For a recent shoot with Pepsi/Lipton for their new Pure Leaf - Tea House Collection, using the Hasselblad H2 system, still life photographer Adrian Mueller’s meticulous attention to detail was on full display. Under the ownership of Pepsi/Lipton, Pure Leaf -Tea House Collection is a new, upscale brand of iced tea, with a more elegant, high-end edge on their existing brand of Pure Leaf Iced Tea. From an outsider’s perspective, this type of assignment looks pretty straightforward, but Adrian knew it was going to be more challenging to put together than it appeared.
Once Pepsi started collaborating with Lipton on Pure Leaf Ice Tea and their high end brand of Pure Leaf – Tea House Collection, they wanted to create something unprecedented for their company—a visual narrative. Adrian would need to devise work that reflected the idea of a series of handcrafted teas. He effectively chose a specific wooden surface to give off the impression that this was a Tea Master’s work bench, and that there was a real artisan crafting this tea.
Without the help of his team of stylists, key elements for the four day shoot may not have been able to come together. One of the biggest challenges he faced during the very short pre-production process was sourcing fresh honeysuckle and wild blackberry plants, which were key ingredients for the teas he was photographing. The shoot was taking place towards the end of September, far off from the season when both these plants are usually in bloom. He assigned individual stylists specific items, setting them off to work like detectives to locate where in the world the ingredients could be found.
Rarely do the challenges end with pre-production. Adrian faced a new set of challenges on set where he wasn’t provided with one of the new Pure Leaf – Tea House Collection bottles to photograph. He had been given the old style bottle—which was a different shape—and a stand-in, which was a piece of acrylic that, although not a bottle, was shaped like the style of the new one. Adrian then had to shoot each scene with both the old and new bottle shapes; the old to capture the glow of the liquid and its reflection on the surface and then the stand-in to record the new shape. Each of the two bottles then had to be shot both with and without condensation, since the labels were also not ready for the day of the shoot. The digital files of the labels were placed on the bottle in post by his retoucher. Talk about retouching skills and improvising!
With such a high-pressure shoot, the relief of success was palpable as the client broke out the champagne to celebrate while still on set! Always a good sign.