Can you tell us about casual representation and how that differs from traditional diversity campaigns?
Through 2020, and after, especially in the US right after George Floyd, this big conversation began around racial justice in different spaces. And that, of course, influenced the conversation in outdoor spaces as well. There was this big surge of campaigns that specifically focused on diversity. And it was the first time a lot of us really saw those big campaigns, or we saw people from our community being supported and being represented. Which is amazing, right? That’s something that’s never happened before. It’s something that’s totally needed. And that’s something that I would consider a more traditional diversity campaign, that’s something that is intentionally created for the sake of showing that a brand, a company, an organization can have diverse representation. And that is the implicit goal of that project.
Casual representation isn’t necessarily a diversity campaign, this is just our hiking campaign for the year, this is just our backpacking campaign for the year or whatever it is, and that includes a diverse range of people. That’s something that I think can be really hit or miss with some brands, because then it really shows that there’s this big disconnect between diversity being this niche thing, and not something that needs to be applied across the board. Like, next month, you have Black History Month, right? You have these different months that highlight communities. And that’s incredibly important.
But what about the rest of the year? It totally drops off. And it shows that we’re just another marketing campaign, that we’re not actually valued for any of that.
Why is it important for organizations to invest in diverse and inclusive photography, particularly in the outdoor space?
For brands specifically, if they care, it’s going to make them a lot more money. Their bottom line is really what they care about. If they want to tap into new markets, they have to have diverse marketing. That’s kind of when you’re pitching to brands, you kind of have to come at it a little bit from that angle as icky as it feels, because that’s really what a lot of them care about. But for the rest of us, to see ourselves represented in spaces that we haven’t seen ourselves in or to see other people that look like us doing things that we never thought we could do, it just opens that door of possibility. Like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve never really thought of that, but maybe I want to do that too. Maybe I want to try it. Maybe I just want to dip my toes in.” And all of that is important because it is, first of all, a great importance to our mental health to be getting outdoors, right?
We want more people to have that access. We want more people to feel comfortable and invited. And it’s not going to happen if people don’t see themselves, or they don’t feel represented, or they feel stigmatized for going outdoors.
When it comes to conservation and protecting the world, the more people we have active in outdoor spaces, the more people are going to want to protect and be a part of it and see the value of taking steps that are going to protect our Earth long term. I know there’s a lot of conversation around the idea that the more people that get outdoors, the less accessible it’s going to be because people aren’t taking care of it. But all of that is part of the learning curve and providing education. And that’s not going to happen immediately. You’re going to get this big influx of people who get outdoors, which is what happened during COVID. A lot of things were not well taken care of, there wasn’t good education around it, and that all could have been solved early on by providing a heavy influx of education around how to protect these spaces. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be inviting more people outdoors regardless, and then helping move along that education.