Synthesizing vintage aesthetics and contemporary fashion trends is what LA-based photographer Kristy Benjamin does. Her photography represents her style and signature as a versatile and retrospective creative, thus owning the whole look and feel all to herself.
Get to know more about this fashion photographer with her interview.
Welcome to Lomography Magazine, Kristy. Firstly, where’d you come from and how did home mold you into becoming a photographer?
Hi! Well, lets get right into it! I’m from Los Angeles, but I was raised just outside of the city in the suburbs. I spent a lot of time being in the city for work and seeing family, so I was basically half raised a city girl and half raised a suburban mall rat.
I feel like a few things molded me being a photographer. The main thing, funny enough, was I was a child model, so I started being on sets for shoots pretty young, that made the set life environment natural for me. Then my grandpa, who pretty much raised me, always had his camera. It was just a hobby for him but he would always have a camera around so it became a normal to always have a camera in my life. I took after him in that way, I thought it was something I wanted to do for fun. It took me a while before it clicked in my head that I should do this for an actual living even though taking pictures is something I had been doing since I was a kid.
Tell us a story — from being a child model to becoming a photographer. How did you get into fashion photography?
I think the combination of my upbringing in the business and love of taking photos in general kinda pushed me in that direction. I did and still do on occasion wardrobe styling. I really loved it but I wasn’t always in love with the turn out of the final images from the people I was working with, if I even got the photos in some cases! I just kinda realized that the best way to ensure the amazing outcome of these shoots was if I captured the moments in the way I wanted. That was a big game changer moment there.
You came from a long way and entered photography with a lot of experience in the creative industry. Who/what inspired you to take fashion photography?
I think it’s just something that organically seemed to happen for me. I honestly never sought it out. have many photographer friends and I was always intimidated by them and their work. Who knows, maybe because subconsciously I was aware that was something I wanted to do? I originally worked in television and I thought I was going to be a big Producer someday.
When I left television production I was pretty lost. I didn’t know what else I knew how to do. I always loved fashion and vintage clothes and I had done some styling work here & there so I just started doing that somewhere along the way it somehow clicked to do both so I picked up the camera and here I am! Even though, I still don’t consider myself a “fashion photographer” by any means.
We also learned you take your fashion photography with film and analogue medium and it’s a rather rare choice for a fashion photographer. Why stick with film?
Yes. I only shoot on film! You know, I did have a digital for a long time, so its not to say I never used it or I can’t, I just found what worked for me best and it ended up being film cameras. I just don’t think digital can compete with how film looks to me personally.
What are the difficulties you face as a fashion film photographer?
I think difficulties I have always vary on the project. The main problem I always face is looking for a location. Everyone wants to charge in Los Angeles, so its really tricky when you are doing little to no budget things to get a rad setting. Everyone is aware they can charge but assumes everyone has an HBO budget for some reason. I am constantly working around it and troubleshooting this. Certain areas (or most areas) want permits too. There’s a lot against you out of the gate when you have an indie budget.
I think just overall the whole production aspect of things is the challenging. Planning and coordinating coming up with a great concept and getting the right team in place for all of those things can be difficult for you on the set if you didn’t do your job leading up to it.
As far as direct difficulties specific to film photography? Well, hoping your photos come out! You don’t have the safety net of a preview screen on the back. You have to trust in what you are doing. And also be really aware of taking the photos. You only get so many frames and they all cost money. But going back to why I choose film, those things, those are fun challenges to me. Also people love it if you say, “Welp, I hope this comes out!”, in the middle of your shoot, you know.
Your versatile skills-set as a creative must have helped you with the industry. Who are the people/photographers/artists that serve as your creative muses?
I have four muses: John, Paul, George and Ringo. I honestly love The Beatles and they are my #1 inspiration in photo taking believe it or not. Not for any specific style but just the overall feeling you get of seeing them in a photo. You wish you were there, or it was you in the photo, or both! They always looked effortlessly cool. I try to make everyone look that way in the photos I take as well.
