RAW QUESTIONS WITH YOSSI MICHAELI
AN INSPIRING INTERVIEW WITH THIS UNIQUE AND SUCCESSFUL FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER
Yossi Michaeli interest in photography began when he was 20 years old and decided to travel through Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and South America. He first became interested in nature photography, but fashion called his name when he worked as an assistant of fashion photographers in Brazil. Yossi was born in Israel, but he never settled down. His talent, creativity, and unique vision have led to editorials in Elle, Vogue, L’Officiel, and Harper’s Bazaar.
You were born in Israel, and today live between NY and Brazil. Do you believe this multiculturalism directly influences your work? I believe it did at first perhaps, in the first years of my career, but I think that today I managed to create my own style, which I feel is a bit separate and not really influenced by where I live or shoot.
My first years in photography were all in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro at first, and then São Paulo, before I moved to NY. So I definitely feel that my photography roots are more Brazilian than Israeli or American, after all Brazil is where I made my first steps, and learned about photography, so it's safe to say I was largely influenced by Brazil. Rio is a great place to start shooting, locations and light are amazing.
When I started doing photography, the film was still dominant, and software wasn't, I believe I was lucky in that sense - It made me learn the technical stuff very well, which obviously serves me till today. While living in Brazil I was however always fascinated by American and European magazines and campaigns, and when I moved to NY I was of course influenced by the the esthetics and the culture in the US, so that helped evolve my work furthermore. As ironic as it may seem, I think that Israel plays the smallest role in my work and style.
We know a lot about the fashion market in New York and Brazil. What is the fashion market like in Israel? Do you work there too? The fashion market in Israel is pretty small, it's a small country with not too many fashion magazines and brands. It has however been changing over the past few years, with many up and coming Israeli designers arising, although the editorial market is still tiny. I think in this new global world, internet and social media has made everything accessible and thus accelerated the development of the fashion industry as well in Israel. I do shoot in Israel from time to time, when my schedule permits, and it does feel a bit more special to shoot in the places I grew up in. Some memorable shoots I had there include actress and model Gal Gadot for Castro, and editorials I shot for Esquire China and Style Germany in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
By the way, what is your connection with Brazil? What made you choose the country? First time I set foot in Brazil was for pleasure, I was traveling in South America in my early 20's with my best friend, the plan was to travel throughout the entire continent, but there was something in Brazil that just caught my heart. A mixture of the people, music, language, places, culture, food just seemed right and it became my other home away from home. I consider it to be my favorite place other than Israel. I think the joie de vivre in Brazil is something that just attracted me.
“Today I managed to create my own style, which I feel is a bit separate and not really influenced by where I live or shoot.”
What are the most significant differences between being a fashion photographer in NY and Brazil? I think there aren't too many differences today. There were many when I first started my career, shooting in NY was more organized, starting with the process before the job (Meetings, conversations, references), during the shoots (Amount of gear, number of shots), and post (Deadlines, rights, etc.). Today I think the differences are minor, and I think Brazil's industry and standards grew a lot. It became a small world, there is a huge amount of exposure, and there are many that live abroad that also contribute to the growing industry upon their return.
Various agencies around the world represent you. Do you think every photographer would need to work with a talent management agency? What are the advantages? I think it's really personal, but generally speaking, I think it is a good thing as long as you have a good agent, that understands and likes your work and your goals, and knows well how to market. It is important to like the agent personally as well I believe, to create a friendship as well as having a great professional relationship. It's always great to be able to focus almost solely on your work, and leave the rest of the logistics, production, contracts, marketing to someone whose job is exactly that. That doesn't mean that I am not involved in these aspects, and I do continue to do my own marketing from time to time.
But having agents exposes your work to other markets, other countries you can't normally spend too much time in, which can lead to gaining new clients.
“I like it when the entire team is involved in the shoot, when everyone's spot on, when the energies are high.”
What is your involvement with the creative process of an editorial or commercial work? My involvement differs, depending on the project. Usually, I will have more say and freedom shooting editorials, the mood board is often a collaboration with the magazine or created by the stylist and myself, I will be more involved when choosing a model and a team. When it's a commercial job, the client is hiring me to shoot a job, where most details are already being taken care of. There will usually be a shot list, and references for mood, lighting, hair and makeup. The models will usually be selected by the client. I am hired based on my photography, my lighting, so most jobs coincide with my style and I am expected to insert my style and my vision in the job, but of course the bottom line is that the I am completing a job I was briefed on, and getting paid, so the client needs to be happy.
Have you been following the work of this new generation of photographers? Do you think there is room for this large number of new talents in the fashion world? I was exposed to some great new talent lately yes, mostly by Instagram and some websites. It feels as if the market has become saturated, digital photography and software have changed the industry tremendously, and it also made photography much more accessible and affordable than it used to be in the film era. That, with the rise of social media, has created a market which is full of both photographers and brands which need to shoot more content than ever. I am not sure which of these two is growing more rapidly.
In technical terms, do you feel any difference between shooting male and female models? Yes, there are differences. When shooting men, I feel I can explore harsher lighting than I can with women, the positioning will also be different. Of course with men the wait time is shorter to do hair/makeup, change clothes, so usually shooting is pretty constant which is great, I am not too fond of the waiting times between shots :)
Do you still shoot with films or just with digital cameras? On jobs, editorials and commercial, I use almost solely digital. On my personal projects, I shoot film as well. Digital is just more practical, and in today's industry which is a lot about quantity and speed, it's good to see results instantly, fix whatever needs fixing, and confirm you achieved what you wanted. I just wish the tethering problem will be completely solved one day :)
How would it be a perfect shooting for you? I've had many shoots like that, that is what keeps us going. It starts with really loving the concept/mood board and styling, getting the model I hoped for, and the team I love working with - amazing professionals with great personalities too - that already is a great way to start the day. Add to that a beautiful location that just inspires and excites me, and I am on my way to one of those "Love my job" days.
I like it when the entire team is involved in the shoot, when everyone's spot on, when the energies are high.
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