Photographer Zhang Qingyun has the ability to build a narrative around the simplest of objects. This is evident particularly in his work for homeware brand Piaule, where he manages to carve out a back story with just transparent drinking glasses.
The concept of telling a story with Piaule’s glassware range was Zhang’s first thought for the shoot, explaining it was best and apt “to show them in use”. He does this subtly but in ways we can all relate to, filling it with a glass cold of milk or in an understated way by placing it in the corner of the frame, drawing your eye to an icy Coca-Cola-like drink. “I’ve been collaborating with Piaule from the beginning with my friend Korey Vincent,” Zhang tells It’s Nice That. “Since the inception of the brand, we’ve had lots of discussions around how to curate a visual narrative for such a minimalistic brand. It’s an easy pitfall to become generic or chaste.”
To avoid this, Piaule and Zhang set out with the objective to “create something that feels pure but – minimal in a non-mass produced manner,” he explains. “Like objects your (cool) grandmother had that simply lasted for decades, everything had a story. I like the idea that with each product release we get to imagine a new scenario and complete the Piaule narrative a bit further.”
This aim is achieved in Zhang’s shoot with the introduction of an added character, a sweet smiling child (with a great bowl haircut reminiscent of Marcus from About a Boy) who gives further imaginative examples of how the glasses could be used. “I was riding the subway one day and ran into my old friend from college with his little brother, Sebastian. He was very young, meek almost, yet had this striking presence. I thought, why not have Sebastian be the protagonist of this campaign? And everyone loved the idea.”
Having Sebastian featured adds an alternative pace to Piaule’s collections, adding an extra playfulness to the brand as he looks through the glass as a telescope, for instance. While many of Piaule’s customers will be design-fanatic adults who probably won’t be using their glasses in this way, Zhang’s shoot shows it’s nice to know you can, and proves how each person will have a different interpretation or use for something as straightforward as a drinking glass.
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