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Gray-Malin-Bora-Bora-print-featured-on-Little-Big-Bell-blog

I was so excited to have recently received a beautiful piece of art from my friend Gray Malin.

It was not just any piece of art, but one of Gray’s much coveted photographic prints. Even more special, it was a print of one of his most recent projects at Bora Bora, a collaboration with Le Meridien hotel. I was so honoured to be one of the first to see the reveal in London.

You can spot my beautifully framed print on my living room shelf. I styled the shelf with pops of blue, to complement the blue of  Bora Bora’s ocean.

I first met Gray in Barcelona, when I was invited to hear about his Follow me‘ work commissioned by Le Meridien. ‘Follow me’ showcased the hotel group’s various destinations with stunning, creative photography and videos.

Gray’s work is super colourful. Being a lover of colour myself, I knew we would get on well.

For this post, I thought it would be fun to interview Gray and delve into his creative process. You will also get to see some of his other photography at different locations. Gray-Malin-photo-by-Geraldine-Tan-Little-Big-Bell This is a photo of Gray that I shot in Barcelona last Summer. Let the interview begin:

1. How did the partnership with Le Méridien start?

A testament to today’s digitally-connected world, our partnership was sparked because of social media!

Their team had seen the work I was doing on Instagram – photography that brings to life different locales through an unexpected lens, combining whimsy and wanderlust.

Since Le Méridien is a brand all about unlocking destinations for creative and curious-minded travelers, a conversation began from there about what our brands could do together.

At the start I was given this beautiful brand book that allowed me to understand the history; how Le Méridien was born from Air France in the 1970s; how they grew and how their passions were around culture, food, and art; and how they were really looking for a partner who could help encapsulate and unlock this.

From there, we developed this series called “Follow Me” as part of their Video Art Programme, which brought my work into all of their signature Le Méridien Hubs around the world and brought my photography to their artfully-designed hotel keycards, and brought us to Barcelona, Bhutan and Bora Bora for some fantastic projects. Gray-Malin-Bora-Bora-Le-Meridien-unlocking-destinations-Little-Big-Bell 2. Please describe your latest art series?

Bora Bora, our latest series – named THE ART OF LIVING – is inspired from a deep passion for interior design. I wanted to create a world for curious-minded travelers and design enthusiasts. I wanted to immerse them in a moment that captured the art of living and showcased the beauty of Bora Bora in one shot. Gray-Malin-Bora-Bora-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell “Bora Bora is one of the most iconic and aspirational beach destinations in the world – I loved its symmetry and its beautiful landscape.” The-Living-Room “The series is highly conceptual and focuses on the 12-15 design forward vignettes featuring an archetypal selection of mid-century modern furniture set atop the tranquil, turquoise water of the French Polynesia.” The-Office “This juxtaposition perfectly plays to, and was inspired by, Le Méridien’s mid-century modern approach to design – which is echoed in the Le Méridien Suite at Starlab, Starwood’s Brand Innovation Studio.” Afternoon_Croquet 3. Which is your favouite Le Méridien and why?

My favourite Le Méridien hotel is the The Parker, Palm Spring. It’s the closest to my home in Los Angeles. Welcome-Back-to-The-Parker-2 4. The photo shoot at the Parker Palm Springs looks amazing. Was it difficult to photograph animal?

Working with animals is difficult. For one they don’t speak English, so you can’t really tell them exactly what to do. I find them to be sensitive beings who have trainers and assistants. Basically they’re like Beyoncé! They have their own entourage which you have to manage before you can work with the talent.
All joking aside, it’s magical to work so closely with animals – especially in this series at The Parker Palm Springs.

In projects where I have worked with animals, safety is priority, we block off the grounds where the animals are being photographed. We always use rescue animals or third generation rescue animals which wouldn’t survive in the wild – mainly as, and in my experience, they’re calmer.

It’s a great experience, but at the end of the day, standing three feet away from a 400-pound lion is extremely scary – I could feel it’s breath – sometimes I feel my camera, like when I’m hanging out a helicopter, acts like a shield. Fun-In-The-Sun 5. What inspired you to pick animals for that shoot?

