Freedom in focus: creating space for excellence with the Masters of Photography 7
Inside the collaboration between Magnum Photos and The Macallan
There are times when you need to choose to trust the skills, mindset, and mastery of another person in order to achieve something greater. This requires faith that that they understand the heart of the vision, and will carry it out in a manner worthy of the commission.
Creating space for success; trust is essential in any collaborative partnership.
When we set out to build the new distillery and visitor experience, we knew that we wanted to document it as part of our Masters of Photography series – an ongoing collaborative project that has seen The Macallan work with world renowned photographers from Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz to Rankin. The build was a story that deserved to be told from start to finish, and required people with the skills and longevity to see it through from genesis to completion of the three year-long project.
We chose to engage renowned Magnum Photos – the world’s most famous photography cooperative – to collaborate with a collective of six photographers instead of just one or two. This flowed from the desire to share a variety of perspectives and expressions to capture the different aspects of the distillery. The decision was made to give the Magnum photographers an assignment with no set brief, but to allow them to capture the build as they saw fit, over the years. It was a form of creative freedom that empowered them to apply their own unique perspective, highlighting details that might otherwise have gone unnoticed had we provided too constricting a brief.
We trusted that they would capture the spirit of project, the dedication, the hard choices and pursuit of excellence that was imbedded in the plan from the outset.
The length of the project and openness of the brief meant the photographers were able to use mediums that they otherwise might not have had as an option. One member of the collective, Paolo Pellegrin, for example, decided to document the build through film rather than digital photography, which, as a slower medium, isn’t a choice he normally has when doing documentaries or journalism, where he needs to be more instantly reactive to the situations he might encounter.
The history and narrative in every element of The Macallan comes together at the distillery. Each photographer was able to apply his own lens to the process, bringing his unique perspective to the project. Alec Soth was drawn to the casks, instinctually understanding their essential role in creating The Macallan’s distinctive character. He created a whole series in which the casks were treated as though they were people sitting for portraits, in order to highlight their undisputed individuality.
Each photographer brought his own strengths and methods of interacting with the project, fostering relationships with the people, the land, and the building itself. Over the six years, we trusted that the hidden complexity within the craftsmanship would reveal itself in different ways to these photographers who were, in turn, masters of their own craft.
From the landscape and the materials from which it was born to the character of the workers and protagonists who brought it to fruition, the artistic portraiture of people (and casks) complement more abstract representations of the building and its unique structure.
The outcome is that the collection of images forming the seventh chapter of The Macallan Masters of Photography have an individuality and strength of their own, revealing both the mastery of the individual photographers and the essence of the journey to build the Distillery and Visitor Experience. These compelling images tell The Macallan story in a wholly new and compelling way, recording the next stage in the journey of this inimitable single malt whisky.