Q. Classified as a Style Recorder tell us a bit about yourself and how you started?
A. “I wouldn’t call it a classification; I used to put photographer on my bio line, then fashion photographer, but neither of those things really described what it was that I did, in part because I didn’t know if I could legitimately justify calling myself either of those things. So I was like, “Well what do I do?” And then I just wrote that down”.
Q. Where do you reside? Are you based in the States, London, Europe?
A. “I live in New York full time”.
Q. You picked up your first camera only 4 years ago, how have you developed and adapted your skills during that time?
A. “A camera is just a mechanical tool that captures images. I haven’t owned a camera for very long, but I guess I’ve been composing images my entire life. It’s just one of those dumb obvious things, I should’ve been taking pictures the entire time but I didn’t know that I should, or could be a photographer. I took a photography class in high school and remembering that all of the photography and journalism kids were this particular type of person, and I didn’t find anything appealing about being that type of person, so I never pursued it. But mentally, I was always taking pictures. It was a very subconscious skill I’d been developing, things like mood and space. In the years since I’ve actually had a camera in my head, my development has been entirely mechanical, figuring out what the limits of whatever camera I’m holding are and trying to extract every last ounce from it”.
Q. What type of camera(s) and lenses do you use for the photography work that you do?
A. “My main camera body is a Sony A99. Not a lot of people own this type of camera, which is just fine with me. As far as lenses, I mainly use a Carl Zeiss 85mm/f1.4, and I have an old Minolta Rokkor 58mm/f1.2 that I occasionally use. For documentary and weddings I lean on my Sigma 35mm/f1.4”.
Q. There seems to be a growth in Style Photography in the last few years – do you think it’s a fashion phase or an industry which will continue to flourish?
A. “I don’t think there’s any more growth in street style at all, it’s quite the contrary, actually. At some point about two years ago, the magazines all got smart and started hiring up dedicated photographers to do all of their street style; opportunities open up when a photographer moves on, and it’s not that often. You might find one or two major openings (as far as gigs go) per season, and there are already a hundred photographers who are well-known and shooting this stuff to get a chance. One of the original modern guys, Phil Oh, once said in an interview that photographers looking to break into the industry this way shouldn’t. I used to think he was being selfish, territorial about the space, but now I understand that he was right. He’d actually been right all along”.
Q. With that in mind, how does one carve a career within this industry and follow their passion?
A. “The best practices you can get for any career: work hard, talk to people, show up on time, study and do the best possible job you can do, all of that stuff applies here, too. I happen to work with a camera, but if you substitute the camera for a kitchen the rules don’t really change; in a restaurant one still has to show up and prepare the best food they can make. There are some photographers who look around and learn how to shoot like everyone else, and there are others who come up with their unique views and really stick to that. There’s no right or wrong way, they only things that matter are the attitude and the work”.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration from for each shoot? Do you look to fellow photographers or do you attend exhibitions, take to the streets or through your use of travel?
A. “I like magazines and Tumblr. I don’t look to the work of my colleagues for inspiration, but I always track their progress, and look at their work from a technical perspective to see where they’re improving with their work, as that’s a good way to reference perhaps the things I do well and things I may need to improve on. But my inspiration is just regular people. I don’t need to go to exotic places or anything like that… if there’s good people around I’m just fine wherever I am”.
Q. What is your ultimate photography kit when you’re on a shoot (be it street styling, a show or editorial)?
A. “I don’t really believe in an ultimate photography kit. When I’m on the street it’s just one camera, one lens (usually the Zeiss). For shows it’s the same, I’ll use the Zeiss regardless of whether I’m in the front row or on the riser. For editorials it really depends on what the shoot is going to be like. I don’t own a zoom lens, but for editorials, weddings, or anything that’s to be shot in a closed environment that I’m not familiar with, I’ll usually rent or borrow a 24-70mm. I’ve never had to throw longer than that for focal length, but I wouldn’t be against it if I had to”.
Q. Describe a typical day?
A. “My day typically starts at 7 or 8 in the morning and ends around 1 in the morning. I don’t typically take full days off and I rarely holiday. A lot of people with office jobs like to relay how jealous they are of my lifestyle… I’m always telling them that I easily put in 60, 70 hours a week but I don’t think they believe me. One day it could be answering emails, the next day it could be editing photos for Lord Ashbury, then a client, then maybe 5 clients. Writing contracts, negotiating contracts, tracking down clients to pay me… And I’m always researching, always reading about new photography tech, fashion business news, things going on in popular culture and the world. Staying informed, in of itself is almost a full time job”.
Q. What challenges have you faced setting up your business and going freelance?
A. “Most start-ups fail because they run out of money. There are many reasons one can run out of money, anything from poorly executed plans to underwhelming returns, overestimations… The first summer I did this full time I ran completely out of money for almost three months. But I’d filled up a good majority of my free time taking free business classes that were being offered by the City of New York. That was invaluable; the biggest lesson I learned was that if I was properly prepared, I shouldn’t panic. I barely weathered the storm, but I weathered it, and when I cleared that horizon, I learned to trust my decisions and not panic when things didn’t work out”.
Q. What advice would you give to those who want to become photographers in your field?
A. “I don’t think there’s much advice I can give. Talent is important, but really only secondary to will. You can’t advise will; a person is either going to keep their eye on the prize or they aren’t. That’s sort of how survival of the fittest works”.
Q. What’s the best advice you would give someone wanting to photograph street-style or a show?
A. “The in-house photographers all use the same settings actually, which is why all their photos look essentially the same; it’s a sort of industry standard if you will, and guests can’t use those settings because they aren’t shooting with those cameras and aren’t under the floodlights as the pro-photographers are. Your camera is going to be different from theirs, different from mine. … If you learn your camera, you’ll find what works best for you. No shortcuts”.
Q. What’s the most enjoyable shoot you’ve done to date?
A. “I spent a few days this past summer at a place called Lake of the Ozarks, that was pretty special”.
Q. What’s the best bit about your job?
A. “Definitely not being in an office”.