Writer’s Block! It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that sometimes I don’t know exactly how to say it. I wish I had it in me to break off some fabulous technical tips and insight on how to light for black clothing (use side light) or an insider secret on a great beauty shot (use a model with great skin to begin with) but I think I want to write about something else. I know that I haven’t been writing a lot lately. The truth is: I AM BUSY!!! I’ve had a smashing great start for the new year! I’m meeting today with a client for a huge gig that will be a monthly contractual job for 12 months. Love those kinds of jobs!! Getting ready for Dubai in March and I’m so excited!! Just booked my plane ticket yesterday and have already done a couple of interviews for some of Dubai’s newspapers and magazines. Shooting for my book! Shooting for CHURCH, which has now become a regular client needing me to supply monthly images for their upcoming website. Prepping a shoot for MIRRIN Magazine, based out of the UK that I will shooting next Tuesday. So, yeah……pretty busy!
A word to the wise…
One thing I need to mention here is some of my readers have been contacting my clients that I mention here on my blog and that’s just kinda’ a political NO NO. Okay? Do I really need to explain this one to you? Alright then, glad you get it. And BTW, when you send harassing emails to them, it really pisses them off. ; ) WINK WINK.
However, most of my blog readers are just amazing people!! And one of them took me to lunch recently when she was in town. Kitty Maer wrote me a very polite email and asked me if she could take me to lunch. Normally, I just get the sort of email (about 100 a week, and counting) if I could “look at their work and give them an honest critique and some advice on how to break into the fashion photography industry”. So the invitation for lunch was exotic! Plus, I know of her boyfriend, Wolfgang Parker who has won the SOTW a few times on here and has become a facebook buddy. I love his wonderful snarky comments! I knew if Wolfgang was dating her, she must be a cool chick. After sitting down and ordering food, I asked Kitty to show me her work. She pulled out her iPhone and we waited patiently for her Model Mayhem portfolio to load. I looked through her portfolio of work. Kitty has a ton of potential. Kitty has an EYE! Kitty lives in Columbus, Ohio.
Get the heck out of dodge!
“You need to get the fuck out of Columbus!” First words out of my mouth. And there it is! Part 1 of an honest crtitque. Are you ready to hear it? Was she ready to hear it? I thought Kitty shows some strong potential. Her lighting skills are pretty tight. She has an eye for fashion. But she kept saying to me that she felt like there was something “lacking” in her work and she just couldn’t figure out what that was. What lacked in Kitty’s work was A: the models. B: the styling. C: the clothes. And that makes perfect sense when you’re trying to build a body of work in Columbus, Ohio to compete with photographers based in New York, LA or Paris. Or London, Milan or Tokyo. Columbus, OHIO? Apologies a mile long, and I’m sure it’s a swingin’ city (sad to report but I’ve never been) but there ain’t no way you’re going to book those campaigns and editorials if you stay in a city that small. SOTW winner this week is Polina Osherov. When I first saw her name I thought she must be from Europe. When I went to her website’s contact page I saw an area code so then I knew she was somewhere in the US. But I didn’t recognize the area code. I wrote her and asked her where she was based and she wrote back, the “fashion capital of the world” Indianapolis. Her words, not mine. While I’m sure Indiana is a great state (never been there either) it’s going to be hard to “make it” if you’re based there. You have to base yourself out of a city that has a somewhat large fashion market (or any fashion market) in order to compete in the industry. That’s not to say you can’t make a living in Columbus or Indianapolis. You can. Seniors, family portraits, weddings…..sure! Fashion…..no. It’s just IMHO (in my humble opinion or in my HONEST opinion) and you are welcome to argue with me in the comment section ( I don’t moderate the comments…go right ahead! ) but how can you make make a living as fashion photographer in a city that doesn’t even have an ad agency that handles fashion accounts? I know, the main argument is going to be, with today’s internet you can be based anywhere and they will fly you out. Sure, if you’re Steven Meisel or Peter Lindbergh. In other words, if you’re already established and have a reputation and have been published for years, then sure, you can live in Anchorage, Alaska.
I was blessed ( and cursed ) to be born in the city of Los Angeles. I have a mixed love affair with this city. I was born and raised here and it is definitely HOME to me. I wake up at 5 or 6 AM most mornings and one of my favorite things to do is get in the car and go down to my local Starbucks on Hollywood Blvd. The sun is just breaking out, the light is low and mysterious, and all the weirdos and freaks are out walking the star studded sidewalk. On any given morning, I get to see Captain Jack Sparrow and Charlie Chaplin grab their morning cup of Joe and head over to the Grauman’s Chinese Theater to get their picture taken with the tourists infiltrating my town. I love it! But even I have suffered in my career by being based here. My work is not very “LA”. I don’t really enjoy shooting celebrities so I never built a book to try to get more work doing that kind of work. I don’t enjoy shooting lifestyle and that’s what a lot of the fashion work is here in LA. My style has always been more NY or Europe. And because of that, most of my clients are in NY or overseas.
What do you need to make it as a fashion photographer?
I know, this isn’t easy to swallow and I feel a little bad writing it, but I can’t tell you how many emails I get from very talented people asking me “what they need to do to make it as a fashion photographer” meawhile they are living in cities that I’ve never even heard of. I know that some of you have families that you just can’t leave behind to pursue your dreams. I know some of you have mortgages you just can’t pick up and walk away from. Some of you have kids. Obviously, you can’t pick up and walk away from your children! I never had kids. I knew that having children wouldn’t facilitate my career and in a sense, my photography is my kid. And marriage? Well, marriage doesn’t exactly facilitate it either! I remember my 2nd husband asking me for a divorce over the phone in 1993 because I decided to sign a 2 year contract for a job that paid very well and was very good for my career. I was only supposed to stay in Australia for 3 months. But I really wanted to stay and shoot. So I got the divorce. There was no way I was going to turn down that kind of career opportunity. In my 20’s, after graduating from Art Center, I literally lived out of a duffel bag. At 28, I got a call from a friend who had become the new fashion editor for a Spanish men’s magazine and he asked me how soon I could be in Paris to shoot a few editorials with him. I was on a plane the next day! My (ex) boyfriend was furious with me! As he drove me to the airport he told me I might not have a place to come back to. So what did I do? I got on that plane! Looking back, I made the right choice. I met some great people, drank really good wine and shot some beautiful guys. The (ex) boyfriend? Who cares! And no, I didn’t have a place to come back to. I stayed for 4 months in Europe ( I told him I’d be gone a month at the most) and then went to NY on my way back to LA and stayed a month there because I kept getting work. He was over it. But there was no way I could turn down the work or the opportunity so the sacrifices had to be made. And it takes that type of commitment and devotion to your career in order to stay in the game and play ball.
Fashion photography is a specific market and you must live in or near that market so you can get work. And we’re in this to work! We’re in this to make a living. Remember, this is a business! So, Yes!! You can start out shooting in Coon Rapids, (look it up, I had to) but you cannot advance to a higher level or begin to promote and market yourself as a fashion photographer in Coon Rapids. Once you start honing your skills and after you’ve decided that fashion photography is the ONLY career you’ll settle for you are going to have to busta’ move!