16 Aug 2016

Aiming for the money shot

12:49 pm on 16 August 2016

Sonia Sly talks to three fashion photographers about breaking into the dog-eat-dog industry. 


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Photo: Aaron K Photography, Hedge Your Bets for Absinthe and Arsenic.

In a black pit, professional photographers huddle together - some fighting for elbow room - jostling for space and vying for a central spot on a low wooden platform that gives them a direct focus down a runway.  

Seated in front of them on a cold, concrete floor are a dozen hobby photographers and students who are hoping to kick-start their careers in fashion, and have their work noticed by publishers, stylists and advertising companies. Their ‘in’ is Instagram … or winning a prize that will give them access to notable mentors - maybe even some of the pros standing behind them.

Three photographers at different stages in their careers share their perspective on what it takes to break into the competitive world of fashion, ahead of New Zealand Fashion Week next week.

Luke Foley-Martin - Winner of Top Aspiring Fashion Photographer, New Zealand Fashion Week 2015

Luke Foley-Martin has photography in his blood.

Luke Foley-Martin has photography in his blood. Photo: Supplied

"My focus is runway photography, editorial, corporate and commercial work ranging from magazine covers for up-and-coming brands through to Mercedes Benz. My dad was a professional photographer for 30 years [and] I wanted to become photographer. I got a lot of help from my dad, and now I’m working with mentors such as David Shields and Lisa Harrington, who are big names in New Zealand photography.

"I’m still in high school, so I have to balance study with my professional career. For anyone starting out I recommend being persistent and you’ve got to prove that you’re good. I’m still proving that. I don’t have time to go to parties or to do anything, but to be honest I’d just prefer to do my own thing and progress in my career."

See Luke's work on his website.

James O'Neill - Massey University graduate, 2016

Wellington photographer James O'Neill says collaboration is key.

Wellington photographer James O'Neill says collaboration is key. Photo: Sonia Sly

"I love working in a team environment and if I’m not doing the styling, then I love working with a stylist and hair and makeup and the model, as well. I love collaborating with people who are similar-minded. Collaborating is the best way to go about getting connections. Even if it means working for free I don’t mind if I'm working with friends.

"For a shoot we'll borrow clothes from a cool local shop and just improvise and hope that everyone’s got the same vision. That’s why I like collaborating because you don’t have one view, but you have two or three different perspectives."

See James' work on his Facebook page.

Aaron K - professional photographer and executive director of the Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association

Auckland photographer Aaron K.

Auckland photographer Aaron K. Photo: Supplied

"I’ve been in the industry for about 16 years [and] in the past the industry has been largely male-dominated, but that’s changing very rapidly. The way I shoot is quite illustrative and I create things, rather than capturing an image and I always like to plan.

"Today the barrier to enter the industry has evaporated because of digital technology, whereas when we were working with film you had limited chances to get the shot for your client, so you had to hit it every time.

"There are definitely a lot more wannabe fashion photographers every week now who are picking up a reasonably good digital camera and uploading their photos to a Facebook page or getting on Instagram and promoting themselves as fashion photographers and giving their work away for free to get in the door. It’s really easy these days with online tools, and I guess it’s smart if you can create a perception of yourself as being far more established than you really are."

See Aaron K’s work on his website.

LISTEN to Sonia's audio story for RNZ: