This week we sat down with the Brand Marketing staff from Marriot International and its luxury hotel brand The Ritz-Carlton. Their headquarters are just outside of DC, in Bethesda, Maryland, so Executive Producer Craig Oppenheimer and I hopped in the car and headed south. It marked our third trek to DC in two months! It seems like the DMV area has become a hotbed of activity for us.
Since we only had one meeting this trip, we wanted to make it count. Through our email correspondence, we knew The Ritz-Carlton is primarily looking for lifestyle photography. With that in mind, we brought hospitality portfolios that feature lifestyle photography. Among our selections were some fantastic books from photographers like David Murphey, Steve Boxall, Francisco Estrada, Albert Law, Mario Madau and Jiri Lizler. As well, WM’s lead Photo Editor Molly Glynn and I also just had the opportunity to do a portfolio edit for the amazing Miami-based photographer Barry Grossman, whose work also fit well with this group.
When we arrived at Marriott headquarters, we were greeted by Anne, a kind woman curious about Federal Donuts (we had brought a dozen of Philly’s finest). She spoke of a Baltimore bakery that has the “best donuts on the east coast.” We assured Anne that she was mistaken and directed her to Google, where we thought she might learn the truth. She, in turn, directed us to some very comfortable seats in the lobby.
The lobby and first floor of the headquarters were intriguing. At first glance, it looked like a hotel lobby, but as we made our way to the first-floor conference room, the vibe changed. While you could still feel the concern for hospitality, the energy became more productive. The farther we ventured from the lobby, the more this energy grew, until we began seeing people moving in and out of a variety of different meeting rooms. There were conference rooms, huddle rooms, and phone booth-sized rooms for calls. They even had meeting rooms with treadmill desks! And if the treadmill meetings sapped an employee’s energy, nap pods were available, which, as you can see below, Craig very much enjoyed.
Our room didn’t have anything fancy, but it was very accommodating. As we waited for our contacts, we got ready for the meeting — connecting to the presentation monitor and laying out portfolios. Not long after we set up, our contacts arrived, and we began.
After finishing the presentation, we looked through portfolios and chatted about the Marriott and Ritz. We knew they were looking for more lifestyle images for their properties. What we learned is the photography needs to have a luxurious, fashionable feel to it. They wanted their pictures to look natural and candid, instead of posed and smiley. It was also important for the images to have a narrative quality. The goal is to create images of beautiful people interacting with the hotel in authentic ways. They referred to Martin Morrel as a photographer who had conveyed this sensibility in the past.
While not all of our portfolios were able to strike that chord, our contacts appreciated the work of Martin Westlake and Lauryn Ishak. We also showed a few of our members’ websites, which is pretty unusual for us. Of those photographers, they liked Antonio Saba, Raymond Patrick, and Jason Varney.
Antonio Saba particularly interested them, in part because he lives in Dubai. As it turns out, Dubai is the perfect location to work in the Middle East. Some countries will not accept passports from all Middle Eastern countries, so Marriott has struggled to source photos from this part of the world. However, the United Arab Emirates seems to accept most countries and most countries accept UAE passports. Plus, there are already several properties in UAE to shoot.
Finally, we learned about two exciting products that Marriott is launching soon. First, Marriott is launching a booking service that allows guests to see the actual room they will rent, including the view from the window. The second product, which we learned just after our meeting, is a Marriott-backed Air BnB-like service. Their idea is for guests to book luxury homes in Air BnB while allowing guests to earn and use points during the process.
Exciting things are coming from The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott! We look forward to seeing how Wonderful Machine and our photographers will support Marriott in the future.
If we don’t already have your portfolio, please send it over so we can share it! If you have any questions about portfolio events, reach out! We would love to take your portfolio with us on our next trip.