Sometimes it’s their availability, mostly I have these visions. For this series, I envisaged an Ostridge playing tennis, but these never quite made it to light.
I’ve shot two installations using animals at The Parker, Palm Springs. For the first, we wanted to include a giraffe, a monkey, a penguin, some flamingoes and a zebra. For the second, and this was a bit trickier, I wanted to shoot a lion, a tiger, a couple of raccoons and a camel! Skinny_Dip 6. Do you have any funny stories that you could share when you photographed the animals?

Of course. When we were preparing to photograph Zack the zebra, we intended to photograph him on a grassy croquet lawn, but he would not stop eating the grass. He wouldn’t lift his head for the camera no matter what we did.
We finally had to move him to the Pétanque field, which was sandy so it worked out well. It was funny as we all had to patiently wait for Zack to raise his head and smile.

We also have video footage of a giraffe walking over and giving me a kiss when I was standing on a ladder and a tiger popping giant helium balloons – which he seemed to enjoy thoroughly. aerial-beach-view-bygray-malin- 7. Your aerial view beach photographs always look so colourful. Do you add props for those shoots or are they just the way they are?

Everything you see, bar the new Bora Bora – THE ART OF LIVING series, is as I found it. I hunt the best landscapes to try and show the beauty of destinations around the world.

I have an extensive collection of images, so what you see is probably one percent of what I have. I obviously only choose ones that are strongest visually, of course.

I did capture one beach which wasn’t as nature intended. I happened to be flying over a beach in Barcelona – it was incredibly colorful. It stood out from the landscape. I started shooting it only to realise it was movie set. It’s the only staged beach to feature in my book, Beaches by Gray Malin. It’s called Neon Beach Umbrella Barcelona. Gray-Malin-beach-photo 8. How do your aerial bird’s eye picture work?

I take the aerial photographs from door-less helicopters. There’s no magic – there’s just me and a pilot. I lean from the side and give the pilot the angles I want, while I manually adjust the focus, the lighting and camera. I compositionally see the photograph and frame it with the camera.
It’s very much like hunting – we search for the scene, not necessarily the people or props, but more the landscape and its position – looking for interesting lines or shapes.

It’s a very fluid process that can be driven by things I can’t control – the weather for example.
It’s not so planned; it’s passion, danger and adventure – it’s far more than the end product people hang in their homes.

I really see the world from above as blank canvas and I’m using objects and people in photography to create a piece of art. Hyde Park is a great example. From above, all the pathways are amazing. Gray-Malin-poolside-photography-series 9. How long does it take to complete an art series?

The helicopter work, which can be seen in the aerial photographs I produce, don’t actually take too long to shoot. Series like these are all about timing, lining up dates and the weather. Other projects can take up to take five years – depending on their complexity.

10. How many people are on the shoots with you?

I have around 12 staff who work at my LA office. Usually I only take two or three people with me on a shoot. If it’s local, I’ll have a bigger team.
If we decide to go further afield I have to ask for assistance from people at the location, but for the most part, we never have a big team – just a couple. It’s a lot of planning and having a big team complicates this.

I enjoy working with people on the ground and with locals. They can bring a different flavor to your work – a new prospective – a layer of culture. Gray-Malin-poolside-series 11. You’ve travelled to some amazing places. Can you name your favourite place and why?

Cape Town in South Africa is my favourite place. I’ve been three times in the past three years. I’m very drawn to the outside landscape versus its city, which is busy and very urban. It has an eclectic culture and atmosphere. It has an exquisite culinary scene and host some of the most amazing upcoming fashion and fine art talent. Gray-Malin-with-Le-Meridien-Bora-Bora-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell That concludes my interview with Gray Malin. It’s so wonderful to get behind a person’s creative process isn’t it?

In fact, whilst joining him for a breakfast meeting recently, I got to find out a few extra facts about his Bora Bora photos.

He told us that a lot of his work was based on geometry and symmetry. He was very drawn to the symmetry of the mountain and it became the muse for his series. From there, he had the idea of building a mirrored dock that would reflect the sky. He then wanted to put something on the dock.

