Vegar Abelsnes Hits Home with AT&T Connection Holiday Campaign

December 9, 2012

By Barbara Goldman

© Vegar Abelsnes

 2012 AT&T Holiday Campaign.

AT&T is all about connections, especially with family and friends at holiday time.  For this 2012 holiday season, they set out to show real people in real situations experiencing the best of the season with AT&T products.  To add to that emotional connection, they even went with the same advertising, lifestyle and portrait photographer they worked with last year at holiday time, Vegar Abelsnes.  Abelsnes believes in establishing relationships in front and behind the camera. His realistic and sincere moments of people and people engaging with each other are at the core of all his work.  Abelsnes lets the action unfold before the camera, resulting in images that are spontaneous, energetic and truthful – an ideal match for AT&T’s connection concept  for their brands.

In the past, AT&T has not used the same photographer in consecutive years for their holiday campaigns, but Abelsnes did such an outstanding job for them last year that he was chosen again to be one of the bidding photographers this year.  Ad agency Integer Dallas always does an exhaustive search for the right match for the AT&T holiday photo shoot. From a list of 40, they honed it down to a final three prospective photographers. Each photographer had to write a proposal including not only cost breakdowns but how the agency’s proposed concepts would be accomplished and even more importantly what the photographer would bring to the table that is unique.  

Abelsnes had the perfect eye for what AT&T and Integer envisioned. His working style involves a careful setup for each shot he does to create a more lifelike and truthful quality to his images. On his set, Abelsnes like to provide a relaxed environment for both cast and crew, thereby achieving more dynamic and nuanced interactions. The talent is able to feel free and at ease in front of the camera, ultimately resulting in a vibrant range of final images. He also likes to work handholding the camera to be able to move freely around the talent and capture those genuine and slice-of-life moments − all at the heart of the 2012 AT&T holiday connection concept.

The Integer Dallas creative team for the AT&T assignment included Executive Creative Director Craig Carl, SVP Creative Director Rod Stein and Art Buyer Colleen Dean. As CD Carl explains “AT&T’s brand is focused on the human experience enhanced by the products they sell. The agency concept for this year’s holiday needed to deliver that emotional connection while still showcasing the individual devices. Creative was developed to tell stories that would play out in the screens of the products. Lighting and environment were designed to work together across every image since they would be experienced as a whole within the store. The photography was designed to adapt to multiple store formats and deliver a unique holiday message to the AT&T customer.”

 Although Abelsnes did last year’s campaign for AT&T, this year’s production was on a much bigger scale, with more days of shooting, more locations and more talent. As he is a bicoastal photographer and had to shoot in Los Angeles, he also had the knowledge of local production, effects and equipment suppliers.  “Overall one of the more challenging tasks for these campaigns is that we shoot them in the summer time and it needs to look like a white snowy Christmas,” says Abelsnes.    Temperatures in LA this past summer were getting up to 90 degrees and above, a challenge for winter effects.  They shot in some excellent locations that included the Universal Studios Backlot (a favorite for Abelsnes because of the clock tower in Back to the Future), a theatrical stage at a high school and a lovely home location in Pacific Palisades.  For the wintery look, Abelsnes worked with Snow Business, the world leader in snow and winter effects. They have a proven track record having done snow and winter effects for movies such as Narnia, Pirates of the Caribbean and Gladiator. Even though they were working with artificial snow and winter effects often made from cellulose-based material such as paper, there is still a lot of liquid management that has to be done. Water is used to keep the lightweight particles in place and to moisten the areas around the fake snow for it to look real. With the high LA temperatures, the water would evaporate and then the Pacific breeze would move the snow around.

In addition to the heat and snow, Abelsnes and his team had to build large sets while being crunched for time. At the helm of his tightly knit and very able crew were producer Lisa Maria Cabrera from Tenth & Hudson, Carl Dove as prop master and Margie Eis Aghion for wardrobe styling. On the equipment side, Abelsnes shot with a Hasselblad H4 with Phase One IQ160 digital back, Apple MacPro Tower 6-Core, NEC 27-inch SpectraView Display, Apple 17-inch MacBook, Pro Custom Digital Magliner, CyberPower 1000W and Phase One IQ160 Kit.  Chris Nowling from 10 Digital was his digital capture wizard, and Abelsnes gives a great nod to the very competent people at OTMFC, Inc.  for handling lighting and grip.

 Abelsnes and his team had  another success story for AT&T and Integer Dallas. His images look and feel true to the best experiences of Christmas. There is  a fresh, inviting and exciting style that reaches out to families and friends and connects to the season. “Vegar is an artist that quickly understood the intricate planning necessary to produce the AT&T retail holiday campaign. With six store types and 2,400 locations, the scale and adaptability of the shoot was a priority. He understood that he was not creating an ad or single image but a 360 degree environment that enhanced the holiday experience. Vegar and his team were brilliant in the attention to detail necessary to create great work for our client,” says CD Carl.

The images will be used in AT&T stores in the U.S. during the  2012 holiday season. View his stop motion piece of seven days of shooting at four locations with his crew on Vimeo here.  With two years in a row, Abelsnes understands the real meaning of connection to his clients, cast, crew and audience.   You can see more of the world through the eyes of Vegar Abelsnes at his site, He is represented by Doug  Truppe  in New York City.

©  Vegar Abelsnes