Isis King for Curva

My fourth cover!  Whee!

I had something of a whirlwind shoot for Curva, photographing Isis King for their 20th issue.  Ms. King was the first trans model on America's Next Top Model, and is currently a trans advocate and groundbreaking figure in the modeling community. 

isis 4_v1.jpg

 

 

Denise Bidot for QMode

I recently shot the oh-so-lovely Denise Bidot for QMode Magazine, out of Spain.  Turns out, she's basically me, just waaay prettier.   She was the first plus model to walk NYFW in a non-plus-specific show, and she recently launched the No Wrong Way movement, a campaign designed to celebrate people, however they identify, just the way they are.

You can read more about No Wrong Way here.  

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Another Cover, and Some Fangirling.

When a progressive, size-inclusive fashion magazine asks you to be in New York three days later to shoot a cover story on an actress who isn't just from a show you love, but also happens to be as outspoken about visibility and equality within the fashion industry as you are, you get yourself on a plane to NYC.

And yes, she is as lovely as you'd imagine she'd be. 

(She wanted a selfie with me.  Who was I to say no?)

Made The Cover

Back in October, The Milo Foundation of Richmond, CA was generous enough to let me shoot in their animal shelter for a shoot featuring adoptable cats. 

One thing you should know about me:  I am an unabashed crazy cat lady.  My life is covered in cat hair.  I call it "ethical fur".  So you can imagine my excitement when I got to shoot two of my loves, fashion and cats, together

Fear is realizing you've just willingly exposed $25k of silky, lacy, delicate wardrobe to a herd of freaked out cats.  Shoot Day was literally eight hours of Arrested Development Will Arnett-ing "I've made a huge mistake".

But it worked out in the end.  I wanted to bring a little extra attention to a cause that's near and dear to my heart, bring a little publicity to a local shelter doing good things for good creatures, and have an excuse to snuggle adorable cats, because apparently, the three I already have at home aren't enough.

Go to www.bobcutmag.com to get your copy of the magazine, or go to www.milofoundation.org to learn about adoption, volunteering, or donations. 

Honeymoon in Iceland

This has nothing to do with fashion, but when a weirdo photographer goes to a weirdo* country, she takes weirdo photos. 

*This is a compliment.  Iceland was magical.  I spent two and a half weeks eating my way across the country with my possibly-descended-from-Vikings husband (!) and petting all the dogs.  It's possible my entire honeymoon was a fever dream. 

BLVD Select

Related to the post I just made, I'm now working with Boulevard, listed on their BLVD Select roster of "best of the best" artists.  They plan to produce quarterly updates.  Of course, they're now working on their second piece, reminding me that I forgot to post the first:

[Here it is.]  <-- click that

 

The Future of Fashion Photography, Character As Commodity, And A [Re-] Introduction

I keep making noises that I'll update the blog more often, and then I don't do it.  So, we'll try this again.

One of the things photographers hear over and over again is that we need to carve out a voice, to be the kind of artist that leaves [potential] clients with the impression that we are the only person who can fill a very specific niche.  Make it so that your name becomes an adjective. 

For a long time, I thought this meant my background.  I was thisclose to getting my PhD in Art History, or at least a Master's in Museum Studies or something academic and art-related.  Saved up the money and everything.  I was even accepted to school.  And at the last minute, I decided I wouldn't be as satisfied studying other people's art as I would making my own.  So I switched gears.  I thought my "unique perspective" was that I had fine art ability with art history knowledge, and a feminist voice, and that would be my ticket.  So I started with fine art erotica, then switched to fashion and beauty.  And that was my schtick:  the academic photographer. 

Except no one actually gives a fig about my education.

Let's call a spade a spade:  in an image- and results-oriented industry like fashion, the journey doesn't matter as much as the ultimate destination.  Can you produce good work?  Can you produce the work I, the client, need you to produce?  Are you worth my money?  Organization and persistence is just as important as talent and skill when it comes to success as an artist, but none of that is mutually exclusive with intellect.  You could be dumber than a bag of hair and still take an amazing photograph if your natural instincts are strong. 

To make a long story a little shorter, I've shifted my presentation.  My elevator pitch is less about my academic background and more about how that background has dictated how I take pictures.  My approach to lighting, color, tone, and composition is more in line with how a painter operates than a photographer, since I learned how to make a picture from painters, not photographers.   Studying the trajectory of hundreds of years of art gave me an encyclopedic visual vocabulary from which I can draw inspiration, but more importantly, educated me as to the evolution of the portrayal of women.  And this is where I stand today.

I am a woman creating images of women for an industry that does not have a reputation of being kind to women.  The historic portrayal of women in art is deeply flawed and troubling, more often than not furthering their subjugation.  Therefore, I have a responsibility to ensure what I put out into the world furthers the dialogue in a progressive manner, not just for the sake of other women, but for myself as a fellow woman and as an artist.  Just like the male artists of the past, there is power in my voice.  "With great power comes great responsibility", yadda yadda yadda.

