Olivia Lazer’s photographs are truly eye catching. In her fashion-inspired portraits the eye is often the motive itself or the dominating feature – whether direct or subtle – in the photo. Lazer draws attention to the eye, the human’s lense, with the lens of her camera. Whether in close-ups of colourful made-up eye areas or whole body portraits it is the model’s eye that catches the viewer’s sight. This attraction is espoused by the model’s make up: the colours – sometimes “normal make-up”, sometimes real art works by make up artists – act as colour fields. Whether the model’s eyes are open or closed, whether the iris acts as the ultimative colour fields or not: The coloured lids, the lined eyes, stand out or act as counterparts to the other facial features. These fields of colour catch the viewer’s look right away and direct it into the image itself.
What you see in these images is perfection and beauty in its perfection. Not only the make up of her models is done in a very artistic way also her photos fully show her photographic skills. The perfection of composition, colours and sharpness match with the fashion business strive for the perfect look. Olivia Lazer’s camera eye is definitely catching it.
Do you still use an analog camera? Or do you photograph digital?
Unfortunately for me, 100% of my experience with photography has been digital, but I absolutely want to experiment with film one day. I’m in love with the tones, gradients, textures, and depth of black and white film portraiture.
When did you start taking pictures? Did you study photography?
I really do wish I had more of a background in photography or could say it’s been a lifelong passion, but I only started shooting six years ago. I owe my first camera (and even being involved in the industry at all) to my then college boyfriend who took up photography as a hobby and wanted someone to share the pastime with. I’m embarrassed to say it took quite a bit of prodding on his end to get me to actually learn ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and all the other basics, but I’m obviously glad he was as insistent and patient as he was with getting me to eventually pay attention and start shooting.
Do you think it’s important to study photography?
Before I started working commercially and shot exclusively for pleasure, I’m sure the answer would have been no. I didn’t care about all the details and technicalities; I just wanted to go shoot. But as time has gone by, and as I started working in the industry professionally, I’ve realized how much a solid education would have enhanced my personal experience. The learning curve was enormous for me when I first started assisting other photographers on their commercial shoots, and the embarrassment of being on set and not having the faintest clue what a boom arm or c-stand knuckle was when someone asked me to grab one wont soon be forgotten. Fortunately for me, however, I’ve had the luck of working with professionals who have been both talented and good-natured in equal measure, so I was in a unique position where I was getting paid to learn one-on-one with Seattle’s best instead of the inverse where I’d have been paying to be in a classroom among many.
Before I moved to the city, I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a double minor in Russian and Psychology, and while I don’t regret that education, I do wish that I’d realized years in advance what industry I’d ultimately be most passionate about and engaged in, which unfortunately has nothing to do with my actual academic background. Oh well!
How much time do you spend selecting and retouching your images?
Retouching is a huge part of my process and something I enjoy immensely. The post production side of things where I can Zen out by myself to some Grimes and Photoshop is truly my happy place. After each shoot is over I sit down with the creative team, and we take a spin through the images. During this process I highlight the files from 1-5 depending on our mutual impressions, and then when I go to choose the first shot to be processed, it’s easy for me to pull up a folder full of 5 star ratings, knowing everyone will be happy with that particular shot. Overall, I’d say anywhere from 2-3 hours is a good time estimate for how long I’ll spend retouching any given image, but there are so many factors that affect that, including, but not limited to, the quality of the model’s skin, how clean the makeup application was, fly-away hairs, ill-fitting wardrobe, etc.
What influences you / what are you’re sources of inspiration?
I’m absolutely obsessed with bizarre fashion portraiture, the stranger the better. Elizaveta Porodina is an enormous source of inspiration to me as well as Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello, Tim Walker, and Baldovino Barani, just to name a few artists I’ve been fan-girling over for quite some time. Anything depressingly dark, ridiculously oversized, strikingly minimal, or arrestingly creepy keeps me on my toes to one day head in the same direction.
Do you sell your photography? What were the last exhibitions you participated in? Are you represented by a gallery?
I do sell prints of my work and used to do displays in different businesses and coffee shops all over the city when I first moved to Seattle. My display style consisted of 70+ framed prints of various sizes that I’d arrange in new shapes at each location. It was great exposure, and I made some nice extra cash selling prints, but it isn’t something I’m proactive about doing anymore as my shooting style has changed, and I no longer feel like my older work (which is most often what buyers enjoy as prints) represents my current branding, which is much more cosmetic/beauty-based.
Did you ever feel discriminated because you are a woman in the photography business?
Honestly, I think I may have had more opportunities for certain features simply because I am a female photographer. Sure, there have been many instances where I was the only female assisting a large scale video or photo production in a technical area (being the camera assistant, for example, instead a division of hair/makeup/styling/catering), and I felt my experience was undervalued because I was a young woman, but I’ve been fortunate to have had those prickly moments few and far between.
On the whole, though, I don’t feel at a disadvantage being a female photographer. There are female clients and collaborators who seek me out specifically because it makes them feel more comfortable to work with me one-on-one, and sometimes looking around at a creative team that consists entirely of women can be pretty empowering.
What was the best advise you ever received and/or what would you like to tell prospective/aspiring photographers?
I think the one piece of advice I would give to prospective photographers and other creatives is to never be above lending your time/craft to get your foot in the door or for something that will enhance your portfolio, but also know your worth and set your limits. Exposure is tremendous but so is valuing yourself and what you bring to the table. There’s a limitless supply of companies/brands/individuals falling over themselves to take advantage of, and ultimately abuse, upcoming talent. Keep an open mind to pro-bono projects that come your way but also know how to protect yourself and the integrity of your work!
Thanks Olivia for this great interview, take care!
Have a look at her inspiring website and social channels.
All images created and © Olivia Lazer 2015