An Artistic Tradition
In 1909 my great-great uncle Hamilton King painted the first of his famous Coca-Cola advertisements – those instantly recognisable images of Edwardian ladies in stylish hats sipping Coca-Cola. He was something of a legend in our family and although he died in 1953, before I was born, I heard many tales about him and of course about his his sister, Millie, who was my great-grandmother. Our family was always full of stories and indeed our house had quite a few of Hamilton King’s paintings, including one of Millie as quite a stylish looking your lady, draped décolleté over a chaise lounge sometime in the 1880s. It is not the way most people picture their grand grandmothers.
Given the family history and imagery, I was quite thrilled a coupe of years ago to get a commission from Coca-Cola myself – to travel to Kenya and there do a series of photographs of women who were running the newly established water kiosks the company had helped set up to bring clean water to the community. It was part of Coca-Cola’s “5by20” project whose goal is to empower more than 5 million women around the world by 2020.
In shooting my portraits for Coca-Cola in Africa more than a century later, I felt as though I was in a way touching base with this old family connection. While my portraits did not appear on serving trays, as my great-great-uncle’s did, one of the portraits I took of a water vendor named Elizabeth in Naivasa, Kenya featured on the cover of Coca-Cola’s annual sustainability report.