Talks with fashion photographer Cody Rasmussen, model Maria Sivakova, and Filmmaker Michael Hoerner
Ever wonder what a photo or video shoot is like from the perspective of a fashion photographer, model, or commercial film editor? ARTpublika Magazine reached out to Cody Rasmussen, Maria Sivakova, and Michael Hoerner to find out.
Cody Rasmussen | Fashion Photographer. Artist. Traveler.
What is the single most important objective for a fashion photographer working on a shoot?
On any commissioned shoot, whether commercial or editorial, the most important objective is finding the balance between producing an interesting/memorable image and pleasing the client. The two don't always go hand in hand.
When working for a client, how much artistic input do you typically get?
An eCommerce client could ask for something as specific as matching the background to an exact number, such as 245 (almost pure white), which would be an assignment with zero artistic input. And then you could have a fashion brand give you clothing, a budget, and your choice of models, hair, makeup, and stylists — and tell you to go. The later is much more preferable.
[I enjoy] collaborating with clients on projects that have the ability to transform while we’re shooting — where I can end up getting something much stronger or unexpected.
As a fashion photographer, how do you make sure to stay true to the vision of the client?
Pre-production meetings generally give me very specific ideas about what’s expected.
What is the brainstorming process like?
Mood boards are oftentimes the easiest way of communicating what a brand or client is [aiming] for. They can contain segments touching on what the lighting should look like, the direction for hair and makeup, location options if relevant, specific poses for models, or even images that encompass the overall feeling that clients hope will be communicated.
What types of cameras do you use?
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. If I could choose any camera, however, it would be a Phase One Medium Format Camera 100 MP. The price difference is around $60,000, but because of budgets and/or how the final image will be used, the caliber of that equipment is most often not needed.
Maria Sivakova | Model. Blogger. Traveler.
How does a model help a designer, photographer, or creative director realize his or her vision?
I think models are a very important part of a [fashion] designer’s, photographer’s or creative director’s vision. [When models] understand the vision, they can send the right messages with their bodies, facial expressions, and energy.
I’ll say that I have learned to be different [on camera]. I can be moody, serious, or mysterious on one photo shoot, and happy, playful, or sassy on another. It's very much like acting; I have to be able to play different people depending on the shoot, or even depending on the look!
How do you ensure your clients get the most out of working with you?
In today’s world, when clients hire models, they want to make sure that the models have the right image for their brand. That’s where social media comes in. My social media presence shows who I am and what I stand for. Clients care more about your personality now than they ever have before. That’s why they organize castings — to find the best match.
What goes into the art of modeling?
People think that modeling is easy. In fact, models need a lot of training. [They] have to learn how to use the space around [them] and how to play with [their] outfits. They certainly have to feel confident and organic in the fashions and makeup they wear.
The more you shoot, the more comfortable you get in front of the camera. It took me a while to learn about my body, and how to move it well.
At the beginning, I used to practice in front of the mirror before every photo shoot. I know my angles now; one side of my face is more photogenic than the other.
What kinds of different modeling jobs have you had, and which were the most challenging creatively?
Modeling is always challenging, but never boring: I’ll shoot with a dog one day and wear summer dresses when it’s freezing outside on another. One time, I had to lie in a mall swimming pool for five hours — my head was in the water, which was so cold, I got sick the next day. But the images turned out great. I still have them in my portfolio.
What do you wish people knew about modeling or models in general?
Modeling is hard work that has to be respected like any other type of job. Most people assume that if you are physically pretty, it's easy to get a modeling job. But, as a model, you are under obligation to look good, feel good, and be in a good mood all of the time.
Modeling is not steady work: we go through six job interviews per day; we go to castings and sit in line with 100 beautiful women; sometimes we work nonstop for 20 days; sometimes we can’t book even the smallest project.
Do we doubt ourselves? Sure we do. But everyday we become stronger.
Michael Hoerner | Creative Director. Filmmaker. Photographer.
When working on personal projects how does clothing, or lack-there of, play into the storytelling?
Well, I’m not what you’d call a fashion photographer, so that pretty much alleviates the need for lots of clothes, props, and accessories. While they can be very important, I shoot people, not clothes.
Clothes tell their own story. Even the smallest or most un-assuming piece of clothing tells a story. If the setting allows or calls for it, I prefer minimal, simple. The clothes need to fit the mood and what’s happening during that period of time.
I like to document time spent. The dynamic of two people spending time together is the most interesting for me. You both have an effect on how the other acts, speaks, and thinks, which comes out in many different ways, and I like to capture that.
How do accessories help in the telling of the story?
They don’t. They get in the way! Okay, maybe not all the time. I suppose if you were shooting an ad for Rolex, a Rolex watch would be helpful. (Laughs)
I’m usually shooting for myself, so if there is an accessory — it’s understated; I’m more of a “one piece that’s simple and elegant” kind of person. Beyond that, if an accessory is needed, for a campaign or a shoot of that nature, it’s very important to choose wisely because it can either enhance or ruin a shoot. A lot of my shooting is spontaneous and candid, but if I do decide on something more and want to use an accessory or a prop, I come up with those ideas when I’m in it, at a first meeting, just before the shoot, while I’m shooting — it comes when it comes.
I am prepared, just not in the traditional way.
How does this aspect change when you are working on a project for a client?
That would depend on the product, and would almost certainly be slightly more prominent.
What are the most important qualities in a professional model?
It’s more of a feeling for me. I like personalities, and that’s what I look for. There’s a certain calm and empowerment that comes with being shot by a photographer who’s looking to find an honest moment — to find the individual — that someone with a strong personality can’t help but enjoy, because it feels great.
It’s great to work with a model who knows herself and her body in front of the camera, and you really can’t beat it for certain types of shooting.
How does artistic direction help you get the most out of your models for each project?
Well, I give the direction when it’s needed, but mostly I like to let them do their thing. I don’t like to plug someone into a preconceived idea — it’s way more fun to come up with ideas together.
What are the most important visual elements from an artistic/fashion perspective that you pay attention to as a photographer and video editor when looking at work that is not your own?
What do you wish people paid more attention to in general in regard to visual storytelling?
The human in front of them.
Note* The cover image of Maria Sivakova in the homepage slideshow was taken by Cody Rasmussen.