The mid century furniture seen on the mirrored dock had been inspired by the furniture he saw during his visit to Le Meridien’s office in mid town Manhattan called the Star Lab. He felt the furniture reflected the future of the brand. However, he also went on to say that the furniture reminded him of his great grandparents’ vacation home and so had a significance from his own personal history too. The-Living-Room I myself am in awe of how these photographic images were created. The mirrored platform was specially manufactured by engineers and shipped all the way to Bora Bora in one piece. I’m also in awe at how they managed to transfer all that furniture onto the floating mirror. Definitely not an easy project and so a huge congratulations to Gray and Le Meridien for pulling off this collaboration so well.

The images from the Bora Bora shoot will be previewed centerstage in Le Méridien hotels globally this Summer, engaging guests with a compelling 24/7 video art installation and behind-the-scenes video footage from the shoot.

A dedicated exhibition featuring a retrospective look at the partnership will take place in Le Meridien Piccadilly, London. The exhibition will launch on 5th October to coincide with Frieze London Art Fair.

I’m so pleased that Gray’s photographic print is now in my living room. I’m seriously contemplating on visiting Bora Bora soon. Gray has certainly unlocked this destination for me.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

( Photos of Gray’s print in my living room are by me, other photos are courtesy of Gray Malin.)

Gray-Malin-photo-by-Geraldine-Tan-Little-Big-Bell I’ve been feeling fully inspired since my return from Barcelona.

I was invited by Le Meridien Barcelona and Le Meridien Ra resort and spa hotels to meet and find out about their partnership with Gray Malin, the super cool and talented photographer from America.

Le Meridien have commissioned Gray for a global photography art collaboration called Follow Me.

The photos produced will adorn the hotels’ Hubs, a reinterpretation of hotel lobbies, that are visually uplifting social spaces, greeting guests on arrival.

Gray’s Follow Me video, a 24 hour visual journey of his photography and behind the scenes footage will also be shown around the world at these Hubs. Scenes will be added as he explores new Le Meridien destinations, from Bhutan (where he has just finished shooting) to Dubai, Seychelles and many more.

I really love how Le Meridien have embraced the Arts, paying attention to detail, such as with their Unlock Art program that partners local cultural centres.

Guests are offered complimentary entry to an affiliated attraction when they present their artist designed hotel key card.

My hotel key card had Gray’s beautiful photography from his Mediterranean poolside series and I got free access to Barcelona’s museum of Contemporary art.

Gray-Malin-1-party-pineapples-and-cocktails-Le-Meridien-Barcelona-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell After an enjoyable guided tour of the museum, I  returned to the hotel to attend a cocktail party co-hosted by Le Meridien Barcelona and Gray, on the rooftop terrace.

It was a gorgeous evening with a light breeze and the views were simply stunning. I was as transfixed by the views as I was those pastel pineapple lights.

As we chatted, we sipped delicious cocktails from glasses with rims coated with colourful sprinkles. I thought to myself, pastel pineapples and colourful sprinkles, I was so in Little Big Bell heaven.

Dinner was at the colourful Bananas restaurant and then we were back again at midnight for yet more cocktails to celebrate Gray’s work.

yellow-camper-van-1-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell The next morning, we were greeted with colourful Camper vans fully equipped with bottled beers in ice buckets and dress up kits to get us into the Hippie vibe.

There were also two Cadillacs, ready to take us to our planned event with Gray, at Le Meridien Ra Beach hotel and spa.

Cadillacs-Le-Meridien-photo-1-by-Little-Big-Bell Imagine, an open top Cadillac whizzing past the scenic coast of Barcelona, the sun was shining, the music was playing, so much fun and laughter.

Chatting to Gray, I found out that he had been interested in photography from a young age. He took a photography course at high school, and spent many a happy hours developing his creative shots. I wondered what his earlier pieces were like, I would have loved to have seen the evolution of his work.

He told us that it was a hobby, until he won the Dallas Museum of Art Young Masters showcase, it was then that he decided to pursue his talent.

Gray-Malin-decorates-Le-Meridien-Ra-Barcelona Le Meridien Ra was as expected, a beautiful and modern hotel of impressive proportions, sitting alongside an idyllic, white sandy beach.

Gray’s work can be seen throughout the hotel’s hub area. Above, his poolside series photography can be seen printed on a glass arch.

Gray-Malin-poolside-series-prints-with-Le-Meridien-hotel-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Here is a sitting space full of his colourful Poolside Mediterranean series photos, alongside design classics such as Eames.

