Victoria's Portrait Journey
You guys got to see me shoot a little bit. And sort of a window into how I do that. But I wanted to tell you a little bit about me, a little bit more in depth at least. Sort of explain how I got from the Croissant to Brad. And it all started here. The New York Post. This is a true headline. This is one of their most famous headlines. I don't know if you guys are familiar with the Post. If you're not in New York, I can tell you a little bit about it. It's definitely a tabloid newspaper, very sensational. But that being said, it was an amazing place to work. I thought that I was going to be, start my career as a photojournalist, and I was going to be traveling around the world and going to the West Bank and doing conflict and telling really, you know, dangerous and difficult stories. And that's not the path that ended up happening. I ended up in New York. And as an intern for the New York Post. It was a three month internship, and I left eight years later. Very long internship. After thr...
ee months, I met with the editor, and he said you know what, I'm going to bring you on as a freelancer, and then eventually I was hired as staff. But while it might seem like I was maybe disappointed that I wasn't traveling around the world and doing all those things, I wasn't at all. It was a really interesting education, and just a different path and one that I had to learn how to navigate because it's it's own beast. And after all, someone, I'm very grateful to that person, is paying me to take photos. That was the bottom line. I was 22 and I was thrilled to be paid to work in the way that I wanted to. We're not all that lucky, you know. And it's something we shouldn't take for granted. So I'm going to tell you a little bit about my experience there. Basically while I was there, one of the other photojournalists that was there, had been there for 20 years, said to me, what's going to be your contribution to this paper? And I was like, what do you mean? And he was like, well how are you going to be different than all the other photojournalists? What's going to be your contribution? And I had no idea. I was like that's a heavy question. So I thought about it for a while, and I decided that what interests me was lighting. So I was going to learn to light. And the rest is history. My career went soaring through, no, not at all. It was actually a very, very circular path, a little bit like this, which I've always appreciated. Halfway through my time there, I had sort of an eye opening moment, it was almost soul crushing and uplifting at the same time. I had a really good shoot with a musician. And her publicist said, oh my gosh, that was so great. She really loved you, the images looked great. We should do this again. Can you send me your portfolio? And I, like a had that pit in your stomach feeling, where my stomach just sank. And I was like yeah, sure, totally I'll get that right over to you. Now a couple of things. I didn't have a portfolio at the time, number one. Number two, when I thought about, okay I'm going to go home and put a portfolio together because I'm going to shoot for this record label. This is going to be so great. I looked through my work, and I didn't have anything to show. Now I worked every day, five days a week, and sometimes I shot one story a day. Sometimes I shot five stories a day. So how is it that I was working so hard, but yet I had nothing to put in my portfolio? And I had to sort of grapple with that, and I realized that I didn't feel like I had anything to show because nothing I had had my voice. I wasn't shooting for me. I was shooting for the newspaper, and I was really good at it. I would show up, I would deliver. I would, you know, I'd go to the shoot, I'd come back and edit. The next morning the photos are in the paper. And then I'd do it again, I'd do it again the next day and over and over. So I had this sort of epiphany. Here I was, I had been working for many, many years there, and I had nothing. And I sort of felt almost like a fraud. I was like I hope people don't figure out that I don't actually know what I'm doing. And it took, it took that moment for me to sort of say you know what, it's time to, you have to change that. I'm really, I'm going back to my motto here, but I was really uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable at the idea that I worked so hard and I had nothing to show for it. So I was going to do what I could over the next couple of years or whatever period of time to make work for me. So what I started doing and I had the luxury of having this job, is that I would go to the shoots. I would set up the lights and do what I just did and shoot for them, and as soon as I felt like I got what they wanted, I started shooting for me. And then eventually the two things sort of merged. And I would just show up to shoots and I was able to shoot for me and it still was what my newspaper needed. That was a really long journey. Because every time I went out to shoot, you can't go into a shoot and say I'm going to put my point of view on it