In the footsteps of Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz and Rankin, Steven Klein becomes the sixth photographer to be honoured by The Macallan in its Masters of Photography whisky series. Culminating in a limited edition box set featuring the unique Masters of Photography: Steven Klein edition bottle (designed by the man himself) and a horsehead stopper, the road to this actually began over a year ago.
That’s when the fashion photographer flew over to Spain to be hosted by the Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca, themselves collaborators with The Macallan in the recent Edition No. 2 single malt. Over 15 courses and copious Roca brothers-created cocktails later, Klein honed the idea for his whisky. While he was a mere selector of the rare cask spirit itself, he was an active participant in the visualisation of it.
The idea of whisky and the unyielding aspect of time led to the theme of anachronism. The whisky got Klein thinking of turn-of-the-century cool on one hand, while the cocktails, cooking and culture of it was more contemporary. Gravitating to the juxtapostion of British fashion designer Thom Browne, Klein dreamed up a tableau of characters – some old, some young, some in-between – acting, playing and socialising around whisky. It at once looks like a scene from a Hollywood movie from the 50s – glitterati swanning with drinks – while not looking out of place in the latest September issue of Vogue.
The result echoes Klein’s most imaginative work with Madonna and Lady Gaga. Brimming with saturated colours and a underlying current of darkness, Klein’s photos for the sixth edition of Masters of Photography are a little broody, a little Gothic and very, very arresting. The vacant stares and stiff poses – hallmarks of Klein – are all there. The images plays with the aspect of time by throwing elements from various decades together, united by colour, pose and whisky. There are Amish hats, Victorian top hats, funeral veils, a dead body, Art Deco appliances, modern city shorts and, inexplicably, Daphne Guinness. A short film titled ‘Time Captured’, a first for this series, captures this diorama in motion. It doesn’t make sense. But yet it does.
Then there is the whisky itself. Just as Klein distills a moment in time through a click of his lens, the limited edition whisky captures an ultimate Macallan moment. Tying into the atmosphere of Klein’s shoot, peated notes represent the smokey industrial setting – echoing The Macallan whiskies of the early 20th century. The deep red tones are recalled by the pinkish hues of the whisky, the result of being matured in Rioja-seasoned casks. The liquid itself starts with a nose of sweet berries – crimson as Klein’s lighting – giving way to period oak, caramelised ginger and orange – autumnal flavours linked to the vague Dickensian aura conjured up by Klein. Sweet spice and subtle smoke touch the tongue, united by undercurrents of wood and dark chocolate; just as the vacuous stares of the models mask turbulent emotions beneath. Then a soft, rich finish of fruit – there is a happy ending after all.
The Macallan Masters of Photography: Steven Klein edition is presented in stunning black case containing the limited edition whisky, a print from the photoshoot signed by Steven Klein and a horse’s head bottle stopper, along with a range of tools to create serves and flavour experiences inspired by the Roca brothers. Limited to a set of 1,000 worldwide, the set is priced in Malaysia at RM18,000.