Creative Brief

November 23, 2017

CREATIVE MINI BRIEF: Winter Storytelling 2017

Thanksgiving and Christmas imagery is often centred around ubiquitous indulgent dinners which makes sense; feasting is usually the focal point the holidays hinge on. But that doesn’t mean that the holidays are only about gorging on turkey and pumpkin pie. From piling in the car for a long contemplative drive to all week feasting preparations to the full-bellied, post-dinner communion, the holiday gathering is an enriched and layered experience.

Make efforts to capture the full Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering narrative in your holiday imagery while paying extra attention to the relationships and intimacy that make the effort worth the fuss. And let’s not forget that for some, the holidays are the epitome of excitement but for others, the thought of spending time with family is highly stressful, rife with conflicting emotions. In order to integrate the realness of the holiday gathering experience, we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the more challenging emotions that surface at this time of year.

(Hero image: Jakfruit)

Aside from traditional Thanksgiving dinners, explore unconventional holidays spent in quiet mountains or exotic locales, with family, friends, or even alone. Try minimalistic touches to add festive touch points without over-elaboration.

(Top: Laura Dart; Left: Kelly Brown Photographer; Right: Kinfolk Magazine)

Document the time in transit over the holidays (by car, train, bus, train, etc.). Invoke a sense of nostalgia and anticipation and/or the nervous anxiety that comes with bringing old baggage back home.

(Top: Lauren.Field, Top Left: Aksana Zinchanka, Right: Milagros Almogris; Bottom left: Ditte Isager; Right: Toronto Food Photographer)

Integrate a less postcard-perfect version of family reunions, favouring real moments of intimacy with complex emotion and depth. Take the opportunity to show the varied, non-nuclear structures that families can take.

(Top: Dave Rowswell; Left: Flickr, Right: Twitter )

It’s time to eat! Shoot the big, family dinner from unconventional angles and perspectives, including people of various cultures and ages with diversified food offerings. For example, what does a Chinese-American or Armenian-Canadian Thanksgiving/Xmas dinner look like? Explore this holiday as a multi-cultural event that takes many different forms.

(Right: Laura Dart,  Left: Leo Patrone; Bottom: Betty Liu)

Take your storyteller’s lens into the kitchen and observe the chaos of creating the grand feast. Find beauty in the mess through minimal styling and cinematic moments that capture the joy and/or panic of preparation.

(Left: Anne Parker , Right: Cashew Kitchen; Bottom: Bill Owens)

Holiday dinners can also be casual, small and intimate. A fresh bunch of autumn flowers or winter berries and a few candles on the dinner table are enough to create an unpretentious but warm dining atmosphere.

(Top: Larry Sultan ; Left: Ngoc Minh Ngo ; Right: Mimi Thorisson)


Family activities such as post-dinner walks and loafing on the couch are unspoken staples of the holidays. In particular, explore moments between multiple generations, eg. Grandparents playing with grandkids, new aunts and uncles meeting nieces and nephews, adults sipping wine at the dimly lit dining table as the kids watch a movie.

The post-dinner communion is also a great time to explore those challenging emotions during the holidays. Kids get impatient and play with their phones. Aunties pinch reluctant cheeks too hard. Mom is grilling her son about his job again. Maybe your subject is the black sheep of the family who grits their teeth through the whole experience. It doesn’t have to be dark, but perhaps a little uncomfortable at times. Many people love their families but that doesn’t mean they always have to like them.

(Top: Francesca Russel; Left: Flickr; Right: Pinterest)

Finally, shoot the winding down of the holiday as people peter out after a night of overindulgence and the kids are put to bed. Invoke this warming sense of nostalgia but also the relief as the holiday comes to a close. Going back to your own home after all that socializing, eating and drinking can sometimes be the best part of the experience.

Top:(Little Upside Down Cake); Left: The Spohrs are Multiplying; Right: Igoy ; Bottom: Sang Hyuk Yoon)

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