Unveil Sonder’s new photography creative concept

Meet our Senior Creative Producer, Autumn Wood, and the talented photographer and Architectural Digest contributor, Max Burkhalter through a cross interview that reflects on our new photography concept at Sonder. Our new property in New York City, Henri on 24, was the first of many photoshoots to follow this creative path.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about you and your work?

Autumn Wood: I am the Senior Creative Producer and I am currently building out our Creative Production model and team. As part of this new creative production model, we also developed a new creative photography vision that shifts Sonder photography from real estate photography into editorial storytelling. I think that my background as a producer and director of lifestyle magazines has been very helpful in informing where we are taking the future of Sonder photography and I’m really excited about the new initiatives/shoots in the year ahead.

Max Burkhalter: My full name is Maximillian Burkhalter. I’m a photographer based in NYC with a focus on architecture and design. I’m originally from Houston, Texas and have been in Brooklyn now for about 4 years with my wife and two pups. 

Q: Could you explain this new photography creative concept you are developing for Sonder? 

AW: Our new creative concept for our photography is based on the principles of editorial visual storytelling- narrative, visually impactful and honest. Our goal is to create imagery that is not only informative, but evocative and inspirational. By putting ourselves at the guest’s level, we can create photography that connects viewers not only with the space, but also with the experience of staying in a Sonder. Because of this experiential/storytelling focus, we are able to create imagery that really stands out from the static, prototypical hotel and real estate photography you see online.

Q: Our new Sonder property, Henri on 24th in New York City, was the first photoshoot in line with your new photography concept. Why did you choose Max Burkhalter as a photographer for this first project?

AW: I chose Max primarily because of his stunning portfolio that captured spaces in way that felt connected with time and place and not just space oriented. His extensive work for Architectural digest and publications like Monocle also really helped him be a top choice for this pilot project. Lastly, he was a great thought partner on set, problem solving with our team to help capture the best images possible.

Q: What made you interested in working on this photoshoot project?

MB: I think the concept that was presented to me by the team (Autumn) is what got me most excited. It’s always fun to be part of a new concept or rebrand because everyone is more open to letting creativity do its thing and feels very collaborative. You’re not tied down to a certain aesthetic per se and can really explore different approaches. 

Q: Tell us about your creative process during this photoshoot at Henri on 24 in New York City?

MB: The creative process was very organic, and for me always has been. There is always a certain amount of pre production with shoots like these, but you never really know till you get on site what you’re walking into. It’s always good to be flexible and ready to pivot when need be. You can’t be afraid to try stuff. It doesn’t always work out, but you don’t know unless you give it a go. I think there is a way to balance achieving what the client wants while also offering input and some different creative approaches. 

Q: You’re a contributor on Architectural Digest. How do you connect Architecture and Photography in your daily work?

MB: Architecture and photography go hand in hand. I think of it like “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. While I have tons of respect and appreciate the amount of work that goes into architecture  and design, I think the process of documenting it and the relationships architects and designers have with photographers is crucial . I think even more so now. It’s a real privilege as a photographer to come in on a completed project and capture it in a way the architect or designer sees it. Also light is the number one factor in documenting a project. I think architects and designers think about it in a somewhat similar way in how a structure or moment interacts with space and light when conceiving a future project. I feel my role is to emphasize that concept and translate it to an image. 

Q: What makes a great photo? How do you pay tribute to a beautiful design using photography?

MB: I think you can tell thoughtful photos from get in, get out type shots. When a photographer appreciates the design or architecture it shows in the final images for sure. How do you approach and embrace the way a vignette or an exterior sits in the space it is in? Light and patience. I think for me it starts with understanding how important my role can be. I certainly don’t take for granted the amount of time a number of people have spent to get to this point. The architects, the designers, the homeowners, the builders, the landscapers, the marble and tile people, the list goes on and on. A lot of things have come together (and frankly a lot of money spent) to get to the documentation point and you have to be considerate and appreciate that. As we grow and build as a civilization, an unfortunate part of that can be tearing things down to make space for new, and sometimes all that will be left are those images. 

Q: What are the future photoshoots you are planning in line with this concept?

AW: We just completed a shoot at Laguna Beach and are starting to plan the next round of shoots. It’s still early days, but we are excited to start bringing this concept to other Sonders in the coming months!

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