We Are The Rhoads Divulge the Secret of Celebrity
As a culture, Americans share a reverence for celebrity. We see these cultural leaders as separate from ourselves, but photographer duo, We Are The Rhoads, don’t have the luxury of keeping that distance. The job of the photographer requires that Chris and Sarah Rhoads come in constant contact with these figures, and demands they always find ways to connect with them. Sarah and Chris have learned a lot about how we treat celebrity and how to break through the wall that separates “us” from “them.” “A lot of times people have a tendency of treating celebrities not as humans,” says Chris. “What we find is just how normal and sweet most of them are.”
Just in the past few months, The Rhoads have photographed figures like Pierce Brosnan, Mila Kunis, Jake Johnson, and Hannah John Kamen for editorial shoots and ad campaigns, but even as each project has different parameters and needs, the center of the work is always the same: find an honest moment with the subject.
Photographing the range of celebrities they do, The Rhoads created a simple strategy for this work. It has nothing to do with ego. It has nothing to do with performance. Instead, it’s about being human. Most celebrities have incredibly demanding schedules which means they may not have a lot of time to offer to Chris and Sarah, but even if they only have a few minutes The Rhoads spend as much of it as possible getting to know the person they’re photographing to close the distance between subject and shooter. That time is crucial. “The time that we’re developing a rapport with them outside of the time that they’re in front of the camera is actually more valuable to us than I think the time when they’re in front of the camera,” Sarah explains. “If we have done our job - whether it’s two minutes or two hours that we get to talk with somebody on the human level - then we’ll get amazing results in front of the camera even if we only have a few minutes. It’s all about being humans together.” Every moment they spend connecting with their subject blooms into greater results.
Even if you’re not a photographer, there’s a lesson to take from what Sarah and Chris have learned: we’re all humans having a human experience. “At the end of the day, we’re all just people trying to do our best and dig as deep as we can to try to produce something that we can be proud of. Meeting people on the human level always elicits the best outcome in every aspect of life, not just taking photographs,” Sarah says.
We Are The Rhoads Show You Malibu Through the Eyes of the Locals for Esquire
Everyone’s flocking to Malibu.
The city, just west of Los Angeles, is known for its incredible beaches and hills, and with the new faces comes a growing community of creatives. Photography duo We Are The Rhoads, a.k.a. Chris and Sarah Rhoads, who live in LA, have experienced the growth personally as it represents a part of their own creative community. “It’s the new destination on the West Coast for artists and non-artists,” Sarah says. “There’s so much happening there, creatively and in the food scene; hoteliers are opening up these really cool little spots along the coast. So, Esquire reached out to capture this movement that’s happening.” The story they shot for Esquire's Big Black Book (out now), all about the people in and around Malibu is a beautiful distillation of the life and culture in the area. Plus, they got to do it with some friends.
It’s not just the land and ocean that dominate the images The Rhoads composed, but also their friends and creative compatriots like Elderstatesman owner and Creative Director, Greg Chait, hatmaker Nick Fouquet and Outerknown Creative Director John Moore. “It’s just always cool to work with people that we are friends with but also that we respect creatively,” Chris says. “That’s always a great collaboration when you are not only capturing and documenting and collaborating with people that you find visually interesting, but you also really respect the work that they are doing. That always offers really cool end results.” They’ve known some of the subjects for years, and over that time all of their work and relationships have developed. The Rhoads found it incredibly satisfying to share that with Esquire’s audience.
The energy in an around Malibu is specific to the place and the people, and even as more and more artists are attracted to the area and bringing their own point of view, the pull of the place has its own personality. That cannot be faked. When The Rhoads and Esquire compiled their list of subjects, they stuck with folk who live there and that made all the difference. “It worked really organically because we were putting them in their natural environment, habitat if you will. It wasn’t like we were flying in New Yorkers and putting them in places they don’t hang out in LA,” explains Sarah. “It was very much a California story with California people. We would try to really dig into where do they like to go, where do they like to hang out so it felt very true, honest, because that’s really what we were after at the end of the day. It was telling a story that felt true.” The Rhoads’ responsibility is to the audience, to show off what Malibu is really like, and no one knows that better than the locals.
We Are The Rhoads Shoot Ellen Page & Emma Portner for T Magazine
Every marriage is a creation. That relationship is the result of beautiful creative work, undertaken by the commitment of two people who forge it each day. Sarah and Chris Rhoads, the two photographers behind We Are The Rhoads, have made that creation the center of their personal and professional lives, working together every day so that their lifelong collaboration creates more beautiful things. It made them the obvious choice to participate in T Magazine’s ongoing series that examines creative couples’ relationships like that between actress Ellen Page and choreographer Emma Portner. T Magazine invited the Rhoads to create a video of Page and Portner working and creating together. “When T Magazine calls we always like working with them because they give us a lot of freedom to do what we can,” says Sarah. “They give us access to interesting people. When we found out it was Ellen and Emma, I love the concept that it’s couples who create together since obviously, that’s close to our hearts. We also loved that they were coming at it from different mediums and doing this kind of mash-up.”
Page grabbed a guitar, playing Nelly Furtado's “I’m Like a Bird” while Portner choreographed in real time while Chris and Sarah documented them. There wasn’t much time, so all four artists took advantage of every minute. “It was a bit under the gun but that also added to a mystique and kind of feel and tone because it was really stripped back and it just had to be the way it was,” Chris explains. “Sometimes when you’re forced into these decisions due to time or availability or certain needs outside of your control, and it actually impacts the creative in a beneficial way and gives you a different result.” Every time they ran the piece, Portner’s choreography was slightly different so Sarah and Chris couldn’t plan anything, and ultimately had a variety of raw material to work with.
