Process: Dom Pérignon Abstracts

The idea for my Dom Pérignon Abstracts was pretty simple.   I wanted to create a series of three images that channeled the uniqueness of the commemorative bottles, which were designed by Karl Lagerfeld, but I also wanted them to find a middle ground between interpreting the bottles and exploring the idea of the champagne inside.   As a secondary notion I also wanted to incorporate digital imaging, which at the time was my newest obsession.

What the bottle immediately reminded me of were stars, glittering up in the night sky. Building off of that I sketched out a few ideas without making any real definitive decision, but just to let the ideas flow. I decided against using people in my images almost immediately because I felt I had seen a lot of images where alcohol had been personified and it had a “been done” kind of vibe. Instead I thought I would take it more into the abstract and take some inspiration from the gold ingots that decorated the bottle, and some inspiration from nature and then transform them into the principal elements of the final images.

As I was preparing for my final portfolio review at the time and there was a time constraint on submissions I spent a little more time sketching out some ideas to maximize the efficiency of my workflow before I started making any images. I did all of the photography in a couple of hours one afternoon in a studio bay using a pretty standard soft box set up to get a series of nice evenly lit images to work with. With all the glass and gold it wasn’t easy but I did the best I could. From there I went directly to the editing suite, where I spent a solid week straight working almost from the time to the time it closed.

My initial idea was to create one continuous tryptch where each image could stand along, but was really meant to be viewed together as one. As I started working however, that idea started to feel kind of stale and even though I liked some aspects of the idea and the image I had created I decided the continuous tryptch idea was better saved for another time. Instead I decided to take the portion I really liked and build off that, and then make each of the other two images complimentary and part of the same story but also images which could easily stand on their own.

Even though I had been using Photoshop for about a year at that point I was still very green. There was a lot of push and pull during the design process and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a struggle at times because it was, albeit an exciting one. By the end of the week I had two images done, Dom Pérignon Abstract No 1 and Dom Pérignon Abstract No. 2, Dom Pérignon Abstract No. 3 took me a couple more days to finish because I had hard time deciding on whether or not I wanted it to feel darker or lighter than the other two.

Once the images were finished I still had to print them. Having spent so much time working on them I wanted to makes sure they represented exactly as I imagined, I wanted them to have a luminous quality. If you’ve ever seriously printed anything for yourself you will know how difficult it can be to achieve the luminosity you see on your screen, because screens are backlit and paper isn’t. I will say that despite end of the year financial constraints I spared no expense and was a little anal retentive about printing. The first thing I did was a series of small test prints and quickly realized that because of the countless layers included in the file I was going to have to go in and adjust some of them manually, for consistency. So it took me quite a while to get the prints I wanted.

All in all it took me about two weeks from the moment I opened the first file in photoshop to the moment I dropped the prints off at the frame shop to be matted. The files I ended up with were a challenge to create but it is the challenges in life that make it more interesting and I think bring out the best in us. As the winning entries of the Dom Pérignon-Karl Lagerfeld ‘A Bottle Named Desire’ Photography Competition my Dom Pérignon Abstracts were displayed in Epernáy, France and were also awarded an Honorary International Photography Award in Advertising the same year.

Would I ever work on a project like it again? Absolutely.

Julia Swanson