George Comeau is the Marketing and Brand Activation Manager at Downtown Boston Business Improvement District. George joined us for a chat about his unusual path from law school to destination marketing and photography, and which city is his favorite (besides Boston, of course). 

Logo of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District

About Downtown Boston Business Improvement District

The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District is a nonprofit dedicated to making downtown Boston a wonderful place to live, work and visit. The marketing team uses Canto to manage photos and videos of the city, events and attractions. Read their story here.

George Comeau, Marketing and Brand Activation Manager from Downtown Boston Business Improvement District.Thanks for joining us, George! I would love to hear more about what you do at Downtown Boston BID.

The organization’s goal is to make this part of Boston clean, safe and welcoming. I run Downtown Boston BID’s strategy for brand visibility and awareness. In addition, I shoot and edit most of the photos we use to promote BID and I’m also the keeper of the website and asset library.

For my job, I often get to travel to other cities to see what they’re doing and bring those ideas back here. Visiting other cities is fun but it’s always so nice to come back home. I’ve lived in Boston for my entire life and I love it. 

What’s your favorite city in the world?

I love all cities, but I have to say I love visiting Paris, Quebec and Montreal, and recently I spent some time in San Antonio and loved it there, too.

Cities are fascinating. I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is to do destination marketing, and I’ve also come to appreciate what the urban environment is like, even the aspects that aren’t good. American cities are facing issues like homelessness and the opioid crisis. You have to have a deeper understanding of the problems as well. It’s all part of the job.

When you’re shooting photos for Downtown Boston, what do you look for?

Most of the photos we use are taken by me, but I don’t call myself a photographer; I think there are lots of photographers who are more technically skilled than I am. I consider myself more of a composer when I look through the lens.

What I look for are the people and the faces and the places. One thing that’s carried over my entire life is that my bosses have all said pretty much the same thing about photography, and that is: “What story is this photo is telling?”

In particular here at Boston BID, the stories have a relationship to the environment. So I always look for ways for the streetscape to inform the photo because otherwise the photo could be anywhere. I love taking portraits, but sometimes those portraits are so close up they could be anywhere and that’s not useful to us. It’s a balancing act between commercial photography and  destination photography. My world (the BID) is one hundred acres, which sounds like a lot, but it isn’t if that’s all you photograph. If that’s your palette every day, you have to go and find new ways to tell the story. That’s the challenge. And I like that.

Cities are fascinating. I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is to do destination marketing, and I’ve also come to appreciate what the urban environment is like, even the aspects that aren’t good. American cities are facing issues like homelessness and the opioid crisis. You have to have a deeper understanding of the problems as well. It’s all part of the job.

Photo of Boston and its downtown waterfront.I love that perspective that images are meant to tell stories. What do you try to evoke in your photography?

I love telling the architectural story, because we enter a really interesting architectural place within Boston in the BID. This part of the city was entirely destroyed by fire in the late 1800s. It was rebuilt all at once at a time when the architecture spoke to things like brick and sandstone and brownstone and really interesting textures. 

What’s emerging now is a new architectural aesthetic built over the old; they’re preserving historic buildings and they’re building up and over them. And that is really interesting. The intersection between the glass and the brick and the streetscape and the people – those are the photos that we try to achieve.

“You have quite an unusual background for someone in marketing; I understand you also have a law degree. How did you find your way into the marketing and creative world?”

Yes, I do have a Master’s in Public Administration and a degree in law. After getting my MPA, I worked at a university, so tuition there was free for me – but my decision to attend law school was born out of curiosity and a love of learning.

Everyone says law school is so different from other types of higher education, and I figured that if we were building all these state of the art classrooms at the university, I should learn why the pedagogy is so different. I graduated with a professional degree, so I do maintain my license to practice. 

Being a lawyer has helped tremendously in other areas of my life and career. I know how to think critically about solving problems and it’s helped me to be articulate and communicate ideas better.

As a creative professional, having to create new work within a limited geographical location, what inspires you?

I love nature and I’m inspired by the seasons and finding greenery within the city. We don’t often think of trees when we think of cities. Finding bits of nature in hard surfaces is difficult sometimes, so I’m always looking to see if can I put some greenery in the shot. Those are my favorite shots – when I’m shooting through trees and leaves. 

I’m also just inspired by the really cool work we do. We put on festivals, parades, fireworks. There’s always something fun to do and photograph.

Thank you, George! Check out Downtown Boston (and George’s beautiful photography) here.

Catherine Chiang - Content Marketing Specialist I Canto

As a content marketing specialist at Canto, Catherine is dedicated to sharing stories that inspire, motivate and educate. Based in San Francisco, Catherine helps our customers tell their stories.