In a pristine barn conversion with panoramic views over rural Aberdeenshire, in Scotland, Chris Labrooy struggles momentarily to sum up how he makes a living. “It’s really difficult to describe what I do,” says the 40-year-old Scotsman. “I get up in the morning and make pictures. It’s a lifestyle that gives me a lot of freedom to pursue different ideas. I have called myself a digital image maker working at the intersection of art and design. Does that sound a bit vague?” 

It is difficult to pigeonhole Labrooy because his work is largely without precedent. Having studied product design at the Royal College of Art, the young graduate became increasingly absorbed by the digital realm, combining his knowledge and understanding of tactile objects with a growing fascination for the surreal. 

Chris Labrooy

“I transitioned into the digital world after seeing the advances in technology there,” Labrooy explains. “I moved from making tangible, physical objects to making photorealistic images. What I managed to do in the digital world was capture those objects – render them in a realistic way – but with CGI and all these new digital tools there was no limit to my imagination. I could create any environment and place any single object into that context.” 

Labrooy’s past work will be familiar to many Porsche fans, using as it often does classic 911 cars transposed into dreamy, desert landscapes. Palm Springs is a favorite source of inspiration, as is mid-century architecture. But his calling card is the unexpected and occasionally ridiculous.

I like to juxtapose different elements and am always searching for those moments of happiness. Something like an inflatable flamingo or a swimming pool really symbolize happiness for me, so I always like to have those elements in my images and animation.
Labrooy Art

The reality of art college saw Labrooy side-tracked into painting and sculpture and cars were all but forgotten for a while, but an increasing focus on product design meant they would make an inevitable return. “Of all consumer products,” he says, “cars are the ultimate object of desire. They are such complex things, with unique and very specific identities.” 

Labrooy Art

With his unusual aesthetic sought out by big international brands such as British Airways, Nike and Apple, Labrooy was eventually able to indulge his passion for the automotive in the physical realm as well, buying a 981 Cayman with a PDK transmission. “I ran that car for two years,” he remembers, “but I wanted more. I looked through the classifieds and eventually bought a 981 GT4.” 

Having a Porsche on the drive would become a major influence on Labrooy’s work. “Once I owned a Porsche I became more aware of the brand and its motorsport pedigree, and really curious about the 911. It’s a very soft, rounded shape that’s a highly capable, high-performance sports car at the same time." 

The 911 has a unique, almost eccentric personality. When I’m making my images, the cars are like actors in a way, and the 911 is like an A-list Hollywood star, with all this depth and versatility.
Chris Labrooy

Today, Labrooy is the proud owner of a 718 Cayman GTS 4.0, a dazzling flash of Guards Red against the deep greens and earthy browns of Aberdeenshire in autumn. “It’s the perfect car for my lifestyle,” he says. “Because I work from home I don’t have to commute, so the majority of my driving is for pure pleasure and the Cayman is ideal for that. We’re blessed with amazing roads here and its compact enough to really fit the environment and the landscape.”

So the GTS provides another vivid and visceral dreamscape for Labrooy, not unlike the digital world he inhabits during his working day.  

Often I’ll get up really early on a weekend, about 05:45, and just go for a drive when it’s nice and quiet,

“The Cayman is an amazing aesthetic experience where you have all these different sensations  – through the wheel and through the seat. And then there’s sound of course. What’s not to love about a flat-six engine?” 

In 2021, Porsche brought Chris’s 996 swan design to life in commemoration of it being the first model sold in China, to celebrate 20 years of the brand in the Chinese market.

See more of Chris Labrooy’s work at www.chrislabrooy.com and follow him on Instagram @chrislabrooy.