Consider the visual noise we sift through every day: The social platforms we scroll through, the pop-up ads, the steady stream of incoming emails… If a brand isn’t visually compelling, it's just a digital afterthought.
I'm the director of photography at AFAR, a travel magazine. In 2008, when working on AFAR's first issue, I had very little to start from except for AFAR’s mission; the vision of founders Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz; and a mood board I created to land the job. At that point, the idea of creating a brand identify was the furthest thing from my mind—I just wanted to find decent talent I could afford in far-flung regions where I had few contacts. I dove in, and over a relatively short time, creative director Jane Palecek and I developed AFAR’s initial visual voice. That early voice then shaped the brand identity that has been synonymous with AFAR ever since.
Two key contributions to that voice were the magazine's mission, and some photographers whose distinctive work personified the mission's expression.
AFAR’s original mission was to inspire, to guide, and to enable deeper, richer, and more authentic travel experiences. I believe in this fully. Nothing is more rewarding than sitting down and having a drink and a laugh with someone from somewhere else. It’s also an amazing way to learn a few things.
For me, the visual point of view at AFAR should first focus on that “someone” and secondly on that “somewhere else.” The magazine as a brand should inspire and guide the traveler to get out there, and once there, to celebrate connections made. To this end, I've always been on the lookout for portraits of quirky, expressive characters: young and old, and people of every shape and size and color. Then, I may look for an unpretentious, unstyled dinner table, or a magically caught moment. I always want to juxtapose a bit of resort luxury against the personality of urban grit and find small details to round out everything. It's what a travel narrative is for me and I believe it’s what the AFAR reader will be inspired by. The pages of AFAR should focus on the unexpected and, shoot me for saying this, the authentic.
The photographic team TrujilloPaumier was the earliest contributor to AFAR’s visual brand. My collaboration with Brian Paumier and Joaquin Trujillo began with a feature in AFAR’s third issue based in and around Mexico City. I recall Joaquin having relatives in a small village mentioned in the article; he understood the way of life there, its people, and most importantly how to celebrate them.