Since Jay-Z first announced his new cannabis project Monogram last October, efforts to legalize marijuana around the country have sped up, suggesting we’re on the brink of a new era for recreational cannabis. So what better way to welcome the future than to look back at the past? Monogram has tapped creative legend Hype Williams to reimagine some of Slim Aarons’s most iconic photographs of socialites of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, imagining what Aarons’s vision of “the good life” might look like today.
“Slim Aarons’ work represents more than meets the eye,” Williams told Vanity Fair. “There is a certain taste level and quality.” Shooting at the famous Frank Sinatra house in Palm Springs, Williams and his team painstakingly recreated the key elements from Aarons’s original work, with a particular focus on color, composition, and energy. “As an artist I am a huge fan of all things visual, and I didn’t want to do anything to misinterpret his composition,” Williams said. “We spent a lot of time putting all the right elements in place and composting them properly.”
There are, of course, some noteworthy differences too. Aarons’s original subjects were almost exclusively white, and lounged poolside sipping champagne. The partygoers in Williams’s photographs are primarily Black, and though there’s champagne on hand, they’re casually smoking weed in a way that can only be described as glamorous. (The spectacular throwback clothes certainly help.)
On the set Williams played music to relax his subjects in front of the lens, but it was also clear to everyone involved that they were capturing history in the making. “I stepped back and thought that we are doing something pretty historic right now,” Williams said. “And that we are taking the time to carefully weave our sensibilities into an advertising campaign for weed!”
Williams, who directed Jay-Z in his second-ever music video back in 1996, spends his career capturing “attractive people, doing attractive things in attractive places” – which is how Slim has described his work. The first of the three part campaign, will debut on billboards nationwide as well as across the brand’s social channels, will be what Williams calls “a true representation of Monogram”— and of Williams’s career spent capturing the world’s most fascinating people.