“They got into that mindset where it was very collaborative in nature, where all of us in this time crunch trying to make something really special and beautiful. It’s always fun when everyone’s on that page together and it’s like hey let’s make the most beautiful and interesting thing we can together given the restrictions,” says Chris. After they finished shooting, the four of them took a minute outside to grab a single photograph on the Rhoads’ large format camera. Portner and Page embraced and the Rhoad’s got the photograph. “It felt like we got a little peek – they invited us into this little moment of their relationship right before getting married,” Chris explains. “We have this little love story on film of them working together and creating together that just captures them in a unique and special way.”
We Are The Rhoads and TOMS' Celebration is Personal
Holiday Campaigns are fraught with glitzy sets, big bows, and sparkly trees. But when TOMS came to We Are The Rhoads to shoot their holiday campaign the photographer duo wanted to go in a totally different direction entirely. They wanted it to feel real. “We recognize holiday so quickly,” says Chris Rhoads. “You don’t have to have someone dressed up in a Santa suit to know that. And we didn’t want it to be on the nose but we still wanted you to get that feeling of what that is.” Instead of ratcheting the holiday feelings up to 11, they went with something natural. They made their sets look like how your friend’s house might look during the holidays – a swag of pine draped over a fireplace, a small mirror ball for New Year’s, well-placed velvet and strings of lights. After all, that's all we need.
It wasn’t just about the accessibility of the imagery, but also a special kind of specificity. TOMS is based in Los Angeles and so the Rhoads wanted to include that in the campaign. The holiday experience in LA is unlike any other place because it's informed by the surroundings. They wanted show that off. In fact, while shooting around a swimming pool – definitely a holiday feature unique to Los Angeles – the Rhoads decided to use it in a way we never see in Holiday campaigns. The creative director and the model were happy to explore the idea along with the Rhoads. They had the model take a swim. “She was totally down and jumped in the pool with her clothes and her sweater on and I literally had one chance to get that shot of her,” explains Sarah. “California Holiday was the ethos we kept in mind. Conceptually I think it ended up pretty cool.”
The whole story was about inviting us into the party that The Rhoads were throwing. “You want it to feel effortless,” Sarah explains. “And I feel like that’s the spirit of a lot of our imagery. Those unguarded moments that feel effortless. When it comes to set dressing and the props, that same spirit. We try to extend those things so it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to force anything in that just doesn’t feel right.” We may not all get to have our holidays at the pool this year, and our parties may have a little more or a little less decoration than what the Rhoads included on their sets, but even if this isn’t exactly what our personal holidays look like, we still recognize it in every image.
We Are The Rhoads Get Intimate with Salem Mitchell for Fall Cover Story
“Salem Mitchell has been doing some really cool things,” says Sarah Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads (the other Rhoads are her photography and life partner Chris Rhoads, and their new son River). And Sarah is right, Salem Mitchell has been doing some really cool things. At only 19 years old she went right from posting selfies on Instagram to signing with Ford Models, and now pops up all over newsstands including the latest cover of Darling Magazine - shot by the Rhoads. Darling Magazine is unique in that they do no retouching of their models, and Salem’s freckled face is the perfect canvas to be left untouched. “She’s absolutely stunning, she’s absolutely radiant,” says Sarah. “All of her imperfection: that’s what I love most about it. Up close in somebody’s face you’re seeing them for exactly who they are and there’s nothing about it that needs to be retouched. For me that’s what I found really engaging.”
At 19, Salem is still new to the modeling world. There’s a lot to navigate, not only the culture and the politics, but also how to be comfortable in front of cameras day in and day out, and always performing. But for Chris and Sarah Rhoads that counts as an asset instead of a challenge. “She was really great and she didn’t come with many preconceived notions about how to move or how to do things so for us,” Sarah explains. “As the day unfolded she became much more willing to just let her guard down and just be herself.” Over time, the Rhoads and Mitchell created their own little community of three that opened and closed, like a tide, to create a the dynamic images in the cover story.
The two blockbuster images from the shoot are the two images that magazine debated over for the cover: the more graphic photograph of Mitchell in old movie theater seats, and one of Mitchell’s face way up close, a view only witnessed through intimacy. These two images speak to two very different energies that Sarah and Chris saw throughout the day. “The shoot was characterized by these little pockets, vacillating between being vulnerable and letting barriers down, and some moments that were probably more constructed,” Sarah explains. These two spaces show a whole range of who Mitchell is and what it means to interact with her. By exploring in this way the Rhoads revealed a range of Mitchell, not just an idea or caricature of her. There’s a generosity there, both from Mitchell to let in the Rhoads and of the Rhoads to show us what they saw. It is the photographer’s duty to step in and act as a proxy for the audience and reveal to us what they find, but it’s rare the revelation is so complete.
We Are The Rhoads Get There with Maven
The world is out there waiting for you, you just have to get to it.
In 2017 there is a host of different options to get out and see the world and one of the newest, Maven, wants to join you on your journey. The car share program from GM makes vehicles available for wherever you want to go. Unlike the rideshare model that’s become so popular in recent years, car sharing allows you to borrow and drive the car yourself – it’s a system that’s relatively new and could use some introduction. That’s why Maven asked We Are The Rhoads to help introduce them to the world. Sarah and Chris Rhoads helped create a campaign that focused not just on the cars and driving, but what happens when you get to where you want to go. “This was all about using a car to go to these interesting places so we sent out a location scout around San Francisco and the surrounding areas to find as many interesting places as we could and ended up with this little honey pot of options,” says Chris. “Not everybody uses a car for the same reasons. So it was interesting and fun to come up with unique scenarios and ideas.” You may want to plunge into nature with Maven while your neighbor may just need a car for a trip to the furniture store. No matter your reason Maven can make it work and the Rhoads wanted to show that.
