As beer drinkers, we probably don’t pay much attention to bottle caps – it’s usually nothing but the last barrier between our lips and the liquid we want. At best, the caps wind up in the trash, at worst, they tossed out on the ground to rust.

Many brewers, however, spend a great deal of effort on crafting just the right cap, sometimes even tucking hidden messages on the underside (Oregon’s Deschutes Brewing congratulates drinkers on opening a bottle with a hearty “Bravely Done” message). When well done, a cap is like a mini-label, with its own personality and story.

San Francisco photographer Charly Franklin found that beauty in a different environment: on those caps left to rust. He found an old, deteriorating Corona beer cap in his yard and realized that it would make a good photo subject. In the year since, he has photographed dozens of caps from producers all over the world. Some he found on the street, some he bought and left outside to become distressed naturally in his yard.

“Other than leaving them outside, I don’t alter them,” he told me after I visited his site this week. “A lot of them don’t rust in any interesting way. Anyway, I’m really excited about the results I am getting.”

The images are haunting and beautiful. The prints blow up the images many time their natural size, bringing out details of the graphics and of the rust and damage that are difficult to see in person.

And so far, he said, no breweries have tried to challenge his use of the images on the caps on trademark grounds. Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing Company even hailed the project on its Facebook page this week.

 

Here’s the complete project catalog.

 

UPDATE, 7/19: Charly writes to add, on the trademark issue, based on his many years shooting stock photos for an agency: “it’s my understanding that legally I can take a picture of anything, make prints and sell the prints.   What I cannot do is sell the USE of the image with someone else’s product, for advertising or any other purpose… but I can sell prints of my photos.”

– Sean Scully