Mackenzie Duncan Imagines Clothing Brand Anian’s New Look

Oct 14, 2019
Photographer Spotlight

“If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling.”

This quote, attributed to actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., helps explain the ethos of Anian. The Canadian clothing company recently got a branding facelift from Mackenzie Duncan, and its practice of using recycled materials for its merchandise drew Mackenzie to the outfit.  

I linked up with Anian when I first moved to Victoria, British Columbia as we have a lot in common in terms of our beliefs. The majority of their products are made with recycled wool and are built to last a lifetime. The first shirt I bought from them four years ago still looks brand new.

The fashion industry will always try to pull wool over your eyes

[Anian has] pioneered a process of working with factories in Italy that rescue old wool clothing, break it down, and turn it into wool that can be reused in new clothing.

Mackenzie's favorite shot

The fashion industry is notorious for its waste, so it’s great to see a company doing its part to push back against that. Plus, their clothing is very much in line with my personal style.

For the early-morning shoot (we’re talkin’ 5:30 call time, folks), Mackenzie was tasked with photographing Olympic Gold Medalist Simon Whitfield. The triathlete was Canada’s flag-bearer for the 2000 and 2012 Summer Games, winning gold at the former competition.

Simon Whitfield

Simon was great. He was super comfortable in front of the camera just doing tasks while I captured the ’natural’ moments. He has a ton of character in his face and is really comfortable on the ocean.

Whatever boats your float

I had never met him until the morning of the shoot. I knew his name from growing up in Canada, but beyond that I didn’t know much about him. I’m sure he has had his photo taken a lot over the years, but I don’t believe he’d been involved in a shoot like this — modeling for a brand.

This being a half-day shoot, most of the grunt work took place in the preceding weeks. The team spent a lot of that time sourcing talent and scouting the location, while Mackenzie tried to schedule the shoot on a day with ample cloud cover. This way, he could “focus on that dark morning light,” and get the mood right. Usually, when a photographer makes a shot like the one below, they’re pretty happy with the results! Not exactly the case in this instance, though.

This is not what Anian wanted

Funny enough, this was exactly what we weren’t looking for during the shoot. I had scouted a bunch and we were waiting for a gray, overcast type of day. For the sunrise, there was about an hour of that amazing sun pouring through and that sort of curve-balled us, but we made the best of it.

There's a trap music-based joke in here somewhere isn't there

The reason Mackenzie wanted images like the one above is because the shoot’s premise was “a gentleman heading out for an evening crabbing session.” In a race against the rising sun, time was of the essence. So instead of hoping Simon could catch some crabs for real, the crew brought a pair of the crustaceans with them.   

Look at me with my two crabs which I totally caught all by myself...yep, totally real

Because we were shooting in the morning and didn’t have the time to wait for the trap to work, we brought the crabs along as props.

It's a small thing, bringing crabs to a shoot for the sake of preparedness. But it helps frame a larger teaching point, as it's probably not something an aspiring photographer would think to do before heading off to complete an assignment. This brings us to the catalyst for the collaboration, nicely summed up by this timeless axiom:    

“Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.”

These words help explain why Mackenzie reconnected with Anian for this project. 

I’m working on developing some online photo courses, and I wanted to base a course around what it takes to work with a brand to create a shoot.

Are you not en-tear-tained?

The curriculum will basically cover the start-to-finish of working with a client to bring their vision to life. We’ll focus on what questions to ask them, how to get to know their brand, and what it stands for as well as talent and location scouting. We’ll also spend time talking about building mood boards, call sheets, and shot lists along with building out the story and what props and items will be needed to bring it to life. We’ll also cover processing and delivering images.

Bet you are en-tear-tained

Mackenzie has spent nearly a decade and a half as a professional photographer, making him the ideal person to educate talented artists on things they may not be privy to, like the nitty gritty aspects of working on a set.

There are a lot of crucial elements to executing brand photos. I believe the planning element is often overlooked — along with the story element — so that’s what I’m focusing on overall. This particular course is aimed at photographers who understand how to capture nice images, but don’t have the experience on set under the pressure that can often come with mixing art and commerce.

There’s certainly a market for Mackenzie’s services, something the Canadian discovered firsthand from his interactions with prospective commercial artists. And who wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to learn from someone who’s worked with brands like Starbucks, Puma, and GQ?

I’ve been seeing different people teaching and creating online course work, and it made me realize how many times I’ve met with people who are interested in learning more about photography. I’ve been shooting professionally now for almost 15 years, and I have a ton of experience and knowledge. I believe that creating this course is a very effective way to share this knowledge and help people to grow as photographers.


Anian Creative Director: Taylor Wilson 

BTS Shots/Video Footage: Miguel Rodriguez 

Talent: Simon Whitfield

Check out more of Mackenzie's work at

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