The Macallan’s Ken Grier On Steven Klein’s Time-Freezing Photography

Arts

June 13, 2017 | BY Grace Chee

The distillery’s Creative Director tells us about the Masters of Photography project

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Ken Grier, Creative Director of The Macallan (Photo: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler)

The Macallan’s Masters of Photography project has collaborated with some of the world’s best photographers, with an alumni list that includes Rankin, Albert Watson, Annie Leibovitz, Elliott Erwitt and Mario Testino.

Read more: The Macallan M

The sixth edition puts Steven Klein’s dramatic and darkly glamorous photographic tatler_stories centre stage, conveying the idea of a world standing still in a single moment, through the theme “Time Captured.” The collaboration has created a short film and 10 still images, which are paired with a standout, limited-edition whisky that has a unique taste of mystique and vibrancy.

 The Macallan’s Creative Director Ken Grier, who is the mastermind behind Masters of Photography and a passionate photographer himself, was recently in town to celebrate the new release. We sat down with him to chat about the project and his love for photography.

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The Macallan Rare Cask Black Limited Edition partners Steven Klein's work (Photo: Courtesy of The Macallan)

The Macallan has collaborated with many renowned photographers for the “Masters of Photography” series. Why did you pick Steven Klein for this edition?

We wanted to do something quite disruptive, something that was edgier and perhaps a little bit darker. We talked to a number of photographers, and I really liked Steven.

He came up with this tremendous idea about time fragmenting. Everyone’s going around frantically these days, but we would have this moment of stillness—this great moment, where it’s as good as it gets—and capturing it in time. We loved it.

What is Steven like as a person?

Very nice, very quiet, thoughtful, cerebral. He loves animals. He has two Great Danes, and he’s a really great equestrian. He’s really complex, and he’s got huge,  encyclopaedic knowledge of film and fashion. He’s very different from any photographer I’ve worked with.

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Ken Grier of The Macallan (Photo: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler)

What is the link between The Macallan and art?

Well, it’s always been there and a lot of it goes back to Allan Shiach, who was a member of the family that inherited The Macallan and built the brand way back in the day. Alan was a real Renaissance guy—he really appreciated the power of art and beauty, and what I’ve done is try and build on that. And because whisky making is an art, it’s only logical to associate that with visual arts and to create a beautiful world that’s interesting and provoking.

How did the idea for the series first begin?

I was visiting my dear friend Baron Philippe de Rothschild at Château Mouton Rothschild, where they have a fantastic wine museum. The guys were talking about how they used famous artists to illustrate each vintage label. And I thought, “no one has ever done that with photography—wouldn’t it be great if we could own that space?”

You’re a photographer yourself. Do you remember when you first started taking pictures?

As a kid, my dad owned a chemist’s shop, which was also a photographic retailer. He would get people’s pictures and make prints, and he would sell cameras. He was a keen photographer, so I’ve taken pictures since I was a really small kid.

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Photo: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler

What draws you to photography?

Paolo Pellegrin said something really interesting: “A still image forces you to stop and think.” I think that’s a great thing. And with  smartphones and Instagram, everyone is a photographer now, and people communicate using the language of images. It’s a way of life.

Have you picked up any great tips after collaborating with so many photographers?

Yes, I’ve learned quite a number of cool things. I think my favourite one is from Elliott Erwitt. I asked him, “How do you do it?” And he said, “All I do is stand there and wait for something to fill the frame.” It’s about patience, about capturing the right moment.

Read more: 5 Minutes With Wing Shya On Sweet Sorrow

Who are your favourite photographers? 

I like Elliot’s stuff because there is a wonderful observational quality. I’ve always liked Arnold Newman’s portrait photography, and for fashion I like Helmut Newton. Paolo Pellegrin is great—the stuff he did at the Arab Spring is really moving. Steve McCurry is a great portraitist. 

Some of the classic guys like René Burri, and Cartier-Bresson, of course. Eve Arnold, because of her engagement with people, and William Klein for some of the classic fashion stuff from back in the day. Daido Moriyama, because he’s just very different, very immediate. I like a lot of stuff. 

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Photo: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler

Where are your favourite places to shoot? 

My favourite place of all time that I shot is Cuba. It was amazing—kind of like a living museum, in a good way. You can shoot early morning and into the night, and the people were incredible. They’re just so natural. It’s the richest environment for street photography I’ve ever seen. 

What art projects are next for The Macallan? 

We’re doing a really interesting project—probably our biggest project ever. We’re creating an entirely new distillery for The Macallan—the first ever distillery designed by a named architect. We’re working with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on designing an underground distillery with a glass roof. There’s going to be an art gallery with almost 2,000 works of art that we’ve collected from our projects. 

It’s going to be open in the middle of next year, and this will be one of the finest things we’ve done in the world of art. 

The Macallan Masters of Photography: Steven Klein Edition will be available in Hong Kong from June 2017 in premium wine shops.

All photos were taken at Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel.

See also: The Macallan Masters of Photography, Annie Leibovitz Edition

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