Sunday, 2 March 2014

Soul of a nation

The Barras Market, Gallowgate, Glasgow.

The Barras Market, Gallowgate, Glasgow.

Legendary photographer Elliot Erwitt captures the beauty and wonder of Scotland for The Macallan.

A MAN walking his dog. People lining up for chips. A woman running starkers on a beach. A man laughing in a bar. A family having a barbecue. These are seemingly normal, ordinary everyday things, but through the lens of Elliot Erwitt, these are more than just ordinary events. This is the story of life, joy, emotions and experiences in Scotland, told through the wonderful black-and-white photos he took for The Macallan’s The Masters Of Photography: Elliott Erwitt Edition.

We recently met the legendary American photographer in Kuala Lumpur, at an exclusive one-day-only exhibition of the photos he took for The Macallan’s Masters Of Photography: Elliott Erwitt Edition.

Born in Paris to Russian parents in 1928, Erwitt is considered one of the greatest and most influential living photographers today. The 85-year-old has been a professional photographer since 1949, gaining fame in subsequent years for his poignant, black-and-white photos of celebrities, politicians and ordinary people. Among his most famous and iconic work is an extremely poignant portrait of Jackie Kennedy at John F. Kennedy’s funeral, and intimate shots of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits.

Seagulls on statues, William Gladstone, George Square, Glasgow.
Seagulls on statues, William Gladstone, George Square, Glasgow.

Today, he continues to be one of the leading figures in the field of photography, and he continues to work actively for magazine, industrial and advertising clients, while devoting his spare time toward creating books and exhibitions of his work.

The Elliott Erwitt Edition sees Erwitt interpreting the unique richness and depth of Scottish characters through his shrewd observational skill and subtle, humorous style.

“Elliot has a great ability to evoke poignancy and aesthetic beauty and a reaction needed to make people laugh and truly understand the human condition, and that’s what I loved most about his photos,” said Ken Grier, the Edrington Group’s director of malt, during an interview at the launch of the project in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Edrington Group is the brand owner of single malt brand The Macallan.

Previous editions of the Masters Of Photography project have engaged celebrated photographers Rankin, Albert Watson, and Annie Lebowitz, but for this latest one, Grier wanted to take the project in a different direction. “A friend of mine suggested Elliot. And I thought, would someone as famous as Elliot even want to speak to a brand or a client like us?” he recalled.

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, Edinburgh Castle.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, Edinburgh Castle.

He then contacted the photographer, who turned out to be very interested in Scotland and its people, and was keen to do a travelogue of the country.

According to Erwitt, the project was only supposed to last 10 days, but he ended up extending his stay to 38 days so he could take his time to discover the country properly.

“I went with the best intentions and found the place to be extremely friendly and welcoming, and attractive,” he recalled at the same interview.

“The geography (of the country) is extraordinary, particularly the Isle of Skye, and the people are really charming, as long as you can understand what they were saying!”

He also admitted that he didn’t really have any idea what he would be shooting before he got there.

“I don’t have ideas beforehand. They develop while I am doing it. It’s very simple – it’s just a reaction to what I see,” he said. “You walk around, you hang out, you go into bars and talk to people, you go to where things are happening, you take pictures of people without them knowing – you do all those things.

“Obviously we had a plan – we were making a book and a book has to have a flow, a visual sense from beginning to end. You can’t just throw pictures in there – they have to make sense and not be repetitive.”

While his process sounds simple enough, what Erwitt produced from those 38 days in Scotland outstripped all of Grier’s expectations.

“He managed to produce a substantial body of work that is the finest encapsulation anyone has ever made of Scotland and its people,” he enthused.

“It’s multi-faceted, diverse, funny, poignant, makes people gasp and nostalgic, and laugh, and understands why the Scots are so idiosyncratic and different, and how they have changed the world in so many ways.

In fact, Grier thought Elliot’s work was so good that a simple limited edition release wasn’t enough.

The Masters Of Photography: Elliott Erwitt Edition consists of not just one whiskey, but a staggering 58 unique single cask whiskies that have been paired with a different signed Elliott Erwitt print captured during his great Scottish adventure. And that’s not all. The Elliott Erwitt Edition also includes a bespoke photo-archival book featuring a total of 158 images, shot by Elliott during the process.

Ultimately though, it is a package that is well worth its extravagance, thanks to the wonderful body of work that Elliot produced in Scotland. “To me, the book and the photos all come together to show us what makes the Scots, the Scots,” concluded Grier.

For more info on The Macallan’s Masters of Photography project, visit To purchase the Elliot Erwitt Edition, call Edrington Singapore (+65-6653-2000).

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Elliot Erwitt , The Macallan , photography


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