Fizzy Exclusive Q&A With New York Photographer Christina Emilie
New York based editorial/fashion photographer Christina Emilie is a woman who lives and breathes minimalism. Her simple and direct approach to her photography has set her work apart from the rest. With clients ranging from Luanna Perez-Garreaud of Le-Happy, to The Grey Layers, to Harper’s Bazaar, the self-taught photographer has been gaining some well-deserved attention.
Aside from blessing us all with her beautiful photography, Christina is a lead creator for Kit.com, an online platform for users to link products and organize into “kits.” With the help of our amazing friends over at Smalls Girls PR, Christina let us be a part of her world for a Fizzy exclusive interview:
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you discover your love of photography?
My love for photography happened in college. At the time, I was a Sophomore at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, studying Accounting. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated, but thought pursuing a degree in business was a safe way to go, or at least that’s what my parents told me. I few weeks into the Fall semester, my grades were suffering due to my lack of focus in my courses which wasn’t like me.
I realized I wasn’t happy and thought about where I wanted to be in the next 5 years, and it definitely wasn’t as an accountant. I needed something that was more creative so I looked into interior design, graphic design, writing, anything that would allow me to make something. I wasn’t one for school, so those options were going require additional semesters putting me past graduation, so I decided to switch to marketing which allowed me to take a photography course.
Little did I know that this was the most life changing 3 months of my life. All my focus went into taking photos and playing with my mom’s Canon Rebel camera she let me borrow for the class. Pretty soon, my passion turned into a few small gigs the following year. I took portraits of my friends, and seeked an internship as a photographer at a local news station. People started to see my as an actual photographer which opened up the idea of pursuing it professionally. I graduated with a Marketing degree but had accidentally started a photography business the previous two years. I applied for a few marketing positions at Ad agencies but never followed up, realizing my career path was destined for photography. I’m completely self-taught with a few workshops under my belt.
Moving from Pittsburg to New York turned out to be life-changing for you and your career. What was that transition like and what did the move mean for you?
I’ll never forget the day I found out I was officially moving to NYC. It was something I had been dreaming of as soon as I graduated and realized I wanted to pursue fashion photography. I was finally working at ModCloth at the time as an e-comm photographer and was afraid to leave an opportunity I had worked for for so long in my home-town. I also shot weddings on the side and had a loyal clientele I had worked hard to maintain. But deep down I knew I had to listen to my instincts and dreams of growing my career.
My first year in New York wasn’t easy but I never thought about giving up. I had to realize that although I was established in another city, I had to start over in a way. I interned with another photographer, worked for trade, created test shoots, and networked the same way I had taught myself to. Hard work and patience my first year here has now led me to the jobs I’ve been able to create for myself my second year living in New York. I’ve now lived here for two and half years and continue to work in the same way I did the first day I moved here.
As an editorial/fashion photographer, can you give us a peek into what a photo shoot is like for you?
I’d love to! The first steps of a photo shoot happen behind the camera. Before every shoot, there are many emails, meetings, or phone calls with the client to align details and finalize a concept before planning the actual shoot. Making sure you are organized and prepared before the day of the shoot is crucial. I try to be as involved in the planning of the shoot, from model selection, makeup artists, and concept in order to execute the shoot as planned with the client. On the day of the shoot, I make sure my set is built and ready so that when the client arrives, we are only making minor lighting adjustments to their liking. I do most of my testing the day before. My typical team consists of an assistant, photo tech, stylist and makeup artist.
What is the typical day in the life of Christina Emilie?
The first thing I do in the morning is work out. I reached a point where I was struggling to find creativity and realized I needed to make more “me” time for the things I enjoy. You can’t make your clients happy if you’re not happy. I’m definitely a morning person so the next thing I’ll do is head to my computer with a cup of coffee and look at my emails and/or edit a shoot. I need to take quite a few breaks in the day to stay fresh so sometimes I’ll take a walk, go to a coffee shop, or take a photo walk.
When you’re not taking photos, what else are you obsessing over?