We were discussing how uniformly spaced the swimming rings were in the photos. I was told that it required quite a lot of time and people in the water, to arrange the rings and keep them in place.

Gray took the aerial photo from the top of the hotel building, all harnessed for safety, and also with tall ladders and helicopter. This type of photography is certainly not for the faint hearted and those afraid of heights.

Gray is known for his aerial photography but he also takes beautifully styled head on shots.

I remembered seeing, liking and enquiring to buy the aerial photos of Central Park peppered with picnic goers and sunbathers, on the walls of the J. Crew shop counter in London. Now I know it was the brilliant work of Gray Malin.

Le-Meridien-Ra-2-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell So, it wasn’t all work. We were treated to Moet Ice imperial champagne, with fruits and ice cubes in golden goblets and Tapas.

Can you spot that yummy plate of Calamari? I so need to return to Barcelona just to eat that.

We also cooked our own Paella under the guidance of the hotel’s chef. I am please to report that our yellow team won the cooking competition, even though I was pretty much a spectator, cheering my team members on.

Dessert-1-inspired-by-Gray-Malin-poolside-series-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell This was just one of many desserts that we had. How cute are they? Donuts with icing like the swimming rings in Gray’s photography.

Yellow-espadrilles-in-Barcelona-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Yellow is clearly my lucky colour. We were all given espadrilles to wear for our adventure. Love how the Canary yellow stands out against the bleached white wooden floors and accentuating the yellow of my J. Crew Morag Myerscough tote.

So, our adventure was to get a micro experience of Gray’s photography by following a trail around the hotel. Gray-Malin-poolside-series-rubber-tubes-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell This was my favourite experience. So, it was expected that we would be seeing colourful rings, just like in his photos.

We were happily taking pictures until……

Poolside-series-Gray-Malin-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell these beautiful synchronise swimmers appeared with a dance to music. Then there was the most amazing acrobatic display in the water, with hardly any splash.

Gray has previously done a photographic series on synchronise swimmers.

Gray-Malin-destinations-unlocked-Le-Meridien Here’s Gray with the swimmers after their amazing performance.

Gray-Malin-flamingos-1-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell As with Gray’s other photographic work, we were treated to the sight of Flamingo balloons, dancing in the air.

colourful-sheep-Gray-Malin-photo-by-Littlle-Big-Bell and colourful sheep.

colourful-sheep-Gray-Malin It took me quite a while to capture this shot of them all together.

Discovery-balloons Helium balloons spelling out words are a trademark of Gray’s photography,

Journey-balloons-Gray-Malin. all positioned throughout the hotel as we toured the site.

Unlock-balloons-Gray-Malin-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell So, the espadrilles clearly had a purpose, as we walked along the beautiful sandy beach of Le Meridien Ra.

 

 

Le-Meridien-Ra-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Beautiful greenery surrounded the hotel’s beach club.

Beach-club-Le-Meridien-Ra-hotel-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Love the polka dots

Le-Meridien-Ra-beach-club-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell and the the contrasting Teal inner of the Beach club’s bar.

Le-Meridien-Ra-hotel-beach-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell More seaside views. I clearly need to return to this hotel with my family.

Beach-scene-styled-by-Gray-Malin-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Here’s another classic set up by Gray Malin. I am pretty sure the last time I browsed his website, the striped umbrella, maybe a different colour, was perched on an iceberg in Antarctica. Photographing that iceberg must be in itself an exciting story.

Gray-Malin-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Contemplating here as we snap our photos.

Gray-Malin-poolside-series-sailing-boat-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell The Poolside series created for the Barcelona Le Meridien hotels now adorn not only the key card and hotel coasters but here, hiding behind the palm trees, is a sail with the photographic print.

Back in the Le Meridien Barcelona hotel, there is also a grand piano covered with the same yellow image.

Gray-Malin-for-Meridien-hotel-Barcelona-sail-boat-photo-by-Little-Big-Bell Here is a better view.

Gray-Malin-poolside-photography-series I am pleased to say that I too have my own yellow poolside series photographic print, waiting to be framed.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this extra long post. I’m sure you will all agree with me that Gray is destined, if not already, for stardom. I can’t wait to buy more of his photographic prints. Watch this space!

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

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