Happy Friday Everyone!
To end off this weeks Fashion Week at Phlearn, we’re bringing you a fantastic interview with internationally acclaimed fashion, portrait and commercial photographer Lara Jade.
At the young age of fourteen, Lara was fortunate enough to discover her interest and love of photography. She began by shooting conceptual photography and experimental self-portraiture while situated in her suburban hometown in the West Midlands of England.
Growing up outside of a city gave Lara the desire to travel, to create, and to look further. Only three years later at the age of seventeen she started her own photography business, and soon after moved to London. Currently Lara resides in New York City, dividing her time between the US and Europe for assignments.
Lara’s unique style of photography is influenced by past and present styles, elements of influential style, film noir, old great masters in painting and photography, Romanticism and untouched beauty. She has worked with clients such as P&G, Goldsmiths, Littlewoods (UK), Sony Music, The Fold London, 125 Magazine, Vogue Wedding Japan and many more.
Lara continues to be a source of inspiration for millions of others photographers and artists who foliow her work across the social media scene. Lara was also the winner of the Public Choice Award at the 2009 AOP Open Awards. As well as working on her extensive clientele & personal work, Lara also tutors successful workshops worldwide, teaching fashion and beauty classes. (Note: Bio was written from information gathered from larajade.com and seamlessphoto.com)
Luckily, you were fortunate enough to discover your love of photography at the young age of 14, but with that said, how did you become interested in photography? Did you experiment with any other mediums of art?
I found photography during the time of my final art exams at high school. I remember up until that point I was frustrated with almost every medium I tried. Although I enjoyed art, I didn’t excel at anything. My ideas were always strong, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t bring them to life. When I discovered photography I suddenly felt like something connected. I had no idea how creative it could actually be!
My creativity most likely comes from my parents – my mum was a make up artist for Mary Quant and my dad was always tinkering with creative projects. They both were a huge encouragement in the beginning!
Do you have any formal training in photography or are you purely self-taught?
I studied visual arts for 1 year at university, and completed a 2 year diploma in photography at college, however the majority of my learning has been “self taught”, making mistakes and learning from them, and never being afraid to experiment.
At the young age of 17, you started your own photography business and it began to grow rapidly. You found yourself shooting diverse clients from dancers, to book publishers and music labels. Soon after this success, you moved to London to grow as an artist and to expand your business internationally.
What would you say kept you so determined, and motivated to succeed?
It was more of a gradual process – I started my business because I was starting to attract the attention of local clients (dancers, actors etc). It then grew because of social media and my use of online communities such as DeviantART and the momentum picked up shortly after. My first move to London in hindsight was probably a bit too soon – I was 19 when I moved and very eager to make it quickly. I had just started the transition from conceptual photography to fashion and London seemed the best place for it – to start working with models and teams. Whilst it did grow my portfolio and give me an insight into the industry, I soon realized it would take a few years to re-build that business momentum I had previously. I was not just the big fish in the small pond anymore; the pond had grown into a sea with everyone all trying to get to the same place!
I guess my determination comes from my desire to succeed. I have always understood you can’t get places without hard work, and I knew the groundwork involved wasn’t going to be easy. I don’t come from a privileged background so everything I have done has been from the bottom upwards. If I fail, I go back a step, but I make sure I take two steps forward. Does that make sense?
Do you still ever partake in creating self-portraiture? Could we see one from back when you were a 14 year old photographer?
At the moment I very rarely take self portraits, when I started they were an easy way for me to experiment and learn technically since where I lived I had few models for me to work with, and sites like model mayhem had yet to exist. My self portraits also came from a place of self healing – I was bullied during my high school years (I’m sure many of us can relate to this) and it was a way for me to express how I felt, this is why the more conceptual self portraits speak to me the most.
I was a little older when these were taken but here are some of my earlier self-portraits! My favorite self-portraits are those that are conceptual and have a meaning.
Top: “Cut Off Lips” Bottom Left: “Contrast” Bottom Right: Recent Self-Portrait of Lara Jade
You moved to New York in April of 2011. Why did you decide to move to New York? Also, what do you think was the most challenging part of moving from NY to London?
I moved because I desired to try something new – I had previously been on trips to NY and met quite a lot of artists who were succeeding in this busy city and I decided to give it a try! I think as artists we are always searching for new inspiration and often moving to a new location helps with that.
You’re currently based in NY, but you said that you often travel to and from London for work. So, with that said what kind of work are you taking on right now?
