STORYTELLING AT ITS FINEST, DAVID YARROW ASSEMBLES AND PHOTOGRAPHS THE ULTIMATE CAST OF CHARACTERS FOR AN ODE TO 1970S ASPEN GLAMOUR.
World-renowned fine art photographer David Yarrow made history this spring while capturing iconc imagery in Aspen. The shoot featured iconic locations like the Woody Creek Tavern and Cloud Nine. Celebrities Alessandra Ambrosio, Kate Bock, Brooks Nader, Aleska Genesis and We Studi sported a 1970's ski vibe, playing homage to Aspen's glamorous past. Prints are available for purchase at Casterline|Goodman Gallery.
Sometimes, when working with a global star such as Alessandra Ambrosio, my inclination is to lean on simplicity and not worry about being too expansive in the wider narrative. She is the main event, not the snapper behind the lens, and the photograph should look out, not in. Th ere are moments to show deep deference to those with whom you have the fortune to work, and those are oft en my favorite moments.
Th at morning, high up at 11,000 feet at Aspen’s legendary Cloud Nine, we had to deal with an 8AM blizzard. But from the 5AM wake-up call, I saw the falling snow as an opportunity, not a threat. Meanwhile, Alessandra had been brilliantly styled in 1970s ski clothing and looked sensational, although I knew she would be feeling the cold.
This was not her natural habitat, but she is a very smart woman and able to play to a prescribed role even though Cloud Nine in the winter is a long way from her home beaches in Brazil.
The simple portrait is of a beautiful woman. She happens to be at a famous place high in the Rockies in a snowstorm. Her clothing is a nod to Aspen’s coming of age in the 1970s. I don’t think we need anything more to grab and hold attention; there is a clear vibe. Aspen, baby.
There is no more notorious or celebrated ski resort in the world than Aspen. From the bohemian 1970s to the current day, it has played host to every conceivable scandal and a legendary history has been firmly established. Some venues have contributed more than others to the stories of mischief, and none more so than the Woody Creek Tavern, a dive bar saloon just outside the town.
Woody Creek Tavern is famous for being the drinking home of Hunter S. Thompson. The premises are now owned by the likable South African Craig Cordts-Pearce and his wife Samantha. It remains a celebrated dive but is also a deliberate museum to the life and times of a gifted writer and dedicated rebel.
For this shoot, we found the best look-alike “Gonzo” we could find, made it an open bar on St. Paddy’s Day at the Woody Creek and then let events unfold. Famous Sports Illustrated swimwear models Kate Bock and Brooks Nader joined in the fun, and the bar bill topped $8,000.
There are loads of Aspen folks in the background, and I asked them all to be as refreshed as possible. That is surely what Hunter S. Thompson would have wanted.
Sitting proudly at 11,000 feet up in the sky, Cloud Nine is the infamous Aspen mountain bar and restaurant that hosts riotous parties during the winter season. Aspen is Shangri-La to both seasoned visitors and residents, and Cloud Nine, with its dramatic location and reputation for glamour and excess, is a part of the jigsaw making Aspen the most famous ski resort in the world.
My plan was to film up at Cloud Nine and style it in 1970s clothing as a nod to a period when Aspen really established its reputation as a bohemian paradise for the chic and the celebrated.
I photographed two great women: Brooks Nader, a high-energy live-wire who has worked with me over the last couple of years, and the wonderful Alessandra Ambrosio, the queen of fashion shows and modeling for the last 15 years. She is a joy to work with and has a fun and unassuming disposition despite her fame.
Th e only problem was that we needed to shoot early in the day before the slopes opened and the day was fixed. We woke up to a blizzard and freezing temperatures.
I think adaptation and flexibility are core to what we do. I saw the snow as an opportunity, not a threat, and worked the conditions into the narrative. It was the right call. All those familiar with Cloud Nine will, I think, smile when they see this photograph.
