Boston-based photographer Doug Levy knows his way around the city—but more specifically, he knows his way around Boston University’s campus, mostly because he curated hundreds of photographs for BU’s re-designed website showcasing their food selection in various dining halls and eateries across the campus. Doug captured images both of the lifestyle and food variety, two of his personal strong suits, and they conjure up an appealing campus atmosphere that makes Boston University stand out among the many schools in Beantown.
What was the goal for this campaign?
Because of their urban campus, there are dozens of dining options both on and off campus at BU. They wanted to update their site and promotional materials to better reflect the hundreds of menu options the school offers to students all across campus (and at all times of day). The school also offers many specialty menu options, including gluten-free, kosher and late-night dining that we wanted to highlight.
What was involved in planning and preproduction?
This project had two main areas of focus – food images highlighting nearly all of the available options and lifestyle photos of students in the dining environments. We ended up shooting 2 long days for the food and 3 for the lifestyle, plus 2 scouting/walk-through days and 2 meetings with the dining services team who would prep and serve the food. In the end, we shot over 11,000 photos, showed them 3,500 proofs and delivered 300 retouched selects.
Did you face any challenges with this project?
Logistics and preproduction were a big part of this project on many fronts – I’d never been a part of anything that went nearly 9 months from inquiry through delivery (and 15 months from inquiry until the images were live). While I was familiar with BU’s campus, we did extensive planning to ensure we were as minimally disruptive as possible. We had to work around the chef’s dining and catering shifts (they cater all the school’s large events in-house) as well as the school’s academic calendar. We ended up shooting the food images just before students were back last fall and the lifestyle images in early November. For those lifestyle images, all of the dining facilities were open during shooting, so we had to work around staff and students without interrupting normal university operations.
Because Boston University’s campus essentially is Boston, we also had all the typical issues of working in a large city to deal with: where do we park? Is that person a student or just someone who works in the area? What logos can we show? Is there a Red Sox game tonight? How much frozen yogurt can we eat in one day? For the food images, we had to stick with props that were available in the dining areas – our prop “shopping” consisted of finding the best of what was available in the dining halls and supply areas. At one point, our food stylist Cherryl went through hundreds of paper napkins trying to find the ones with the fewest creases. BU has an experienced in-house photo team, and having Creative Director Janice Checchio (who is also a BU alum and photographer herself) to coordinate production with the Dining Services folks was essential. She was able to secure rooms near where we needed to be and anticipate and avoid problems, both technical and logistical, before they popped up.
What was your favorite part of the project?
Besides the fact that I’ve never put my camera in a tandoor oven before? I think my favorite was the sheer scope and variety of the shoot. This job required that we execute both technically complex detailed food images as well as faster moving more fluid lifestyle images while maintaining a consistent look and feel throughout. From our initial conversations, it was clear that this was going to be an ambitious job to tackle and seeing it come to life was extremely gratifying.
See more of Doug’s photos on his website!