So, it’s no surprise that one of my favorite photographers is Linda McCartney. I have one of her books and it’s my favorite thing. I love all of her band photos. I dig Juergen Teller too, he also has a magical way of capturing intimate moments that have such a natural feeling as well. Nashville based photographer Danielle Holbert has been touring with Margo Price and her band and she gets to capture all the magical candid behind the scenes moments and she does it so wonderfully, also all on film, so I really love what she’s doing. The bonus there is that we are friends so we get to chat about film and shooting and learn from each other which is really amazing. She was the one who told me about the purple and teal films you make! I feel really lucky to have a few amazing female photographer friends. It’s really great to have support in your corner. Overall though, I try not to look at too much of one person’s work. I’m so nervous it will lock into my subconscious and I will accidentally copy something!
I think also just vibing off of who my subject is, that’s the creative muse of that moment. Really working on capturing some cool moments together is a lot of trust, and its tricky cause you don’t really have the time to get to know the person before so its really just allowing yourself to get into that zone and lock into what they are doing and be inspired by that.
You also work as a magazine editor. As a busy person, may you share us your creative process or daily grind?
Oh gosh, I don’t know if I have a creative process yet. I’m also still a bit new to working for a magazine. LADYGUNN Magazine is a small talented team so I think it is just a lot of open communication between us and just throwing ideas out there. Its trust. It’s teamwork. You have to be a team player.
On a normal day I wake up super early and just jump on emails, we have different time zones so early AM is good to get as much work done as I can for the magazine first. Then I switch over to editing and all of my photo stuff. Then try to be off work for the evening. To be honest I usually jump back on emails right before bed. Our Editor in Chief lives in Stockholm, Sweden now, so I can catch her real time once more around then!
What are the elements you look for when composing an image?
I shoot primarily outdoors, so as you might catch on I like shooting in or around plants. I’m always looking for some good foliage! Or anywhere that looks interesting but not overbearing really. I don’t know much how to explain it beyond that. Like I said, my number one goal is to make the person look cool. So whatever I have to work with and however my brain thinks that works in the moment is what I click the button on.
We all know that art and fashion are not so different. What’s your personal style as a creative person over all?
I am super chill hahah. I think just keeping everything easy and fun is my style. I think I am so lucky to have this job and there’s no reason every shoot shouldn’t be relaxed and fun and easy. Not to say hard work isn’t happening, believe me it is! but I don’t see a need for ego’s or attitudes, for things to be overly fussy or neurotic. I just like for everyone to enjoy the moments, and the shoots, it’s such a privilege to take photos of all these amazing talented people! It should always be a great environment to be in, otherwise, question what you are doing, right?
What do you usually do when you’re not working with your photography?
Other than work stuff, I am pretty much a homebody. I try to get out to go to movies and concerts, see whats going on outside of my computer, you know, normal things. Also, I have to do one sit-up every time I say or use the words: cool, like, or fun. as you can gauge from this interview that takes up all of my additional free time.
What’s next for you? Any on-going projects you’d like to share and promote?
I hope just more of what I am doing! Shooting cool people for cool things! Of course check out LADYGUNN and if you want to keep up on my work, you could follow my Instagram too!
Fashion photography is a booming genre in contemporary art. What are your thoughts on fashion photography or contemporary art over all?
Well, I think it’s a crazy time. It’s great that so many people can make shoots happen now, it is very much more accessible, with technology and the internet. I think ROOKIE Mag is a great example of how that is such a positive great thing. As a teenager, I wished I had a way to have found like minded people and could pursue photography so thoroughly so young. That’s amazing. I have seen so much talent coming from such young people!
On the flip side however with internet and all of this means it can be over saturated and you have to weed through a lot of crap to find the good stuff.
Also I just hate how over sexualized things continue to still be in 2016 in an outdated trashy 80’s men’s magazine kind of way? Like, really…? Still? I can’t believe how much tackiness still exists in the world sometimes! But then luckily a lot of people are turning it in so many new directions which is great and has thought behind it. Tons of amazing modern definitions of what is cool or sexy not fitting into old school molds. This has been super inspiring to me.
Lastly it’s just great to see so many people also still using film. It’s a relief. So I guess I have a lot of thoughts and they are mixed feelings. There’s always going to be the good with the bad, the lame and the cool. It’s all just a matter of opinion and you know, eye-of-the-beholder kind of stuff.