How Christina Anderson Helped GoPro Enter the Zeitgeist
Meet the creative mastermind behind the tiny camera that elevated the first-person narrative and made POV fiends of us all
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How’s this for a branding achievement: In making the space-survival film of the year, The Martian, Ridley Scott turned to GoPro cameras as a key storytelling tool. As Quartz points out, “GoPros had more screen time than Kristen Wiig or Donald Glover.” Watching Matt Damon’s ill-fated astronaut log his every action with the small camera, you have to wonder at how GoPro has become synonymous with first-person video capture. One woman deserves much of the credit for that: Christina Anderson.
Anderson, 38, shapes how the company’s messaging and branding evolves as its capabilities expand. As GoPro’s vice president of brand and creative services, she’s responsible for all front-facing visuals, excluding video, for the multimillion dollar company, which is no small task—especially given GoPro’s paradigm shift from hardware company (where consumers buy camera products) to media company (where consumers store and share what they create with said cameras). What her job boils down to is helping GoPro reach the point of cultural saturation that it has.
To do this, Anderson has established GoPro as an essential tool that celebrates both the obviously awe-inspiring and the everyday. The camera, which mounts on everything from helmets to handlebars to selfie sticks, is a mainstay in adrenaline sports these days thanks to the brand’s nearly endless media stream of captured flips, splashes, crashes, and descents. But perhaps more important is Anderson’s relentless campaign to make everyone feel that their life is worthy of first-person filming. “Not everyone is a pro athlete,” she says. “Good imagery is about picking moments that are from a new perspective. For example: swinging a child around by the arms—capturing that from your point of view is such a cool moment.” That’s why, alongside daredevil surfers and mountain bikers on GoPro’s Instagram, you’ll also see kids taking a hike or a trip to the dentist.
“Not everyone is a pro athlete. Good imagery is about picking moments that are from a new perspective.
When Anderson joined the company five years ago following stints as an art and design director at several other companies, the GoPro concept was significantly less buzz-y than it is today. It was a labor of love for founder Nick Woodman and his cousin. “I was the first creative role to come into GoPro,” Anderson says. “I took over everything that had been created to date and built a team of art directors, copywriters and editors, designers, producers, and photographers from the ground up. It’s been a lot of work, but that’s exactly what sold me on this position. That’s what makes it addicting.”
She’s nailed the work-life balance, too, which could also help explained her drive and total resonance with the GoPro culture. Anderson recharges on Lake Tahoe’s alpine playground—you’ll find her at Squaw Valley or Kirkwood on a powder day, but she refuses to divulge her go-to singletrack—and does her best thinking on a mountain bike. And, yes, she takes a Hero4 Session on her own adventures: “It’s super small, completely waterproof with no housing, and I’m having fun exploring new angles,” she says. “It’s really a grab-and-go camera, which is nice. I don’t have to worry about jumping into a lake.”
Now Anderson is looking ahead to an eventful 2016. On her to-do list is getting GoPro to athletes and events like the X Games, and making it look good pretty much everywhere—social media, print ads, product launches (you might remember this year’s). For that task, Anderson is turning more and more to GoPro users themselves (check out the Submit Your Photos). It gives everyday people the chance to see their special moments on, say, a billboard. “I’m excited about seeing the way the brand is changing the way people are thinking and behaving,” she says.
It’s a pretty sweet feeling to watch your passion project enter the zeitgeist—which is exactly what GoPro seems to have achieved. Anderson is wowed by the totally unexpected places the camera’s already gone. She points out the GoPro journey into space, and the Dolphin Reel, which is so otherworldly that critics questioned whether it was computer animated. “It blows my mind every time I see it. Showcasing those moments is what inspires people to get out and lead a bigger life. It’s about being whatever your own hero is.”
Anderson’s Tips for Getting a Perfect GoPro Shot
- Be a storyteller. The idea is to capture a narrative, an entire experience, in one shot. “It’s about where your journey is about to go; a preview of what you leave up to the imagination of the viewer.”
- Get intimate with the camera. Experiment with new points-of-view and think outside the box. Step out of your shooting comfort zone. “Try non-posed moments, intimate angles. Selfies are good for certain moments, but…”
- Set the camera on time-lapse mode. “That way you’re capturing a photo every five seconds. It guarantees you at least one moment you fall in love with.”
- Frame your shots. Try the GoPro or LCD BacPac app to control the camera remotely and use the live preview function. Look for bright colored clothing that contrasts with the surroundings.
- Consider timing. Shoot when the sun is low to circumvent harsh lighting and minimize shadows.
- Seek the unexpected. Go beyond the activities you’d normally photograph. Look for hidden moments in everyday life that you might never think to capture: a walk with a child, buying produce at a market, morning coffee.
- Be purposeful. Set a goal when you take a photo. Know what you want. Then review it to see if you succeeded.