We Are The Rhoads Bring AT&T to Life
Cellphones are everywhere. They’re with us at our most public times and in our most private moments. They are no longer a symbol of the earliest adopters, instead they’ve blended into all our lives seamlessly, and have become more tool than technology. When it came to creating a new campaign for AT&T, We Are The Rhoads were faced with the challenge of illustrating the relationship between cellphone users, their devices and their carriers. The only problem is that cellphone service is invisible. So the photographer duo had to figure out a way to show the relationship in a figurative way. “The concept was to focus on the people and how networks connect them,” explains Chris Rhoads, half of We Are The Rhoads with his wife Sarah. “So we decided to make it 100% people based, instead of showing people talking on their phones it’s more about connections between the people, which is one of our strong suits.”
“The biggest thing we were focused on was connectivity,” adds Sarah. By focusing on connecting people, the imagery becomes about how these tools bring people together, rather than who offers service in what areas or the pricing for those plans. It’s about relationships.
Not too long ago, sliding phones into a photo shoot was tricky business because even the subtlest attempts at inclusion could feel like they were trying too hard. It takes a gentle hand and a sensitive eye to make it work, and the Rhoads know exactly how to do that. “Phones are so incorporated into our every day existence now that it’s so easy to add them into the imagery without it feeling like they’re propped,” says Sarah. “We really wanted it to feel easy breezy and everyday in that sense. We didn’t want the phone to feel like they were put there as a prop. It should feel more like how it is with people.”
The Rhoads are based in Los Angeles and do a lot of their work there, but cell phones are used everywhere, not just in Southern California. The diversity of America had to be represented in the campaign, not only in the faces of the models but also in the locations for the shoot. The images had to work from LA to New York, and even down to Houston, all while Sarah and Chris remained in LA. So the Rhoads went out to make their home stand for all those cities. “That’s the cool thing about Los Angeles,” explains Sarah. “I think a lot of people think it’s a one dimensional city but there’s actually a plethora of different areas here. You just have to know where to find them.” Whether it’s a brick wall that references Brooklyn, or an In-n-Out cup that screams “West Coast,” the Rhoads found the locational diversity they needed all in one LA neighborhood. “When you’re used to a city that you know so well, it’s always interesting to look at it from a new perspective,” says Chris. “When you can do that and change your thinking and just look at textures and specific locations, there’s really a lot of choose from and play with and it gives you a lot of flexibility.” Shifting the way we think is always a useful exercise, but in this case it was crucial for The Rhoads to bring AT&T to life in the exact ways they needed.