I try to travel back to the UK at least 3-4 times a year to keep up with meetings and to be available for work when clients need me around. Apart from the usual editorial and advertising jobs I’m also working on an upcoming photography TV show in the UK starting later this year and organizing a NY workshop for April.
Can you please tell us about your photography workshops that you offer? Any coming soon?
Yes! I have one in April in NY held at the amazing Colony Studios in Brooklyn and I have one in London in March in collaboration with Back To Front TV. You can find details at larajadeworkshops.com
What is the biggest thing that you get out of teaching workshops, and would you consider teaching something that comes naturally to you? People seem to really love them!
I really enjoy teaching because for me it’s all about sharing my experiences and encouraging others. Aside from formal education I don’t think there’s much guidance out there for young or aspiring photographers, and if there is there’s not many people giving help who come from a place of experience. Many photographers are scared of sharing their ‘secret’ with others because this industry has become very competitive. However, sometimes taking a step back to help and inspire others gives me a fresh perspective in photography!
What’s on your gear list? (cameras, lenses, software)
I currently use a Canon 5DMK3 with Canon 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.2, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses. I use Lightroom for archiving and image selection and Adobe Photoshop CC for photo editing.
Who are some of your favorite artists and/or photographers?
I find inspiration in so many artists and photographers. To name a few – Tim Walker, Eugenio Recuenco, Ellen Von Unwerth.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
I think in any industry, you’re going to face obstacles at the start of your career. For me, my age was a double-sided sword – on one side clients really honed in on the fact I was a young new photographer on the scene. However on the other my age was also associated with inexperience.
I also don’t like to say it, but it’s true when it comes to women and assisting (and I have to say I can’t blame them for thinking it) but who wants to hire a women to lift and haul heavy equipment and lights on a large set? It’s seen as a man’s job and I do see it from that perspective. I never assisted, so for me I had to learn the hard way – by learning from mistakes and continuous experimentation.
What is your creative process like? Conceptualizing ideas, mood boards or sketches, shooting, editing etc.
My shoot processes are all dependent on the job at hand. If I’m shooting a commercial job, then obviously there will be a lot of prep work involved (more so than usual), which could be anything from 2 weeks to 2 months in advance. For a personal shoot, this could be 2-3 weeks in advance because I don’t require detailed meetings or castings (most of this is done on email). In both cases, things are likely to change last minute so you always need to be prepared if the opportunity arises.
My creative process isn’t usually too detailed – I put a big focus on researching – current trends, casting (model or subject) and there’s a lot of conversations with my team about hair, make up and styling preference. Often there’s a mood board made that shows the general feel of the shoot which consists of images pulled off the web – hair ideas, clothing we are using and photographs that show the mood of the shoot. This is to give to the team, to show that we are all on the same page.
How has social media helped with the exposure of your work?
In all honesty I think it’s rare that clients browse through social media communities trying to find a photographer, unless it’s a very specific job (which is often linked to social media itself). I have heard of photographers getting jobs through their exposure on Instagram or Twitter, but the majority of clients go down the easier route of booking photographers based on status or directly through photo agents.
I have had opportunities unveil from conversations on social media- specifically for features, articles and sponsorships.
I think it’s important to understand that social media has a huge general audience so you have to think about how to reach out to that target audience you could benefit from. In order to get the right exposure you need to make a plan of how best to showcase your work and personality in the right light.
Where would you like to see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
I’m quite content with my schedule right now (it would be nice to schedule in a vacation once a year!). However if I had to think of where I would like to be 5-10 years down the line it wouldn’t be too far from where I am now – just more if it! It would be nice to work on more known publications and clients and keep building the momentum in my personal work.
Would you like to offer any advice to us fellow photographers?
My biggest piece of advice to new and aspiring photographers is not to expect too much too soon. The first 3-5 years of your career are incredibly important in finding your direction. Focus on building your portfolio, finding your style and finding yourself.
Surround yourself with the right people – choose your creative team wisely (hair, make up, wardrobe stylists and assistants) and shoot as much personal work and test work as you can! These are steps to building support foundation that will help you later in your career.
Also, try to get as much technical knowledge under your belt as early as you can. Whilst it’s great to try and develop your creative eye, there’s nothing wrong with defining those technical skills alongside it. A photographer has to be a good balance of both! Interning or assisting is a great way of getting experience in this field, don’t be afraid to ask for the experience!
Interviewed By Angela Butler, thanks for reading!