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This article was published on December 11, 2014

Balancing design-minded photography and planned chaos with Offset artist Adrian Mueller

Balancing design-minded photography and planned chaos with Offset artist Adrian Mueller
Keren Sachs
Story by

Keren Sachs

Keren is the director of content development at Shutterstock and Offset. She has previously worked at National Geographic, Martha Stewart Li Keren is the director of content development at Shutterstock and Offset. She has previously worked at National Geographic, Martha Stewart Living, and Williams Sonoma. Follow her on Twitter: @kerensachs.

Keren Sachs is the director of content development at Shutterstock and Offset. She has previously worked at National Geographic, Martha Stewart Living and Williams Sonoma. This post was originally published on the Shutterstock blog and has been reprinted with permission.

Offset artist Adrian Mueller didn’t know he wanted to be a photographer at first. Instead, the Swiss-born artist began his career as an architectural engineer. First drawn to photojournalism after he moved from Switzerland to the U.S. to pursue photography, Mueller soon realized he didn’t have the appetite for it.

Now a commercial photographer, his images are a combination of his original interests: graphically constructed still lifes and conceptual creations of food, liquid and lifestyle for clients including Jim Beam, L’Oreal, Martha Stewart Living, Ogilvy Hong Kong,  New You Magazine and Chef Matthew Kenney.

We spoke to Mueller to find out how his personal history is reflected in his work and how he maintains a thriving commercial photography career.

You make work that is very much like architecture in the way it is constructed, and it seems like your history in architecture is coming through. Would you agree? 

Mueller: It is true that when it comes to photography, there are similarities to architecture: structures, how light reflects off surfaces, order. I also like chaos, but I like to plan it out. When you plan it out, you can let go in the shoot and create some serendipitous moments you might not have thought of before. The approach for me is always logical, design-minded, and then let go and see where you can push it.

Adrian MuellerHonolulu, Hawaii – April 1, 2014: Aerial view of pool at Waikiki Banyan

And is this how you approach liquids?

Liquids behave in a way that we are not visually attuned to, because it happens so fast. We use high speed strobes to capture things that you can’t imagine when you initially sketch out the shoot. So you always get a better result than what you were initially setting out for, which is a wonderful feeling as a photographer and a good thing for the client.

Adrian Mueller | Two bourbon whiskey glasses stacked on top of each other with whiskey and ice

Adrian Mueller | Two lollipops crossed

How do you market your work and get your name out there?

At the beginning it was a little bit of everything. And then I decided to establish the main purpose of my work, which is to work with like-minded people. And then I had to ask myself, how do I attract people like that? Everyone expects when they hire you that you will provide great images. That’s a given. So if the process of getting there is really pleasant and fun and collaborative, then I have a feeling the client will leave the shoot wanting to come back again.

To me the social aspect is very important to maintain connections. It’s about having a visual voice and doing great work on a technical level, but also creating an emotional value. On the other hand, if you are perceived as unpleasant to work with, your career is going nowhere.

Adrian Mueller | Healthy dish of carrots, mashed potatoes, mushroom and spinach 

Adrian Mueller | Assortment of wild mushrooms on slate table

How would you describe the images in your collection?

The work that I am most in touch with right now is location photography I was able to do for clients (and outtakes from that) that I find very endearing and beautiful — graphic in a sense. But there’s always a human element. When it comes to food photography, I push my best work. Work that is not only appetizing, but images that create an emotional connection for the viewer.

What made you decide to license your imagery with Offset?

With Offset, I felt that I could create an additional online presence for my work because I could clearly see there is a purpose behind the relationship. There is a clear understanding that the artist is an integral part of the business and that interaction is essential. If I have an additional online presence that is curated in a way that really shows my best work, then it can only be positive for promoting my work.

Adrian MuellerStand up paddlers near Ala Moana Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii at dusk

Your wife is a food stylist. What is that dynamic like when you work together?

She is very professional and is very good at what she does. She respects the way I work and we always go into a shoot prepared. We don’t bring our personal dynamic to the set, which is great, because if I tell her I need something, I am telling her in a stylist/photographer relationship, not as husband and wife. We are not marketing ourselves as a team; we are making our own work and then working together sometimes. It’s very helpful for personal work.

I would imagine that every meal at your house is perfectly styled with great light and ready to be photographed.

It is true. My wife does pay attention to detail. It is innate to her culture (she is from Japan). It’s the extent of a personal project we’re working on now — a library of imagery documenting our meals that will eventually be a catalog of breakfast, lunch and dinner for 365 days.

Adrian Mueller | Steaming hot tea

Where do you see your career going over the next few years?

In the near future, I am going to continue working with Matthew Kenney Cuisine (who I have shot four cookbooks with) on an iPad cookbook and social media promotions.

I want to continue doing personal work. An editorial client I’ve been working for this year has allowed me to be creative and open and free. That’s something I want to push in my spare time as well.

I also want to continue doing work with drinks and liquids, which are some of the most interesting shoots I’ve been doing so far technically — often using a combination of retouching and CGI to create beautiful things out of mundane objects.

Offset artists are visual storytellers with a deep passion for their craft. Images in the Offset collection are gathered from world-class and award-winning assignment photographers, illustrators, and agencies, with a focus on unique content with narrative, authentic, and sophisticated qualities. 

Top image: Abstract still life of beer bottle by Adrian Mueller

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