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The Highlighter





Meet the photographer behind our blossoming May windows.

Photographer Michael Baumgarten came all the way from Paris to San Francisco to shoot our May fragrance campaign. We tagged along and made him tell us everything. HOLLY SIEGEL

It’s scent overload in here!
Normally I love fragrance, but when the dose is this high, it’s really a lot between the bottles and the flowers!

Have you shot a lot of flora and fauna in the past?
I shot only flowers for the first few years of my career. I traveled everywhere, like to Thai orchard plantations, and met incredible people, like a guy who was a plant collector. Some people collect coins and stamps; he collected delphinium flowers.

Is it harder to shoot flowers indoors and picked versus outdoors and living?
You can really take your time outdoors. When they’ve been picked, the heat, the humidity, the situation of it, it makes them die faster. Indoors is much harder. It’s like a living element.

How did you go about planning this elaborate set?
The idea started off as a hanging garden, but [the Creative team and I] had decided on a more contemporary element like a graphic, unfolding kaleidoscopic thing, to give it more structure. We are shooting more than one layer, a bit like Victorian theater or a pop-up book. We decided to stay away from yellow, because it’s too summery, and stay away from very dark greens. They were worried about it being dark. We wanted the lightness and freshness. You need to feel like a bee would feel happy in there!

What’s the most challenging shoot you’ve ever worked on?
There was one with Lina [Kutsovskaya, Sephora VP, Executive Creative Director] we did in Namibia. We thought we’d make it an African trek. It was only three people because we had no budget, and we had such limited resources that it was very difficult. We were shooting an accessories story, with cheetahs. We didn’t realize how hard it is with the rainy season, and then the streets are blocked off, and then the mosquitos come, and then the cheetahs go mad!

Would this shoot have been different in New York or Paris?
The edit of flowers is outstanding. We have very good resources in Paris but at this time of the year, I never would have gotten flowers like this. The climate zone is similar but they have much more variety at the big French flower markets up in Normandy. For the sake of the ingredients it’s great to do it here. And the playfulness: The people’s attitude here is so much more laid-back!

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