The beginning of a new school year marks the end of another summer and a fresh start for students, and one of the most exciting parts of returning to school is buying new school supplies. For their 2014 Back To School campaign, Staples contacted Leah Fasten to create a library of images to support marketing across several channels, including in-store signage, online promotion and print advertising. The company was interested in creating imagery that felt spontaneous, almost as if they were snapshots, or “selfies,” captured on phones. This style fit in well with Leah’s preexisting education work, her personal project photographing lovers in the park and her Instagram feed. Leah was excited to play with the energies of these bodies of work and meld them together to see what they could produce.
I’m fascinated by connection and the way we look when we’re connected … how we connect with the people we love, the things we do, the places we go. I think about this in my personal work and always look for commercial projects that support this path.
Snapshots, the moments in-between, the mistakes, are appealing to me. When working, I’m much more interested in what happens organically then what I direct. The original mood board was snapshots and selfies from around the web, Instagram and other assorted snaps. Everyone agreed that a natural spontaneous photo style was the goal … even the talent looking at the camera in a playful way.
The creation of the idea came easily to Leah and the Staples team, but following through with that concept was a bit more difficult than expected.
Casting was a mix of real [people] and professional talent. Originally, this presented itself as a challenge as direction changes a bit for me when I’m working with real people vs. professional talent. For me, while directing, the key was to offer the space for all the talent to get to know each other. We shot in larger groups and the best photographs happened when we all forgot about the pictures and laughed and played on the campus. There was a spontaneous dance party in the gym, jokes and hilarity in a science classroom and a bit of wrestling in the quad, as examples.
From the beginning, this was a project about taking risks and playing. There was encouragement to try and fail … and then see what we had. We spent a lot of time in preproduction discussing how “snapshot-ish” we wanted the images to be. Once we were on set, we spent time playing with how much edge and spontaneity to give the photos. How produced was too produced? How spontaneous was too spontaneous? Each set-up could have it’s own flavor of snapshot feeling so there was a lot of playing with camera angles, moving lights around and trying different locations on campus.
The photos show real interactions and emotions shared between the students and professional models, while discretely showcasing Staples products. Overall, the shoot was a total success and a great learning experience for Leah.
I learn so much on every shoot. Every shoot is its own community that comes together and is a bit different with their own edges and peculiarities. It is so fun to play with these edges and peculiarities and see what we can pull from them.
To see more of Leah’s recent work, visit her site.