And so, for the last few months, I have taken on an interesting experiment:  present myself as a feminist fashion photographer.  It's my introduction.  That is my elevator pitch. 

I've been attending portfolio reviews for years, specifically Fotoworks (both in NYC and LA), and they've been extremely, extremely educational (all that PhD tuition money had to go somewhere, right?).  While there is something to be said about having to "sell yourself" in a brief, fixed period--if you can't do it in fifteen minutes, it's not gonna happen--I have never gone in with the expectation that one brief meeting will yield me an immediate job, or representation with an agent.  I would like to be considered for such things, but I understand the process enough to know that even if someone absolutely adores me and my work, they can only offer me something if they just happen to have the right project for me.  It's a big ol' bag of right-place-right-time-maybe-maybe-maybe.  Just as these reviewers get to hear about how I work, I want to hear about how they work, what they look for, how they prefer to work.  These are golden opportunities to get insight, both on my work and the industry at large, from some incredible people with far more experience.  It's educational, and it's golden. 

I've been to two Fotoworks events so far this year, LA in April and NYC a few weeks ago, and I've been so pleasantly surprised that the vast majority of reviewers with whom I met were not only supportive of my feminist ideals, but openly enthusiastic about them.  I firmly, firmly believe that fashion and beauty is for everyone, regardless of size or skin, and these meetings have been instrumental in not only gauging general temperature and receptiveness of the industry at large (and which markets therein), but whittling down with whom I'd like to continue a relationship from those who are not supportive of my efforts (or progressive efforts at large).  My models are not tools for my creative expression, they are human, professional pretty people who still retain agency over their bodies and minds, covered in skin that, even after retouching, *still looks like skin*, and with the grace, confidence, and strength so many of us, myself included, have attributed to the modern, idealized woman.  None of that is exclusive to dress size or skin color.  In the last few months, I've met with some fantastic people:  a major luxury label, a handful of higher-end retailers, some fantastic magazines with serious caché, and a collection of ad agencies producing work I genuinely admire and respect.  And they have *all* been supportive of this direction.  I'm genuinely optimistic for the future of fashion, and I'm thrilled I get to be a part of it.

 

 

Fashion and Feminism

I've never made it a secret that I am a diehard feminist.  Have been as long as I can remember, before I even understood that my beliefs had a label, and that it was part of a movement.  When people ask, if I have time to explain, I don't merely say I was an Art History major in school, but that I was, specifically, a Feminist Modern Art History major.  I have spent a long, long time studying the history and nuances of the role of women in the evolution of art, both as subject and creator.  This is, simply put, A Thing for me.  It's...a big deal.

So you can imagine the inner battles I've had in my head as a female photographer working within an industry that hasn't exactly played the most positive role in women's lives. 

I was incredibly inspired by Kate Lanphear's [too-] brief stint as the EIC of Maxim--here was a woman in power, managing an editorial staff of several women, in charge of dictating the visual language of women...to an audience of men.  I actually read nearly every issue of that magazine while she was still on staff, and I loved it.  I loved the creative shift, how there was an elegance and taste that wasn't forced, but still noticeably absent in a lot of men's magazines.  I appreciated that, while there was definitely a clear target audience to Maxim, it was never exclusionary to readers that didn't fall in that target audience.  I'm genuinely sad to hear of her departure. 

But I realized that I wasn't that much different.  I am a woman creating images of women.  I have a say in how women are portrayed and perceived.  And I have a responsibility to make sure those images only serve to widen the scope of what a "woman in fashion" can look like.  I realized that my shoots in themselves are fairly progressive:  most of my crews are almost, if not completely, comprised of female team members.  I am a woman filling a role traditionally and historically filled by men.  Instead of stripping my model of her agency over her body, and demanding she lose her identity in order to fulfill my creative needs, I actively work with her, as I do with everyone on set, so the entire production becomes a collaborative effort; she moves how she wants, based on how our creative direction makes her feel.  She is not my subject, she is my teammate.  Any [flattering] comments made about the intimacy of my work stems from this dynamic:  it's the model and me, working together, to make something special.

I recently attended NYCFotoworks, and for the first time ever, every single creative reviewer with whom I met was female.  All twelve.  And for the first time ever, I let my Feminist Flag fly with wild abandon.  No one ran away screaming.  Very few were apathetic.  Most were curious.  But everyone noticed me.