To do that, they got the greatest range of imagery they could. “One day we went out to the Redwoods, another day we went to the ocean, another day we created a festival scene within San Francisco, and we also went to Chinatown. We really shot all over which was fun,” says Sarah. The result is an expansive campaign that hits a ton of different energies, aesthetics, and moods. But all of it is strung together by the Rhoads’ inventive creativity and storytelling. That’s something they build from the ground up in every shoot – just like they created the aforementioned music festival on a quiet San Francisco street. “One of my favorite scenes we did was the festival scenario but at the time there weren’t actually any festivals so instead we created it,” says Chris. “It’s one thing to take something that already exists and document that in a unique perspective, but I always really like the challenge of creating something from nothing and building out what we all have in our mind.”
One of the most surprising elements of the campaign might be that there are very few cars to be seen, but this was by design. Sure, at the root of it Maven is all about connecting drivers with available vehicles, but in action, it’s about so much more. It’s about freedom, mobility, and accessibility. Showing off those elements is the most immediate way to describe the brand. “The whole campaign is centered around ‘Be There’ and being in the moment,” explains Sarah. “Most times when you are in the moment that you want to be in it’s not about getting to the moment. It’s not driving to the moment. It’s being in that experience and fully immersed in it.” It’s something of a corporate risk to not put the cars front and center, but through development, Maven got on board with the more expressive and creative campaign –that’s something they deserve credit for. “I really applaud Maven for that trust in the creative and to really, wholly embrace that approach,” says Chris.
The campaign has since rolled out all over, including major billboards and installations in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Wherever you are: look up! It might be there!
We Are The Rhoads Find Their Tribe with Mr. Porter
If you ask We Are The Rhoads, there’s something of a new pilgrimage to Los Angeles happening right now. In fact, they’re a part of it having moved in the last few years from Seattle to the City of Angels, and for good reason. “You have all these people that are hard workers, that are talented, that bring this East Coast work ethic to the West Coast and are kind of creating this best of both worlds,” Chris Rhoads explains, half of We Are The Rhoads, the other half being his wife Sarah. “We’re surrounded by a community of likeminded people who think similarly to us, we want to live a good life but we also want to create good shit that we’re excited about and LA provides the lifestyle around which we can do that,” says Sarah. Their own participation in this pilgrimage made them the perfect collaborator for Mr. Porter’s “California Dreamers,” a piece that looks at six different creatives in LA and what they love about the city. Travis Lett, Reggie Watts, Ben Medansky, Alex Matthews, Luke Davis, and Stephen Kenn met The Rhoads at the Beverly Laurel Hotel for a series of boundary-pushing portraits with fashion styled by Mr. Porter.
These six men – a chef, a performer, a designer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a surfer – each represent different ways of thinking, different ways of expressing themselves, and very different personalities. Before the shoot even began, The Rhoads were familiar with most of the gentlemen. They’re friends with Stephen Kenn, they have one of his couches in their studio. They use Ben Medansky’s work all the time. They’ve eaten at Travis Lett’s restaurant. And of course seen Reggie Watts’ work. “A lot of these folks are people that we know personally or have interacted with on some creative level,” Sarah explains. “Our spheres have crossed over, so it’s cool when they showed us these people’s work. This is like our tribe.”
The whole shoot was at the same hotel location, which seems like it could be limiting, so to keep every shot unique The Rhoads used the resources they had in front of them: their subjects. “One of the biggest challenges was making it all feel like it’s one cohesive story yet feel different enough that it didn’t feel like it was all necessarily just shot on a white cyc,” says Chris. “But I think that’s where having people like Luke and Reggie that are willing to approach things from a new point of view allows that to be refreshing.” They kept everything moving, exploring the space from different angles, resulting in incredible variety of imagery. These six men – a chef, a performer, a designer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a surfer – each represent different ways of thinking, different ways of expressing themselves, and very different personalities. The whole shoot was at the same hotel location, which seems like it could be limiting, so to keep every shot unique The Rhoads used the resources they had in front of them: their subjects. “One of the biggest challenges was making it all feel like it’s one cohesive story yet feel different enough that it didn’t feel like it was all necessarily just shot on a white sike,” says Chris. “But I think that’s where having people like Luke and Reggie that are willing to approach things from a new point of view allows that to be refreshing.” They kept everything moving, exploring the space from different angles, resulting in incredible variety of imagery.
We Are The Rhoads Make a Statement with Vince Staples
When Mobolaji Dawodu joined GQ as their Style Fashion Editor he brought with himself a different take on what clothes can mean, and it was that vision that came to bear on We Are The Rhoads’ latest shoot with Vince Staples. These three unlikely creative forces blended together to create something special. For The Rhoads, Staples was the perfect partner to show off the unique fashion. “Vince has this effortless, cool, chill vibe, and he’s the type where I think he trusted everyone,” says Chris. “He trusted Mobolaji, he trusted us and he just went with it. He’s the type of person where you can put him in anything and he makes it look awesome.” That point is crucial. Dawodu has gained a reputation for choosing challenging looks with unconventional pieces that have retro inspirations. The fashion was a blend of patterns, textures, and silhouettes that are seldom seen in pop fast fashion, so the Rhoads and Staples presented them in such a way that they would be digestible to a wide audience. Staples was perfect model because he can wear anything.
It’s not enough to look good in a denim overall with a tuxedo shirt. The clothes had to make sense in the images. The looks were remarkable in references and volume, with aesthetics just foreign enough to scream attention for from the casual viewer. The Rhoads gave that context, and for that they needed balance. Instead of pushing Staples to a place where his energy would match the explosive clothes, they had him work with more subtlety to make the looks accessible. “Bringing his nonchalant nature just felt right because he was already giving off that vibe already so we wanted to really capture and tell the story of who he was,” explains Sarah. “It felt like it needed that kind of treatment versus being over the top in his attitude to match the clothes. We wanted to let him wear the clothes how he would naturally wear them and what he would naturally be giving us.” Vince grew up in Long Beach and uses his platform to take the popular sheen of allure off gang life - something that is a very real part of his past. High waisted khaki pants and tuxedo shirts are certainly counter to the typical Crip narrative - he’s using all his influences to forge new ground in his own way.
