Can you remember when you first held a camera?
I’m not entirely sure how old I was but I was definitely very young and incredibly fascinated by the concept of a camera. It was usually me who used the one camera we had as a family to take pictures of anything I considered interesting. From tiny animals in the garden to bigger ones on farms or in the zoo, to my sisters and cousins who I would dress up in fabrics and clothes I would find around the house. My favourite part of it all was getting the pictures back from the lab and seeing how the turned out.
What is a childhood image burnt into your mind?
Once my uncle won a hot air balloon ride but him and his family were too scared to go, so it was me, my sisters and my cousins who got to go instead. I was so excited to see everything from above and float high over the roofs of houses and tops of trees, I think I shot about four films during the one hour we were up in the sky.
Can you tell me an iconic photographer whose work you got very fascinated by? — What did you feel when looking at their images?
The one that got me interested in fashion photography was Nick Knight (I know, not a woman...). I stumbled across his work in a book shop where I fell in love with his self titled book and also discovered his book Flora. I couldn’t afford either at the time but kept going back to look at the Nick Knight one. Often I dragged people along wanting them to see it and to be as excited by its brilliance as I was by it.
I almost felt spiritual about the works he produced in collaboration with Alexander McQueen, their weirdness really resonated with me. I loved that there seemed to be no limit to Nick’s imagination, it made me feel like anything was possible. I also loved that at the same time there was his book Flora which was a very diligent study of flowers with no fashion in sight but just as interesting and inspiring. Knowing this felt very liberating, I felt it was perfectly fine to visually address multiple genres.
Do you think the “male gaze" is a myth?
No I think it’s not. Women have been depicted a certain way by men for so long, we can’t deny there is a male gaze. I think the dominance of the male gaze is has reached its peak, we’ve started noticing that women are often portrayed in an over sexualised, unrealistic or unhealthy way and have started speaking out about it. Women have also started to photograph women in ways they want to be seen themselves, so we’re slowly moving from the woman as an object of desire to the subject of an empowered woman.
What was your first beauty/fashion shoot?
I mean if we are counting the very first one before I knew fashion photography existed it is probably one of the many I shot as a child where I put face paint or my mum’s make up on my sisters, dressed them up and had them pose for me.
If we’re talking more serious fashion shoot, it was in my first year at uni- I was studying Styling-where one of my teachers who had good ties to a model agency got me a model who I photographed for an assignment on my friend‘s house’s staircase. After that I knew I wanted tobe a photographer. Although at the time I was determined to work as both, stylist and photographer.
What do you love most about Beauty/ Fashion Photography?
The fact that you can be creative, as cliche as it sounds. You can do something insanely surreal based on what is going on in your own phantasy but at the same time you can be addressing social and political causes you care about. You’re free to create your own world and be as serious or as silly as you feel like in the moment.
What do you most hate about Beauty/Fashion Photography?
That sometimes you encounter a great deal of toxicity, jealousy and big egos.
If you would start out now what would you be doing, how would you go about // who would you work with and where would you be aiming?
I was just making things up as I go along - if I started out now, knowing what I do now, I would try and make important connections early, maybe in form of internships at magazines that I want to be shooting for, collaborating with creatives at my level who I’d meet there. I’d look for jobs with production companies that work with brands and creatives I like, even small roles as runner, getting to know the industry, its workflow and of course the who is who in fashion, who in turn will get to know me. I’d try and assist photographers who’s work I like for a bit, learn the craft, and again, get to know the different teams of creatives behind the scenes.
I’d be aiming for the same thing I’ve always aimed for which is, my ideas happen and working with people who inspire me.
Statistics show that only 1 in 10 of the big money jobs i.e. womenswear-, beauty- and perfume campaigns are shot by women. Is there just no qualified female photographers out there?
I think there are plenty of talented and qualified female photographers out there but opportunities are not equal. Women aren’t put forward for these jobs as much as men are.Platforms like Equal Lens try to challenge that and try to push for clients and production companies to choose the photographer for the job out of a 50/50 pool of male and female talent.
