Melissa Rodwell is a well know name in fashion photography. Not only because of her stunning work, but also because she’s helped make the fashion photography business more open and available through her Fashion Photography Blog. Since 2008 she’s educated photographers on lighting, directing and casting through her many tutorials, uncovered industry myths, and given her readers an exclusive uncensored insight into the daily life of a fashion photographer.
As big fans of Melissa and all of her work, we are extremely pleased to present her first fashion editorial for Ben Trovato, Wet. We caught up with the New York based artist to talk about her story, her blog and her much anticipated Fashion Photography Exposed DVD:
How did it all start out for you? Why fashion photography? “From a really early age, I knew I wanted to do something in the fashion industry. When I discovered Helmut Newton’s work, I realized it was fashion photography. His work obviously had an enormous impact on me. I quickly learned that I had much to conquer as far as the technical craft of photography so I found what I believed was the best photography college in the country and enrolled at The Art Center College of Design. I graduated in 1987 and basically just hit the streets running.”
Since then, what do you think has been the most significant changes in the industry? “The very obvious change is the digital age appeared about 10 years after I graduated from Art Center so I had to learn new platforms like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. In other words, my entire workflow has totally changed. Also, there weren’t that many schools or colleges offering degrees in photography. Now I believe there’s a photography school in almost every major city in the US. Which means, a lot more kids are going to school and subsequently graduating with their portfolios and hitting the market. Sometimes I feel like everyone I meet is a “photographer” or wants to become one. So the market is very saturated. The competition is the same, though.”
It was just as hard then as it is now to “make it”.
Your time in the business has obviously given you a lot of valuable experience, which you thankfully share through your fantastic blog. What made you start it? “In all honesty, The Blog, as we affectionately call it at home, was my husband’s idea. After a friend came over to our home one evening telling us about this weekend seminar he attended about social media, my husband walked out of the room, went into the office and reappeared about an hour later. When our friend left he told me he bought the URL and laid out the premise of The Blog. I was less than enthusiastic. I didn’t really understand the whole “Blogging” thing. I quickly got it, though.”
With the DVD coming out, and the FP blog staying strong, do you feel as if you’re making the business more available for aspiring artists? ”What I’m hoping to accomplish is to take some of the myth and secrecy out of the business. I don’t think I can “make” anyone’s career. But I’m hoping that they can take the information that I am giving them and use to their best ability. It’s still going to be up to the individual on how far he/she goes in the industry. ”
Was available guidance, as provided in your blog and DVD, something you missed personally when you started out? “Yes! Very much so. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to provide this with the Blog. Also, I have had an amazing life as a fashion photographer and I believe in giving back.”
And I also believe that knowledge is worth nothing unless you give it away.
What would be the one crucial advice you would give a photographer just starting out? “There’s a lot of advice to give to the “Just starting out photographer”. I guess what comes to mind at this exact moment is to be patient and be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. In most circumstances, success will probably not happen overnight so be patient. And learn as much as you can in the meantime by shooting a lot. And I mean, A LOT. You only learn by doing. So stop talking about your great ideas and go out and shoot them! In the DVD, there’s an interview segment where a fellow photographer sits down with me and asks me questions. My advice on the DVD is to always ask important business questions to someone older than you or who’s been in the business as long as you have. I would have to say that that’s been invaluable advice, handed down to me years ago by another fashion photographer who’s been doing this as long as I have. There is a fair amount of politics to consider in the industry and you want to be able to get very learned advice in these matters.”
Now, let’s talk about your wonderful story featuring Anastasia Khodkina. what were your main inspirations for the shoot? And what are usually your sources of inspiration when working on new ideas? ”I saw a story with a boy over two years prior to shooting this and I loved the idea of the wetness. I think it’s very sexy. There’s something raw about being wet and cold. I wanted to capture that. My inspiration comes from anything, really. It can be from a song, or an album or meeting a stranger and hearing a story they might tell me. It can come from a picture I see in a book that has nothing to do with fashion or a painting from the Renaissance. Books, sculptures, a shade of lipstick, the way the light hits a coffee cup in a diner or the chandelier at Daniel in NYC. I see inspiration in everything.”
Anastacia looks breathtaking, how was it working with her? “Anastasia is very beautiful! And what a trooper! We kept spraying her down between shots to keep her wet, and towards the end, she really got drenched. She didn’t complain once!”
I love the way she emoted and moved. She’s a dream model!
Sounds like a fun day in the studio! I guess you had a great team to work with? “I adore Katharine Polk, who styled this shoot. We have worked on a few things together. Her and I have the same sort of personal aesthetic: a love for rock and roll vintage! And we work well together. Its easy to communicate my vision to her, she “gets me”. Which is so important, especially when it comes to the clothing for a shoot. Tommy Joiner, the make up artist is just so talented! And a great asset on any shoot because he has a good attitude and mad skills! And Johnny Lavoy is a legend too. They work often together, Tommy and Johnny, so that helps too because they complement each other’s skills.”
We were lucky enough to get a comment from Katharine Polk on the styling of Wet, here’s what she said: “When I got word from my friend Melissa Rodwell about shooting a “wet beauty story” I thought it could be super fun and obviously sexy. I always think that less is more and am not into over styling. When you have a gorgeous model, an amazing photographer and some water the styling should accent the story and be subtle but make a statement with out feeling forced. Its obviously easier said than done but my approach was simple pieces that could get wet and would show off her amazing body and sexy silhouette through sheer soft fabric. I always like to add a little contrast whether it be in a minimal jewelry or fun shoe.”
For me, a simple t shirt, if shot right, can be the sexiest thing ever.
Make sure to check out Melissa’s blog and her new Fashion Photography Exposed DVD!
Photography - Melissa Rodwell @ Seen Artists
Styling - Katharine Polk @ Seen Artists
Makeup - Tommy Joiner
Hair - Johnny Lavoy for L’Oréal @ Bridge Artists
Model - Anastasia Khodkina @ Muse Models NYC
First Assistant - Tyler Mitchell