How Vans is Utilizing Community Engagement: “Let Light In: A Pinhole Camera and Photography Workshop

You might have heard the term ‘ Community engagement; thrown around recently. Whether you are a brand, celebrity, or non-profit, community engagement is extremely important for getting your name out there, building brand awareness, and connecting with real people who will eventually buy your product/ idea.

Community engagement refers refers to the process by which community benefit organizations and individuals build ongoing, permanent relationships for the purpose of applying a collective vision for the benefit of a community. Nowadays, consumers are bombarded by advertisements and product promotion daily, and it can feel overwhelming. That’s why community engagement is increasingly important for creating great content and meaningful experiences.

So how do you do this? It’s one thing to be aware of a brand, but it can take a lot more than awareness to persuade a consumer to choose one brand over the other. One of the primary tools of brand promotion is : educating and experiencing.

Vans is an internationally recognized shoe brand, which transformed from being a skater shoe to an ubiquitous American shoe basic. Blending culture, fitness, style and art together, Vans appeals to a wide audience, and boasts a following of almost 7 million on Instagram. In addition, Vans has a prominent presence at music festivals and college campuses alike.

About two weeks into February, I received an email titled, “House of Vans College Photography Workshop | Limited Seats, RSVP Now!”. The email opened with the line, “Vans is hosting an exclusive workshop for Los Angeles students this Saturday and we want you to be the first to know.”. I was invited to the event, “Let Light In: A Pinhole Camera and Photography Workshop” led by the Vans photographers Grant Hatfield and Nolan Hall. The event was entirely free, and as an added bonus lunch would be provided by Burgerlords, a craft burger shop right around the corner.

Right away, the email presented this experience as exclusive, educational and a fun, free experience. How could I turn that down? Vans had me profiled perfectly. As a design student, they anticipated my 1) lack of income 2) propensity towards free food 3) interest in design and DIY, and created an event to perfectly suit all of these needs.

The workshop was held at Slow Culture Gallery, a small renovated art space in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles Chinatown. Like promised, there was free hamburgers and fries, and expertise provided by the Vans photographers. Over a period of four hours, we were given the opportunity to piece together a wooden pinhole camera.

Although this event was small, it changed my perception of the Vans for the better. I brought a friend, met some cool new people, and had a lot of fun working with my hands. Vans created an experience that spoke directly to me as a student and artist. They had an expert in the field educate me about film photography, and I left with a positive takeaway towards the brand. I was grateful to them for hosting an event like this, that wouldn’t have been accessible to me otherwise. After the event, I looked up their Instagram page and followed it. I checked out their website to see what they were doing. It brought Vans back to the forefront of my mind.

About Grant Hatfield

Grant is an American photographer who for the last decade has been documenting skateboarding subculture and daily life in his native Southern California. Known for his sharp eye and bold usage of color, his work has been shown in galleries across the US and abroad. A regular contributor to photography zines such as Hamburger Eyes and Monster Children, Grant is a core member of the independent publishing group Deadbeat Club and is currently working on his 4th title for the group.

About Nolan Hall

Nolan Hall is a photographer and team manager for Vans’ surfing program. Growing up on the beaches of Southern California, his work is predominantly centered around beach & surf culture. Nolan is a member of the Deadbeat Club, an independent publisher of photography. His photographs have appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Desillusion, Foam, Monster Children, and Surfer Magazine among others.