The Rhoads spent the day running all around LA with Staples and Dawodu, letting the shoot unfold as the clothes were pulled out of bags and constructed into outfits in real time. The Rhoads let those moments dictate how they created, drawing inspiration from the fashion and Staples himself, engaging in a sartorial conversation with the man made topography of Los Angeles. A landmark moment came when Dawodu pulled out a big duster jacket for Staples. The powder blue fabric features a trio of repeated navy stripes, offset by thin red lines. As soon as she saw the jacket Sarah knew where she wanted to photograph it. “The Eastern Columbia Building is basically one of the oldest buildings in Downtown LA,” explains Sarah. “It has those blue and teal stripes and once Mobolaji pulled out that duster and put it on Vince I knew we had to go to this place because I wanted to give a nod to what he was wearing, and pull out the colors through the environment.” It was Sarah’s favorite moment. Chris agrees: “That was my favorite too.” The resulting images are explosive in the colors and lines seen in the clothes chosen by Dawodu, framed by Sarah and Chris Rhoads’ composition, and anchored on the solid foundation of Staple’s unflappable demeanor. It’s a synthesis of three forces flawlessly in tune.
Out Now: B&A Journal 9
Bernstein & Andriulli is more than an international agency with some of the best agents in the world, we’re a home for artists. Our roster represents creative forces that we truly believe in and whose work we want to spread to every corner of the globe. These artists are incredible talents and incredible minds, and as much as we show off all the best projects that they work on sometimes you need to get a taste of it yourself. That’s why we introduced the B&A Journal.
Every few months we pick some of the best work that’s come out of the agency and feature it in a large format, printed journal for friends, fans, and clients to thumb through at their leisure and experience the work of these world class artists in an intimate and tangible way. This week we’re releasing B&A Journal 9, and we couldn’t be more excited.
In addition to a beautiful cover shot by Ben Rayner, and dedicated pages for dozens of our artists (featured here are Platon, Marco Grob, Stephen Wilkes, Rose Blake, Guillaume Lechat, We Are The Rhoads, Serial Cut, Shotopop, and Radio), we’ve also included a special insert with this edition that formally announces our Murals department that includes a roster of public artists that rivals the best in the game.
B&A Journal 9 should be hitting your mailbox very soon - and if you want to make sure you get a copy reach out! We’d love to hear from you.
We Are The Rhoads Stay Loving
This past weekend saw the opening of “Loving” a new movie based on the events that lead to The Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v Virginia that legalized interracial marriages in the United States. The film was directed by Jeff Nichols, someone whose work Sarah and Chris Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads have always admired. They were going to see the movie anyway. But when The Hollywood Reporter called them up and invited them to an early screening to inform a cover shoot with the two stars of the movie they leapt at the chance. “We were already intrigued by the subject matter,” says Sarah. “The movie is politically motivated but not done in a political way at all. It’s very emotional, personal, art driven.”
The center of the movie is the relationship between Richard and Mildred Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, so the Rhoads got access to these two actors to photograph them outside of the world of the movie. Normally as photographers, Chris and Sarah have the tough job of coaxing out honest relationships and truthful moments. But this time that challenging work was easy. “Sometimes you work with actors that maybe don’t get along that well, but there was such a comfort level that Joel and Ruth already had. Normally that’s something that we’re trying to create,” explains Chris. “They had a natural rapport with one another already – they were almost inviting us into that space instead of the other way around.” Photographers are used to creating a space and then guiding their subjects through new relationships, but this time the Rhoads walked into Negga and Edgerton’s world.
The two actors are the focus of every frame, but there’s more to composition than just two people. The Rhoads traveled all over LA to provide the right backdrop and to give the relationship context. To make that happen Sarah and Chris started with the relationship: “Let’s play to the fact that their relationship in this film is that they’re a couple but we don’t want to be too obtuse about it. Let’s find something that looks like Virginia but isn’t Virginia. Has that sort of feel of the film without being too on the nose about it.” They ended up finding a porch in West Hollywood that worked perfectly, and had the right interior to boot, adding just the right flavor to fill out the story.
We Are The Rhoads Solve a Creative Challenge with Humanity
If a technology company does their job well you don't notice them. Their products work seamlessly into your life, making your goals easier to achieve and facilitating communication. That's why when Verizon and McCann Erickson teamed up with We Are The Rhoads for their latest campaign for the Verizon Fios system, the focus was not on the product. Instead it was on the lives of their customers. Sarah and Chris Rhoads are experts at showing lived experience, so they just had to bring in the concept of speed (Verizon Fios is, after all, very fast). Conceptually it makes sense, but it was a true creative challenge and one that the Rhoads were up for. “They’re one of our favorite creative teams we’ve ever worked with,” says Sarah about McCann and Verizon. “The idea they presented was fairly conceptual which is always fun, but with lifestyle elements at play.” The concept of speed arrives in many ways throughout the campaign whether it’s a train whizzing by a station, a motorcycle kicking up dust as it races through the frame, or a child heroically swooping in. They found the moments where humanity meets speed.
“Chris and I were really excited about doing something that was different than most lifestyle advertising campaigns,” Sarah explains. “It felt like a fresh perspective and that’s always something that’s really exciting to come across your desk. It’s still in our wheelhouse because we shoot things that are spontaneous and have the moment driven feeling to them, but we also love doing more conceptual driven projects that have that humanity to them. That’s what they really wanted.” It's rare that a brand can blend so easily into their customer’s lives, and the campaign had to show that. That’s why there’s a human touch on every image. Each one is relatable, recognizable. We can see ourselves in these single frame stories, but the Rhoads are also reminding us of what Verizon can do for us. It’s a perfect blend.
