February is Black History Month and Banana Republic has already unveiled its campaign for the occasion. Len Peltier, VP of Creative at Banana Republic, wrote about it as an introduction to “Meet the Maker: Melodie McDaniel.”
Our idea was to celebrate Black History Month by reconnecting artists that we’ve had both brand and personal relationships with over the years. People who we feel transcend genre and category and could interpret the concept of “color-full” through its literal and abstract definitions. From filmed profiles featuring dance and poetry, to portraits and abstract still life images. We wanted to present a celebration of creativity and inspiration across creative disciplines.
Retailers don’t usually call attention to the photographer or even the model showing off its clothes. But it does so for the “Bold Vision” for February 2020 that is presented more as art than catalogue. It even seeks to engage reader interest with an article about the photographer and her unique vision.
Straight Outta Compton
Among the issues McDaniel addresses is what she considered in selecting Compton as a background:
In Compton, I thought some of the areas in the community were so interesting. They felt authentic. I drove around those areas and found these beautiful, bold paintings and colors on their businesses. Also, they were much more open to letting us stop and shoot on the fly. Some shop owners came out and were excited that we were using their walls to put models in front of. In Compton and in South L.A., I find that there are some really interesting neighborhoods.
Perspective Through Travel
Though she returned to her home base for this shoot, McDaniel also gets inspired by travel, and her direct experiences with other cultures. She recalls:
Right out of high school, my mom sent me to work on a kibbutz travel program. I went to Israel for about a year. My mind was blown. That really opened up the doors to travel as a means of experiencing other cultures and environments and communities. By the time I came back from that, I had found my passion. That kind of work, like journalism or storytelling, I’ll try to bring into my commercial work.
That followed talking about infusing authenticity and artistic vision into her commercial work:
I’ve been able to get a great response for my ability to bring the raw genuine moment to a commercial project. It inspires me when I can hire a person who is not a model or go to certain areas and make these things into a campaign on a billboard. I love making my commercial work into fine art. That’s really what inspires me.
Art and Authenticity: Speaking Through Photography
McDaniel is very clear on how she views herself and her work:
I call myself a fine artist that likes to do commercial work. I love art. I love photography as an art form. With my photography, I love to bring an authentic point of view to my work. I love people’s personal stories and personal style.
She adds: “Pictures are my language because I’m not the most confident speaker. That’s one reason I just love photography—it’s how I speak best.”
The refrain of authenticity here is what today’s consumers want when engaging with brands. That’s the thrust of a recent article entitled “Why You Can No Longer Have Effective Marketing Without Authenticity.” It offers the stats that prove the assertion. Banana Republic has embraced it for its latest campaign, and you’ll notice the difference in the pictures.