Malt Whiskey spread for The Observer magazine.

From Whiskey to Bourbon, -the follow-up In the same series...
Thanks to The Art Institute of Chicago. Apologies to the much beleaguered Grant Wood.

Quite often, although not often enough, I am given a free rein on a project, and on this one I was just given the subject, -Single Malt Whiskey and Bourbon respectively, and told I could do what I liked to depict them. This all went swimmingly as I sampled the goods to get my creative juices and the correct vibe going, but what ruined the whole thing was there was a magazine re-design scheduled after the second one was published, and the series was dropped!

Now this was a great shame because my next scheduled set was for Vodka, and my head was swimming with visions of one of those Cossacks, or even perhaps a whole line of Cossack dancers, wearing their tea-cosy hats (which were a fashion fad I seem to remember for about a nano-second some years ago), with their arms folded and kicking their heels in the air, but it somehow being revealed to be either sitting on a stool covered by their big coat and not balancing at all, or maybe even revealing somebody else's legs doing all the dancing, you know a bit like that thing where people kneel down and have a pair of shoes under their knees to make them look like dwarves. Hadn't quite got my head around it yet, but it could have been great!

The Grant Wood picture is meant to be badly faked in that I just had models hands with bottle and glass wrapped around a large blow-up print, compliments of the Chicago Art Institute. I could have comped them on via a computer, but for me that would have spoiled the joke, and as I'm a big fan of the French photographer Philippe Halsman, I thought this is how the lad himself would have done it.

Incidentally, in the same vein, on planning the Scotch Whiskey picture, I already had thoughts of a piper in the Highlands filtering whiskey through his bagpipes, and when I was ringing around whiskey companies to find out what is the largest size bottle any of them made, one said 'We've got a bottle the size of a man'! -Got them to ship it down post haste and it arrived (thankfully, although disappointingly), empty in a crate. Anyway, my point is that this wasn't cleverly comped in either, but was actually sitting in the set.

Although I have always been as actively involved as anyone in computer technology, especially as I have switched to graphics from the outset of the changes this bought about in the industry, there is somehow, something lost with what is in the main an improvement and a greater scope for creativity, which one photographer claimed 'made us all bad surrealists'.

Somehow years ago things were more exciting when your vision for a beach full of iron bed frames going off in the distance, meant that you had to actually put them there, not shoot the location and one bed in the studio, which would then be cut out and duplicated into the perspective. That would be like the great Christo never actually doing any of his installations, covering important buildings with acres of fabric or painting alps fluorescent pink. Christo makes his money (and he is completely self-funding), by selling the drawings or plans of his work, but without him actually completing them they would be worthless. When they are completed they are Canon fodder for every budding amateur photographer and tourist, -i.e. totally worthless.

There's a fantastic shot by Philippe Halsman of Dali with an atomic explosion coming out of his mouth. But how he did this was to get Dali to stick his head in a fish tank and spit out a mouthful of milk, which was brilliant to the extreme. Now I don't know but my guess is that this would have never been half as good with a real picture of an atomic explosion superimposed coming out of the posing Dali's gaping gob, -call me old fashioned but I just don't think there would be the same commitment and involvement that sticking his bonce in a tank of water created!

Anyroad, -for months we consumed the never-ending whiskey supply, often over lunch mixed with Coke and accompanying fish and chips with an aspiration to become heavyweight photographers.