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September/October Twenty-Four

2011 Dollars

www.commarts.com

In portrait photography, you can get a lot of information about the sitter by looking in her eyes More than her clothes, more than the .environment, the mood comes from some inexplicaole quality the shooter captures in the eyes. A similar thing goes on in an Olaf Veltman landscape: Everything YOLi need to know happens III the sky.
by Tiffany Meyers

Jl~f \/pltm~n
H
is compositions-low horizon lines that shoulder massive skies, within which the clouds act out dramas-spring from the same vein as Dutch landscape painting of the Golden Age. Unlike Church-commissioned Renaissance painters, Dutch artists in a seventeenth-century Calvinist society painted secular subjects. But a sense of intensity-and maybe it's sublimated spirituality-emerges in the skies. the sky with white stipple. Or they streak it with gray ribbons. Occasionally, they deign to open up, making room for crackles of direct light. "You hear about portrait photographers who can coax the personalities out of their subjects," says David Steinke, art director on the Union Pacific campaign at the time and now vr-/creative director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky. "The thing about Olaf is that he does that with landscapes. He can draw out the personality of a landscape, which is something very few photographers in the world can do." Veltman is known for waiting patiently for the perfect light. But that's probably not quite right. He isn't patient so much as expectant, certain beyond a doubt that the right dusky glow will arrive, even when ants make their way into clients' pants. In his youth, Veltman was just as certain his future would center on art. Initially, he was bent on becoming a painter, working in his grandfather's Bergen an studio. "I loved the smell of the oil paint, and I would work in the studio on these very realistic paintings. 1 really wanted to paint. And I was in a hurry." But when Veltman's father gave him a Penrax at age sixteen, the Pentax won. For a kid in a hurry, photography was way sexier than slow-drying oil on canvas. "Mainly, I tried to shoot as many girls as I could," says Veltman. "1 would say, 'Can I take your portrait?" Once he built his own darkroom, the die was cast. By the time Veltman was a teenager, he'd been a student of the Dutch masters for years. Veltman's grandfather, a sailor and painter, frequently took his protege to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. They discussed composition and light. Eightyear-old Veltman liked Rembrandt's impasto technique. And he fell for Jacob van Ruisdael's landscapes in parricular. "They were pretty serious subjects for a child, but I think my grandfather thought I could handle it," says Veltman. If van Ruisdael was a skypainter, as he is called, then Veltman is a cloudpainrer, You can see it in his landscapes for a 2002 Union Pacific campaign. With Nebraska agency Bailey Lauerman, Veltman shot the train; in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, where the colossal domes of sky mirror the brand's epic place in American history. Sometimes, the clouds in these landscapes roil, reserving the right to explode into Storms whenever they so choose. Sometimes, they catch shifting, orange shapes of light. Or they pock

Right: "The Nucor company-that culture

'It's

Our Nature'

campaign

is targeted

to opinion

influencers

and C-Ievel decision

makers. It tells the story of Nucor's in its environmental ad agency;

DNA as a company

it's more than a steel maker. It's actually Over the course of the campaign, director;

a catalyst

to making the world a better place-whether in the New director; creative

practices,

or performance.

ads have appeared

York Times, Wall Street Journal, Eric Mower and Associates,

USA Today and Fortune." Nucor Steel, client.

Patrick Short, art director/creative

Seth Werner, writer/executive

Design Annual 2011

Olaf Veltman
He gave art school a shot, then technical school, where selfexpression was decisively not the point. When a teacher assigned a self-portrait series, Veltman went to an instant photo booth and posed. The machine spit out four pictures whose badly processed quality he liked. Pairing these with several experimental photographs-for which he spelled out the letters of his name with a torch light in an ~ open field-he went ~ [Q class with his series. Well received it was not. His teacher opined that it wasn't photography at all. And when Veltman argued, the instructor did him the favor of a lifetime: He kicked him our. So in the 1980s, Veltman left school altogether and launched his career in earnest, assisting in the Netherlands first, then London, where advertising photographers like John Claridge and Duncan Sim were working in the midst of their own golden age.
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®

