Last winter, 10,000 feet above sea level and swinging from a chairlift, Andrew Maguire’s cell phone began to ring. Without thinking, he answered the call. Harsh winds and bad reception made understanding the caller nearly impossible, but what he did hear before the call dropped was that it was from Chaco Footwear. Anxious to reconnect, Andrew made it down to the lodge in record time and reached for his phone, only to find the battery dead.
Eventually, after some quick charging, Andrew made contact with the Chaco Footwear team and learned they were phoning about an assignment. Andrew had been itching to work with Chaco, as he felt their brands lined up quite nicely. The slogan for the outdoor footwear company is “Fit for Adventure”, a tag that can easily apply to Andrew’s photographic style. And, having recently set out on his own after leaving a cooperative, Andrew felt that collaborating with Chaco could be a big break for him—”a real game changer.”
After a bit of back and forth, Andrew sat down with the Chaco team to discuss his capabilities in depth. He believes his eagerness and ambition helped earn the trust of the client just as much as his portfolio had. Shortly after this meeting, Andrew was called in to begin brainstorming for their Spring 2013 marketing campaign. Above all, they stressed to Andrew that he should become as familiar as possible with their brand and what it stands for; “Everyone felt this campaign really needed to capture a more accurate picture of what it means to be a Chaconian.”
Since the brand originated in Colorado around the rafting and kayak community, they decided this campaign needed to highlight the “wetter” aspects and natural elements of the typical Chaco lifestyle. Therefore, they picked Asheville, NC as their backdrop, a perfect spot since the city is “home of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a thriving historic downtown, half a dozen rivers and good beer.”
Chicago’s Ryan Partnership was handling creative on the project with direction from Angie Diederich, who joined Andrew and the rest of the team in Asheville. The schedule was nailed down to four days to cover heavy trail, water, light hiking and urban shots. They ended up in Dupont National Forest for day one, in a few of the same spots The Hunger Games was shot—a gorgeous location according to Andrew. There, they shot waterfall and shallow river shots, while trying to avoid copperhead bites (“the things you forget to account for in outdoor shoots!)”. Then it was on to Black Balsam for a day of rolling hills and green mountains. Day three was a full on river day, filled with kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. The shoot ended on day four in downtown Asheville, which featured “lots of exposed brick, rusty machinery… and pitchers of craft beer.”
Reflecting on the shoot, Andrew says,
The number one goal was to capture real and authentic outdoor action. Some lifestyle work in the outdoor industry has started to look generic and forced. Our “models” for the shoot were sales reps for Chaco, who were all real outdoor enthusiasts and athletes—no strangers to long hikes or a full day paddle on the river. No forced looks or continuous direction needed. As a team, we were all super psyched on what we were able to capture in Asheville.
Returning home, Andrew got to work editing and retouching. Selects were printed and wrapped at the Chaco booth for an outdoor retailer show. The response to the imagery has been “extremely positive” and the rest of the photos have been launched across Chaco’s website, social media pages, mailers, in store displays and advertising. The campaign was such a success, that Andrew was called back to work on their Fall 2013 campaign and is now in discussions about Spring 2014.
After four meetings that took us from Raleigh to Greensboro, Kayleen and I ended our second day in North Carolina at Lewbowski’s Grill in Charlotte. There, we met with some of our Charlotte crew—Dhanraj Emanuel, Peter Taylor, James Quantz Jr, Liz Nemeth and Tibor Nemeth—and threw back a couple of cold ones. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince anyone to try Lewbowski’s specialty drink, the white Russian—but we had a blast anyway, chatting about photography, studios, stuffed foxes and just about everything in between. Eventually, Kayleen and I, tired from a day full of meetings, had to bid farewell and go get a good night’s sleep.
Charlotte happy hour.
Our last day in North Carolina began early. Refreshed and ready for another busy day, we made our way into Luquire George Andrews (LGA), an advertising agency whose clients include North Carolina Tourism, Carolina Panthers, and American Tire Distributors. We took some photos with their ginormous Christmas tree before heading into the meeting. Bearing gifts of danishes and coffee, we laid out around 15 portfolios and called the LGAers in. Several creatives were mesmerized by Cade Martin‘s ethereal photos while others praised James Quantz Jr.’s composite work. Our retoucher Janko Williams was once again a hit while anyone with dog photos was an instant favorite.
