Just as we are obsessed with the tangible objects produced by the fashion and beauty industry, we are equally enthralled by the ever-important talent behind the scenes. One artist we have been tracking is New York-based fashion photographer Itaysha Jordan. With a client roster that includes Rolling Stone, the Vogue Italia blog, Carol’s Daughter and Bill Blass, Jordan has definitely carved out a path for herself in an industry in which there are no overnight success stories. Her photos of Sessilee Lopez and Arlenis Sosa are among the strongest images of the models around. Jordan took a moment out of her busy schedule to chat with us via email about her work, her influences and to offer some salient advice about breaking into the fashion image-making business.
The Black Market: Tell us how you got your start in the industry.
Itaysha Jordan: I moved to New York from Boston in 2005 and began building my portfolio by setting up appointments with model agencies and collaborating with various makeup, hair and wardrobe teams. I’ve also been blessed with many mentors.
TBM: What do you think are the elements that make a successful and compelling fashion photo editorial?
IJ: 1st and foremost, a clear idea concept; secondly, the team/tools to execute the vision; and thirdly, the synergy to bring it to fruition.
TBM: What photographers, artists and other image-makers influence your work?
IJ: I get asked this question quite often, and can’t pinpoint any 1 artist that I am influenced by – there are a number of variables. I refer to this as “Collage” – a mixture of fine art/artists, history, pop culture, languages and the power of women. Photography-wise, I really love street shooters, those that capture moments in time without obviously posing their subjects. This is more so an innate gift vs skill.
This is a quote I love:
”There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”- Henri Cartier-Bresson
Most recently I came across the work of Vivian Maier – (http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com )An AMAZING street photographer who was based in Chicago and shot from the 1950’s through the 90’s. Her work was discovered after her death. She is definitely an inspiration.
TBM: Can you give us your take on the lack of minorities in the upper echelons of the fashion industry?
IJ: This is an on going topic in my circle. I will attempt to summarize my view which is constantly developing: I believe that if you’re good, you’re good. Most good work is eventually noticed. Quite frankly, I think there is an abundance of mediocrity out there – a lot of rushing and overnight artisans that I just don’t think have the skill level, YET. Its so much deeper than calling yourself a “celebrity” such n such, as a way to command respect. For longevity, it takes time to get to the so called ‘top’. Look at the current top teams; most have been working since the 80’s/90’s that’s 20 to 30 yrs. Irving penn was practically 100 yrs old when he died.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that there is room for more minorities in the upper echelons of the fashion industry, but simply saying why not do your own thing if they aren’t listening? I would also challenge those that have made it regardless of color to reach out and pull up another… mentor!
On another note, I abhor being categorized by my race in relation to photography (because its about the talent) although I do realize that its rare and this is why my work stands out. Its also my theory, that there is still a market that is not being served. An international market of “minorities” that loves luxury items and service, yet may not make 100k+ per year but doesn’t consider themselves “Urban” this market wishes to see their likeness in advertisements & editorials in a modern way.
What I am doing is carving my own lane. I believe I am that bridge >>> the connector to the locked gates of the “top” and can serve this developing market. I will no longer rely or wish to break into “the cool club”. I will just continue to work harder and increase the quality of my work. The industry is much too over saturated and filled with politics. Anyway, isn’t it ultimately about who you know? 🙂
TBM: What advice would you give to aspiring fashion photographers to help them build a solid career?
IJ: I would advise aspiring fashion photographers to study both master photographers and the masters in fashion design. Understand how garments work on the human body – the construction and beauty just as much as how to properly expose an image. Lastly, take a business course!
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