By Erin Lentz
On a stormy winter afternoon in Aspen, Gray Malin is fresh off the slopes when we meet for aprés ski at The Little Nell hotel. Forever a style icon and dressed in a hip, flat-brimmed hat, white jeans, and black sweater, the polite fine art photographer, New York Times best-selling author, and CEO of his namesake brand, Malin is quick to admit he has a serious crush on Aspen. Smitten by the town’s history, beauty, and penchant for glamorous play, he’s launched a brand new “Gray Malin in Aspen” series, in addition to announcing a new partnership with Sentient Jet.
During a week-long winter shoot he captured scenes inspired by his interpretation of alpine society. The result? A vintage take on the pulse of Aspen Snowmass. Featuring playfully positioned locals and models in classic ski wear and such props as vintage Goyard and Louis Vuitton trunks, a 1950s Porsche, an adorable Bernese Mountain dog, he immerses viewers in the ski culture of a beautiful bygone era. Here, he explains the catalyst to his creation and where he’s off to next.
What originally inspired the Aspen series?
I first came to shoot in Aspen for aerial work in 2012. When came out, in 2014, it made me realize there was such a connection to my audience and the beloved town of Aspen. Two years ago I also started working with hotels–first shooting animals at the Parker Palm Springs–and then the Coral Casino in Santa Barbara (the first owner time Ty Warner ever allowed a photographer to shoot). Eventually, the idea and opportunity to shoot Aspen came up. So during April of last year I began working with The Little Nell.
What shots were most fun to capture?
When I saw the iconic sign at the top of Aspen Mountain, I knew it would be the perfect spot to photograph. I got really excited when I saw Buckhorn Cabin–it has such a European feel and I instantly envisioned that shot. We also shot at the Little Nell’s Paepcke Suite, looking up at Aspen Mountain. And I really pushed for Cloud Nine. It was fun to turn back time there and rethink the perspective.
What informed the decision to give the series a vintage feel?
My grandparents. They led a very glamorous life and left nearly 20 photo albums. They traveled to nearly 100 countries and I love looking through those albums. There’s something about that time period–the ‘60s and ‘70s–that makes me tick. As I found further success, I wanted to do more work capturing the feel of that time period. The Beverly Hills Hotel was the first one I did, and then I shot the Breakers in Palm Beach. I started a Pinterest board about vintage ski life. I’m an avid pinner, and use it all the time. It captures visual, creative moments to reflect upon.
How did you decide who to photograph?
It was important to me to cast people who live in Aspen. When I look at my grandparents’ photo albums, people aren’t posing. They’re looking at the camera naturally. There were nearly 72 looks and I dressed every single person. I hired someone to pull everything, but I did the color blocking, the story, narrative, gloves, hats–a lot of unexpected logistics, but I enjoyed it. Most locations were on mountain so we had to take everything up on snow cats. It wouldn’t have happened without The Little Nell and the Aspen community.
What is your top takeaway in shooting Aspen?
I got a real taste for the sophistication of Aspen. But for me, in both summer and winter, it’s about the beauty. It’s majestic. When I think of Aspen, I think of the mountains, the sky–it’s so beautiful it should be celebrated for that alone. It was a dream project.
Talk about your inspired philosophy to “Make Every Day a Getaway®”.
My photography isn’t meant to be just fine art. It’s a lifestyle. When you invest in a photograph or piece of art, you should feel a certain way. It’s escapism. And if you’re going to invest in my work, every single day I want you to feel like you’re on a getaway somewhere great. Travel has been a huge part of my career. Who doesn’t want to travel? It’s such a journey, and I want to bring people along as best I can.
What’s next for you?
I love the aerial work I’ve done, but I’ve also moved into a new chapter of my career with these new vintage projects. But if the weather permits, I’m off to shoot more aerials in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Select images from the collection will be showcased in the Living Room and Lobby at The Little Nell through President’s Day. Signed and numbered prints will be available as limited editions on www.GrayMalin.com and at the hotel’s retail boutique. Aligned with the philanthropic nature of The Little Nell and its parent company Aspen Snowmass, 10 percent of all website sales from Gray Malin in Aspen will be donated to Protect Our Winters (POW), the leading non-profit climate advocacy group for the winter sports community.