How Did You Come Up With That!? E01 - Henny-Penny
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Welcome to the 'How Did You Come Up With That!?' blog series. We show you what inspired us and walk you through the creative direction of a photoshoot. Today we look into our series 'Henny Penny'.
The photoshoot in question will be at the bottom of the blog, for your convenience - how nice of us!
I'm going to start with our last personal photo series we shot a few months back. The Henny-Penny, if you didn't get that already. It's been a while since we shot a personal photo series. We had a few months of heavy client work, and producing personal images on our previous schedule was unmanageable - why didn't someone tell us we're not superheroes? Now it's been a few months since the shoot so excuse me if I miss anything BUT it's a juicy one. It's got a few different forms of inspiration (art, environment, personal experience, history, film and a folk tale). A great concoction to get the ball rolling.
Warhol’s famous Campbell's Soup screen printings were probably our starting point of inspiration. We wanted to do a towering wall of cans several months ago (I'm talking since last October...) We bought a few vintage-looking tinned tomatoes to play around with, but didn't feel like the idea was developed enough, so we set it aside in hopes that a better idea would come along.
I suspect the next bit of inspiration came from COVID-19. In the first few weeks of lockdown our supermarkets were stripped bare and a lot of the long-life food was the first to go. I remember seeing this fragile-looking old man, shuffling along with a bare cart of only flour and milk. It broke my heart. Some people rely on the availability of cheaper food in normal circumstances, so when Covid happened a lot of people were forced to buy food outside their budgets, while those people who could afford to hoarded food like it was the apocalypse. Let's not even get started on the toilet paper. It was an ugly time for humanity. And humanity's buttholes.
I'm sure a lot of my problem solving happens when I'm asleep because I often wake up with fully formed ideas of concepts I've been stuck on. The idea was to have someone that was 'put-together', classy maybe, showy, go for a canned-food option in a supermarket. Not because it was the only option left but because they genuinely wanted to eat it. Wearing gloves not only hinted at 'put-together', but I liked the idea that this character cares more about her burger than a material item.
Canned and frozen food was heavily advertised in the 50's as a healthy, convenient option for the busy mother, and I believe our knowledge of that seeped though in the series. The shelf was stocked with real canned food options from the past (believe it or not) and we picked out what we thought were some of the most outrageous ones. Pork brains in milk gravy? YUM-O. Alex, who's a sucker for doing things authentically, even researched what the prices would have been for canned goods in the 1960s, and adjusted them for inflation. What a bore...
The supermarket shelving and red label strips are the real deal, which we bought from a shelving warehouse out yonder. Foolish probably. Alex says it will make a nice bookcase, with cans of sausage gravy and quail eggs as bookends...
The thought behind the packaging was that we wanted something fun, affordable (ink is expensive, and we foolishly bought that supermarket shelving...); something that we could print ourselves, review and make changes to; and it would have to be legible - we didn't want you to miss out on the French Toast Puree (maple cinnamon? you betcha!)
That lead us to revisit Alex Cox's 1984 movie Repo Man, where the supermarket in the film is full of home-brand products that look like something out of a Soviet-era supermarket.
You're absolutely right - that is Emilio Estevez.
Coincidentally, we happened to rewatch Jurassic Park (the first one - the good one) around this time and saw what must have been a Repo Man prop remnant (maybe the set designers were having some fun).
We decided we would do a fun homage to Repo Man, a wink and a nod to any film buffs out there. We went with a lot of yellow as it's one of our brand colours and reminiscent of a 1970s colour palette.
Now let me just boast a little more about Alex while we're here. Alex has an unbelievable knowledge of... everything... and boy! does it help when developing a photo series. He glues my nutty, unbalanced ideas with beautiful details and ties it all in a big bow. The name "Henny-Penny" came from the folk tale Henny-Penny, more commonly known as Chicken Little or Chicken Lickin' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henny_Penny)
It goes like this: an acorn falls on the head of a chicken named Henny Penny, and they think that it's the sky falling. They make their journey to the king to let him know and, they run into other animals along the way. The famous saying in this folk tale is 'the sky is falling!' and that's how Alex came up with the caption 'The prices are falling! The prices are falling! - At your local 'henny-penny'. HOW CLEVER.
I also can't help but feel we (as a world) thought the 'sky was falling' when news of COVID-19 was spreading world-wide. Maybe this was an unconscious link - where we didn't connect the dots at the time but it links well with the thoughts behind the series.
I hope you found this read interesting and will follow along with this series. I personally love anything 'behind-the-scenes' and learning about other people's processes. Our favourite part of making photos is the design process and developing the art direction. So naturally we've mushed the two together to give you a behind-the-scenes of our creative direction.
We post blogs weekly so if you would like to know when the next blog is out follow us on Instagram @threebentlegs
'Henny-Penny' April 2021