We catch up with the team for a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process that creates Krone’s one-of-a-kind visual journey.
HOICK is a creative agency and amorphous art collective based in Cape Town, South Africa, centered around the partnership of Dale Lawrence and Claire Johnson. HOICK produces art, creative direction and consultation, branding, print, digital and spatial design.
Dissecting, interpreting and communicating the essence of brands and individuals is at the core of their practice. The collective academic background of the studio consists of graphic design, communication and fine art. HOICK has a preoccupation with unfamiliar materials and processes, with is a strong focus on experimentation and a belief that one needs to make mistakes in order to progress.
Ilana Swanepoel was born in Bronkhorstspruit. Went to school in Pretoria. Studied at Stellenbosch and Red and Yellow. Left a career in advertising and shifted towards decor, art and design, both in publishing and also in top-end art direction for the film and advertising industry. She was the editor and creative director of JAN the Journal in collaboration with Chef Jan Hendrik van de Westhuizen.
Stylistically, Ilana is interested in humanity and beauty and the intersection of the two.
Jonathan Kope is a photographer. He graduated in sculpture from Michaelis School of Fine Art. He started fashion-based work in a photographic partnership with Jarred Figgins. Jonathan’s solo work is predominantly focused on people, and he evokes a rawness and realness in his imagery. A celebration of the subject without needing to candy-coat.
Expressing the poised, intrinsic energy of the Kaaimansgat vineyard and in turn the Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs 2016. Props and shadows were set up to harness this energy and sense of potential through surreal and tensile compositions.
Claire: When we started working with Krone we developed concepts for each of the labels, with motifs and characters to express and differentiate each of the vintage-only MCCs—capturing a single moment in time, in-line with the fact that all of Krone’s MCCs are made from a single vintage.
Some ideas directly build on what we’ve done in previous shoots—things we began exploring but haven’t yet fully realised. Others take root in fashion, art or film history, for example with the recent KAAIMANSGAT BLANC DE BLANCS 2016 shoot—one that focused on tension—took inspiration from a Man Ray sculpture (‘New York’, 1917). Some emerge through the creative process when a touch of lunacy sets in.
Sometimes there’s a phrase in the tasting notes of the vintage that sparks something. Sometimes they’re indirectly topical, taking inspiration from things happening around us. Some ideas are simply by chance or the result of stream-of-consciousness exercises. We try to vary the processes and sources of ideas in order to make sure the stories are as distinct from each other as possible, while still being recognisable and true to the underlying concepts of each label.
The feelings of anticipation and sentiment that the Krone Cuvée Brut Rosé conjures up were conveyed here with the ripeness of fruit and the potency of flowers.
Dale: The idea of capturing a single moment in time is at the centre of what we’re trying to express and explore through these images. All images are photographed live, with almost no post-production aside for colour grading. The idea of film followed logically—particularly in the way you change the approach of taking photographs on a film camera, that notion of having just one chance and committing fully to its result—compared to digital where you take plenty and then choose the best.With film, the photograph is what it is. It also mirrors the high-risk nature of Krone’s winemaking process; the wine is a snapshot of the particular conditions that made it. Same with the image. Just as the winemaker patiently waits for the wine to mature, at the end of the shoot we patiently wait for the film to develop.
Fitting in short term, standing out long term. A surreal shoot about attempting the impossible.
The KAAIMANSGAT BLANC DE BLANCS 2016, “Tension”. The set here was so risky, it consisted of a sheet of glass clamped to a steel table but extending far past the edge of the table, with the bottles, props and beautiful crystal wine glasses balanced right on the edge of the glass. I think the tension we were trying to express came across, probably because of how nervous we all felt on set while shooting.
NIGHT NECTAR DEMI-SEC 2018 “Suspension”. This is an example of the process at its best. We wanted to make the objects appear as if they where floating in space. This could have been so easily done digitally, but the process of setting up the rig to suspend the bottle and props with fishing gut meant that there was an unpredictable energy in the shots that was completely raw and full of magic that couldn’t been replicated.
Shooting at Kaaimansgat was somehow the most true and pure experience. The four of us were alone in these soaring vineyards. It feels almost alpine up there. Mystical. And to be there, in the vineyards and to be shooting the Kaaimansgat MCC at its source was special.
Claire: Every year—this February will be the fourth—we spend about four days at Twee Jonge Gezellen, the home of Krone MCC shooting in a converted stable on the farm. We start by offloading the van with Jonathan’s gear and Ilana’s treasure trove of props, tiles, textures and food. While we’re unwrapping and sorting props and assembling the gear, the ideas start to become tangible.
