Coffee…for some of us, it’s in our lives every day. And then for some of us, it’s in our lives, all day every day. I’m not talking about the caffeine crazed addicts that walk among us. I’m talking about the people who work on the farms every day to harvest the actual beans that go into our cups, the people for whom coffee is their livelihood. These are the people that Illinois photographer Seth Lowe profiled for his latest farm-to-French-press shoot for Zion Coffee’s latest campaign, “The other side of the cup…”
Seth has known the founders of Zion Coffee since before its creation, and since its creation he has helped out with many creative aspects of the business. The founders, Mike and Banu Hatfield, started their business with the mission statement “to advance the lives of small coffee farmers and their communities.” Theirs is exactly the sort of business that Seth loves working with—one that is doing good for people who need it. Seth works as much as he can with charities and organizations dedicated to social good, so he was as excited for the social goals of the campaign as much as for the creative goals, which also happened to fit his style perfectly.
Seth was very much a part of the creative planning for this project. They started with one of the company’s main marketing phrases, “The other side of the cup,” and then Seth had the idea to expand that phrase to say just what the other side of the cup is. They would take portraits of the people working at the coffee farms and fill in the phrase for them. “The other side of the cup is strong/passionate/has a future.”
On Coffee Zion’s website, they put the phrases over the photos, as well as descriptions of the farmers’ goals and how they are progressing with them, as seen below.
The narrative style of the shoot also aligned well with Seth’s style. He loves to shoot images that tell a story and follow real people, as opposed to casted talent.
My work has always been pretty narrative, and I like building a scene and story throughout the entire frame of my images.
The nine-day shoot took place across three different countries in Central America, and Seth says there was not a moment’s rest during the trip. They spent their time in the middle of the coffee farms, which are essentially jungles, and Seth said met his fair share of giant bugs, tarantulas, and lizards. Because of limited access to electricity, Seth’s ability to charge his equipment was always uncertain, so he had to be really conscious of what shots he needed and how much power he had in his lights and cameras to get them. Seth says he was perpetually covered in mud as he made his way up and down the rocky, buggy, coffee mountains for the shoots. Even so, the shoot went smoothly and he got all the shots, as well as some video.
People are able to connect with the photos really well since they are strong and purposeful portraits rather than just a documentation of life there.
The photos have been a huge success for Zion Coffee. The company is using the material on their website and in marketing to help tell the story of their brand and the people behind their brand. Seth and the Hatfields are also discussing making a book of the images and stories, and are definitely thinking of another trip down the line as Zion Coffee grows and facilitates growth for its farmers.
To see more of Seth’s work, visit sethlowephoto.com.