How Low Can LowePro Go?

This might seem like a relatively trivial point considering the state of the world, but something which has been irking me with increasing frequency is the use of certain words and themes in photography and the marketing of photographic equipment.

What prompts me to write this today is seeing the mini-site promoting LowePro’s latest camera bags, the ProTactic 350AW and 450AW.

For the sake of clarity, I’ve been a long-term fan of LowePro and use their bags almost exclusively now. I have a large roller case for one of my portable studio lighting kits, a shoulder bag for occasions when I just need a few pieces of kit for a specific job, a belt pack for when I can really whittle things down, and my current workhorse, a small rolling backpack. So it’s not as if I don’t like their products, but the marketing angle taken for these bags seems to positively encourage a connection between photography and combat.

Starting with the product name, why has the word “professional” been conflated with “tactic”? Tactic could be a reference to football, but let’s be honest, all the text and visuals surrounding these products are nudging us into thinking about confrontation otherwise the models would be shown freezing to death in the February sleet on the touchline at the grounds of Tottenham Athletic FC (I know nothing about football, but I used to cover it for various papers so I know the pain of photographing a deep-winter evening match).

Screengrab from LowePro ProTactic camera bag mini-site showing two models in distressed urban setting taking photos.

I see four camera bags, only two photographers. Perhaps two fled when things got dicey.

The models used in the stills on the site appear to be “shooting from cover”, even though they’re dressed for an evening at a trendy loft bar rather than coping with some kind of urban riot, but that’s just slick marketing and I have to give credit for them not being dressed in desert boots and camouflage.

The text reinforces the macho, military messages with the phrase “Mission-Critical Access” which I take it means these bags have zips with which to access the various internal compartments. Really? Mission-critical?! How about weapon-ready compartments for putting your cameras and lenses in? Or an ammo pocket for memory cards and batteries?

There’s a video to accompany the marketing. It’s got some young, trendy-looking photographers leaving their studio apartments, traveling by skateboard and motorbike so they can get some mission critical shots of erm… graffiti, or accessing the top of a high building (hopefully legally) to take photos of lightning on the city skyline while drinking latte from a flask (or is it freeze-dried army surplus broth?)

I don’t like photographers referring to themselves as “shooters” and I’m uncomfortable with companies marketing their equipment or accessories in a way which promotes photography as some kind of conflict game. Last week I watched McCullin, the documentary on Don McCullin’s life as a photographer of conflicts and famines. He didn’t mention what bags he used in Vietnam, but I suspect he didn’t buy ones called War Junky 101 or something.

It’s in poor taste to harvest phrases from such terrible events as wars and commercialise them to attempt to make photography seem cooler by associating it with conflict which, while seemingly still very much in vogue, is definitely not cool.

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3 comments

  • Ken February 11, 2015   Reply →

    Tim,

    Just because I haven’t been leaving comments doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading and following your blog.

    I can’t agree more with your comments, the using conflict approach and making it look sexy and exciting is just well below the bar.

    There would have been considerable consideration given to this campaign before it was signed off, this means there are a influential group of people within the Lowepro company who have become isolated and unfeelig towards the human side of conflict in any of its forms.

    I find it leaves me quite queasy when I see this sort of marketing.

    Keep up the good work mate

    Cheers

    Ken

  • Tim Gander February 11, 2015   Reply →

    Hi Ken,

    It’s good to know you’re still there! 🙂

    I don’t understand why they’ve gone in this direction with this line of bags. They could have called them anything they wanted, so whether this is a conscious decision to play on the conflict angle or whether the marketing grew out of the choice of name; who knows?

    LowePro have a video on their site for their hard cases, and while it’s deeply silly, it works because it plays on humour. The marketing around the ProTactic Series is in stark contrast rather poor taste.

    Hopefully you’re still enjoying my posts, take care and see you around.

    Tim

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