I studied to be a photographer. meaning I actually went to a school, applied to be allowed to go there, went through a home exam and a couple of interviews, and then when I thought I would die they let me in and I cried and was happy and then went to school and went into debt, but we won’t talk about that. What we’re focusing on is that I actually went to school to learn how to take photos (and write coherently and do graphic design) because that’s how I wanted to make money.
I picked my job. I just didn’t know you needed a penis to do it.
I started studying in the late 90s, before digital so I actually had to go in the darkroom, develop film, print images etc. I was lucky enough to get internships at two major studios, the second one in the equipment room. I can actually set up and break down large amounts of photo equipment alone. Like, all by myself with nobody helping me. I can use cameras of varying sizes (35mm, medium format, 4×5) all by myself. I’m proud of this.
Unfortunately photography is not something that you do all by yourself all the time. At some point you have to work on a team and that means working with models, makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists and photo assistants. Even without a client and editors, If the photographer and staff each have two assistants that’s 15 people on board.
I’m pretty sure that I could handle that. I love bossing people around almost as much as I love taking pictures.
But I wonder sometimes, is my vagina stopping me from being successful?
I’ve assisted male photographers, and they don;t get treated the same. I mean, so yeah, you can’t flirt with me, but does that make me any less of a photographer? Ok, no I can’t date you, but am I less of a photographer? I once saw someone grab a male photographer I knew and beg to work with him. It’s ok if I was standing right there and had been building a realtionship with them in order to get work. I mean, don;t mind poor vagina having me when you can get a MAN.
I once assisted for a male photographer who did high fashion. I had to access and answer his email account and It was devastating. People offered him mansions to shoot in, tons of emails from models and stylists, and all of it was ‘you’re so amazing! let us give you money!!!’. I mean a lot of emails and emails from other mail photographers offering him help, looking to hang out, asking for advice…
At that point I wanted to have a sex change operation because my email box is tumbleweed city. At that time I was actively seeking work and promoting myself, and I got a job every so often. One year I made $5,00 and I considered that amazing. If I had a penis it would have been $5,000,000. I know it.
But funnily, I don’t blame the guys. I know for a fact that a female makeup artists will get a man work before she’ll help a female photographer because I’ve seen it happen. A female editor or client will go with a male photographer. Why? Hormones. he’s cute, omg look at those eeeeyeeeesssss… and he’s hired. Me? let’s not go there, ok?. And men will hire men because they’re men and they can all hang out and be men together and look at nekkid models and ten marry them and have model babies.
Me? I’m sorry, but male models make me feel weird, like- you are not gonna be prettier than me. So it doesn’t quite work like that for me.
Now, I have good ideas- but I am a 5’2″ black woman who wears overalls to shoot in because I’d rather be ready to crawl on the floor adjusting cables or smoothing out backdrops than trying to look cute. I think my work is good, but I’m not paying me. I don’t flirt because, hello? I’m a stinking photographer and my photoshoot is not where I look for dates or husbands.
I am probably doing this all wrong.
I started blogging because it was a way to keep taking photos, even if I had to take them of myself. Through blogging I’ve learned how much I love product photography, which you can do all alone, and how much I love getting dressed up to go to events. I do squirm a little, thinking that I’ve sold myself out just so that I can get free lipstick and wrinkle cream. I do wonder why it’s so much more acceptable for me to be ‘stylish’ than to be a paid photographic creative. I’m taking pictures, but are they the pictures I set out to take all along? Did I do all that model casting, thinking, plotting, planning, lighting, location scouting, wardrobe styling, and fighting just to wear cute clothes and go to blogger events?
I hear a lot about gender inequality in fashion, and I think that by hiring female imaging professionals (aka photographers) to shoot those fashion shoots and ads we can start closing the gap. I think more black editors should hire black female photographers for their magazines. I think female wardrobe stylists and makeup artists should recc their female photography associates and pass on jobs to them. I think gender and racial inequality can only be addressed when everyone, not just the men, are in there pitching whoever is best for the job.
If I’m that person, don’t go through my portfolio and earmark pics to show to a man to re-shoot them. Hire ME. And yeah, stuff like that happens, to men and women.
