Eye On Ads: Olaf Veltman’s Perfect Storm
By Tiffany Meyers - Original Publication: Photo District News -January 2005
For the latest campaign for James Hardie Siding, Dutch photographer Olaf Veltman spent as much time chasing weather as he did shooting it. Rushing towards pockets of shootable weather across three states in the course of two and a half weeks, Veltman managed to create images that impart both a sense of vulnerability to and protection from nature.
In the first of the two ads by Atlanta advertising agency Sawyer Riley Compton, a couple shares a private moment in their den, while in the second, two children jump on their beds. But these rooms have no walls, and the people within them are unfazed by the forces of nature around them.
The children play in their bedroom, surrounded by an intimidating expanse of sand dune and salt water, while the couple is oblivious to a dark storm that rages in the near distance. Without walls, the viewer is given the opportunity to infer the presence of the product, activating “the theater of the mind,” says art director Laura Hauseman. “You can put yourself into thinking what your home experience would be.”
"We didn’t want a picture postcard," says Bart Cleveland, partner and director of creativity, "but something that could show an impending threat. Olaf drew our attention because he could capture something that felt big and intimidating."
Unlike the people in the ads, the creative team was at the mercy of nature’s will. “It was probably the worst weather I had on any shoot until now,” says Veltman. The team moved from Utah, Oregon, and Idaho—and back again—shooting until the weather closed in and sent them searching for opportunities elsewhere.
"We went through Salt Lake so many times," says Hauseman, "that eventually we would ask each other in the morning what city we were in and no one could answer." Because at one point the team moved operations to Oregon unexpectedly, producer Loni Weholt, of Isle 8 Pictures in San Francisco, hit the streets to replace the actors that had been cast and couldn’t be flown out in time. She found the children featured in the final campaign at a local mall.
Compositing fields, skies, dunes, and cliffs—all shot with available light—Veltman created the mood the agency wanted to project: “We wanted people to sense danger,” says Hauseman, “but we didn’t want people to see danger.”
While most would have rushed through the hostile conditions, Veltman approached each shoot patiently, waiting for the perfect moment in the landscape to unfold. “Olaf would look at you,” says Hauseman, “and say, ‘It can be better. It can always be better.’ That resonates with our culture [at Sawyer Riley Compton.] He would never settle.”
Client: James Hardie Siding
Agency: Sawyer Riley Compton, Atlanta
Creative Director: Bart Cleveland
Art Director: Laura Hauseman
Copywriter: Sanders Hearne
Producer: Loni Weholt, Isle 8 Pictures, San Francisco
Photographer: Olaf Veltman