I don't think fashion and Feminism are mutually exclusive.  In fact, I think fashion and Feminism can fuse together to do something really extraordinary.  There are, obviously, systemic flaws within the fashion industry, but they're not permanent.  They can't be, otherwise we're facing the complete implosion of an entire industry.  We can start a shift by changing the language, by expanding the definition of beauty and nurturing discussion of gender roles within an industry that favors a binary system.  I can only hope my professional trajectory continues to move upwards, but I vow, here and now, to offer as much as I can towards a progressive shift within fashion.

I am a Feminist.  I work in Fashion.  And I'm not going anywhere.

Fall Update

The last few months have been....interesting.

I spent my birthday weekend in September shooting an ad campaign with The O Group for Artistic Tile, and I'm excited to show off the first image of the series!  You can find it in the December 2015 issue of Veranda Mag.  I worked with an incredible team--I especially need to credit my producer, Alex, who is basically a bespectacled superhero. Waaay better than Clark Kent/Superman.  Trust.

New work on the horizon:  an editorial I shot in NYC at The Hotel on Rivington should be coming out fairly soon, and I just shot a new editorial this past Sunday. 

October was fairly quiet, partly due to recovery from The Summer of Travel/Ad Campaign/badly needed vacation, and partly due to the fact that twelve hours after I came back from said vacation, I sprained my ankle fairly badly, as well as long a fair amount of skin on my knee.  Oh well, shorts season is over.  It made flying to NYCFotoworks fairly exciting--the upside to wearing combat boots nearly year-round:  no one sees your ankle brace.  Because fashion. 

But, because my foot didn't fall off, I can resume shooting.  I should be in SF for the foreseeable future, at least until February-ish, when I go back to NYC for a.) more meetings, b.) more shoots, and c.) wedding dress measurements. 

Adventures In New York

So, I make no secret of the fact that I'm basically a New York photographer with a West Coast zipcode.  That's my schtick.  It was a little hard to fully understand before ("why not just move to NYC?"), but after Snowpocalypse, I think the idea of having someone already in a warmer, sunnier locale who can still maintain a New York aesthetic is really appealing to a lot of people. 

Which is why my most recent trip to NYC was unbelievably busy and crazy, but in a good way.

Since my family is in DC/MD, which really isn't that far from NYC, my routine for work trips is to fly into DC, spend a night or two with my family, head to New York for a solid block of work, come back down to DC, and recover with my family and friends before heading back to SF.  This trip was no different, with the slight exception that my mother would be joining me later in the trip so we could make a pilgrimage to visit The Dress (ladies, you know what I'm talking about) before coming home.  So, my week:

Wednesday, 4/8: land in DC.  Spend 36 hours on the ground, spend a shocking percentage of that time attempting to book HMu/W and models for two shoots planned that weekend.  Not immediately successful, but make good connections that might follow up soon.  Everything that can be crossed, fingers, toes, etc., is crossed.

Friday, 4/10:  Early train up to NYC.  Spend pretty much the entire day calling and emailing agencies for HMu/W for my shoots, which I'm determined to have, because I am in the possession of about $23k of clothing (long story), and I'm stubborn.  Somehow, by 8pm that night, I have booked EVERYTHING I need:  hair and makeup for both days, a stylist for my fashion shoot who is also willing to go out and make more pulls, two models, and a studio.  It's done.  I did it.  I don't know how I did it, but I did.  It's entirely possible that in my delirious, sleep-deprived state, I made some sort of Faustian pact of which I have no memory.

Saturday, 4/11:  Beauty test.  830am CT.

Sunday, 4/12: Fashion editorial test.  830am CT. 

Monday, 4/13:  Phone meeting with my creative sensei to discuss my next year, my marketing, and basically just dish, since she is awesome.  Meeting with New York Magazine.  Meeting with--thanks to a comedy of errors--Men's Journal.  Oddly enough, not a bad meeting, since she was incredibly nice, and suggested reaching out to her friend at Refinery 29.  Emails are sent and calls are made.  Find out my meeting with Calvin Klein has been cancelled, cry a little inside.  Mom comes up from DC. 

Tuesday, 4/14:  Meet with an artist rep that I would *kill* to be a part of, partly because their roster is great, but mostly because everyone I've met there has been unbelievably nice, funny, and altogether wonderful.  Meet with W Magazine, kill time, stay near Conde Nast/1WTC, come back for a meeting with Glamour.  Forget to eat.  Now functioning on an average of five hours of sleep a night, Mom graciously brings in Shake Shack for dinner, as I am too exhausted to walk to the end of the block and back (poor me), and I immediately pass out and take a two hour nap.  My mother is a saint.

Wednesday, 4/15:  I get to go home!  I get to sleep!  I made it!  We just need to get through our appointment to see The Dress, followed by a last-minute meeting with Refinery 29.  But then, freedom!  The Dress is a glorious creation by Naeem Khan, so we head over, portfolio in tow, so that when we were done, I'd head to my meeting, Mom could grab our bags, we'd meet up, then drive home.  The portfolio comes out, just for fun.  And then in walks Mr. Khan.  Mr. Khan grabs my book.  He looks at my book.  He likes my book (eek!).  He asks what I'm doing tomorrow....