One says it takes 10’000 hours to become a master of a craft, how long in hours/days/years did it take you to make a living?
I would say it took me roughly seven years to get paid for what I do and eight for me to make a living.
Who is your female fashion image maker icon and who is your the one to watch?
My icon is Lee Miller, especially her more surreal works and my the one to watch is Joanna Wierzbicka. I love her portrayal of bodies, her intimate abstracts, her choices of location and her colour palette.
Who is your female fashion designer icon and who is your the one to watch?
My icon is Ann Demeulemeester. I know she left her label nearly a decade ago, but she is still my icon. My the one to watch is Yuul Yie.
What makes you feel comfortable on set?
Working with a team that shares my vision and inspires me. I think that is incredibly important.
How important is your team?
It’s very important I think. I’m always open for meeting new people and collaborating with someone I’ve never worked with before, it can bring incredible results. But I also love coming back to certain people who I know really get me and will surprise and inspire me with amazing looks.
What do you say about the charge that all fashion photography is predominantly sexist?
I think that what happens behind the scenes certainly is. And I think that’s deeply linked to female photographers getting fewer jobs. It starts at the very bottom, there hardly are any female assistants, be it big or small (famous or not so famous) teams. There’s the stereotype that women aren’t as strong or as good with tech and it is very real in the photography industry. Girls have so much more to prove and have to fight so hard to be taken seriously. As someone who was the only woman in such teams for years I was shocked how inherently sexist this industry is. To come back to my earlier point and explain how that is connected to women getting fewer jobs:
There’s a very clear path laid out for boys who want to become photographers. Learn the basics while studying photography and then go and assist. Many important connections are made during that time. Over the years big stylists, people who run important magazines and producers who can get you on jobs will get to know and like you and learn that you know your craft. Therefore if those men decide to start working as photographers themselves they will already be known by a lot of people in the industry and it will be easier to get booked for jobs. There are far less opportunities to assist and make those contacts for girls, often they will be booked for production related jobs instead. So while on set with the very same people in the industry they will not be seen as someone who knows how to rig a complicated lighting set up or interpret a creative concept, they won’t get the chance to show those skills, they will be the ones ordering food and booking cars.
There is a big surge of feminism at the moment - do you think that will affect Fashion & Beauty Photography?
I sure hope so. I think there are more people trying to have a diverse team and hiring more girls in jobs that are still seen as a man’s job.
What is your favorite shoot in youR portfolio?
This is a tricky question as my favourite shoot constantly changes. It’s very hard for me to pick one but as a rule of thumb it is usually the last editorial I have shot. Always the latest idea of mine that I have managed to get out of my head and into an image. In this case it is the womenswear story I shot with Magdalena Bryk for NR Magazine. Although an all time favourite of mine also is the menswear shoot for Tank with Kat Ambroziak.
What was your relation to design/fashion/beauty prior to working in this industry? Has it changed?
I’ve always been drawn to the fashion industry, I wanted to be a fashion designer growing up, soI always saw myself in this world. I certainly did not anticipate that it is a male dominated industry. I always thought that because the main target group are women, there would be a lot more women running the show.
What qualities do you value in an agent?
A good agent believes in you and let’s you know, asks you where you want to be going with your career and supports you, pushes you to explore your boundaries and is honest with you.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given and what advice would you have wished for earlier on in your career?
The most valuable advice would be to not see mistakes as failures but as opportunities to learn.And I wish someone had told me that not every shoot will turn out as a favourite.
What is your next big project or goal for your career? To conquer the international market.
Is there anything in particular you'd like to accomplish?
I’ve been taking nudes of women, some were friends, some were people I don’t know at all who were so kind to sit for me. The aim of the project is to show a diverse range of women of all shapes and sizes as there is no one way to be a woman, like the one size fits all object of desire we repeatedly see in the media.
What I would like to accomplish is finish shooting this project and turning it into an exhibition by next year.