The Tale of 3 Visual Storytellers

Above from left: Kellie Morris of Pedal Love, Leah Shahum former Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and now focusing on Vision Zero, Jenna Burton founder of Red, Bike & Green Oakland, Renee Rivera Executive Director of Bike East Bay, design entrepreneur Shelby Sanchez, Kellie Morris, Lisa Beth Anderson self portrait, Jenna Burton. All images are by Lisa Beth Anderson.

While working on the imagery notes for our upcoming "Media + Marketing Love 202" (it's free for California Bicycle Coalition affiliate executive teams, current members and Pedal Love's current subscribers!) webinar next week in which we'll be covering imagery as part of your branding and pitching I decided I'd ask Caroline Szczepanski, the Director of Media for the League of the American Bicyclists and the founder of their Women Bike program, her thoughts on why great visuals are so crucial to what the League is doing. I think you'll find her thoughts compelling:

"The value of high-quality images to programs like Women Bike can't be overstated. Encouragement initiatives, especially those aimed at traditionally underrepresented populations (like, yes, women!), must address and uproot the previous stereotypes about cycling. Our goal is to replace the misconceptions — or lack of representation — with new visions of how bicycling can fit into and improve the lives of women from diverse backgrounds. Photography is an incredibly powerful tool in giving current and potential bicycle users a glimpse of the possibilities and validate the thought that, "Yes, women like ME ride a bike!" We couldn't be more grateful to the Pedal Love crew for highlighting the work of leaders like Jenna Burton, Renee Rivera and Leah Shahum (to name a few) in the sophisticated and inspirational light they so richly deserve."

The images she's referring to are from the photo sessions above and are all by the very talented young visual storyteller and photographer Lisa Beth Anderson over the year+ she recently lived in Long Beach as her home base. A variety of images from these photo shoots have been used by us here for Pedal Love of course, but also by Momentum Magazine, the California Bicycle Coalition, and the League of American Bicyclists and more. Lisa is now based out of Oakland and I'm looking forward to seeing where her career goes next. I'm expecting big things for her editorial work and will be including both her and her photography in bike focused pitches I'm putting together to travel magazines for May as National Bike Month and summer in general. I'd love to see her work next in a magazine like Afar.

Lisa brings out something special in everyone she photographs, but as a woman who rides a bike as her main form of transportation at home, she has a special affinity for bicyclists.

But what's the very best thing about Lisa? I could send her off to photograph those who feel they are completely un-photogenic and dread the results of a photo session. Yours truly is in this camp. The images I use of myself are all also by Lisa. I can rest assured that Lisa would come back with photos to make even the toughest self critic delighted with the results.

We need more of this marvelous skill to show people a different side of themselves, to illustrate why their story of life by bike matters.

We need more talent like this capturing images of the joy of bicycling of people from 8 to 80 if we truly want to make a culture shift and get the number of people out regularly bicycling that we dream of - whether we're on the product sales side in the bike industry or in advocacy.

I have been extremely fortunate that both Lisa Beth Anderson and Allan Crawford have been so generous with their time and talent not only with Pedal Love, but with sharing their work with other bike advocacy organizations. In return I do all I can to help promote their work and the opportunity for them to gain new paying clients. If that's you I certainly hope you'll get in touch with either one!

Both the bike industry and bike advocacy have come a long way in the diversity of the images used in marketing pieces and websites since I first became involved over six years ago, but there's still room to grow and create truly captivating marketing campaigns that will draw fresh audiences.

The casual bicyclist is still not brought front and center much with the biggest of our bike manufacturers even though almost all of them manufacture city bikes and cruisers. My question for the bike industry is why make these bikes if you're not going to support them with marketing beyond photographing them for a sales brochure? This is the huge growth market you're searching for. Throw your net wide enough and you will get those new hardcore athletes you dream of, but right now you're trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip with the sport sport sport angle.

I hope now we're ready to turn a corner and create real budgets for not only creative talent but full fledged marketing campaigns that will entice and seduce rather than speaking just to the choir. I was very excited when People for Bikes put a spotlight on Bike Pittsburgh's Drive with Care marketing campaign. The imagery is friendly and diverse, illustrating just what a broad array of people actually like to ride their bike. Like we did with the Share Our Streets campaign in Long Beach a few years ago, Bike Pittsburgh also used both transit shelter and buses to advertise the campaign. I think both are excellent for creating high visibility and impact for a campaign.

Over the weekend I was in Santa Monica and witnessed their fabulously diverse bike culture first hand. Remember, this is a city that has seen a 300+ % in bike ridership over the past 12 years. I sat at a Starbucks across the street from City Hall just blocks from where I lived for over a decade. I watched, delighted as a truly diverse array of people pedaled by, but what I was really struck by was how couples had young children with them - and I mean children too small to ride by themselves happily being carted along in their special seats. Everywhere I went in Santa Monica I saw more bikes with special children's seats than any place I've visited before.

In dreaming about having more sophisticated media and marketing campaigns for bicycling I thought I'd share the work of two other visual storytellers as well who inspire me and who like Lisa, have a unique eye and talent. Both of these men also ride bikes and capture images of people riding bikes -  the photographer/videographers Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist) and Casey Neistat famous for his crash stunt spoof video of the dangers riding in New York's bike lanes that went viral a few years ago.

The two men couldn't be more different in their styles. Scott is all elegance, Casey is down and dirty but with a fabulous sense of design. Both men are also examples of talent rising to the top of our often challenging opportunity economy. Schuman began his photographic career after 9/11 when he decided to just jump in and become the fashion photographer he'd dreamed of being. Riding his bike around Manhattan he became famous for his arresting images of New York's street style on his blog The Sartorialist. He's now published books, and works all over the world for top lifestyle brands. The above video is from his recent series for AOL.

Neistat is also self taught but came to photography and videography via cell phones after leaving home and school by 17 and realizing there had to be more to life than being a professional dishwasher. I was reminded of him and his fresh, irreverent way of working on this recent NewsCred post. He is a master of the latest social media. If you missed Casey's bike lanes video take a peek. Over 13 million people have watched. Yep. 13 million.

If you, like me, have been feeling a bit behind the social media times and don't have a clue what Snapchat is or how it works in the video below Neistat brilliantly lays it out for us. If you're looking for ways to engage a young audience you NEED to be paying attention to Snapchat. Want to learn more about bringing the power of compelling visual imagery into your media and marketing outreach? Make sure not to miss our Thursday February 12th webinar "Media + Marketing Love 202."