Charlie was a sinner. is an unconventional cocktail bar with wall-to-wall art and deep velvet hues, serving equally decadent plant-based small plates.
Marquis & Co.’s ability to create clever, cult-favorite brands shines through at Charlie. Tasked with shooting the new Spring menu, we wanted to preserve the character of the original brand while establishing a refreshed photo direction inspired by fashion and retail.
The goal was to create a unique photo style that was flexible and manageable enough to be reproduced and applied seasonally to future menus, while still being beautiful, distinct, and provide brand recognition.
We produced a lifestyle photoshoot that matured the brand’s visual storytelling efforts and created the opportunity for strategic partnerships.
Set the mood
A quality image of cocktail or dish on a surface has become the standard. Our goal was to push the envelope and blur the lines between editorial fashion and food photography.
How could we capture the menu items in a visually interesting and unexpected manner while maintaining the brand persona (the beret-wearing film student who is obsessed with Bukowski novels)?
Articulating this vision required a carefully curated mood board to share with partners. We aimed for a combination of editorial and perfume photography, a ’50s aesthetic that’s halfway between a movie star and secretary – and a pop-art inspired use of shadows and stark lighting. Our visual tone was a middle ground between vintage and trendy, with a visual merchandising approach, that stands out from other photography in the food and beverage industry. When styling the model, we channeled the Pinterest popular Wardrobe Snacks by Kelsey McClellan, taking it up a notch with costume jewelry.
Collaboration is key
To make this vision a reality, we assembled an all-star team to collaborate with. Local photographer Ian Shiver’s experimental style and playful approach to studio lighting made him a natural partner. We racked our brains and networks for co-branding opportunities and reached out to Yowie, a female-owned Philadelphia retail store that champions independent artists and designers. Her curated, eccentric, and quirky homewares and recently added Flower Bar offered even more styling elements to play with, alongside trinkets we found at Aids Thrift and Jinxed.
Bringing the vision to life
Aligning talented partners around the same vision made for a seamless run-of-day. We learned that planning ahead shouldn’t prevent in-the-moment creativity. Building in a block of time to go off the shot list and allow for spontaneous styling moments can result in some of the best outcomes. Playing with off-brand props like jewelry and perfume bottles, we were able to bring the brand narrative to life and highlight the beauty of Charlie’s food and drink.
This photo direction and style can continue to evolve seasonally and create content that lives on and inspires others.
The end product feels more like art than food photography, a result of pulling inspiration and partners from outside the food and beverage industry to create something beautiful together.