‘Be prepared for everything…start off slow and build a good reputation that allows you to move ahead in your career aspirations.’
We recently caught up with New York based photographer Julia Chesky, whose journey into fashion photography has begun when she moved to New York in 2004 to study at Parson School of Design. During the time at Parson’s she started a blog documenting store windows Modelizing. The project gained a dedicated following and has allowed Julia to shoot for clients like Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and many others.
In her interview, Julia tells us how she got into photography, which projects she is working on currently and we get to peek into her future plans.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I currently live in New York City, but I was born in the former USSR, the area is now known as Ukraine. I moved to New York when I was 4 years old, bounced to LA after a few years, and spent my childhood growing up in Massachusetts before moving to New York at 18 to attend Parsons for Photography.
Q: How did you decide that you eventually wanted to become a photographer?
I honestly fell into it by accident. I was always very artistic and wanted to be a fashion designer. I was never interested in photography; it was my mom who has always been obsessed with documenting our vacations. Because we were traveling the world together, there were thousands of photos but there were no photos of her. She was always in the corner with some famous backdrop. I guess my mom simply wanted better (or really any) photos of herself, so she pushed me into a summer school for black and white negative photography when I was 13. I kind of liked it, but I was still focused on becoming a fashion designer. Then I just kept hearing so much praise and my teacher in photography was also constantly encouraging me to pursue photography as profession. The breakthrough came after I won Scholastic’s Gold Portfolio Key at the age of 17, one of two out of 250,000 students nation wide. At that point I knew I had to become a photographer.
Q: Where did your passion towards fashion photography come from?
I do a lot of different photography, but I’ve always been obsessed with fashion since first hearing “MEL. What the hell is that? CHER. A dress. MEL. Says who? CHER. Calvin Klein.” during Clueless at 9 years old. This is where my passion started and I cannot imagine documenting something else.
Q: What role the education has played in your professional development?
I think every day is educational; every client is a new class and set of rules. Parsons School was fine for the technical aspect, but I’m learning so much more now than before.
Q: What kind of projects have you being working on so far?
I really love shooting backstage and I’ve been shooting New York Fashion Week (NYFW) since 2008. I’m gearing up for NYFW 2012 with total excitement; it’s amazing every season no matter how many shows I do. Over the years I’ve shot less shows because I work full time… and I’m also in a wonderful place where I can pick and choose what I’d like to lend my lens to.
Q: What keeps you busy now?
Just a few things here and there, it slows down for me shooting wise before NYFW because everyone is getting ready towards the same thing and the rest gets put on hold.
Q: What is the most interesting or favorite project you have worked so far?
There have been a few. I had a blog Modelizing about store windows for 4.5 years that I shut down in April of this year, but I still keep shooting. I posted high-end windows from 5th and Madison Avenue, shot at night. It’s amazing to just have such a massive archive at this point. It’s one of my closest projects, it taught me a lot about limitations, skills, seeing light differently…I always did it with an artistic goal. On a personal level, discovering a new world that sells fashion differently than a magazine has been incredible.
Q: Do you have any dream project?
I would love to turn my window project into a coffee table book with my name on it published by one of big publishers. It was a goal from day one and even though it’s not really online any more (there is an abbreviated tumblr version of my favorite images), I would like to have a final resting place for it to be something besides my external hard-drive, which currently contains about 50,000 images.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Being allowed to share my images and what’s going on inside my head with people. Image has such a strong power as it combines my creative mind and me and lets express how I see things.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Honestly…lugging equipment around, it’s so heavy! Also, affording all the equipment I need. And last, just making sure that client pays fairly. Because you’re new and young photographer like myself, everyone thinks they can get away with paying nothing or deducting the price from you without any explanation or paying not on time.
Q: What qualities and skills you think have helped you to succeed in your profession?
Well, as I still haven’t reached the level of success I’m striving for, I don’t know the exact answer. Probably, the fact that I’m a hard-worker, I love the challenge…Once I hit success I’m aiming for, I’ll tell you all my secrets!
Q: Who professionally inspires you the most and why?
On a professional level and on a work-ethic level, it’s my mother. Her life story is incredible. The idea of sacrificing to get what you want, to be there where you want to be, it has always been within me, because I’ve seen it myself.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Just take the picture, which is the advice from my mom.
Q: What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers?
Just take the picture!
Q: If someone wants to get into professional fashion photography, what advice would you give, where to start?
Be prepared for everything…start off slow and build a good reputation that allows you to move ahead in your career aspirations. Not everyone aspires to be the 1% of photographers in the industry, so figure out your goal and get there as best as you can. Think how you can be better, what you can do better, how do you want to grow.
Q: What are your aspirations for the future, in photography or otherwise?
It comes from Tom Ford’s quote: “World domination through style”. This is the aspiration for my future.
Q: Your favourite:
Anything by Luc Besson.
I love hip-hop and opera/classic music.