And that is how I booked a Naeem Khan bridal lookbook. 

Is this real life?  ;)

Here's a BTS photo:



LAFotoworks

I spent last week in LA attending LAFotoworks, and while LA and I normally aren't friends, it wasn't a bad trip.  Fairly productive, actually. 

LAFotoworks is, as you would imagine, NYCFotoworks' younger, more laid-back sister--the one with the better tan.  It's still kinda like awkward speed dating (is there such a thing as non-awkward speed dating?), but it's great because it means guaranteed face-time with art buyers, editors, and artist reps who might not normally get to meet with you.  The people who get to hire you.  Face time with these people is good.

Sneaky Sam takes creepy shots from the doorway

Sneaky Sam takes creepy shots from the doorway

I was able to meet with a bunch of art reps, Playboy, C Publications, and Variety.  For me, events like this can't be bad--you always leave better off than when you first showed up.  I've heard mixed reviews of events like this, but I think that's due to unrealistic expectations.  I've spoken to other photographers who leave angry and frustrated because they thought attending an event like this meant instant agency representation, or someone was going to immediately book them for a job, but that's such a ridiculous expectation.  That's not how this works.  That's not how any of this works!  I mean, it's not impossible for that to happen, but it's so unlikely that you'd just be setting yourself up for disappointment.  My approach is this:  I get to show my work to a bunch of people I admire and respect.  I let them get to know me (as well as possible in 15 minutes, anyway), I get feedback on what's working and what's not, and I walk away with a new professional contact and ideas on how to be a better photographer.  How can you lose?  Who wouldn't want that? 

In the end, there were definitely some people with whom I connected better than others.  Two art reps in particular are especially interested, so we'll see where that goes.  One magazine in particular is trying something new, and I'd love to be a part of it, so I have my fingers crossed. 

Aside from the food poisoning* (which seems to be an LA tradition for me at this point**), not a bad trip. 

*Funny-ish story:  I show up on the morning of Day 2 of the event, quite sick, sweating like a beast, and trying to at least make myself a little presentable.  I'm in the ladies' room, trying to touch up my makeup, and I realize it looks like I'm wearing something vaguely pajama-like, and therefore maybe not the best (I'm wearing "fashionable" leggings, sneakers, a cami, and a vintage Billy Idol tee because it's the closest thing I brought with me that didn't put pressure on my stomach.)  So, because women at these events usually stick together in temporary ovary-based camaraderie, I ask the lady at the next sink if I look ok.  I explain what's going (verge of death), she seems mildly weirded out, but understands, and reassures me that I look ok, and probably no one will notice that I look like a cadaver (my words, not hers).

And then it turns out she's my second meeting that morning.  Such is my life.

New Work for 7x7!

"Best of Beauty" is featured in the March 2015 issue of 7x7!  One of my largest beauty stories ever--10 pages.  :D

Go grab a copy today! 

February Update

Well, I survived Snowpocalypse.  Sort of.  After moving my flight to accommodate my shoot for 7x7, my re-booked flight ended up getting cancelled, along with most of what I had planned for the week (a few meetings, a shoot, and an appointment to meet The Dress.)  After some maneuvering, almost everything was salvageable.  TeenVogue and People Style Watch were both gracious in their rescheduling, my shoot was moved to SF, but, sadly, The Dress has to be postponed for when I come back to NYC in the spring.  Damn you, Awards Season, I shake my fist at you!

Anyway, I'm hoping to make February the month of tearsheets:  "Glass" for Facade Magazine has already been posted, but my stories for Chaos and 7x7 should be out this month as well. 

As for that NYC story that was transferred to SF, here's an outtake:


Busy Week; Upcoming Travel

Travel notice:

LA:  Jan 22 (blink and you'll miss me?)

NYC: Jan 25-30

DC:  Jan 30-Feb 8

This has been a busy week:  photo shoot this past Monday, I reprinted my portfolio, which was miraculously completed in time (thanks, The Key!) for meetings with Lone Wolf Magazine, 7x7 Magazine, and Sephora.  I have nothing but wonderful things to say about everyone who was gracious enough to meet with me, but mum's the word about my future plans.  :) 

Having said that, here, have a BTS photo:



BTS: Light Tests

In the event that I somehow become famous, I've started collecting portraits and behind-the-scenes (BTS) shots from my shoots.  These are two of my recent favorites (Bianca, model; Eryk, hair stylist)

Testing for light always yields such entertaining pictures.

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Plotting Mischief

After my second quarterly review with my marketing guru, it sounds like I'll need to brush up on my French.

Et que tout ce que je dirai pour le moment. ;)