This summer, Maison Taittinger revisits a literary classic in a photo campaign: Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, through a photographic campaign. The production designer Florence Mauduech takes us behind the scenes of this creation.
The novel Around the World in 80 Days is one of Jules’ Verne’s most acclaimed works. Out of the writer’s 62 ‘Extraordinary Voyages’, this story paints the most detailed picture of the era’s technological progress – which was revolutionising transportation by reducing the time it took to travel long distances – and more particularly to three key events that took place in quick succession: the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt, the construction of the Fréjus Rail Tunnel and the completion of the railway line linking East and West Coast America. Via references to Phileas Fogg’s train travel, the latest photographic campaign from Maison Taittinger is taking us on a trip across the globe this summer. Unlike the famous explorer’s journey, however, there are no Sioux ambushes on the horizon here.
In true reflection of the Champagne House, the set has been designed with elegance and effectiveness by production designer Florence Mauduech, who takes us behind the scenes of this summer campaign.
“It was a team effort. The client and photographic team devised a creative brief and provided an insight into their aims. It was at this point that I stepped in to study budget and feasibility as well as to finalise the writing alongside the photographer. ” Indeed, the photographers asked the production designer – usually approached for film sets – to get on board with the project from the initial conversations about preparing for the shoot. After reading the script several times, she put forward several design concepts to them. While several universes were originally in the pipeline, the creative team settled on a timeless symbol in the art of travel: the train. “We decided on one big set, more polished in appearance, because we could mainly see it unfolding on the train.” It was in creating the setting for this campaign that the production designer’s expertise really came in. Once the artistic direction was outlined, Florence Mauduech was responsible for its execution and implementation. To this end, she recruited and led the managers tasked with making decorative elements in the workshop. “With our mood-board as the starting point, we had to think intelligently about every element in the workshop so that the lights and other photographic equipment could be incorporated.” Every detail was thought out, from the luggage rack to the shelving and curtains. “Where we would usually have fun with the décor and toy with a more dreamlike world, we decided to keep it all very realistic, which in a train means using metal and lacquer – shiny materials that tend to be used in photography on a very seldom basis. It was an ambitious choice on the part of the photographers. The seats were the main constraint. We looked everywhere; we scoured almost the whole of France, but the seats were either too vintage or too damaged… In the end, we decided to make them ourselves. ”
The production designer then oversaw the installation and removal of the backdrops during the shoot. The final stage consisted of adding props, a few everyday objects that would accompany passengers on their travels: suitcases, binoculars, compasses and nautical instruments. Through this minute attention to detail, Florence Mauduech has brought the photographers’ vision to life and together they play on the viewer’s perception. “The universe of the set completely changes according to the interplay between props, the projected landscape and the change of actor ”. Sometimes surreal, sometimes underwater and occasionally even in uncharted territories, this is a comprehensive journey around the world.
“Creating an entire set for a photo shoot was quite ambitious, but a backdrop like this offers the possibility of producing lots of photos,” explains Florence Mauduech, who moves away from the beaten track with this project. A production designer specialising in the universe of luxury and beauty, she has designed sets for prestigious houses such as Yves Saint Laurent and Isabelle Marant, as well as for French retailers like Super U. “The theme of the train and this scale were therefore new for me – usually I would have designed the whole train and played on the effects of scale.”
Ultimately, the narrative images take us on a trip to unknown lands alongside an almost personified bottle of Taittinger champagne, but it’s not the destination that counts – it’s the journey.