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.