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Annie Leibovitz Shoots Stella Artois

A couple of days ago, Stella Artois sent out a press release that iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz was hired by Anheuser-Busch InBev to shoot photos for their Belgian lager. The photos are being released at the Sundance Film Festival, which started two days ago, apparently amid much hoopla. Which makes sense when you realize that Stella Artois is an “official sponsor” of the independent film festival, listed as a “sustaining sponsor.” They’re in fact the only big alcohol company sponsor, among quite a few corporate sponsors. I don’t know why that seems odd to me, but I guess I thought Sundance was supposed be about independent filmmakers, especially when the site also includes a donations page where they make it sound like your $10 will make a grassroots movement possible. Maybe I’ve become jaded, but the nearly two dozen truly big sponsors plus what looks like it could easily be another hundred more company sponsorships, seems counter to the principal of “independent” and their mission of “discovery and development of independent artists and audiences.”

In both the press release, Stella Artois Unveils New Campaign Shot by Legendary Photographer Annie Leibovitz and the Stella Artois website, they refer to it as a “collaboration” between the beer and photographer. But how is hiring a famous photographer and paying her to work a “collaboration” in any meaningful sense?

Merriam-Webster defines collaborate as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” That’s what brewers do when they get together to brew a beer, most times at least, but this just seems like a big company paying a lot of money (one presumes Annie Leibovitz doesn’t work cheap) to an expensive big-name photographer to sell a big product. Does that make it art? I honestly don’t know. I think I’m cranky and overworked these days.

Here’s some more press release spin:

It features British Actor, Noah Huntley and Ukrainian model Tanya Ruban and will appear in the printed fashion titles such as GQ, Elle and Vanity Fair, beginning in February 2013.

“Annie Leibovitz’s work marries artistic genius with painstaking craftsmanship to create timeless beauty,” said Emma Fox, Global Marketing Director, Stella Artois. “This concept is a personal one for Stella Artois. Our fans experience the beer in its finished form, but 600 years of brewing expertise helped make this possible. So we wanted to celebrate both the beauty and the craftsmanship that go into its creation”.

So here’s the results, or at least two of them. You can see lots of behind the scenes of the photoshoot itself — why you’d want to, I don’t really understand — in the Stella Artois Studio, what the press release refers to as an “online experience.”

It’s not that they’re bad photographs, but they certainly don’t make me want to drink Stella Artois. Didn’t Jeff Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer already do this in The Fabulous Baker Boys.

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