14th March 2014
Born in 1990. Lucy Brown enters our Uni lecture room dressed casually and comfortably. A calm, fashion obsessed and collective character; Lucy is here today to talk to a mixed bunch of National Diploma, Foundation Degree, BA Hons, Subsidary Diploma and fashion students. Predominately a black and white fashion photographer; the peak of Lucy's freelance career reach its highest point when American Apparel commissioned her to shoot some pictures for their website. Since graduating at LCF (London College of Fashion), Lucy has also worked with the likes of ASOS and 1883 Magazine.
Today on a foggy Friday morning at my University in East London, she joins us for a guest lecture to answer the questions we are all itching to have answered.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Cambridge, England.
How did you get into Photography?
I have always been into art. I started by casually reading Vogue Magazine and I saw how much work is put into the shoots i.e styling and casting. I used to go to gigs when I was younger (back in my "emo myspace" days) and shoot bands which is where my interest in people started so I began photographing my friends. I likes the stories that are told in Photography and always use the basis of a story in my own photography as my main source of inspiration. I surround myself with positive and creative people who keep me motivated and inspired. However, I remember that I am not a machine that is expected to produce loads of work. I still make sure I have a good social life and make time for friends and myself whether it's drinks in town or reading a book in a cafe.
How did you first get an interest in fashion?
Well, I was still at a school/college age and always visited that old book store 'Borders' to read magazines and fashion books and from that I developed a stronger interest in fashion. I think that viewing photography in books is more personal and you absorb it more, whereas photography on the internet is viewed by everyone.
I quite liked that Super Super magazine (*Johnathan Hallam is the only lecturer who remembers it!*) I liked that one because it was weird. They would liquify images and remove body parts and stuff.
Why did you not study photography at University?
I really wanted to study photography but the course was unfortunately full. I studied the next best thing which was fashion styling for three years. I had an interest in styling and still do but I wouldn't necessarily say I am a stylist. I use a lot of my own clothes to "style" shoots. I felt LCF was the right University for me due to its creative background and the opportunities it offered.
How was LCF overall?
I really liked it. There was a lot of independent learning and free time to work but the competition was big. I think the biggest thing I have learnt or come out from uni with is I don'tt try to fit in and I work true to my own creative style.
Did you get experience as a student?
Yes. I assisted for a shoot for Wonderland magazine and became really good friends with the guy I was assisting which interrupted uni work sometimes but any experience in the industry is a good chance to build contacts and networks.
Did you work with film?
We had to experiment a lot in University. We used film materials and it was all about techniques, processes and experimentation. We worked with bleaching and film materials in the dark rooms and experimented with techniques. I liked the mix of film and digital materials. I still experiment to this day as sometimes work I have shot bores me. Just recently (here), I added some staples to some images I didn't like that much and then scanned them. They now appeal to me more.
What do you think about moving image?
It's interesting, modern and popular nowadays. People use mixed media such as video/gifs/moving image. The possibility of technology moving on a LOT within the next couple of years is powerful. I personally do use GIF's. There is no use for them but I find them quite interesting. Model agencies and advertising are using them a lot more nowadays too.
How did you stay motivated after graduating?
I had a break after graduating and I managed to get a job at American Apparel before I had even graduated. I got talking to a model from LA who had modelled for American Apparel and she suggested we collaborate together on a shoot. We got together on a lovely day and shot some American Apparel clothes. I then sent them off to American Apparel's offices based in L.A. Not going to lie, they took around three months to reply whether they liked them but then they asked if they could put them on their website which was my first huge paid job.
How do you feel about exposing your work to a big brand so early after graduating?
American Apparel's offices are in LA so it took about three months for them to reply if they liked my images but I assume the more you work, the more you get out of it. I am always taking photos. If you're shooting for a specific brand it's best to study their website/Tumblr and absorb their aesthetic. It will be easier for your own shoot when it comes to understanding the brand's expectations.
What do you think about AA's sexual campaigns?
Every form of art has its place. I believe American Apparel's sexual campaigns belong in an art book. It's not the most ideal type of photography to broadcast in public on billboards and leaflets especially when children may see them so I think the marketing behind the brand is completely wrong and dismissed. Terry Richardson is a very good photographer but there's so many accusations (see here) against him so the whole erotic meets photography thing is a really difficult one. Models sign a contract to say that American Apparel can use any images that are taken which is slightly wrong. If we compare their campaigns to Miley Cyrus, they are both very similar. Is Miley wrong for doing what she does? I don't think so but I can see why people think it's too much, but she does it for a purpose and is good at what she does.
image from google
Are you confident? Any tips on gaining confidence photographing people?
