INTERVIEW // LARA JADE
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
We’re over the moon to have British Fashion photographer, Lara Jade join us at ARC. Lara works predominantly in both NYC & London but continues to travel the world to share her vision and experiences with an international audience. Starting photography at just 14, Lara tell us about her move to the US, shares some key lessons she’s learnt and why making connections and being memorable to your clients is so important. Lara shares where she finds her inspiration, how she remains organised and tells us more about her aim of raising awareness for female photographers worldwide.
Bio Photo by: Oscar May
Interview by Sachin Khona // April 2016
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
HEY LARA! So thankful that you’d join us here at arc. let’s start at the beginning .. When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
I started experimenting with photography very early on – at 14 in fact! I don’t have one of those ‘my granddad owned a dark room and that’s where I fell in love with photography’ stories. I feel like photography found me. I had always been a frustrated artist in high school, and could never find my creative outlet. One day, while researching for my final school exams (in art), I came across the website DeviantART and was fascinated with the photomanipulation and conceptual pieces – where photography was combined with mixed media or had a darker element to it overall. Combining that curiosity with the years of dance I did as a child (and the glam of dressing up, costumes, make-up and hair) I was inspired. My first camera was a point and shoot Polaroid digital camera; a few years later I upgraded to the Canon 350D Rebel. I was hooked. There wasn’t a moment that went by where I wasn’t thinking of photography. I was often teased at school for constantly checking my online accounts to see what comments/critique I would get and the fact I was more interested in photography than any other class.
Where is home for you and where do you work?
I live in New York City, I’ve been here for 5 years now. I still have a business and agent in London so I regularly travel back there for assignments – at least 4-5 times a year.
Have you always lived there or was there a conscious choice to move there?
I moved to New York as I was seeking something new. Growing up in a small town in England made me want to explore the world. Give a computer and the world wide web to a 14-year-old who was eager to learn, and she will yearn to see the world. I also met many friends through the online communities I was on (DeviantART, Flickr, Myspace etc) and a few of them encouraged me to visit. I first visited New York when I was 20 and immediately fell in love with it; a year later I was working on obtaining my first visa so that I could move here.
In what way does your location influence your work?
New York is alive – it’s always moving. You are never far from another creative person. I currently reside in a loft building in Brooklyn with hundreds of apartments, and I can tell you at least half of them are creatives of some form – hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, directors, jewellery designers and many other people in the fashion/art industry. When people first move here, many may expect a lifestyle similar to those portrayed on Sex and The City – it’s not like that.
It’s not an easy place to make a living, but it’s worth it – you are in the hub of everything, and you are reminded of that on a daily basis.
Over the past few years I’ve used New York as a background for many of my shoots – combining my love of the old and new. Some of my favourite shoots have been on the streets of Brooklyn, Times Square or even the Upper East Side (which turned out to be a perfect background for my Elle Singapore ‘Dog Days’ shoot!). In New York, you’re never far from a beautiful location – whether that’s upstate New York (most recently I did a story in Woodstock) or even the Hamptons, where you can get that luxury beach setting just a few hours away from the city.
Do you have a designated workspace or office?
I work from home – it has been a personal choice over the last few years to keep my business running from home because I have the space (I live in a 1,200 sq ft loft building) and because it saves on costs when I’m traveling to London or other locations. Being able to work from home is very popular in New York, and many artists do it. I dedicate one of my bedrooms to storage (of equipment) and when I have smaller editorial or personal shoots I shoot at home. Most of the time I shoot on location so it’s not often I shoot from home nowadays, but it also serves as a good prep space.
Do you feel there was a turning point, monumental time, or series of events in your life that you were felt as though you were on the right path in regards to your photography career that BROUGHT you to where you are now?
Whenever I get asked this question I always have to stop and think. I’ve been shooting for over 10 years now and when I think about defining points it always gets a little blurred. There are so many points in my life and career that have lead me to where I am now and there’s also a ton of lessons I’ve learned from being a self taught photographer.
I would say the past year has really made me think as a fashion photographer – it’s not about how good you are, it’s about your connections and how memorable you are to clients.
Living in a competitive city makes you hungry and you have to hustle harder in New York than you do anywhere else. If we are talking success moments in the past few years – I feel like my collaboration with Harrods Magazine in London has been one of those. I now regularly shoot for them and that relationship has really helped me grow as a photographer – to have big name clients in your portfolio speaks volumes.
What inspires and motivates you to create?