“You can never go wrong with cute kids or puppies on a promo,” one creative told us as we packed up our things. I made a mental note of this and said goodbye. For the first time on our trip, we found ourselves with free time before our next meeting. So we drove into Charlotte and gave ourselves a mini tour, eventually parking at Hearst Tower to grab some coffee and check our email. Hearst boasted an even bigger tree than LGA’s, so we continued our photo project before heading to our next meeting at BooneOakley.
Outside of BooneOakley
You may recall BooneOakley from AMC’s The Pitch, or seen them listed as Ad Age‘s 2009 Small Agency of the Year. This small shop boasts big clients like Bojangle’s, Ruby Tuesday, Carmax, and more. Of course, another Christmas tree awaited in their office, this one of the silver variety. After snapping a photo, we laid out the books and coffee cake and waited for the BO creatives. Soon a friendly and chatty group arrived and began paging through books. Leah Perry‘s beauty/fashion work was well received as was Cheyne Gallarde‘s vintage style. The meeting was fun, with lots of laughs. We also had a lively discussion on using animals in photo shoots, including one with a skittish serval.
After finishing up the BO review, we left for our last meeting: WrayWard. WrayWard is a creative marketing and advertising agency with a spacious office just outside downtown Charlotte. We finished our Christmas tree series in their lobby before spreading out books in an airy, window-lit conference room.
The WrayWard creatives told us they were most interested in home/garden work at the moment, and Cheryl Zibkisky‘s interiors stole the show. However, other favorites included Robb Scharetg and Calvin Lockwood for their portrait and food work respectively. The group was also pleased to hear about our stock and production services.
Once the meeting came to a close, Kayleen and I packed up our bags for the last time and headed to the airport. There, we happily handed over our giant cases of books to be checked. Relieved of that heavy burden and with plenty of time before our flight, we sat down for a couple well-deserved margaritas and toasted to North Carolina!
Thanks for being so inviting, North Carolinians!
Our Christmas tree project! From top left to bottom right: LGA, WrayWard, BooneOakley and Hearst Tower
13 locations photographed. 8 days on the road. 1800 miles driven. Several pounds gained. 1 state: North Carolina. These are just a few stats from Bryan Regan‘s recent assignment—which has already won two ADDYs, by the way. The job came from ElectriCities of North Carolina, who Bryan had worked with in the past on their annual reports. This time, he’d be shooting their annual calendar.
This year’s calendar featured the best BBQ restaurants throughout the state of North Carolina. The ElectriCities team approached Bryan with the brief and he quickly jumped on board. Soon he was shooting (and eating) his way across the state, photographing food, restaurants, chefs and patrons.
According to Bryan, this was a “dream job.” And yes, Bryan is a vegetarian. He made do though, eating hush puppies and french fries. He fondly refers to the trip as The Vegetarian BBQ tour. As for the dream job part, that came from his complete creative freedom,
The team just gets what I do. He said “just go do what you do.” So me and the writer Leigh Ann Frank spent eight says and 1800 miles driving across North Carolina. It was a lot of fun and I got to meet some great people. The best quote was at Parker BBQ in Wilson, NC. “Good food brings good people together.”
Bryan considers the finished images to be, “a visual journey of how I sees things.” However, his journey wasn’t an easy one as many of the shoots were in very small restaurants, requiring Bryan to squeeze around obstacles and tighten up his equipment. There was also no food stylist on the shoot, everything was shot fresh from the kitchen—which may sound great, but can make it difficult to have the food photograph well. Nevertheless, all these challenges just made the shoot more enjoyable and the images more compelling.
The assignment also allowed Bryan to meet a lot of interesting people, including “Pitmaster,” Chef Ed Mitchell. His portrait of Ed is one of Bryan’s favorites from the entire series,
[One of my favorites] is Iron Chef Ed, standing in the road behind his restaurant. Ed is such a humble man, and I think this captures him well.
Throughout his eight day (vegetarian) BBQ tour, Bryan says he learned a lot—especially about BBQ. “I’m glad I’m a vegetarian,” he asserts, “I don’t think I’ll ever eat another hush puppy. The owners of the restaurants were so excited about being in the calendar, they just kept bringing plate after plate of food.”
1800 miles later, Bryan delivered the images to the client, who loved them. They weren’t the only ones either—the final calendar has garnered rave reviews, and as I said, has already won two ADDY awards. Bryan would love to go on another photo road trip—maybe this time a vegetable tour.