Since its launch more than seven years ago, Airbnb has become one of the most popular websites to list, find and book lodging. With more than 1 million listings in nearly 200 countries, the travel industry’s most fascinating startup makes it easy for anyone to get away.
A few years ago, Airbnb began supplementing their rental listings with unique, visual neighborhood guides for some of their most popular destinations. The guides give a hyperlocal look at what there is to do and see in some of the world’s greatest cities. Earlier this month, Airbnb published their latest guide, which focuses on Israel’s second largest city: Tel Aviv. They commissioned Jerusalem-based photographer David Vaaknin to photograph the best of bustling Tel Aviv, from beaches along the Mediterranean coast to dive bars in the city’s most diverse neighborhood.
The assignment allowed David to mix his editorial aesthetic with some very challenging commercial work. Check out the photos and read a Q&A below!
How does this project fit into your photographic style? How did you get involved with this?
Travel and lifestyle photography are some of my specialties, and when I was approached by Airbnb’s photo editor Samantha Cooper with an offer to shoot the Tel Aviv neighborhood guide for them, I thought it was a really great opportunity. The creative brief fit my style and I saw it as a chance to expand my Tel Aviv portfolio, which I thought was a bit weak since I mainly shoot in and around Jerusalem.
What neighborhoods did you shoot? Did you have input in what they chose to feature or was there a set shot list?
I was given a list of neighborhoods which included Tel Aviv’s main neighborhoods that are an attraction to visitors from around the world. They feature the city’s unique and vibrant Israeli lifestyle. Each neighborhood included a list of highlights to shoot, but I was also given the freedom to shoot things I thought were interesting and deserved attention. This is why Airbnb usually chooses local photographers. I felt my input and judgment were just as important as the locations which were highlighted, and I think that’s a great feeling as a creative professional.
What were the challenges involved with this project?
The main challenge for me was getting used to the fact that this was a commercial shoot that had to be done in an editorial style. Most of my work is editorial, which I usually prefer, and I think it took me a couple of days to switch to a completely different mindset of shooting an assignment like this, with all the nuances and limitations of commercial photography with an editorial, creative feel. I had to be very aware of what I was allowing into the frame.
Another challenge was the very tight deadline I was facing. In this case, my editorial experience of working with a variety of media outlets and being used to tight deadlines really paid out.
Also, a big challenge was shooting for about 8 consecutive days in the Tel Aviv summer weather (90 degrees Fahrenheit with about 70 percent humidity on average).
What was involved in planning/preproduction?
I did a bit of research online before starting and asked a few friends and colleagues for their recommendations, but since I had a very detailed creative brief to follow, I just planned my time carefully and especially tried to divide the locations to fit my timetable, especially considering the notorious Tel Aviv traffic jams.
What has the reaction to the images been so far?
Most major news websites in Israel covered the launch of the neighborhoods guide on their tourism sections, and I’ve received really great feedback about my work from the staff at Airbnb.
Did you learn anything through the creation of this series?
Wear sunscreen! … Seriously though, I think I’ve gained a lot of insight on what’s involved in shooting a commercial travel and lifestyle assignment of this scope, and especially on how to bring my creative style and vision with an editorial/photojournalistic approach into it. And, of course, now I know of some more great places to hang out in Tel Aviv.
Check out more of David’s work on his website, dvphotonet.com.