I try to be strict on my schedule (this gets a bit tough when I travel) but I always start my week with “Marketing Mondays” (something my friends and I put together) where we work together in various cafes in Brooklyn or in Manhattan, and chat as we work and encourage one another. The goal is to make databases of our connections, find new ones, send emails and look for new ways to get our work out into the industry.
With regards to inspiration for shoots and what motivates me, it has to be recent trends. I am always researching, whether that’s browsing Instagram or social media every morning and taking screenshots to file and organize as inspiration, or looking on websites such as models.com or Fashion Gone Rogue, to browsing art galleries. I keep an open mind. Sometimes I have that ‘aha’ moment where I start gathering inspiration or browsing and want to create a shoot around an idea/theme.
Do you do any creative training outside of your work?
Not currently, I am more of a visual learner. I like to learn things on my own even if I make mistakes. That’s not to say I’m not open to it, but it’s just how I seem to retain information creatively.
When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
Talk to other creatives. I have a network of creative friends in NY and all over the world. We talk it through whether it’s online, on the phone or over a coffee.
Sometimes having those conversations with other creative friends helps break down barriers and help us to realize we are not alone in our creative ruts.
How do you know when a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?
It’s all about training your eye to see that – I rarely retouch my own work anymore (due to time and deadline requirements) but I also know when a photograph is over retouched or needs more work.
Over the years of retouching my own work, making mistakes and receiving client feedback, I have trained my eye to understand when something is finished. If you’re questioning it – less is more.
ARE there any key lessons in your career that you’d like to share? OR Best piece of career advice you were ever given?
On my seminars and workshops I always like to finish with ‘Steps To Success’. The biggest one is to be sure you are connected with your work. Does your personality show through your work? What is it about your personal story that shines through in your portfolio? Clients will pick up on this. There has to be a connection. Having a personal connection with your work makes you more memorable and leads to more options when the right jobs come along.
The second important piece of advice I have is to surround yourself with positive energy. I am lucky to have found my circle of friends who all want to encourage and help one another. We are all in this together. This goes from your personal friend connections to your creative contacts and those you choose to work with on set.
Do you have a photograph burned in your memory that you never took but wish you had?
Anything with Kate Moss in it. I also look at Tim Walker‘s work on a daily basis and think ‘Damn why couldn’t I have thought of that?’. The man is a genius.
Can you share one creative tip that you use when you are working?
Be organized – from your week schedule to your archiving (research, client folders, shoot files etc). If you start this at the beginning of your career you will find it easier later on! I am just now learning the hard way. Yes I am that person with a million icons on their desktop!
Also – try to work away from your home space every so often, if you can. I work at local coffee shops just to be in a different working environment. It’s very easy to get distracted at home (yes that washing up or pile of clothes can be left until later but you NEED to do it if you see it). If you have a friend who has similar work hours to you maybe offer to share your space with them and vice versa.
Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?
This image I shot for Tatler Hong Kong; it was for a story I did called ‘The Great Escape’. It wasn’t an easy shot to get – the Brooklyn Bridge (if you know it) is incredibly busy and full of tourists. We planned to get the shot earlier in the day for the editorial, but by the time we got there the light was already too high for the shot we had in mind. We returned later feeling a little defeated thinking we would miss the light and got this. I was sitting on the side of the bridge and my assistant Matt held me as I took these shots and positioned her in front of all of the people. At the time, I had also recently changed the idea of what I wanted to shoot – aiming for a more chic/older model to appeal to a different demographic and client in NY and I was happy with the result. This has been an image that potential clients now see and puts me as an option for upcoming jobs. It was definitely a reminder that changing things up a little can be very beneficial in the long run.
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
Family, boyfriend, my cats (Elle & GQ!)
Can you share a bit about your daily schedule? Do you have a morning/evening routine?
Every day is different and my schedule changes depending on whether I’m traveling, or working from my home in NY. I find it much easier to have a schedule when I’m at my home base; when I’m traveling for work it can get a bit tricky. On a slow week I usually like to start my mornings at the local coffee shop and check/answer emails. I live by To Do lists – those things get me through a slow week and difficult weeks. If it’s a slow week, I make myself do something each day that will change my business; if it’s busy then I will send emails on the way to a job and update my social media during the less hectic parts of the day.
Every day I make sure I post to social media, blogs, brainstorm content for an upcoming post, email/follow up with a client, contact someone new, plan shoots, and archive. When someone tells me they have a ‘slow season’ in business it’s because they are not doing enough to get jobs. You have to be on it – work at reaching out to clients every day.
What within your work do you not like to do and why?
