Michael Schnabel Gets Reflective for Lexus
Michael Schnabel has been capturing flawless imagery of gorgeous cars for most of his career. He’s mastered the form and delivers for his clients project after project after project. But every now and then he gets to work with a brand that wants to push the envelope, and when those opportunities arise Michael jumps at the chance. Most recently, he got the shot to work with Lexus again (after an award-winning campaign) and they wanted to explore the outer limits of what’s possible (and expected) in car photography. “On a previous project, we were very successful and we had a good relationship,” Michael explains. “We were building on the success and trust from the first project for this project. It was all about the New York vibe and a certain extent mood, atmosphere, lifestyle, but not too much about showing the car in its full perfection and shape and lines.” Michael used windows and other surfaces to add dimension and reflections to the photographs. We see only parts of the cars, or glimmers of them fit into a larger context and a larger experience.
Cars are the pinnacle of design: they bring together the cutting edge of engineering with the most refined taste. Any company would want to show off all that, but Lexus trusts their customers to recognize that Lexus is a lifestyle and not just whatever their latest model looks like. “They produced a super beautiful and rather fancy car, and they take a visual point of view with the story I was shooting for them where they are sophisticated enough to not even show the car in its full beauty,” Michael says. “Which I think is a statement towards the customer.”
Not only was Lexus willing to go in a direction counter to the rest of the industry, they’re also incredibly agile which made for a rewarding creative experience. Like on any shoot, Michael spent days with his team planning out every shot throughout a series of locations in New York, but when they arrived on the day to get the shots not every element cooperated. One afternoon in particular, where Michael had counted on bright sun but what arrived was rain. Michael was a little disappointed, but as he set up the shots and adjusted to the rain, the art director tapped on his shoulder and expressed how much he loved the new vision. “Here’s an art director who isn’t stuck to the sun, who isn’t stuck to a special quality and who isn’t afraid,” says Michael. “It turned out super beautiful. I adjusted myself to what it was, and that day the shots became even better than with the sun. So that was a really wonderful moment… It’s excellent for me to be given that freedom and that trust.”
As mentioned earlier, this isn't the first time Michael Schnabel has worked with Lexus, with a previous project earning a bevy of awards. Check that project out here.