Feminist Fantasy & Fairytales for TBWA Mexico City (2003)

I had an email from TBWA Mexico City (now Teran TBWA) – the female art director said she wanted to shoot a fairy-tale campaign . The images were to be posted on huge billboards across Mexico City and used as an advertising campaign. Sadly I do not have any photos of the billboards but I will never forget trying to create the high-resolution files for the posters, as the British digital system was different to the Mexican system. 

The colour space is different than the one in Europe. I kept getting emails saying it looks, too green, too pink, so there was an issue. I could not understand until I was sent their calibration info and worked to their colour profiles. There was a lot of frustration and worry because they looked fine on my screen. It took a while to create files that were internationally digitally compatible.

These images are shot on film (Kodak Ektachrome 100 on a Hasselblad) and the files were 150 Megs, as they needed to be blown up for the billboards. I scanned the film on my own high-resolution scanner the CREO iQSmart 3, which is an amazing scanner. It scans at 5500 dpi. The detail was incredible.

I shot the campaign in London and the three female Art directors flew in and the models were flown in from Russia at enormous expense. One of the models was flown in for the afternoon and then back to Moscow on the same day at great expense for a global buyout. Which increased the pressure on me immensely as I had to get the shot right that afternoon. They told me that they were just working with the great Albert Watson and myself.

I was bemused by the fact that I didn’t necessarily understand the cultural references or the purpose of the campaign and I confess I am still mystified. There was also the language barrier to negotiate and the models were all Russian. This resulted in some rather interesting dialogue, which was largely gestural, with lots of drawings, and mood boards which they brought with them. There was the hope that we were all heading in the right direction but there was a certain amount of confusion. Time was the enemy too amid the confusion and gestures.

The team were incredibly sweet and kind – particularly when I shouted at the models in English because they would continuously grin at the camera and I needed a particular mood from them.

To create the bitten shoe, I took it upon myself to make the teeth marks and carefully cut along the lines with a scalpel. Until that moment I had never appreciated the wonder of shoe fetishism or the fact that I would soon need dentist to repair my cracked teeth! It was difficult to make a dental impression on shoe leather and the taste was rather unpleasant. The taste lasted past two cups of strong black coffee.

The whole point of the shoot was to create images that made people think, “What is that about”? This was taking an established fairy-tale and messing it up in some way – the beginning I think of a disruptive approach to marketing, which the new Teran TBWA is now known for. The copy line was, ‘don’t go near my shoe” or for Rapunzel she was pictured with her hair delicately placed on a guillotine so that she did not have to “Let down her hair’ and be rescued by a man. This is what I understood given the language barrier between myself the art directors and the models.

Altogether it was a fun time and the three fairy godmother art directors from Mexico were utterly charming. I was very fortunate to work for the same team again on another beauty and lifestyle campaign at a later date. On reflection it was so good to do a campaign where I never fully understood what the purpose and product was. 

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