In other cases, Veltman's landscapes are mottled with human detritus. A 2005 ikon campaign, produced via ADK, Amsterdam, touts the product's wireless capacity even on the fringes of civilization. The abandoned scenes are filled with whitehot light and corrosion: rusry cars, crumbling wood and Aaked, sun-bleached paint. In one execution, a row of birds appears to be perched on telephone wires. But look closely: The wires don't actually exist. In another, clothes hang from an invisible clothesline. "Welcome to the wireless world," reads the tag. So Veltman's work aligns as much with the Dutch master painter as with the ideal of nature in eighteenth-century Romanticism: Nature is magnificent, to be sure, bur also so mighty it will eventually swallow us whole-along with the buildings and cars we coat, ineffectually, with our rust-proof painr. The mere scale of a Veltman sky disabuses us of our egoism, reminding us that, really, we're JUStspecs, renting temporary spots under an awesome ceiling. The ikon campaign, with its hidden payoff, isn't the only work in Veltman's book that requires viewers to look twice. For a 2004 campaign for Inrerbrew UK, maker of Stella Artois, Lowe London used blues musician Robert Johnson as a point of departure. According to legend, Johnson promised his soul ro the devil in exchange for musical genius. In the campaign's three scenarios, an off-camera protagonist sells his soul-the ultimate in "Reassuringly Expensive" transactionsfor a stockpile of Stella. In one execution, the devil-depicted as an unctuous businessman, convincingly human but for his beautifully manicured black talons-sits in an office full of hidden symbols. The image, as with the other executions, becomes a kind of antiEaster egg hunt for grownups with high cultural 1QS.A print of Eugene Delacroix's Faust and Mephistopheles hangs on the wall, for instance. And a door plaque reveals the fallen angel's professional tide: "Director of Acquisitions." The view from the office is a modern-day circle of hell: An oil refinery on fire. Shooting from the balcony of a defunct oil plant, Veltman had pyrorechnicians set off explosions, each of which blew over his camera. "It was very exciting," says Veltman, who's never turned down a good, clean hit of photographic adrenaline. (He once declined ro be in a cage while shooting sharks for a 2004 Evinrude campaign with rarner-Krasselr, Milwaukee. "Sharks are my favorite subjects," he says. "They teach you how to move.") Online conspiracy theorists couldn't get enough of the Stella work, reporting on symbols that existed only in their minds. And in advertising, a conspiracy theory is something like the night a politician gets spoofed on Saturday Night Live, securing a fat and permanenr slice of pop cultural significance.
writer; Dan Mawdesley, creative director; ADK, ad agency;

'" g.

During these years, Veltman uncovered his inclinations as a photographer. He liked classically composed images-fully captured in camera-with a measure of melancholy and no little drama. "I realized I like weather. I like earth. I'm arrracred to the light in places like Ireland." In 1990, by which time Veltman had struck out on his own in Amsterdam, the Association of Photographers (AOP, then the AI'EAP) honored him for a BMW ad via PPGHi]WT, Amsterdam. That led to work across Germany, including for Mercedes and the German railroad Deutsche Balm. By the mid-I990S, he'd attracted attention in America, signing on with representative Michael Ash. Veltman's roster now includes Land Rover, Ford, Harley-Davidson, Volvo, Chi vas Regal and Toyota, to name a few, while awards have come from Cannes, the AOP, Communication Arts and rON. Most often, Veltman captures nature of the purest sortscenes unrainred by human evidence. What could be purer, for instance, than the archerypal rock? The rock against which all other rocks would compare themselves, if they could. Mullen, Boston, commissioned Veltman to scout and photograph just such a geological formation-plus the archetypal tree, lawn and trail-for a 2000 L.L.Bean campaign. The images, more than a decade old by now, are as timeless as you'd expect from a representation of nature's quintessence.
Right: Ads for a wireless Nikon, client. compact camera. Roger Leebody, art director;

