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Work / Photography

Cait Oppermann’s shoot for Rapha shows how beneficial creative freedom from brands can be

A regular conversation we have with the talented bunch we regularly write about is around creative “freedom”. It’s an age-old tale: a brand comes to a creative for a possible commission, the commission might not be work the creative would usually make but said brand is promising freedom, the most tempting term of all.

This creative freedom, however, is often actually a bit of a fib and through rounds and rounds of amends, this freedom actually turns into a creative being shoehorned, creating work they maybe wished they hadn’t. But when brands do trust the people they want to work with and sit back, the best campaigns can ensue. One brand with this mentality is Rapha, and its latest campaign with New York-based photographer Cait Oppermann is case in point.

Taken in the Swiss Alps, Cait’s shoot – one of her favourites ever and it’s obvious by the quality of work – began by getting to know the cyclists and team involved, “which is really such a luxury,” the photographer explains of the trip. “It allowed for a more collaborative process; one where I could really spend some time figuring out what I wanted out of a particular setting or person, or set of colours.”

The days of shooting then began, specifically structured around cycling “to allow for actual riding, then downtime for the riders to relax and have a coffee, while I still had the opportunity to shoot,” recalls the photographer. “There was no such thing as a break in shooting, in terms of riders being ‘on’ one minute and ‘off’ another. It was fluid and natural, which is so refreshing both visually and socially between myself and the talent.”

By allowing the cyclists to do their actual job, and Cait to do hers, each of the photographer’s images feels authentic, like a shoot for a cycling brand before the concept of rendering, touch-ups, in-house sets and props were ever even thought of in advertising. Beyond authenticity, however, Cait’s lens takes photographic note of the Swiss Alps as her ridiculously jaw-dropping backdrop.

In terms of framing shots and making them cohesively fit as a series – despite differing photographs of landscapes, roads, Rapha items of clothing and cyclists on a sharp tilt around a bend – Cait uses colour as the visual element stringing it all together. “To me, this shoot was about colour and figuring out a way to make colours off of devastatingly beautiful backdrops. The colours and the setting elevated one another.”

Now with the series out in the world, Cait still thinks of the shoot as a fond one, proclaiming how much she just enjoyed it, particularly thanking art directors Ger Tierney and Jack Saunders. “Not once did it feel like work and I owe 100% of that to the team at Rapha. I had such an incredible group of smart, funny, capable people to bounce ideas off of and experiment with and the pictures are better for it.”

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha

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Cait Oppermann: Rapha