I’m a good photographer. I’m not flashy about it and maybe I need to be. I don’t say other people suck (men will do that, and I hate it. “Oh, that guy sucks” just because you want the job), and I think I bring a lot to the table because I’m fun to work with but my main objective is to get the job done. I will do the art direction, creative direction, write the copy, do the styling, do the makeup, hold everyone’s hand, make sure they get fed, make sure we get the shot, make sure to clean it all up afterwards. Cuz I’m awesome, and because that’s what needs to be done.
Since everyone is out there screaming about inequality, I’m going to test the fashion and photo industries. I am going to put my portfolio together and I am going to get back out there and market myself like the guys taught me to. I will make 2016 my year to make it as a photographer in New York. I’m gonna go hustle and see what happens. Because if people are really about change, I should be the perfect person to hire. Right? We’ll see.
Thanks to that time I went to Sniffapalooza, I was invited to the Beautypress Summer Sunset Sail and thanks to bad planning and the fact that I walk really slowly and kind of had nothing to wear really but tried anyway, I ended up getting on the train late and never made it to the pier.
All of this happened without me… All. Of. This. And then they sailed past the Statue of Liberty, so me missing the boatride was faintly un-American.
So when they asked if I wanted to go to Spotlight Day, I was all in. I woke up early (well, early in the afternoon, I picked the cocktail hour option) and made sure that I was dressed and out of the house in time to make it. I was NOT missing this event.
I threw on my fave brown velvet blazer over that basic h&m striped tee I bought in August and squeezed myself into my true shape jeans from LL Bean, which look adorable even while accomodating my Chubby Chubs belly. I embellished it with my new perforated leather bow tie with contrasting stitching that I got from Lesley Ware at Nolche Verde, and by gorgeous Ariel charm necklace from ShopJacquelineRose. I was ready, and I was determined to be ON TIME.
Made it! And it was AMAZING. As soon as you come in the door- beauty products. Moisturizers, mascara, eyeliner, press-on nails, false eyelashes, EVERYTHING you need to be a girl.
And then some extra stuff so you can be an uber girl, then go home and peel it all off. The first thing in my bag was the Derma E firming moisturizer, along with an amazing eye pencil from Xtreme Lash (a soft, velvety kohl effect). Kiss & ImPress Press-On Manicures was offering free mani-makeovers and also eyelash applications.
I met Meredith Smith of Sweet Anthem Perfumes. A former Microsoft employee, she’s turned to the world of fragrance with a collection of scents based on literature. Every fragrance is named for a character in a book or myth. She just got picked up by Anthropologie.com, and hopes to open a brick and mortar shop here in New York one day.
Lavera is a European company that sells cosmetics through health food stores across the world. Which kind of blew my mind. If you don’t go to health food stores, then you’re missing out- because they are not at Sephora at all. They gave me a sample from their skincare line, True Natural, a hydrating moisturizer featuring spagyric, organic pearl extract, organic shea butter and anti-oxidant vitamin E. They also do an organic self-tanning line, which was featured in Elle magazine.
Saw my fave makeup lady Lauren Napier who was showing off her amazing CLEANSE wipes. I still remember meeting her at The Makeup Show and tucking her wipes into my goodie bags at my first anniversary celebration. It’s always a pleasure to see Lauren and hear about her progress. CLEANSE is currently sold at Kenig Alcone, right here in NY. On the way to the cocktail bar I ran into Rana Campbell, who I had met briefly at the Katty Xiomara Nolcha Fashion Week Show last month. I recognized her by her Otterbox Symmetry phone case, lol!
Time for refreshments… lovely prosecco cocktails with either raspberry or beet, and delicious sandwiches from Le Pain Quotidien. So good. I got a flute with raspberry first and then went back for the one with the beet slice since it was such an interesting idea- and healthy drinking, right? And the french bread sandwiches were delicious. Just the right bit for the moment.
I dropped by the Bodyography table and spoke to Lori Lieb, who is passionate about her product and has flawless eyeshadow. She showed off her Electric Lip Slides, glorious burts of lip nourishing color that can be used as a lipstick,gloss or stain. Really impressive product. And Bodyography makeup is PETA certified, vegan, and gluten free. When I got home and emptied out my editor bag, I had all of this… so we’re going to be talking about beauty for awhile. Yay!