When Filson approached famed photojournalist Steve McCurry about helping to design a camera bag, he immediately imagined building something, well, forgettable. He may be famous stateside, but McCurry keeps a low profile while on assignment, concealing lenses in non-descript bags. He informed the designers that the bag would have to be understated and the strap would have to be comfortable and dark. It wasn't sexy advice, it was a serious response to the serious design question.
"If you're in a place like, Favela in Rio or even Ipanema, you can be a target," says McCurry, who is best known for a National Geographic cover shot of a blue-eyed Afghani girl. "I work in all different sorts of places where you just wouldn't want people to think that there was valuable cameras, passport, cash."
Filson and McCurry created – with the help of David Alan Harvey, another notable photog – the Filson + Magnum Collection, an exercise in minimalism. The dark olive color and lack of external branding, allows the bags to seamlessly blend into the background, while still offering substantial protection, padded gear dividers, and a multitude of pockets and protective flaps. If the line of bags is deliberately unassuming, they are also tough as hell. Each satchel is constructed out of thick canvas and leather, which means it is designed to go on as many safaris as you can manage. "Unless you've spilt paint on it or it's gone through a buzz saw or something, I don't think it would ever wear out," says McCurry, for whom a beat-up bag is more valuable than a new one. A new one, after all, is more attractive to thieves.
McCurry finds himself using the "tote bag" from the line most of all. He says its convenient, low-profile, and ideal for photo shoots in the dodgier corners of more dangerous cities. It's well-made enough that he gets compliments when he goes to meet editors but it doesn't grab the attention of the people he's trying to capture. Like McCurry himself, the bag is as stealthy as it is noteworthy. [$245; filson.com]