Practice makes perfect. People do terrify me and I can understand why young photographers can feel scared to approach people for a photograph or two. I wanted to be a street style photographer but the thought of approaching cool, quirky or well dressed people terrifies me. All creative people are a little nervous but you have to remember that you're a watcher. The initial fear does go away after a while after lots of practice...and a fag. Everyone has a camera now so the person you are approaching is just a person. It is the complete norm now to take photos of every day people.
Do you have any tips for working with models?
Remember they are still a person and make sure you provide lunch!
How do you cast models?
Personally, I go for girls who dress like how I dress or how I want to look. I tend to go for girls who wear black.. possibly with a grungy style as they photograph well on the streets. I like the look of asian girls so I cast a lot of them. I like how they look with the pale white skin and dark hair. A piercing or a tattoo is a keen thing I look for as it's a good topic for conversation making you and the model more relaxed with each other. I work mainly with girls or I prefer boys that look like girls. I don't like guys who are very manly with muscles. It's gross and not my taste. I shoot a lot of friends through getting on well with them. I can make friends out of my job which is always the best perk. I've learnt swell that if you want to shoot a group of certain people, you need to hang around with them so they gain trust and become comfortable around them. Become friends and they'll almost become vain for your camera.
How do you get main board faces?
Contact model agencies and shoot new faces LOTS and they will eventually trust you more. Also, make sure you have a good production i.e a good makeup artist/stylist etc.
What agencies have you worked with?
I've worked with M and P models but I haven't in a while. Others to name are Storm and Next model agencies.
Do you only ever have one choice for a model?
No. I have an option one and two, sometimes three. Good agencies will sort it out for you but you have to be careful. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I've had many times where models haven't turned up for shoots and I've had clothes and my team with me. It's annoying to say the least..
What is Noctex?
I came across a designer on Tumblr and emailed her asking if I can shoot her designs. with my intentions and ideas. She was based in Vancouver, Canada and kindly sent over her designs which I then used for some basic shots with a good friend of mine who was just fifteen at the time. The necklace in the pictures was a thank you gift for shooting the picture. I've just realised the creases in one of them pictures, damn.
What are your 'diary' collections?
My first interest in photography began when I liked going out with a simple small camera and shooting friends/people getting pissed/weird things. I still do that as I enjoy it. Lots of photographer websites now have diary/blog pages.
Do you shoot editorials?
I have tried but I don't like them that much. Me and some friends find it difficult to select images and link them together for the client I am working for. Editorials are nerve-wracking but I am only one year out of Uni so it's all still quite new to me.
How do you find London Fashion Week?
It is annoying when loads of random people are getting involved at LFW but don't have tickets. However, if you're a blogger it's the norm, especially if you want to shoot street style. Everyone's got a blog these days so it's great if someone wants to take your photograph as it's extra exposure for you and your blog. Everyone takes the same pictures so it all comes down to who photographs with the best angles.
Any tips for photographing at London Fashion Week?
For the fashion shows themselves, photographers are generally fat men in their mind-forties. If you are a girl, expect to get nudged and to fight for a good photo. It's literally like they are the paparazzi. That is not the glamorous part of LFW at all but then when you see the images in fashion magazines, they become glamorous. Also bring your own lunch or you'll be fighting for some sushi and coconut water and expect to get stared at by thin models when you're eating a good sandwich!
Do you have any favourite street style blogs?
The Sartoralist and Face Hunter.
How important is studio access?
I didn't have much studio access at LCF as it was always fully booked so I shot a lot of work on a white wall around the corner. This was awful as it's hard adjusting such images in Photoshop to make them look like they were shot in the studio. If you're a photography student make the most of the facilities your uni/college have! I of course now use studios, but they are £50 here and £100 there. It's costly.
Was you scared about working in the fashion industry?
Slightly but I geared myself up a lot for it. It's a strange industry and you have to take everything with a pinch of salt. Some people come across as rude but that's just the industry. Most people are creative and nice, slightly eccentric, but you are in control so it just depends who you want to be. You have to network with people though. You could be working with anyone in the next ten years. It could be someone who you met at an event or someone who threw up on your shoe at a party. If you're passionate about fashion, you can do anything with it i.e writing, drawing, video etc.
All images are owned by Lucy Brown, unless stated otherwise.
- A XO