today. What's my point of view? You know it's something that develops over time, and I think the way to get there is just to honestly approach it and say what feels right. What is, is this beautiful? Am I getting an emotion out of it? And if you don't like the image, chances are other people aren't going to like it too. So I finally felt like I was building up a bit of a point of view and I left the paper. And I'll tell you a story about the breaking point for me, why I decided I was finally ready to leave. So I was gaining confidence, but leaving a full time job is very stressful for anybody. Security, insurance, like all those things, right. Well I finally made the decision to take the plunge because I was in a bar shooting a trend story. So at the time, and I'm sure they still do this, they would you know do stories about clothing trends, but they'd also do food trends. And one of the trends at the time was a pickle back situation. Do you know what a pickle back is? I know you do, I can tell. It's a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice, right, okay. Just so I'm making sure it hasn't changed. But the trend in New York was that oh everyone's doing this thing, pickle backs, but because New York is New York, bars are actually making their own artisanal pickle juice. So I'm in a bar in Midtown setting up lights to light artisanal pickle juice. And I got a phone call from Rolling Stone asking if I could shoot a portrait the next day. And I couldn't because a, I was a staffer. Of course I'm in my head, can I call in sick? Can I do this? Number one I was a staffer and I had work the next day. But I also had a shoot, we were already set up for the next day so I couldn't take the assignment. And it was like a ack, it was terrible. I was so disappointed. And I got off the phone and I was thrilled that I had been asked, thrilled, but equally disappointed. And I turned back and I was like, pickle juice, pickle juice is why I can't, you know. I think I've grown beyond pickle juice, and I'm now ready to invest in myself. That was my defining moment. So I left the paper and started freelancing, taking any kind of job. I shot events, I shot anything. But of course I tried the hardest to get portrait work. And I started to get a bunch of portrait work. And I was plugging along, plugging along, taking portrait after portrait. And things were going well. And I'm going to take you a little bit on an evolution of, a sort of creative evolution of how I got here. So it happened with this photo. So I really was plugging along. I was getting good at this five minute thing, 10 minute portraits. I'd show up, I'd do my jam. I'd go home, I'd edit, I'd send some photos. And then I went to go photograph Brooke Shields when she was on Broadway for the Addams Family, and she was Morticia Adams. So I show up, and I do my thing. We're in a tiny dressing room. And I set up a seamless, and I set up my lights. I have, at the time, I didn't have B one's. I had the 600 B pack. Again I can't plug in in a Broadway house. So I had my battery, put up my beauty dish, I had a strip light. Went to turn on the pack, and my battery was dead. And I was like hmmm, this is going to be really interesting. So I was like okay, think fast Victoria. And I looked in my Pelican and I had brought that 24 prime lens that I showed you. And I was like I guess I'm just going to shoot wide open. In my head I'm like it's going to, the yellow lights, these sort of tungsten-y lights make things yellow and it makes skin tones really tough. And I was like so I'm just going to, with the intent I'm going to make it black and white. So I'm going to shoot wide open, and I said, I remember so specifically I was fussing around and I found the prime and I put it on. And I said, you know what Mrs. Shields, I have a great idea. Would you mind if we actually shot in your dressing room? And she said, yeah, okay, well let me clean up some things and remove some personal items that I don' want seen and yeah, go ahead. She did that, we went in. We shot some stuff here. And made a couple of portraits. This one was my favorite obviously. And she actually sort of was getting ready turning into Morticia, which I loved. And then the shoot was over and I was able to sort of salvage the situation. But it was a really big lesson for me. I would have never made this image if my battery hadn't died. And so it was, I left that shoot going literally like, number one, charge your batteries. Right, number two, you have to, I have to evolve. I have to step out of my comfort zone as much as possible. I have to challenge myself. That's how you continue to keep finding your voice. I'm always going to be doing that. And I'm always going to be changing styles in the sense of what I like. I'll find something that I really like, and I'll shoot it a lot. And then three weeks later I'm over it and want to move on to something else. What's consistent throughout it, is not the lighting style, but what I'm bringing to the shoot, which is my energy, my connection, what I'm getting from people. That's not changing.