RAW QUESTIONS WITH LARA JADE
AN INTERVIEW WITH THIS INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED FASHION, PORTRAIT AND COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Lara Jade is a well-known fashion and advertising photographer from England who currently resides in New York City. She first picked up a camera at the early age of fourteen - her creative energy fueled by self-portraiture and fine art photography. Growing up during the rise of the Digital Age with Instagram and Photoshop, Lara was able to get a first-hand look at what the international photography industry entailed. Her career began with small clients and in almost no time, was able to demonstrate a strong understanding of how to develop the commercial side of her business in order to adequately deal with the growing demand for her work. Lara is also successful educator in the photography industry - teaching in-person workshops around the world, at seminars for brands such as Canon and recently she launched her own photography series ‘The Fashion Series’ www.thefashionseries.com.
You’re British but live in New York, right? Was this change for professional or person reasons? My reason for moving to N.Y. was for both professional and personal reasons. I visited N.Y. on a trip in 2011 and fell in love with the fast-paced energy of the city. I wanted to be a part of it. It was very different from London and honestly, I needed a fresh start. London had been great for the first few years of my career, but I had become stagnant and needed something new. I met my current husband on my third visit to the city and the rest is history. Being in N.Y. doesn't mean I am only based in one city, I divide my time between London & N.Y. for work but call N.Y. home. Whereas N.Y. has this fast-paced energy and lots of commercial work, London is quieter, slower and encourages more creativity in the editorial industry.
For many years, the fashion industry only concentrated on big names for editorial and commercial jobs. They created iconic images and today, we see a lot of less printed publications, so the “look” of the images seem to be less finished and rawer. In your opinion, how does this affect business in photography? The fall of print magazines has meant big changes in the industry. There are decreased budgets and photographers are forced to get a lot more creative on set. However, change is always a good thing (think about the film to digital movement and how many photographers were disappointed by that but later embraced it). I like to pick and choose who I want to be creative for in the editorial industry. If someone loves my work and is willing to give me some creative freedom, I'm happy to work with them, even if there's a non-existent or low budget. I think in this day and age, more photographers should be focused on personal projects and setting their sights on clients that are really drawn to their work rather than trying to be someone they're not and working with clients that dictate the entire shoot. We are creatives after all, and we need to fuel the creative fire every now and again! When I got into the fashion industry, I was incredibly inspired by the masters of photography with their beautiful iconic images that evoked emotion. Classic images that hold the test of time. I love when I come across a repost of Avedon or Demarchelier's work on Instagram or anywhere else on the web and think, “Wow, what a beautiful image! Which magazine was that for?" to then dig a little further and find out it was from years ago. That's what I'm inspired by, a photograph that holds a place in your memory for a while.
“Personally when I think of fashion photography I want to be allowed to dream a little, imagine I am the woman in the shot, imagine I am wearing those clothes. I want to escape reality.”
I can pick any of those photographers’ work when I reference images for mood boards or in conversations with fellow creatives/clients, but I can't seem to reference anything current because I’m not excited by it. The current movement in photography is interesting and unique, but it doesn't excite me the same way iconic timeless imagery does. I think this raw/real photography movement has opened a lot of doors such as more diversity and support for women which is fantastic and something I've wanted to see for a long time. On the other hand, I find that it's a little too real sometimes. When I think of photography that sells to women, I think of aspirational images. Personally, when I think of fashion photography, I want to be allowed to dream a little, imagining I am the woman in the shot and imagining I am wearing those clothes. I want to escape reality.
In your opinion, is there any space for new Helmuts and Avedons currently? I think it's a new generation of photographers now. I don't think we'll see any Helmuts or Avedons again, but I think we have to appreciate their aesthetic and what they did and try to embrace change. There's a LOT of photographers in today's industry all fighting for the same thing. What makes us stand out? We have to stay true to our voices the same way the masters before us did.
Do you feel any kind of devaluation of the profession since nowadays, the amateur world (powerful smartphones + filters app), made it possible for anyone to produce professional looking images easily? The right people in this industry understand what good photography is. They can instantly tell from someone's presence and portfolio. There's no substitute for a well-lit photograph that has been crafted by a talented team. You can't re-create that on a phone and with a filter.
How do you handle working with a client when they have certain preferences that don't necessarily work with your style? I judge it like this: if they are a commercial client and they are paying your rate, you do what the client wants (within reason). Often clients book you because they like your lighting, the way you pose a model, and the way you tone your images, but this doesn't always mean you're going to get the lighting you like, the styling you like, or the subject you like to photograph. You are completing a brief and you are being paid, so the client has to be happy. On the other hand, if I'm shooting an editorial project and it's not a great rate or if I'm shooting for tear sheet only, I want to try and have a say when I can, for example, pitching a storyboard/mood board idea to the client or helping with the casting.
Have you ever thought about quitting your career as a photographer? If so, what made you change your mind? If I said no, I'd be lying. Haven't we all been through this? If you're a creative and you want something badly, you go through stages of doubt and fear. I go through this every few months. Am I good enough? Why am I not getting this client I want? Why can't I get this certain meeting? I think it’s part of the evolution process. If you think you know everything, then you've technically given up. The doubt makes you push harder and appreciate the good times when you finally get that job or meeting you want! I don't think I could ever quit. I love what I do.
“We have to stay true to our voice the same way the masters before us did.”
For a long time, being an assistant to a good photographer was the best existing photography school. Today, with so many ways of learning, many of them online, do you think it’s possible to become professional only learning on the web? What was your path? I am self-taught. Lots of practice, learning, making mistakes, and getting feedback from peers or potential clients (even if it was bad feedback!). When anyone asks me if I've assisted, I always answer the same way, “I'd make a terrible assistant!” Hauling gear annoys me, but I'd make a great producer who knows how to make a cup of tea. If I could go back in time, I'd probably find a role as a producer to understand set etiquette better and the ins and outs of shoot production. Online learning is great to learn the fundamentals, but you can't beat on-set experience and having an understanding of how everything comes together first hand. If you are learning online, choose your teacher or workshop wisely. If you want to get into a field of photography, make sure that the photographer you're learning from has a good understanding of the current industry. The industry is ever-changing and as a teacher myself, I like to put my current advice into my workshops and seminars.
What drives you crazy on the set or during a photoshoot? When there's not enough time because I don't like to feel rushed. I love having time to speak to my client or subject in the morning and have enough time to set up so the mood is relaxed. The best work comes from when everyone understands the brief/vibe and there's not a huge time constraint. I am not always lucky with a 10-hour set day. My quickest shoot was done in 2 hours (for an entire cover + 8 pages!) but it worked out.
Had have ever happened something terrible like dropping equipment or some funny story you can tell us? There's been many. Usually equipment related! I was once shooting in an architects office surrounded by some of the most expensive furniture and paintings. My lighting kit set on fire in the corner and my assistant ran out to me in a panic and said he had to put the fire out! The client wasn't on set yet and we managed to open all the windows and waft out the smell of the room before anyone suspected anything. Lesson learned - always make sure you bring more than one lighting kit to set (we did in this case, so we carried on like nothing had happened!).
Last but not least, if you could give a piece of advice to Lara Jade in the begging of career, what would you say?Take time to craft your style, listen to advice but remember getting the right clients takes time, don't rush!