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Mission Control / Design

People Attract People: Why Scenic Photos Aren't Always Enough

A chat with art director Lizelle Galaz on a fresh approach to imagery for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

It's not that Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West isn't photogenic. Quite the contrary, in fact — the legendary architect's winter home, located here in our Arizona backyard, looks stunning even in visitors' amateur Instagram shots. Over the years, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation had amassed scores of gorgeous imagery of its McDowell Mountain headquarters. So they had plenty to work with when it came time to design digital marketing campaigns aimed at increasing tours, right?

Well, yes and no. Those compelling architecture shots needed to be complemented by images of people interacting with Taliesin West: visitors engrossed in a tour, event goers sipping a glass of wine at sunset, wide-eyed children encountering Wright's work for the first time. Which is why C/A senior art director Lizelle Galaz directed a daylong shoot on the property with the help of photographer Jill Richardson and producer Caroline Crafton. Here, we chat with Lizelle on her goals for the shoot and why engaging "people shots" matter.

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Taliesin West is a celebrated site in the architecture world. How did you approach a strategy for C/A’s design and marketing work that appeals to audiences outside of that community?

"For a while, we've needed photos that showed the beauty of Taliesin West that supplemented and complemented the architecture-driven photos we already had. We needed something that promoted the property as a travel destination. Even before we redesigned their website, our goal has always been to keep real people in mind every step of the way, including the photos displayed throughout the site. Ultimately, photography is one way to invite people in, not only to admire the beautiful architecture of Taliesin West but also to see themselves as part of a whole experience."


What went into making this project a success?

"We were on site for 11 hours from sunrise to sunset, shot 5,500 images and hired two dozen models. From that shoot, we selected a series of shots that covered all bases, including families, young couples, events and small groups. We were also able to get both indoor and outdoor shots during different times of the day. Taliesin West was really the most important 'model' to shoot, and it became its own character. Obviously, the architecture is the most important part of the photoshoot, and the images we created show how people interact with Frank Lloyd Wright’s work."

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"It’s important for our clients to know that their audience expects them to keep up and show consumers ‘this could be you.’ We wanted our audience, in this case, to know that Taliesin West is for everyone."

What were your goals for the shoot?

"Diversity was a top priority as we started thinking about casting the shoot. We wanted to make sure people of all backgrounds felt welcome to visit the historic site. We also wanted the photos to stand the test of time and look natural — not look forced or like stock photos."


Why do you think it’s important to incorporate people into marketing imagery?

"People respond to people. The way we now use imagery has changed so much. We’re used to seeing things up close with everything we have access to on our phones. So, it’s important for our clients to know that their audience expects them to keep up and show consumers ‘this could be you.’ We wanted our audience, in this case, to know that Taliesin West is for everyone. And this can apply to so many places because you can share what’s unique and special while showing that it’s a space for anyone."


What’s your advice to a brand or organization that’s hesitant to change their approach to imagery?

"There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to photography — especially because today you need images that work just as well in print as they do digitally. You can incorporate multiple perspectives while remaining consistent with a brand’s standards. In the long run, this project was definitely an investment for our client because they have images they can use for awhile, without making any of them feel overused. Expanding a photo library may seem daunting, but it will pay off in the long run."

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