There are a few stories that the Rhoads told in this campaign that were more than one frame: three separate, silent, almost mini-films were created and projected in Times Square. They're moving versions of the still ads, bringing extra life to these moments like a fun secret. But the campaign wasn't just shown in New York, it was created there.
They shot the project in and around New York and although it was an action packed shoot, one particular portion of it stood out for them. “We got to bring in a stunt motorcyclist and have him jump off this big stunt bridge,” Sarah says with a laugh. “It was awesome. It’s stuff like that you don’t get to do everyday.” Sometimes we forget about our internet service provider when we’re zipping from one webpage to the next, focusing on the next task or learning more about our world. That’s exactly the way it should be, and that’s why We Are The Rhoads focused on the humanity living at the heart of this campaign.
We Are The Rhoads See Three Strong, Powerful Women
We are entering a new era for powerful women in this country making it the perfect time for We Are The Rhoads to photograph three incredible female entertainers who are each forging ground in their own unique ways. The photography duo caught up with Kaitlin Olson for Good Housekeeping, Riley Keough for The Hollywood Reporter, and Bibi Bourelly for i-D, showing each of them in ways you’ll recognize and others that will surprise you.
If you watch ‘Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ you’ll recognize Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee, the sole female in the group of characters who get into some of the hairiest, most debaucherous, most disgusting antics on television. Despite Dee being a total narcissist (and probably sociopath) it turns out that Olson is actually a wonderful person. That’s exactly what Sarah and Chris Rhoads wanted to bring to the forefront when they photographed her for Good Housekeeping. “The thing about peoples’ interests in celebrities is they all have an actual life outside of the character,” says Sarah. “What Chris and I are always interested in is digging into who people are, not how they are perceived. Drawing out who Kaitlin is was at the heart of what we were going for. She is a gracious and kind and open and warm-hearted person so she made it really easy to capture that spirit.” They’re drawing out their subjects’ true personalities frame by frame.
Sometimes, when someone has been photographed as much as Riley Keough a photo shoot can be a very predictable space. Keough knows her angles and knows how to speak to a camera, but when The Rhoads photographed her for The Hollywood Reporter they wanted to surprise her. They wanted to get an unexpected moment. So Chris pulled out a large format camera that finds its roots at the very beginning of photography to show Keough something different and something fun. “When people are so used to being photographed all the time it’s nice to break up their expectations a little bit,” explains Chris. “By showing them a different process, even as simple as having a different camera that they’re not used to seeing, they’re suddenly reanimated and excited about something from a new point of view.” It takes some time to get the shot just right when you use a large format camera, so The Rhoads only had time to take one frame but it ended up being The Hollywood Reporter’s favorite, and it ran as the portrait in the story.
Bibi Bourelly is also very comfortable in front of the camera, but for a totally different set of reasons. The songwriter that brought us Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money,’ along with hits with Selena Gomez, Lil Wayne, and Usher, is very young but also knows exactly who she is. For Sarah and Chris that makes for an exciting session. “She really knew who she was and those kinds of people are the most fun to photograph,” says Sarah. “They’re confident, they bring a certain attitude to the shoot and they’re willing to be very giving of themselves.” Their time with Bourelly had an incredibly natural feel to it and resulted in images that show her personality and humanity exactly how the Rhoads found it.
We Are The Rhoads Get Expressive for Pandora
Photography and music are two very, very different art forms. Photography is entirely visual: even if it evokes sounds and songs it doesn’t deliver them directly. Music is entirely auditory. Again, if there is visual stimulation from music it’s not a part of the music, it’s a part of the experience. So when We Are The Rhoads were asked by Pandora to create their latest campaign it posed a unique challenge of bringing a visual language to music. “Image making is a two-dimensional output,” says Sarah Rhoads. “You really have to portray so much in just a moment in time.”
When Chris and Sarah Rhoads shoot they always use music in their process so it was no-brainer for them to lean heavily on music when communicating with their subjects. It helped them create a crucible of sensation. “This campaign was all about the different emotions that music can draw out of us,” says Sarah. “It was really fun to be able to work from that place for this campaign because it really freed us up to explore a range of different emotions that music makes us feel.” The music and styles that they chose really set the temperature in the room to get their models in the exact head spaces they wanted, to communicate exactly what they needed. “It was cool to actually be able to change the soundtrack, like actually put on some ‘chill vibes’ and embrace that different tone,” says Chris. “Something that we do when we direct is really get people into the character and it’s cool to see that translated even in print as well; that the change in tone really helps facilitate an end result.” The relationship that the Rhoads have with music is already critical to their style, so this blending was seamless.
In addition to the still campaign, they created a short film to highlight how this vision came together. But they wanted to offer something unique. “We wanted to bring in this real rawness into the imagery that felt almost cinematic,” says Sarah. “We wanted that through not just the images but also the film, so we decided to shoot it on actual film.” They reached for a 16mm camera and shot actual film. It was going to give them a look that has become popular, but usually something that’s faked. The Rhoads wanted to do it legit. “If we want to recreate this, why don’t we just shoot it this way?” says Chris. “It’s really cool to see the natural character of film. It’s so rarely done anymore, and it’s always imitated but it’s really cool to actually get in there and see how the colors reveal themselves just as they are instead of using post effects to affect and manipulate that.” They took their thousand feet of exposed film (yes, really, one thousand feet) (and used the same processor that Christopher Nolan used for Interstellar), and turned it into a video that gets to the heart of what the campaign is all about: Emotions. Energy. Music. And loving the relationship between expression and art.
