Joey L Employs Creative Solutions for Jose Cuervo
Almost all liquor is the resulting product of distilling natural sugars. Most rums are the distilled version of sugar cane juice, most vodka comes from distilled potatoes, and to make real tequila you must distill Blue Agave. The plant only grows in certain regions of Mexico, and like Champagne, if it’s not from that region or that plant, it cannot be called Tequila. In the middle of a multiple month whirlwind tour around the world shooting for the US Army, National Geographic Channel, and a stop for a friend's wedding, photographer Joey L spent a few weeks in Mexico for Jose Cuervo’s latest campaign. And he got to know these Blue Agave plants well. Maybe a little too well.
Fully grown, Blue Agave is gigantic: almost as tall as a man, and twice as wide. Most of the plant is made up of succulent spears in a three-dimensional fan like a pincushion, or a Koosh ball, and each one of them is sharper than the next. “They’re the most peaceful looking plants until you get near them and they start making you bleed,” says Joey’s assistant Jesse with a laugh. They were in the fields because Joey wanted to get shots of the jimadors, the specialized agave farmers who are experts at identifying the ripe agave, which can happen anywhere between eight and 12 years in the plant’s life cycle. The plants were so big that they were impeding the shots that Joey wanted to get, so he needed a better vantage point: Jesse’s shoulders. “I needed to get a little higher, so I turned to my trusty friend and assistant Jesse and climbed up on his shoulders and was suspended above the death trap agave needles,” says Joey. After they walked down those rows of plants as a single unit, there were able to get the shot. “It was way better,” says Joey.
Towards the end of the day, Joey wanted to capture a quiet moment between the jimadors, so they decided to set up a fire that the farmers could chat around and trade stories. They were going to set up the shot in a different location, but the sun was setting so Joey hurried on ahead to get as much time as possible. But his camera was still with his crew. “There’s a very small window of time after the sun sets when it still light out and you get this beautiful bluey twilight feel that will balance perfectly with that orange glow from a fire. But that window only lasts like 20-25 minutes max,” says Joey. “And here I was with this amazing scenery in front of me and these amazing characters to photograph and I didn’t even have my camera.” Eventually there was just enough hustle and Joey got his camera with enough time to get the shot. As soon as he got the image, the clouds opened up and it started to pour rain. Despite the natural challenges, Joey and his crews ability to employ creative solutions meant he got every shot he needed wrapping up the shoot with aplomb.