So today I decided to give you yet another ‘Breaking into Fashion‘ post featuring photographer…
You might know her from her appearance on VH1’s ‘The Shot“, but Piper has been in the industry for years, shooting editorials for British Elle, the New York Times, Trace, Spin and King Magazine.
She kindly took some time out of her hectic schedule to talk to the Fashion Bomb about how she got her start, and how you aspiring photographers can get your shot in the field.
Originally a dance major at Howard University, Piper always had a penchant for creativity. “I’ve been a dancer since I was five, but I felt it wasn’t something I really wanted to do. I had interests in photography and fashion design, and on a whim switched my major to photography.” Once she started taking classes, she realized that not only did she like snapping images, but she had a talent for it.
After graduation the Michigan native moved to New York and took up an assistantship with celebrated photographer Steven Klein. Impressed with her pluck, he hired her on as his 5th assistant. She says, “I had to do a lot of grunt work, including picking up dog poo and getting his mail. But I was also able to become a part of his team. After 3 years of being with him, I became his second assistant and was virtually his lighting designer and production manager.”
Though she learned a ton from her assistantship, she decided that she still needed to learn more, and went on to pursue another degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “After September 11th, the whole industry changed. I wanted to immerse myself in digital images.” She followed FIT with an internship at Vogue, which led her to the VH1 show. Now you can find her backstage at Fashion Week, or shooting spreads for Essence and Six Degrees Magazine.
About breaking into the industry she says, “There are no hard and fast rules. Your career is what you make of it. Fashion is an industry that’s sort’ve like the wild wild west. You can get an agent or you could be on your own. You’ve just gotta be really diligent and persistent with contacting entities with which you want to work.”
Not sure where to start? Piper touts the virtues of a French/English publication called ‘Le Book.’ She says, “It’s for clients to source out talent that they want to use. In there you can find contact information for photographers, production companies, photo studios, art directors, magazines, and art buyers. Contact them and offer to intern for them. You may not have an agent, so learn how to package yourself. It’s not about contacting people and saying how great you are, but getting in touch and saying , ‘this is what I’ve done and this is what I can offer you” Just starting out? Play up your experience as best you can. “You’ve got to get yourself out there. Meet as many people as possible. Be your own mouthpiece.”
Do you need a degree in photography to get through the door? “I learned more as an assistant than I did at school, ” she confesses, “I went to school because I wanted to learn certain base skills. But you don’t necessarily need to go to school to be a photographer.” If you go the ‘non-school’ route, she recommends keeping your skills sharp by shooting something everyday. “Shoot a flower, a tree, a child, anything, just shoot and keep yourself fresh. Look at the images after you’ve shot and show those pictures to people. Not because you need their opinion, but see how your images affect what other people think. ” Also, take advantage of local and smaller publications. “The fact that you’e working and working with the client, that alone can help you learn how to communicate with people and how to give people what they want.”
As a woman of color, she says, “I could go on and on and on about the horrors I’ve experienced.” But, “You have to have confidence. Do your thing and know that your work speaks beyond what color you are. Talent and a good personality go a long way.”
Piper’s currently working on a compilation of aspirational images of women of color, set to launch in September. Keep track of her on her website, www.pipercarter.com, or on her Blog, Studio Arena.
*The Uptown Emerging Designers’ Market last Sunday (organized by friends Michelle and Enyinne) has a write up in today’s New York Times!!!
Eric Wilson says, “Ms. Gittens, in a belted vintage gray dress, and Ms. Owunwanne, wearing jeans she had altered with an orange tie at the back, organized the market to draw attention to what is happening in Harlem, as well as to spotlight designers from Brooklyn and New Jersey.” As V. Beckham would say: Mayjah!! Read the rest here. [NYTimes]
*Christian Dior has unleashed a hot new celly:
“…The Diorphone which is targeted solely at women will be available in a regular version which will retail for 3,500 euros (about US$5,100) and a â€œdeluxe model studded with 640 diamonds, which comes with an alligator sheath, runs up to 18,000 euros, or about US$27,000.” Once again, these designers are smoking crack. [WWD]
*A bunch of bloggers (including myself) modeled Diane Von Furstenberg’s Spring collection for Coutorture.com. Look at pix here. [Coutorture]
*Fashion Bomb Friend Andre J is featured in this week’s Time Out Magazine…
â€œ…When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I say is’Thank you for waking me up this morning.’Then I look in the mirror and say, ‘You are beautiful!’ The third thing I say is, ‘I am going to have a fantastic day!‘” Read the rest here. [Time Out]