We Are The Rhoads Slow Down with Timex
We’re each allotted only a small bit of time on this earth and it’s crucial that we do everything we could care to during that time. The prospect can be a little scary, but more important than that: it can be inspiring and no one understands this better than timekeepers like those at Timex. This season they wanted to create a campaign that would strike to the heart of it, so they teamed up with Chris and Sarah Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads to help create their latest that includes both print and videos. “The spirit of the campaign was that the moment is now and to take advantage of it,” explains Sarah. “And that was the heart of it from the beginning. They really trusted us, which is really nice.” The last campaign that The Rhoads created with Timex had been the watch brand’s most successful, so the trust was well earned.
Sometimes it’s hard to take a step out of time and enjoy every minute as it passes in the center of a bustling city. So, rather than bringing the campaign to a place built on busy-ness and speed, Sarah and Chris wanted to frame an energy that was more subtle and leisurely, that was about joy and exploration instead of the ‘rise-and-grind.’ “When we were thinking about the heart of the campaign we thought it would be really nice to take it out of LA or New York, which would be expected destinations, and give a different tone and feel and different character and life force. Portland and the Pacific Northwest provided that background for us,” says Sarah. The Rhoads spent many years living in the Pacific Northwest so they were familiar with its soul and that helped them mine the energy for the campaign. It was not just their knowledge that helped enrich the look; it was personal experience and understanding. “I found myself feeling quite nostalgic at times,” Chris says.
In order to strike the right mood they knew they had to find the perfect location. And ‘perfect’ is really what the lake was. Sarah describes finding the location as “a labor of love,” because it was far further than just off the beaten path. “The lake was dug by a family in the fifties, so it started as flat land and they dug out however massive that place is, which is pretty impressive,” explains Chris. “It was great.” The lake is on private property, inaccessible and widely unknown to the public. It’s a well-kept secret two hours outside of Portland. There isn’t even any cell service out there. But the remote location added to the whole experience, bringing the crew and cast together into a fresh sense of camaraderie that colored the entire campaign. “We knew when we saw it that it would be great and we really wanted that feeling of an escape from whatever these peoples’ realities were,” says Sarah. “Everyone was really excited about what we were creating and exited to be in a new environment and it was fun.”
We Are The Rhoads Go Cross-Cultural with Levis
Photography is communication. Imagery transcends language and speaks to an audience beyond words, bringing forth emotion without description. Capturing a moments distills it, and no matter who is viewing it the essence translates. We Are The Rhoads headed into Shanghai to shoot Levi’s latest campaign for the Asian market, a celebration of Chinese culture but with an awareness of the other regions the photographs would be posted in. Whether they were being shown in China or Europe, they had to be fun, exciting, and culturally relevant. “It was recreating the Chinese New Year, that night, that day, that kind of thing,” says Sarah Rhoads, half of the photography duo with her husband Chris. “The whole thing was trying to follow around this over-the-top day-in-the-life of Shawn Yue as he meets up with friends, goes to a bar, has crazy dance party break out, and they end up having to leave and run and jump over a fence and escape in a car,” says Chris.
Shawn Yue is a mega star over in China, something of a Ryan Gosling equivalent, and his New Year’s celebrations were going to be crazy. Chris and Sarah just had to set it up to invite us to the party. Because of Shawn’s status, as well as the fame of his costar in this campaign (Ai Fei, a pop star), the Rhoads could have been faced with celebrity ego. But none of that came onto their sets. “He ended up being super chill,” said Chris. “It was really nice to have that kind of rapport with him almost instantly,” adds Sarah. It allowed them to get to work immediately and focus on achieving awesome results.
Less experienced photographers would expect to get to China and confront communication issues. But not the Rhoads. They’ve been doing this long enough that they know communication isn’t about language. They were working with artists and craftsmen and their way of working has nothing to do with grammar of speech. “Honestly, that was our third time working in Shanghai, and every time it’s just gotten easier,” says Sarah. “I think the biggest misunderstanding is that it’s hard to communicate with someone what you want if you don’t speak their language, but actually so much of what we do is non-verbal. We had a translator there, but we very rarely used them.” They’re making beautiful work, and that’s a language everyone speaks.
We Are The Rhoads Goes Home with Staz Lindes and Vogue
Normally when you’re flipping through the pages of Paris Vogue and you find yourself face to face with Staz Lindes it’s because you’re looking at a Saint Laurent ad. Hedi Silmane found the model, who just happens to be the daughter of Dire Straights band member Hal Lindes, when she was playing with her band, and picked her out of relative obscurity, turning her into an A-class model. Success in that field requires being able to wear your personality on your sleeve, something that she’s never had a problem with and something that We Are The Rhoads came in direct contact with. The images they created would also be published through Vogue Paris, but this time offer a deep look at the model’s life. “I have a total girl crush on her in the best way,” says Sarah Rhoads, half of The Rhoads with her husband Chris. “She’s like a tomboy and a musician and she was just my kind of muse. As a chick I really respect other women who are really going after their dreams, comfortable in their own skin, funny, smart, just able to kick it with anybody and she was really just that kind of person.”
That ability to relate to one another was crucial to the imagery they were creating because The Rhoads work so closely with their subjects, using the shooting day as an opportunity to get to know each other. One thing that they were really able to connect over was music. “She’s obsessed with the 90s,” explains Chris. “It was interesting because she’s obsessed with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana in the same was I was obsessed with Led Zeppelin.” They flipped through vinyls and discussed obscure bands. They were able to talk about things that really ignited passion in one another, opening up to one another, and creating imagery that was immediately accessible. “You really got the sense that’s who she is,” says Chris. “She likes music so she has the band that she plays in and she doesn’t really care. That’s a refreshing thing.” The Rhoads work with so many people in visually based industries that sharing moments together is important to them, and they use them to their greatest advantage whenever possible.
