OLAF VELTMAN

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"Reassuringly expensive." The long-running tagline for Stella Artois continues to serve the beer well. But it's also an appropriate description of the look of work by Dutch photographer Olaf Veltman, who shot the most recent installment of Stella print for Lowe/London. The new campaign, which has the industry buzzing about one of the riskiest ideas produced in recent advertising history, tells the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil for a case of the precious ale. From the start, the creative team knew the Faustian concept ran the risk of devolving into caricature when executed. But Veltman, shooting on 8x10 format to capture the richest detail possible, creates a dark, moody world in which even the Prince of Darkness is understated. With the exception of a set of cloven hooves, and perhaps the long, black talons, this devil could pass for a well-dressed investment banker.

Veltman, inspired by the Dutch and Flemish master landscape artists of the 17th century, is known for his painterly style. But the esthetic is not a matter of postproduction tricks and Photoshop filters. "It starts with waiting for the light and for the right composition," he says. "You try to come as close to what you want to get as possible. When you take the picture, it must be 90 percent there already. That's the difference between painting and photography. When you paint, you can show people what you want to see. With a picture, you work with the ingredients you've been given."

Veltman fully realized his distinct style in 1980s London, when-after dropping out of both technical and art school in Holland to work as an assistant photographer-he was introduced to the atmospheric style of his English contemporaries, including the work of John Claridge. "It reminded me of the painters I saw as a child when my grandparents took me to the Rijks Museum. There's a golden glow in the light. It reminded me of Rembrandt and [van] Ruisdael." He adds: "Even though photography is a different medium, I think people still like to see a romantic painting. Not romantic like a gypsy girl with a tear in her eye, but like the old masters."

A perfectionist with a Zen approach to the art of landscape photography, Veltman will wait days for the right light to cast its glow. "When people fish in Holland," he says, "they sit and look at a little bob for hours. It's not fly fishing, where things move quickly. It's just staring at the bob. When I see people fishing here, I think it must be very boring at their house. And that's what people around me on a shoot think. 'What is he waiting for?' " Veltman's sweeping landscapes can be seen in award-winning campaigns for Land Rover, Audi, Union Pacific, L.L. Bean and North Carolina Travel & Tourism. Most recently, he battled arctic temperatures in Barrow, Alaska, for an upcoming Land Rover campaign with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Young & Rubicam, London. "I still like it each time I shoot a landscape," says Veltman. "I like standing on a mountaintop, waiting to see what's going to happen."

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