There isn’t anything I particularly dislike – however, I can see that there’s always room for improvement which is why I’m always keen to be shooting. If anything, I would like to expand my knowledge of lighting this year and think of new ways to light my work – experimenting with continuous light and different methods of lighting outside (right now I primarily use natural light for my editorials outside).
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I always struggle with this because I get a lot of personal enjoyment with my photography success and everyone I surround myself with is somewhat involved in the photography industry too. I also find it’s difficult when everything you do online is tied to your personal phone – it’s often the first thing I check every morning! To manage this I try to enjoy the little things in life and be grateful for them – going for brunch, movies, shopping.. I also try to switch off in the evenings and I try to at least take one day a week off to focus on my personal life and enjoy time away from work with my boyfriend.
What was your hardest / painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you?
The realization that not every client is going to like what you do, but in turn, accepting that client is also not right for you. Your style will only attract certain clients and the judgement of whether you are the ‘correct’ photographer for the job is judged by one person at a whole company. You can’t take that personally – you won’t secure a job from every meeting you go to.
You have to have the honest conversation with yourself and think about who you are creating for and why.
What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?
Continuing to shoot for editorial and advertising clients and the freedom to travel. I am very lucky to be able to travel and work and create connections around the world. I recently came back from a successful trip to LA so I’m hoping to see more of California in my future – for shoots and work opportunities.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
To raise awareness of female photographers. This is still a very male dominated industry. I have nothing against the guys – there are so many out there that are rocking it.. there’s just a lack of female photographers and leaders in this industry.
I am all about helping other women rise in business and encouraging female friends to be successful. I also notice that there is little trust in younger female creatives; for years I fought against that and to do this day I sometimes still have to. I do notice a change though, and there are a ton of female photographers I meet/hear about on a daily basis.
I would like to be able to instill confidence in women, we have a voice in this industry and if you have a talent for what you do – run with it. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors and stand up for yourself.
If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity?
Styling. I’ve always had a love for trends and clothes (which works being a fashion photographer!). I’m usually the first one on set with the stylist and looking through racks of clothing and getting excited about what has been pulled for shoots.
If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?
With my family having fun – whether at a beach or somewhere with a beautiful view. Those are the memories you cherish!
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
How many artists do you know / have met that have ever been fully happy with what they create? Successful artists most always have a level of insecurity – you are creating for yourself and it’s a state of vulnerability. I used to hate criticism and would curl up and get defensive if anyone would say bad things about my work without a constructive comment beside it. The work I created at the beginning was very close to home and personal so it felt as if people were attacking me. Nowadays I take doubt as a pinch of salt, it actually makes me want to prove people wrong. I was always doubted as a fine art photographer who wanted to be a fashion photographer, I was told it was foolish and difficult.
I have been told it’s hard to make it as a female fashion photographer, a young one or one that doesn’t live in the hub of a city. At the end of the day if you’re passionate about something, you have obvious talent and pursue it for long enough people will start to notice. Above everything – if you enjoy what you do, who cares?
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)?
I’m not a huge podcast listener – I listen to music more.
Currently listening to – Say Lou Lou, Odesza, Little Dragon and Purity Ring
Film / Documentary that is a must watch?
I’m a big fan of psychological thriller/horrors. ‘It Follows’ was something me and my boyfriend just watched and both agreed it was one of the better ones. It will really grab you.
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading?
Marilyn Monroe – The Last Sitting
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
Do you have a favourite poem or quote?
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Green Tea Latte
Favourite TED talk?
Aimee Mullins ‘My 12 Pairs Of Legs’
Last gallery / exhibit you visited?
Your favourite photography book?
A creative you’d love to see interviewed on ARC?
Can you share a short assignment / project that has benefited you in the past OR create / describe an assignment that you feel can help those reading this interview?
I was invited to Hong Kong by DigitalRev to take part in their ‘Pro Photographer – Cheap Camera Challenge’. It was a blast – I had a few hours to shoot on the streets with a model using a toy camera. I honestly had no idea what shots I was getting as I was snapping away and totally thought I had failed the whole challenge at the end of the day.
I always stand by the sentence ‘it’s not the equipment, its the photographer’ and this was an assignment that went hand in hand with that. If you haven’t watched the other challenges yet – go and view them! Guaranteed laughter and an excuse to get away from work for 30 minutes.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME LARA!
You can see more of Lara Jade’s work here // Web
And connect here // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram
UP NEXT …
Stay tuned for an interview next week with Mexican film photographer, Omar Olvera.
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Loved reading this, it is so inspiring. Beautiful photos, and I loved seeing the shots she can get on the cheap camera episode!
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