with the creation of the Smirnoff Pure Potential campaign and, having worked with Brown before, thought he’d be the right photographer for the job. Brown says they briefed a strong, graphic style with strong composition, with the key being shooting fruit and bottles in a graphically unusual way.
“They wanted super, super pin-sharp colour. It had to have punch to it, and lots of depth. I thought it was awesome; I love the campaign and the billboards look great.”
As well as the visual components, the brief asked for a ‘story’ component. Brown needed to create something that would position Smirnoff as the catalyst for amazing social times to the younger drinker. With such an in-depth brief, Brown found he stuck reasonably straight to it — but experimented with a few elements where he could.
“I tried different structures where I could and played around with things to try and come up with different ideas. So really, we stuck to the brief but pushed everything a little bit further.”
Ice cream balanced on a bottle, balanced on a glass sounds like a shot that could only end in a disastrous puddle — yet Brown appears to have caught it with ease. Everything seems as if it would be working against the photographer, from the lighting attempting to reduce the creamy substance to a mere puddle, and the oozing liquid destroying the perfectly polished glass.
“The shots are composite in a way that I can make the glass look better. Everything in the image is set up for real, so the ice cream is on top of the bottle, which is on top of the glass. You had to be very quick and very ready. The lighting for the ice cream had to be different from the glass, and I’m not one to give retouches — I like to get it right at the camera stage, so I had to adjust the light to make sure everything was free of reflections and the glass had a beautiful translucent appearance.”
It’s an extremely effective advertising campaign that demands attention, and has even hit home with Brown’s most important audience — his kids are also getting a real kick out of seeing his work plastered everywhere.
“They’re like, ‘Daddy, those are your photos’. They’re pretty unmissable.”
To see more of Ross Brown’s commercial work and personal projects visit rossbrownphotographer.com.