Gillian Glendinning,

Design Annual

2011

Communication

Arts

Design Annual 2011

Olaf Veltman
The campaign industry Moreover, proclivity produced a din of positive the chance buzz and
AOP.

recognition,

like from Cannes in a commercial

and the
(0

it gave Veltman for storytelling

exercise his context. In

fact, it already finds full expression work-intimate, trast the infinite During quickly captured distances

in his personal moments that con-

he creates in landscapes. India, Veltman encountered pigment during girlish a dainty the subject's

a trip in Jaipur,

a cross-legged the Hindu alpha-male

man covered

in the powdered

that revelers throw at each other, confetti-like, festival of Holi. In the portrait, expression contradicts the otherwise

details: With one hand on his hip, he's holding British teacup ostentatiously, It's humor in the other. And the powder flirtatiously la Veltman: pink.

itself is

a

Subtle and weird, beautiful

and incidental. In
2007,

You have to look for it. portrait of a small girl in Madagascar and play, experiin a beyond her years. this child's life. Dressed

another

narrates

the opposing

forces-poverty

ence and innocence-of

ragged shirr, she holds an expression mischief:

At the same time, her face betrays a recent episode of Her lips are coated with an inexpert application her kewpie-doll cheeks. I of red lipstick (Was it her older sister's? Her mother's'), which also smudges

"1 like the work to be difficult," can sink my teeth into-but going

he says. "I like projects sometimes, it's just there

for you. So I also like the pictures you don't know you're
(0

take when you wake up in the morning-the on your first impulse. And most often, is right."
CA

ones that depend your first impulse

Left: Campaign

for Union

Pacfic

Railroad.

shot on location ad agency;

in Union

Nevada. Utah. Colorado Carter Weitz. creative Pacific Railroad. client. "Ad for Dubai Sports

and Wyoming.

David Steinke. art director;

director;

Bailey Lauerman.

City. showing Vincent

typical

iconic sport locations places." Peter Tonic

shot in various countries Walker. art director; Dubai, ad agency;

in Europe as abandoned

Raffray. creative director;

Dubai Sports City. client. in Holland. showing art director;

This page: "Ads for a family care organization real people care). client. Ad for Evinrude. Michael that need care." Stef Ranken. writer; Grey Amsterdam.

Duncan Macintosh.

ad agency; Thuiszorg (family

shot in the Bahamas. Jim Root. art director; Mike Bednar. creative director; Evi nrude. cI ient. rock. Other Jim Cramer-

Buss, writer;

Krasselt. ad agency;

"For L.L.Bean, the brief was to shoot an iconic and California." Garavanti. writer; Edward LLBean. client. Greg Bokor/Gerard Greg Bokor/Jim creative

ads were a pond. a tree and a lawn. Shot in New Zealand Caputo, art directors; Garaventi. director; Mullen. creative directors; ad agency;

Boches. executive

Communication

Arts

Olaf Veltman

This page: "Ad for Microsoft. director; Microsoft. Michael client. Artois. Tim Roper. creative directors;

Original Crispin

is in full-color."

David Steinke. Keller/Rob ad agency;

art

Craven. writer;

Alex Bogusky/Andrew Porter + Bogusky.

Reilly/

"Ad for Stella stationed

portraying

the devil who's exchanging Sarah Naughton.

beer for a soul. writer; Damon

Shot at Wendover there." Collins. creative

airport Alistair director;

near the Bonneville Ross. art director;

Salt Flats. Enola Gay was once Stella Artois. client.

Lowe + Partners. ad agency; India.

Right: Personal. shot in Rajasthan. Personal. shot in Hampi, Personal work. India.

shot in Andringita.

Madagascar.

Design Annual 2011

Communication

Arts