Not only were they close in experience, they were close in proximity. The Rhoads and Staz are practically neighbors. “It turns out she lives really close to us. We both live on the East side of LA and we just got to kick it in her hood and her place, and her apartment,” says Sarah. The connection with music, and their shared neighborhood becomes a character in its own right, offering the emotions underneath compositions The Rhoads have become masters at.
Check out the full story in Paris Vogue.
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.
We Are The Rhoads Make Their Own World
When Sarah and Chris Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads were gearing up for their latest collaboration with Tidal Magazine, they wanted to do something that would challenge them in a way that they're rarely challenged. They wanted to do something that felt totally foreign. Really foreign. Out of this world. “Chris and I are really into science fiction and cerebral things in that realm,” says Sarah. “We had just both finished reading Dune and I think there’s some of those influences in there. I knew that we wanted to shoot somewhere that felt like an unusual terrain. It was otherworldly in a way.” So they headed down to Pismo Beach, a preserve in Southern California with a wealth of sand dunes and rocky outcroppings. The space is like the sand seas of Dune’s Arrakis or Star Wars’ Tatooine or Jakku.
Dropping a whole photography production team into the middle of a field of sand dunes is inherently challenging because of the technology that they’re working with and the sensitivity of their instruments. It forced the photography duo to change how they worked together, shaping the outcome. “I think whenever you’re in one of those environments it really just requires a certain amount of foresight,” explains Chris. “There’s a certain amount of spontaneity in there. You have to go in with as much of a game plan as you can and then be flexible and open to how things naturally evolve.” They followed every moment to the next, working with the elements placed in front of them, finding success through their own agility.
“It’s like a Dali meets Alejandro Jodorowsky type influence,” explains Chris, drumming up imagery of viscerally provocative surrealism, which is what they drew upon for the structures that the models are engaging with in the photographs. “What I love about our prop people is you can kind of brainstorm with them and start with something that doesn’t feel really doable, and then they’ll build this thing in the middle of the desert,” he says.
Before they headed out to the location to shoot, they did all the necessary research and got the appropriate approvals. But when they arrived they found something they didn’t expect at all. “There was like a thousand people there,” Chris says while Sarah laughs. “We thought it was going to be a low-key quiet weekend up there but there were just thousands of off-roaders and monster trucks. It’s like this big off-roading destination. And here we are trying to have this remote alien landscape feel. While we’re trying to have that in the foreground, in the background there’s just pure chaos. But we had fun with it.” Their crew was totally accommodating to stay responsive, and together they found their necessary pockets of stillness and quietude, allowing them to maintain the integrity of the their concept. “It makes it interesting when you’re working in the elements, for sure, but that's what makes it fun,” says Sarah.
Happy Holidays: 2015 in Review
As we come together with loved ones and friends to close the year, we’d like to take this time to reflect on some of our favorite moments from the last year. Included here is a list of some of our favorite stories we’ve had the pleasure to share with our community and friends. This year our artists helped usher in the next generation of Star Wars stars, discovered what bacteria lurk in NYC’s subways, sent hundreds of mean postcards to adoring fans, and put their own stamp on the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Our artists have done amazing things, so let’s take some time to remember some of the best stories from 2015 before turning our focus to the New Year.
We hope you have Wonderful Holidays, and a Happy New Year.
Weeks before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, Marco Grob photographed the cast of the highly anticipated movie for Time Magazine. Not only did he get to photograph the human stars, he also got to spend time with the famous R2-D2 and meet the newest favorite: BB-8.
Riding the New York City subway can be a precarious situation, not because of the unpredictable riders but because of what lurks on the handrails. Craig Ward wanted to see what exactly he has holding onto every day and the answers were both beautiful and revolting.
Sawdust and Nike Reach New Heights
One project with international powerhouse Nike is celebration enough, but when Sawdust teamed up with the athletic juggernaut for three bespoke typefaces it was an honor. Not only were they creating these solutions for Nike, but they'd be paired with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant, three of the most powerful names in basketball. What they created turly elevated the game.
This year Joey L joined Annie Leibovitz, Erwin Olaf, and David LaChapelle as a photographer for Lavazza's annual calendar. With the theme “From Father to Son,” Joey L examined how the tradition of sustainable farming is passed on from generation to generation, and how food gets to our tables from around the world.
People's Sexiest Man Alive is always a hotly watched and eagerly awaited issue, and frequently their most popular. When Marc Hom got the call to photograph their non-traditional choice this year, David Beckham, it was an honor and a thrill. And on the day of the shoot, Beckham didn't disappoint.
For more than a decade Stephen Wilkes has been pursuing his ongoing personal project of condensing an entire day into a single photograph. This year, Stephen showed off some of his favorite shots at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, a great way to look back on all the work he's done, and look forward to what's still to come.
Over the course of months with locations stretching from The Costume Institute to the Louvre's vault, and even the private archive of Yves Saint Laurent, Platon captured the epic vastness of the Met's latest blockbuster. "China: Through the Looking Glass" examines how China's history has impacted the rest of the world through design influence, and Platon was able to photograph every step along the way.
Mr. Bingo's ongoing series "Hate Mail" pits the artist against those who pay for the pleasure of being berated by him through the post. Enough fans have gotten their kicks this way that he turned them all into a book that catalyzed an enormously successful Kickstarter. Books are available for purchase now!
Living a life in the limelight isn't always easy, so when We Are The Rhoads teamed up with Taylor Swift for their latest Keds campaign, they immediately found common ground. By creating a safe space the mega celebrity was able to focus on the moments with Sarah and Chris, resulting in images that are effortlessly Taylor.
