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Interview with Olivia Rose

By Nahuel Contreras

How have you defined the crossing over of documentary photography with fashion photography?
I'm not sure I was ever a photographer that made distinctions between my 'personal work' and my editorial work. To me, it is one and the same and I think that generally in my career to date, this approach has made me who I am as a photographer. I was never, EVER interested in clothes, so I approach my fashion work as I would every other shoot. I try to street cast as much as possible; I've always preferred faces and skin tones that are under represented in fashion. I am socially and politically conscious and have been dealing with race (and particularly black male youth) in my work for many years and I refuse to negate this in favour of pleasing magazines.
How much of your work is documentary and how much is it fashion?
I find it extremely hard to define my work into these categories. I also find it hard to categorise myself as a 'photographer' - I mostly like to think of myself as a roaming sociologist who happens to sometimes carry a camera... maybe an artist at a push, but mostly just a lover of people. All of my work is subject first - whether I take a straight portrait on a backdrop, or a candid image on the street, whether I've known the sitter intimately or never met them before. If you are someone who is willing to observe without judgment, there is a beautiful image to be found just about anywhere that can comfortably exist in several contexts. I like to think that I haven't adopted any of the stereotypical traits of a "fashion photographer" in my editorial work. Subject is key. Relationships between my sitter and I are key. They are more important than the clothes, the pose, the lighting set up, and the technology you use. I believe in photography in its purest form. Analog, natural and ambient light, no retouching, so I suppose in that way I have rejected the digital age of fashion photography, I've rejected the white studio, the retouched faces.
How are important are the themes, the casting, the location and who is the audience?
Casting is EVERYTHING to me. Secondary to that is the location (and some good light - the best light in my opinion is daylight through a stormy sky). The themes that run through my work never change - the female gaze, race, male sexuality, maleness, a sense of memory, a sense of humour, so they don't ever need to be forced or put in place. You can't organise a theme for next Tuesday - you can organise a model, a camera, a location, but the concept and the theme should be integral to the photographer and his or her style.

Project Tags

  • fashion
  • journalist
  • writer
  • freelance fashion writer
  • Fashion Journalism

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