I recently joined Alexandra Macon managing editor for Vogue and co-founder of Over The Moon to capture the beautiful chaos of NYBFW. Mingling with top designers for five days was a whirlwind, but having access to Spring’s 2020 dresses was well worth the effort.
If you are a photographer interested in shooting Bridal Fashion Week this entry is for you! I want to share a retrospective on the way I approached the work so that you can be prepared for what lies ahead.
First things first, know what’s best for your editor. Before shooting, I had an intentional conversation with the editorial team about their vision for content. Luck had it that they too were most interested in a reportage approach. “Anywhere but the photography pit,” was my only order. For those of you unfamiliar with runway the photographers’ pit is the place at the top of the aisle shooting straight down the runway. You, along with every other photographer, get to shoot full-length catalog shots for the duration of the show. Well, not me. I was tasked with documenting the raw beauty of the BTS perspective of designers, collections, and shows. I’ve never really been into shooting the same images as someone else, so this approach suits my style, but the caveat is that you best be a fucking wizard with a camera in your hand.
Avoiding the pit gave me the pleasure and struggle of finding a better perspective for each show. This isn’t easy, shows are quick 10-15 minutes and once they start you aren’t allowed to move around. Once they finish you must get backstage asap because great things are happening and over within the blink of an eye. Not to mention sorting through your camera gear all while things are happening in a New York minute. The cherry on top of this intense chaos is that show producers and directors aren’t huge fans of your presence. In some cases they want you to leave, this is where you turn from ninja to assertive new yorker. You’ve got a job to do!
Before you even get to the shows you need to research the designers, figure out which shows are a top priority for your editors and do a little research on logistics. Some shows will be right on top of one another and may take 20-30 minutes of travel time. Most designers will allow photographers to arrive an hour beforehand – know your schedule and make a plan. Once you arrive scout the locations, I would walk around the runway envision all the seats filled and sourced my best angles for shots. I would then go backstage see where I might be able to snap some portraits post-runway and figure out what equipment would be best.
I already knew gear was going to be an issue. I shoot quickly, in the moment and just like everything in New York things happened yesterday. Lugging a bunch of gear around would be my death, so I choose to travel light. I had three lenses and one light. The 35mm, 50mm, 85mm gave me all the range I could ever need, and I packed a video light for backstage. The light is crucial, I saw lots of photographers failing big time with lights, fumbling around, and missing opportunities because of the delay with gear. I held a light in one hand and snapped with the other allowing me to move in and out with ease.
Before the shows would start, I spent my time researching each designer. I would look at the brand, tones, colors, and overall vibe to apply my style to create something that they would appreciate. For example Lela Rose loves bright, colorful images, I love moody black and white work but shot almost exclusively in color for her collection knowing she would appreciate it much more. Knowing what inspires the collection and designers is a crucial piece to making others happy because at the end of the day it is not about you, it’s always about them. If you take only one thing away from this take this – what’s in it for them? Does everyone think about what’s in it for me? How can I serve myself? Stop. Be radical, start genuinely helping others, be polite and see how far that takes you!
Lastly, a huge extension of gratitude to my dear friend Lucy, thank you for your continued support and guidance – you are a real friend. A special thank you to Alexandra and Maria! Also to the designers who welcomed me in with open arms. Vera Wang, Naeem Khan, Mira Zwillinger, Lela Rose, Temperley London, Marchesa, Amsale, and others, thank you! Last but certainly not least Morgan with Neiman Marcus, thank you!