Photographer Phil Sills has shot most of Bowers & Wilkins products over the last decade. Here he talks about how along with the very first samples of the new 800 Series Diamond he travelled into the Swiss mountains to shoot environmental images.
Shooting speakers on location is always interesting; even more so when the product is the new Bowers & Wilkins800 Series Diamond.
So here we have the most important range of speakers that Bowers & Wilkins have produced in the last six years. This means no ordinary location would do them justice. Oh no! There needed to be something different, something of a curve ball that would catch everyone slightly off-guard. What was required was a clean and open environment, accompanied by raw and textured surfaces….So we found ourselves heading off to sunny Switzerland….
So logistically this was going to be interesting. With each large speaker weighing as much as a small adult, there was no real solution other than to drive them over in purpose built cases. Luckily for me, two eager volunteers had already signed up for the journey – phew. All I had to do was get my carnet over to the client, get my kit to the warehouse to be packed with the all speakers and I jumped on a plane – a luxury in comparison to my colleagues’ journey.
Our location of choice was near Gstaad, Switzerland. Somewhere around the 1200 meter mark. Fantastically green sweeping fields of grass with cows jangling their bells greeted us on the first day as we drove to the house. Not a bad view for work.
The interior was subtle in its choice of furnishings. The overwhelming sensual experience was one of warm textured raw wood panels, hard grey cold concrete walls mixed with light and airy areas of clean smooth glass.
Moving the speakers around was going to be the biggest task. The floor was a soft white wood. We were all going to be in serious trouble if it looked like we had been playing dodgems for two days. The smaller 804 D3s and 805 D3s could be lifted into position. The bigger 802 D3s and 803 D3s had to be pushed. Luckily we had already prepared for this with interlocking plastic matting that ensured the wheels did not dig in and leave grooves. A dedicated assistant had the very important job of making sure speakers got into position without any fuss. By and large, that all worked out nicely.
Flash lighting was used in combination with ambient daylight to create a realistic but slightly enhanced daylight sunny feel. At some points of the day the location glowed with sunshine, however when it clouded over we had to build up a look and feel with our lights to make sure the images did not flatten off.
We had reccied the building and interior before arriving for the shoot, however it was not until we got to add the speakers into the rooms that the simple beauty of the images started to emerge. This was interesting in itself and something I have often thought about – the way technology impacts and effects the environment around it. Here we had a very forward thinking speaker design with large smooth curved surfaces that once was immersed into this clean and understated environment suddenly exuded quality and prowess. Now we all understood why the art director had chosen this somewhat bizarre and secluded property. It worked in a simple but oh so effective way. To produce images that were different from what we had done before took a risk. A very calculated one, however still a risk.
We spent two days exploring different vantage points and making the most out of specific set ups where we could shoot all the speakers one after the other – great for creating large numbers of very usable assets for Bowers & Wilkins. All in all it was a great location shoot. One that I hope can be repeated again with even better results… If that is possible!