Style is communication and a stylist has the power to shape how their subject communicates to the world. For Uzo Aduba's cover of As If Magazine, Stacey Jones dove into feminine luxury, offering the Emmy Award winning actress the opportunity to step away from the orange jumpsuits that her fans so often see her in.
Paris is a hotbed of fashion and style, making it a dream destination for many and attracting artists from all over the world. Tom Corbett is no different. On his latest assignment for Somerset he really sank his teeth into the city, taking advantage of every block and street corner, capturing the beauty of the city and the ease of its powerful energy.
It's hard to describe Donald Trump's political rise, so sometimes the best option is to not even try. When The New York Times Magazine tasked Stanley Chow and Jamie Chung with an image that spoke to the story they got right to work on something that felt honest but was also a lot of fun.
When Marcus Bleasdale began his work as a photojournalist it was to make a difference, but an artist can never be sure if their hopes are going to come to fruition. Marcus' has. His work with Human Rights Watch has lead to changes in law, and even helped end a war. Their joint gallery show, "Impact," proved it.
Chipotle has seen better days, but before their troubles they made a very solid decision when they asked Harriet Russell, Sarah J. Coleman, Adam Hayes, and Dave Homer to create illustrations for their bags and cups. Each illustrator was paired up with a writer whose pieces were to serve as the inspiration, and the results are as delicious as you can imagine.
Ken Fulk is a master at interior design, and Douglas Friedman is a master at photographing interiors. When the two came together in a show-stopping shoot of Elle Decor, Fulk's vision leapt off the page thanks to Douglas' unique ability to translate space into flawless photographic composition.
Bernie Sanders represents one of the most interesting political stories this season, and like any political character his whole persona is hard to distill into a single image (even a photograph!). Ryan McAmis took his time, and dug deeply into his bag of tricks, creating a portrait for the cover of National Journal that is as honest a representation as we've ever seen.
It's not every day that passion projects turn directly into corporate campaigns, but when UPS saw Brian Doben's "At Work" series they knew they needed it for themselves. Brian extended the project, meeting with read UPS customers that happened to run their own small businesses, to see what it's really like to work with a company that caters to their needs.
Cinemagraphs are becoming more and more popular, but Chloe Aftel was there since day one. In fact, she's sort of become a go-to photographer to create these captive moments that she finds particular expressive because of their ability to inject more emotion and more story.
Sometimes the best way to talk about serious issues is with a good laugh, so when Todd Selby linked up with Evolve on a series of gun safety PSA they imagined what other things kids get into. Whether it's playing with condoms like balloons, or tampons like Wolverine's claws: the kids will get into anything and, most of the time, it can be hilarious.
Few artists are as closely watched as Banksy whose work is discussed and devoured the world over, so when James Joyce got the call to be included in Banksy's latest installation it was a no-brainer. James' contributions ended up including the cover of Dismaland's catalogue, a piece that has now been distributed the world over and marked as a coveted accomplishment for any creative CV.
We cannot pretend we know what the future will hold, but if we had to bet we'd bet on Roof Studios' vision. They were tasked with glimpsing ahead for a spot with Toshiba that envisions how our relationship with technology will continue to deepen and grow, and shows us what that will look like.
Ice Skating GIF by Nomoco.
We Are The Rhoads Show a New Side of Kendall and Kylie Jenner
If you walked onto set when Sarah and Chris Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads were shooting Kylie and Kendall Jenner for their new line Kendall+Kylie, you may have met some friendly dogs running loose on set. On other shoots with other photographers, the dogs are normally taken away and locked up where they won’t get in anyone’s way. But not with the Rhoads. They’re happy to let the dogs roam free in the spirit of having an open and relaxed feeling where it’s less about rules and more about expression. “A lot of times in photo shoots things can be so controlled,” explains Sarah. “And we really like to foster an atmosphere that says the imperfection is okay, the spontaneity is encouraged. That’s what we like to do. If we’re asking them to sit on the floor, we’re sitting on the floor with them and getting at eye level, developing that rapport and that intimacy.”
The Jenners are always camera ready. If they’re not on set, they’re being chased by the paparazzi and the Rhoads are sensitive to that. It’s a reality of the situation. Logic would say that getting an authentic and effortless image out of people who are heavily photographed would be a challenge. But that’s only if you’re trying to force it. Chris and Sarah work face to face with their subjects so that artifice can fall away instead of lacquered over. “I think whenever you’re photographed a lot then it’s nice to find a way to introduce something new to the talent,” says Chris. “Obviously there’s the direction that you’re giving and the environment and the energy exchange. But even something as simple as pulling out a camera that they might not be used to tends to elicit a different response and break down walls.” That’s exactly what they did. Over the course of a very busy day Chris and Sarah reached deeply into their camera collection and photographed the Jenner sisters in all sorts of different mediums. From Polaroid to Roloflex to a Land Camera, they were able to explore these different types of photography and bring the Jenner sisters along on the journey that allowed the girls to open up through curiosity.
It ended up being the precise tone to build the perfect working relationship. “They were really open to working spontaneously which is always really fun because then we can go with the flow and collaborate.” That collaboration came together to make something that Sarah and Chris are ultimately very proud of. When they are able to dig down deep and work with their collaborators like they did with the Jenners, the results always reach beyond expectations. It’s the work of getting to know one another and foster a healthy, creative atmosphere that offers the best results. It allows their subjects to open up and show a different kind of face, a more honest face, a truer face. A face that, perhaps, we don’t get to see as often. “Anytime we’re able to get truly honest portraits that are representative of who we are and also pulls out something honest and authentic in our subjects: that’s a really satisfying feeling,” says Chris. The result of true collaboration reveals something new in each artist and this is what Chris and Sarah found in Kendall and Kylie that we've never seen before.