As our general technology continues to evolve, it helps to hold on to ancient practices that have defined humanity for thousands of years. The act of sitting around a fire, sharing food and stories, has been an integral aspect of our communal living for as long as we can remember—even if it’s not as common these days. Portland-based photographer John Valls aids campfire candle company Nunya as they aim to provide modern suburban and city dwellers with a compact hearth for their homes.
Nunya was started during the pandemic by Stephen and Mandy Becker, a Portland-based couple who had been making candles out of their garage since 2016. Stephen, who was working as a healthcare employee amid the pandemic, found comfort in the process of making candles from beeswax and began gifting them to friends and family as a way to bring some light into their lives.
Stephen and Mandy Becker had been perfecting their product in the early stay-at-home months and by September 2021 felt sure that they had a segment leader on their hands.
John was contacted by designer Christina Scott, whom the client hired to spearhead the marketing and design strategy for their launch. She was familiar with John’s work and felt his images could help to introduce the story of their company and its candles in a fun way that would resonate with their audience.
Christina knew from her previous work with us that we have a special skill for getting great results from teeny-tiny budgets.
At the onset of the project, the team began planning all the details that would enable them to accomplish the range of shots on their one-day shoot. John needed to show the candles in use while also providing the client with adequate product imagery for their website.
Bonfire-style candles are not well-known, so the imagery shows how people might use the product: at home, in the outdoors, with families, and at gatherings.
Working with his spouse and producer, Theresa Valls, John determined the best way to stay within the budget was to open their own home and studio to the client for the array of lifestyle images.
We offered our home, porch, and studio as locations, and also scouted a spot in the park across the street as an option.
As humans, our eyes are often drawn to the dancing flames of campfires, so John decided to begin shooting at twilight, working several hours into the night. This way the candles would burn brighter amid the darker surroundings while still showing the light illuminating the talent’s faces. They had a limited amount of time to work with so they provided the talent with the required wardrobe and creative direction in advance. This enabled John to work through each complex scenario in under 90 minutes as the day faded into night.
Once the afternoon light began to wane, we blocked out each of the evening shots in advance, which helped us move through the night efficiently.
John and Theresa’s hard work resulted in images that color Nunya’s website, advertising material, promos, and Etsy store. They provided Christina with the visuals to match their clever and playful brand personality.
We were all incredibly happy with the resulting images, and we enjoyed one more project where flexibility, loads of planning, and a resourceful attitude resulted in a win for our client.
Mandy and Stephen, who sit in the background of the image above, knew they could rely on the creative team that they pulled together for this project. Though they are new business owners, they trusted John and Theresa to help craft a narrative that would invite people to stay in with each other and help us all to rekindle this ancient tradition in our own homes.