Shooting at Woody Creek Tavern on St. Paddy’s day was always going to be eventful, and the longer the day went on, the greater the chaos. However, I did have a very clear idea in my mind who would be the leads in my bar picture. I wanted it to be as character rich as possible.
For a start, we had to have a Hunter look-alike. There would be no story without him as it was his regular presence at the tavern that made the joint notorious. I placed him directly in front of poster memorabilia celebrating his life.
The other side of the wolf, he is joined by Alessandra Ambrosio, the Brazilian beauty and one of the most famous and celebrated models of our times. And next to her is the instantly recognizable Wes Studi, an Academy Award winner and a man the New York Times says has one of the strongest faces in show business. The Dances With Wolves star was a joy to have on set, and his presence was my nod to the fact that Aspen’s tribe has no boundaries. It is a resort that welcomes talent and does not discriminate.
The glam crowd on the left of Hunter represents the other side of Aspen patrons: the beautiful and the celebrated. We have Sports Illustrated swimwear models Kate Bock and Brooks Nader. And then Aleska Genesis and her boyfriend, Puerto Rican music star Nicky Jam.
What is the point of all this? Even from its early bohemian roots, Aspen, more than any other ski resort in the world, has attracted interesting folk. It matters not what they did careerwise, but the energy and swagger they brought up the hill. I look at this ensemble and I see it as a highly probable lock in one night at Woody Creek Tavern, before Hunter gets his gun out.
Woody Creek Tavern owns a special place in Aspen history regardless of it being an unassuming dive bar 15 minutes from town. For it to be an integral part of the fabric of the community suggests that the world’s most famous ski resort has a far broader personality than outsiders give it credit for. Locals do not need to be seen in the heart of the action, and Woody Creek has offered a haven for Aspenites for two generations. No local was made more welcome at the bar than Hunter S. Thompson, who lived just around the corner. It became his daytime HQ.
I wanted to build a story that leveraged the famous facade of the tavern, and the strongest idea I had was to dive back to the ’70s when Aspen was a loosely governed bohemian playground. I needed a focal point in front of the tavern, and the first prop we brought in was a classic VW camper van. Aspen caught the hippie vibe of the early 1970s, and my leaning was to refer to the understated glamour of the era.
Renowned models Alessandra Ambrosio, Kate Bock, Brooks Nader and Aleska Genesis all look the part in this image, which is no surprise as they are the best of the best. If I was playing to a vibe, I felt we should do it as powerfully as possible. It was, however, the goggle-wearing dogs that owned the day. It was a nod to that fact that in the rock ’n’ roll days of Aspen, there was no rule book other than to have fun.
I always sensed that the end result of this shoot would have to be printed in color, partly because we needed to do the period skiwear justice, but mostly as an homage to Aspen’s most colorful past.
“David Yarrow has documented and photographed stories of the West for many years, and it was an honor to welcome him to Aspen with such high-profile subjects covering a theme near and dear to the hearts of Aspen locals and visitors alike,” says Jordan Goodman, co-owner of Casterline|Goodman Gallery. Th e theme of the shoot combined a 1970s ski vibe meets Aspen glamour, while embracing the grit of several eras in Aspen history from the Wild West to the Gonzo era.
As always with a David Yarrow shoot, the vibe was fun, welcoming, fast-paced yet lighthearted. Aft er a long day with a call time of 5AM to get to Cloud Nine before the mountain opened, the subjects and crew celebrated with dinner and wrap party at the Woody Creek Tavern, truly embracing the spirit of this historic location. Th e imagery Yarrow captured that day is an ode to the history and beauty that is so specific to Aspen. Several of Yarrow’s works are exclusively available for purchase at Casterline|Goodman Gallery. 611 E. Cooper Ave.; Th e Little Nell, 631 E. Durant Ave.
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH CASTERLINE|GOODMAN GALLERY
David Yarrow on set
The dog stole the show.
Kate Bock and the Hunter S. Thompson look-alike
The crew huddled up during the snowstorm
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID YARROW; BEHIND-THE-SCENES PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAMERON YARROW