By: Jessica Gordon
When photographer Jody Horton was asked to deliver a selection of lifestyle images capturing San Antonio’s new Hotel Emma, the project presented one major snag: the hotel wasn’t yet in business. Designed by Roman & Williams, the structure formerly housed the city’s iconic Pearl Brewery, and although the industrial space was partially finished, the hotel was without guests and had scant details. The goal was to create an industrial feeling that would match Hotel Emma’s aesthetic after it opened, and Horton needed to come away with photos that worked for the hotel’s website, collateral and print advertising.
With a strong interest in architectural photography, Austin-based Horton was up for it. In close collaboration with design firm Giles-Parscale, Horton and his team (production manager/digital tech, Sean Johnson and assistant, Chris Corona) went guerilla-style to make the three-day shoot work, creating spaces where they didn’t get exist.
“It was a stripped-down, nimble production where we had to produce a large number of shots,” Horton says. For the first shoot, models were sourced from friends, family and assistants. Horton did a lot of problem-solving to harness the right kind of moody light, both for large, dinner-party scenes and more macro food shots. Also helpful were small tea lights that gave the dinner table a warm glow. “There’s nothing technical about what I do at all, it’s just using big reflectors and scrims,” Horton says.
He proved successful, capturing the feel of Hotel Emma’s restaurant, Supper, with photos of heirloom carrots and herbed chicken in a skillet, both set on backdrop of dark stone and picking up the right amount of light to make them colorful and edible. The same goes for various, perfectly-lit cocktails with ice cubes afloat in bourbon and rye.
“Making something feel real using only props - large and small sets - is a fun challenge. I loved the challenge of creating scenes that would match the aesthetic and read as though they were in hotel before it was completed. Once it was complete, I loved working in the space, which is absolutely magnificent.”
“Making something feel real using only props is a fun challenge,” Horton says. “Sometimes on a commercial shoot, you only have a narrow range of possibilities, but Giles-Parscale and the hotel’s PR firm, Giant Noise, were open to giving me a lot of freedom; the results with that kind of freedom are always good.” Since the hotel opened last fall, Horton and team have returned for a Grand Opening and a subsequent shoot, proving a mutually-beneficial, ongoing relationship.