One of our most elaborate shoots was one that relied on the explosion of a number of bottles. We had brought with an air rifle and a flash we could control with a sound trigger via an app on Jon’s phone. We built a set by burying boards of MDF [Medium-density fibreboard] in a mound of dirt, covering it in a thick groundsheet and a velvet cloth, with a bottle placed at the centre. Jon devised a setup that entailed the flash going off at the exact moment the bottle explodes, triggered by the gunshot, and then captured the image with a long-exposure photograph. But because of the long exposure, the flash had to be super fast so we’d get a crisp image, so Dale, the designated gunman, had to shoot in the dark. We shot at night—aiming via torchlight, then switching it off and taking the shot in the dark. It worked perfectly – we were ecstatic.
Showcasing how the wind, the sky and the earth sculpts the Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs 2016
We’ve also shot a few stories we have done on location. One particularly memorable shoot was in the Elandskloof Valley, where the Kaaimansgat vineyard is located. The shoot was for the KAAIMANSGAT BLANC DE BLANCS 2016 and driving into this blind valley near Villiersdorp—in two separate cars and with absolutely no phone signal—we promptly managed to lose each other on the small winding roads. When we eventually found each other and got to the farm, we were told that the vineyard that these specific grapes grow on was way up on the mountain slopes; up a road that looked more like a landslide, so we had to hike all the gear up. When we had finished shooting we settled to have lunch under a tree, we thought it the perfect moment to have a swig of the Blanc de Blancs to celebrate this unplanned adventure, only to realise it was a dummy bottle filled with water.
Jonathan: The manner in which we solve creative problems has led to some fairly ridiculous situations. Not so much ‘funny’, but rather absurd. Dale at 23:00 after 15 hours of shooting lying in the mud taking aim at bottle after bottle of Krone with his air rifle. We’d light things up for a few seconds, Dale would confirm target acquired, the lights go off and then WHIZZ BANG or WHIZZ TAP depending on whether the bottle shattered or not. My sound-sensing flash would fire as the pellet hit the glass and we’d either catch a tremendous bubbly explosion or a nothing. Key takeaways; MCC bottles are virtually indestructible and Dale is a ludicrously good shot.
Claire: Dale and I develop the concepts and present them to Ilana, who then sources the props and set materials. Jonathan comes up with ideas for how we’ll achieve the technical aspects of the shoot. When we come together on the farm to start shooting, it’s like we walk into the dark studio room and don’t emerge for four days. The way we work together is quite intuitive and fluid – we have worked together for between two and three years on the Krone series and have found a really good rhythm, which includes the combination of thorough preparation and some unpredictable magic.
Roles often merge and evolve: the stylist as hand model, the art director as a smoke machine operator, an assistant as a chef. The team itself is really what makes this work possible and all of the individual skills involved. Ilana’s ability to interpret and bring to life these very abstract ideas through object, form and texture, and then on set to produce a composition almost with the brush of her hand is pure magic. Jon’s motivation to find a way to capture these sometimes very technical set-ups, without fail every time, as well as his energy and prowess on set means almost anything is possible.
Dale and I swap being at the fore of art directing and at the back observing, depending on which shoots are intuitive to each of us. Faith [junior art director at HOICK] is fully immersed in each shoot and the tasks at hand, whether it’s cooking the food for props, sewing scrunchies, assisting with lighting and styling or taking videos; everyone is fully involved.
Jonathan: Remarkably well, actually. Everyone is rather good at what they do individually in their respective careers, but shooting for Krone is its own genre entirely. Dale and Claire come up with a set of intricate and researched creative blueprints, and I almost feel like they take the opportunity to follow some intuition they are not able to access in other less emotive or more mainstream projects. So the creative deck is already fairly boundary pushing. And as the photographer, I get to exercise a certain technical know-how and variety that I restrain in much of my other work. Ilana has impeccable taste and again, manages to somehow take the direction from the creative starting blocks, and run it through this sort of magic lens that makes everything contemporary and not derivative. Also, pitches up every year with a van full of the most weird and wonderful treasures. Defies physics and budgets. The best is that we’re able to shoot at the farm, so it means we all work crazy hard from very early till very late, and we care about what we’re making and care about Abbey [Abigail Rands, marketing director] and Krone as a brand. It’s become this precious synergy.
The trust that Abbey places in us and in our process as well as her ability to visualise our sometimes very abstract ideas. This allows us all to follow our instincts and for the images to really reach our full potential. It motivates us to keep pushing the work further. It really is her enormous vision for the brand that allows us to evolve and expand each year.