Isaac Lane Koval: When Paths Cross
Since he began shooting ten years ago, Portland photographer Isaac Lane Koval has dreamed of working with REI as a client. This past summer, a creative director who loved Isaac’s work was hired as REI’s campaign creative director. He called Isaac up and dream come true, they got cracking on REI’s 2016 spring campaign, "Every Trail Connects."
Isaac’s goals and REI’s goals happened to match up perfectly for this campaign. As so many brands are these days, REI is making a push to tell more complete stories with their campaigns. By doing this, they hope to connect with REI members and customers in a more complete way. As a photographer, Isaac has also been focusing on creating photos with a little more of a narrative to them and was really pleased to push that further with this project.
We accomplished this in two ways. One through activity-based stories (with the product in action) and the other through showcasing stories of stewards and movement-leaders for each of the three trails.
My goal is to tell a story, whether through just one photo or a series. Being a storyteller has definitely become a cliché buzzword…but for good reason. Being able to tell a compelling story through photos has a more lasting impact than just a pretty photo. The REI project fit right in with my aim to tell better stories.
The campaign called for Isaac to follow the journeys of three “trail stewards,” people who had their own causes for walking the Appalachian, Arizona, and Bay Area Ridge trails respectively. War veteran Rob McCann walked to raise money and awareness for other veterans, as well as commemorate his friend’s death. Chris Braidhair, a Navajo Native American, walked on behalf of the Arizona Conservation Corps, an organization dedicated to preserving the land Chris was taught through his culture to love. José Gonzalez walked as a leader for “Latino Outdoors,” a group he started in order to connect Latino students to nature and their communities.
I got to help bring awareness to these incredible stories through my photos. When I’m just as passionate about shooting a client job as I am about personal work, that’s the sweet spot.
Half of the campaign involved no product at all; it was just stories of people doing acts of service, the types of stories that speak to the REI community even if the product isn’t there.
With 27 days of shooting, 7 different cities and towns, 9 flights, and many 16-18 hour days, this project had Isaac and his crew in constant go mode. Isaac says that having a good crew with positive energy is invaluable in situations like this, and it’s the only way to have a successful experience. “We would be at the end of a 16-hour day and everyone would still be in good spirits,” he notes.
This dream of an assignment ended just in the nick of time. The night they wrapped, a big storm came in, removing all the green from the trees and leaving the landscapes completely amiss for the spring look they were trying to capture (in autumn). “The next morning we awoke to the leaves awash in brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. Not a green leaf left in the park,” says Isaac.
Isaac’s images have been all over REI’s website, in their in-store displays, in their catalog, online ads, and other mediums. Isaac has already shot their summer campaign, which is just starting to roll out!