Being outside and working out! I just started taking classes at Bar Method Brooklyn and go at least 4 times a week. Lately I’ve also been into hiking. I just returned from Japan where I climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji. I definitely caught the hiking bug and am looking to plan my next excursion.
You seemed to have really established your work through a minimalist aesthetic. What is important to you about having a minimalist approach?
I found that my favorite photos and strongest photos are those that have a direct message and simple concept. I started to get hired for this type of photo so it’s important for me to retain this style.
Does your minimalist approach to your work translate to your daily life?
Definitely. As a creative, you and your work go very close in hand. Being that I work from home and have a home studio, I definitely live minimalism. If you were to take a tour of my apartment, you’ll find very little furniture but each having a purpose. Everyone I know is always so busy, including myself. Having a minimal lifestyle allows me to focus on the important things and stay focused on my dreams.
Is there a specific fashion style or brand that inspires you?
I just discovered Tomorrowland in Tokyo. I am very much inspired by Japanese fashion. Also, I have always been inspired by Mansur Gavriel.
Describe your personal fashion style.
My personal fashion style is Boho chic. I love structured minimalistic pieces but incorporating it with a boho flare. My favorite outfit is a structured or wide leg pant, pointed toe boots or loafers, even sneakers, and a comfortable flowy tee or tank. I always want to look my best whether I’m buying eggs, on a shoot or in a meeting.
You have been able to work with some amazing brands like Sam Edelman, Feed, and Harpers Bazaar to name a few. How do you decide on what clients to work with?
I rarely say no to any opportunities. My career has led me to where it is today by taking most of the opportunities that come my way and always lead me a step closer to the place I wanted to be. I decide what clients to work with by listening to what feels right. It might sound funny
What has been your favorite photo shoot to date?
My most recent campaign with FEED Projects which is currently on their website. It was something I had been planning with them for awhile and it turned out even better than planned. I loved working with a brand whose purpose is to help a cause.
Who are some of your favorite photographers, and how did they influence you?
Lara Jade has always been one of my favorites and most influential. I attended a workshop of hers in NYC in 2012 connected with her story and work. I saw myself in her and she has always been my inspiration. I remember talking to her about wanting to move to New York to pursue fashion like her.
What’s your favorite social media platform?
Instagram! I’m not only able to showcase my work and have a sharable portfolio, but can also show a part of my personal life.
Your photos are absolutely beautiful! What are your go-to editing tools?
Thank you! My editing tools for Instagram are filters in VSCO with my own personal adjustments, and in Lightroom I use VSCO 07 as well as my own presets in Photoshop.
We love your recent posts showing the behind the scenes of creating your own studio space, where all of you recommendations + gadgets are shoppable in one place on Kit.com – why do you like using the platform?
I found it to be an amazing resource to keep my gear organized. I get asked a lot the type of equipment I use and also equipment I recommend to novice photographers so it’s nice to have a link to send someone. I love that you can buy each piece directly from the link.
Your photo and studio kits on Kit are so awesome! How did you decide on the pieces?
They’re things I use daily and on a regular basis to do my job!
They’re all amazing! I love Casey Neistat for sure.
Kit seems like a great platform for you to further connect with your audience and provide genuine product recommendations, has it been helpful in terms of having a space to send your audience/followers when the have questions about gear you use?
Absolutely! I truly love being able to connect with other photographers, whether they’re full-time or just starting out. I think it’s so important to help each other and share knowledge. I love being able to give advice to someone about what equipment to use because I remember how tough it is to not know what gear to use.
You’ve mention that traveling is a big part of your inspiration and growth. What trip has made the biggest impact on you and your work?
I would have to say my first trip to Japan a few years ago. I saw the world a way I never saw it before which changed the way I view my own work. This is when I caught the travel bug and led me to visiting Beijing, Peru, and a second trip to Okinawa, Kyoto, and Tokyo.
Is there anything you want our readers to know about upcoming projects in the works for you?
I’m continuing to travel! I have some big plans for 2017 so please follow along!
Follow Christina on INSTAGRAM