LEE SCHWARTZ

LEE SCHWARTZ

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

Palmer Schwartz Agency partner Lee Schwartz on producing an unforgettable campaign in the
African bush.

Maiyet F/W 2012 campaign, all photography by Cass Bird

On location in Kenya, photograph by Lee Schwartz

My creative partner Tom Palmer and I had been working with Maiyet for about 18 months prior to producing the brand’s Fall 2012 campaign, which marked PSA’s first shoot on location out of the United States.

Kenya is a touchstone for Maiyet — especially for its signature jewelry — so we scoured the country for unexpected locations. Initially, we decided on Lamu, an otherworldly island on the Indian Ocean. Cass Bird and Daria Werbowy were on board.

As we got deeper into planning, we learned from our local guide that, at the time we’d be there, spring rains from the Mara wash out into the ocean and transform the turquoise water into an unspeakable shade of brown.

Maiyet F/W 2012 campaign

Thankfully, a friend of Maiyet introduced us to Anthony Russell, another local fixer and fourth-generation guide who also happens to be best mates with ROLLING STONES guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Anthony suggested we relocate to southwestern Kenya’s Ol Donyu region, a game reserve accessible only by bush plane.

No production is without its challenges: Upon arriving in Nairobi, I was briefly detained and shaken down for $200 by some shady customs officials.

A pivotal moment occurred one morning when we were shooting; Daria was in fine jewelry, laying on volcanic rock, and Cass was doing her thing while blasting “Africa” by Toto on her speakers.

Maiyet F/W 2012 campaign

Maiyet F/W 2012 campaign

All of a sudden, our Maasai chaperones sprinted into the bush with their rifles and spears to chase a jaguar.

WE ALL FROZE.

Minutes later, they came back and were like:
Everything’s cool, keep shooting.

After that, the spirit of the shoot changed. We couldn’t plan for that moment, but when it occurred, a deeper connection was created that translated to the images.

They’re RAW, REAL, and UNEXPECTED.

— as told to The Thick

Did you see? Artist and photographer Tasya van Ree shares antique cameras she’s acquired through the years, accessories designer Rupert Sanderson takes a road trip across Tuscany.

Maiyet F/W 2012 campaign