Hello! Can you please start by introducing yourself and the work that you do?
I am a photographer based in both New York and LA. I actually just moved out of my permanent residence in New York to LA so now I am doing a back-and-forth between the two. I’ve been delving into creative directing lately but have been a film photographer for the past three to four years.
I shoot only with film unless a client requests to shoot digital as a backup. The end product tends to always be the film. Anything on my page is shot on film.
How would you describe your photography?
I would consider it portraiture. It’s hard to categorize what I do in an all-encompassing genre. I just like to say that I like people and I like creating art with humans. I base my work on what other people are like and try to bring their personalities forward.
Do you have a background in photography? Did you study photography?
I grew up always taking photos. I made my mom buy me disposables when I was young and drive me to Walgreens to get them developed, even though they were just photos of my Bratz dolls. I was a huge movie person growing up. I really feel that the movies I watched as a kid shaped who I am, tv too. I was really passionate about working in video and cinema originally.
I moved to New York to study film, which I did, I finished in two years. I really thought that’s what I was going to do. I have been doing photography on the side since high school, just because I thought it was fun and I really enjoyed it. After two years of studying cinema, I realized that I was passionate about the Director of Photography side of the job and it clicked. I had already been doing it, I already knew I liked doing it, so I decided to go full-force into photography. In the past year or so I’ve been able to fully freelance as a photographer.
How were you able to make that shift to working as a full-time freelance photographer?
I feel like at a certain age you realize that everyone knows everyone. I realized I could use social media as a tool to get to know everyone I ever wanted to. During quarantine, I had lost my job at the photography studio I was working at. I knew some people through that job though, other photographers that would come in and shoot, so I reached out to some of them. I asked for advice on how to work with agency models, start doing tech shoots, and stuff like that. Once I felt more confident in doing it on my own, I decided to take it to another level.
I reached out to a lot of influencers or anyone that I thought had a cool style or personality. That’s how I started creating the relationships I have now, and that opened the door to so many other people and opportunities too. I started working more on my own and getting regular freelance opportunities. Ultimately, making connections with other people was the key to getting somewhere.
I’m curious to hear more about the role that social media plays for you in your work or otherwise.
Everyone has a love-hate relationship with social media. For me, I look at it as a portfolio for all of my work. It’s a means to get work just like how photographers used to bring a portfolio to an agency, it is a digital form of that.
I have been trying to put more of my own personality on there because I realized people love human connection, even on social media. That’s been so hard for me because I don’t love talking about myself or showing my face very often.
I’m trying to use social media as a tool to boost my career. Honestly, the biggest role that it has had is helping me meet the people that I’ve met. Even outside of work, I’ve made a lot of friends this way and it’s created better connections with people. I don’t know what it would have been like moving to LA without social media. It is how I’ve stemmed relationships with so many people.
What does your post-production process look like?
I creatively direct almost all of my shoots. I tend to imagine a specific image for a shoot, although that’s not to say that I don’t show up and see way more at the moment. Normally, it is one or two specific things in my head though that I imagine or that spark the idea.
With post-production, I started to learn Photoshop and mess around with what could be done after the fact. It’s not necessarily something that I always have in my head before I go into it, it’s normally something that happens more organically. Sometimes I get the photos back and I want to play around with them and see what more I can do. I love dramatizing the images and messing with the reality of the film. It’s fun, I like to have a good time with post-production.
There’s definitely a lot of playfulness and movement in your images, do you think that comes from the movies you were watching?
I definitely think it’s that. I feel like I am almost trying to get a glimpse of what it would feel like if it was a moving image. I also grew up dancing my whole life, my mom is a dance teacher. I definitely get my models moving a lot and am very interactive when it comes to posing. I try to get anyone I’m working with to get out of their comfort zone.
I am very expressive about movement, especially in my photography. I find it really beautiful, I like to think that I am capturing emotion. It’s also just a fun practice to get people on set to move around.
Are the subject of your photographs all models?
I feel like it is a balance. I started out with my friends. People always ask how to start working and getting practice, I would just beg my friends to shoot with me. Especially one of my roommates, I made her shoot with me all of the time when we were in college. I feel like a large part of my practice came from working with her and getting comfortable with one specific person, seeing how far it can go.
As things have gone on, I have worked with a lot of people through social media and also agency-signed models. My recent work is with people who are influencers or online personalities. I feel like people cast such a shallow image on that industry but I think it’s beautiful that all of those people are known and liked for being themselves, for more than just the way they look. That has been really fun for me because I feel like I can use imagery to bring out their personality. I get to show more than just how beautiful they are.
I am curious about the role that beauty plays in the work since most of the subjects of your images are very conventionally beautiful.
I like to play around with what conventional beauty is as much as I can. A lot of the models that I work with, especially on my page, have come to me. I am trying to diversify more but a lot of things have happened so organically. I want to continue to push the boundaries and play more with beauty standards and not just feed into what has been conventionally beautiful in the past.
What do you think makes a photo successful, is there something specific you look for?
For me, it’s if I have captured the emotion I imagined in my head beforehand. If someone out there feels that or feels something from it too, that is what I would consider successful. I don’t know if I ever consider anything I do to be perfect though.
Can you talk more about creative directing and what that looks like for you?
That’s something that has come about more recently for me so I wouldn’t categorize myself as a professional creative director yet. The concepts come to me and I then try to play them out for other people.
I have ideas that I didn’t have the opportunity before to play out. I didn’t have the finances or people to work with that were willing to trust me enough. Now, I tend to get hired as both the photographer and creative director. They trust what I have in mind, let me find my own team, and create a concept for the brand.
Can you talk more about what inspires you?
The way you can story-tell through cinema especially inspires me. I don’t know why but Back to the Future always comes to mind for me. There are so many people that also visually inspire me: without sounding so basic, the way Wes Anderson uses colors. I also always say Run Lola Run. The whole movie is shot in action, it is one of my biggest inspirations for capturing movement. The way it’s filmed is so insane, it feels like ten minutes of time when it is actually like an hour and a half long. That is really inspiring to me: the way it is created on a visual and technical scale and the impact that it had.
As far as photography goes, there are a lot of photographers I’ve found inspiration from. I love Amber Asaly. I admire her personality, she really puts herself out there as more than just a photographer. She is willing to share so much of her life and show what it is like to be a woman in this industry which I find really inspiring.
I am also inspired by a lot of my friends and the people that I’ve gotten to know. Courtney Mawhorr is one of my best friends in LA and I’ve worked with her so much. She is one person I know that can be creative 24/7.
What are you working on now or looking forward to working on in the future?
I am in New York for the editorial with 10011 Mag. I am also doing a fun project for another magazine which is highlighting a group of women that have created an account on social media for girls to have the means to feel inspired creatively, with fashion, in school, etc.. The fifteen girls who created the account are from all over the world. I just think their friendship is really beautiful and how it came to be is really cool.
In the future, there is so much that I want to do in the creative industry. I am starting to get back into videography. On my own at least, I want to start pushing that knowledge I have since it is what got me into photography in the first place. It has always been a goal of mine to create a short film. I don’t know if it will happen in the next year or anything but it is definitely something that I want to work on. Otherwise, I just want to keep creating as much as possible.
Model: Courtney Mawhorr
Styling by Tabitha Sanchez
Makeup by Danielle Parkes
Interview By Riley Gunderson