21 Jul Blue Cadillac
Something has always drawn me to the boldness of Orin Swift, the legendary winemaker behind “Prisoner” and “Papillon,” cult classics amongst wine snobs around the world. He’s always been one to push the envelope, a rule breaker, never afraid to ignore industry standards set by the establishment always guised in the name of “tradition.”
“Rich, enveloping, vivacious, with perpetuating energy and tannins that rouse a desire for more.” This is how the description reads for one of my favorites by Mr. Swift, a Petite Sirah dubbed “Machete.” What I like most about this particular wine is the artwork on the labels. Every bottle is enveloped by a polaroid image from a series shot by Caitlin Mitchell. Each image features an African American woman, nude, with machete in hand, posing beside a 1970’s Cadillac El Dorado. The images serve as a photographic translation of the wine. His intent is to cause a reaction. To create some sort of emotion from each and every consumer whose eyes lay upon these artist depictions for the first time. For some, this emotion may resemble awe and fascination. For others, it may even be discomfort. And making people uncomfortable is something that Mr. Orin Swift has no problem with.
Imagery can tell a story unique to the eye of the viewer; it holds the opportunity for interpretation through a sense of feeling, time, and place. It has the ability to create an action or reaction. So when culinary masters Ryan and Kelleanne Jones requested original photography prints to garnish the walls of their new, 100% wood fired restaurant “Southbound,” we focused on what they would want that reaction to look like. Like Mr. Swift, the Jones’ are quite comfortable with breaking the mold. And when they told me they were huge fans of the winemaker and the Machete line in particular, it didn’t take long for us to agree that this would be the inspiration behind their wall art.
As fate would have it, my friend Jamie Britt just so happens to own a beautiful, baby blue 1976 Cadillac El Dorado, a car I’ve been obsessed with since my preteen years. To say I was excited to have this American classic star in a shoot of mine would be an understatement. I spoke with Jamie and he was eager to be a part of it.
For the model, I knew it was important to have a unique look for this shoot. Your everyday Charleston blogger/model just wasn’t going to work. We needed a woman with attitude who possessed an energy capable of traveling through the camera lens and punching you right in the face. I reached out to Salem Austin, an old friend of mine from Charlotte, NC. With shaved, bleached-blonde hair and embellished head-to-toe with tattoo art, Salem looks more like a woman who’d grown up in the underground punk rock scene of London. She quickly said yes to do the shoot and agreed to drive down to Charleston.
We all met up on a muggy summer afternoon; Salem, Jamie, my fiance, Leah (who happily agreed to handle style and wardrobe), and myself. We loaded the gear, and with the convertible top down on the baby blue Cadillac, headed off in the direction of “The Wastelands.”
As the name would suggest, there isn’t much to The Wastelands. It’s an area in Charleston off of upper King Street with large open fields and an empty gravel lot complemented by a grey cloud backdrop on this particular evening. With the help of some Led Zeppelin (at an absurd level of volume) and a little bit of tequila, we each settled into our roles for this production. Salem moved and crawled along the clean lines of the car, while Leah pieced together the next look. I shot until I ran out of film and the sun crept behind the distant greenery; long enough for the car battery to run out of juice after providing the soundtrack to our night for several hours. We were able to flag down a friendly passing car who provided a jump. The trusty old Caddy rumbled to life and smoke spewed under the white walled tires as Jamie steered the headlights towards King Street and home.
-Jesse Ryder McCann
These images will be on display at Southbound Restaurant, opening in Downtown Charleston on Cannon Street this fall.
Special thanks to Zachary Smith of Dalai Sofia, Salem Austin, Leah Adkins, and Jamie Britt for making this all possible.
All images are owned and copyrighted by Cane Road and may not be shared, distributed, or reused without their written consent.