In Conversation With :
Since graduating, London based photographer Chloe Newman has managed to marry her grounding in fashion and interest in music to capture artists in intimate moments on live on stage. Over the years she has shot the likes of Tyler The Creator, Childish Gambino, Jorja Smith, Janelle Monae and Lizzo to name a few. Alongside this Chloe has also been commissioned by British Vogue, i-D and Universal Music.
We caught up with Chloe to learn more about her career so far, how to balance personal projects with commercial ones and how music and fashion influence her work.
Did you go to University and if so, what did you study?
I studied my degree in Photography at London College of Communication, UAL and prior to that I did a foundation year at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL, where I specialised in Photography.
You shoot both music and fashion, which of these interests came first?
I think I’ve always had an equal interest in both from a young age, they’re both areas that naturally blend together. Probably throughout my time at uni my work leaned a little bit more towards fashion but when I graduated and was starting out my career the music work and fashion work definitely came around a similar time - I was shooting gigs and fashion weeks simultaneously.
Who or what were your influences and inspirations when starting out?
The first photographer I was obsessed with was David LaChapelle and I still am heavily influenced by his work with that kind of pop surrealism vibe. Music videos have always been a key inspiration for me, especially Hype Williams’ body of work. Most of my inspiration starting out were from pop culture and visuals that were creating whole new worlds so I definitely found that from watching a lot of movies and from photographers like Jean Paul Goude and Nick Knight’s work.
Do you take a different approach when shooting for both disciplines?
Generally if it’s an event for either a live gig or a fashion week presentation all the components are in place for you such as the lighting, subject, set etc - so there’s less control or opportunity for direction from myself - its a matter of working with what’s in front of you and then for me I take it to another level with my style in post production.
Whereas if it’s a studio or a shoot I’ve creatively produced such as a campaign or lookbook there’s usually more time to direct and create the shot from scratch so I think it requires a bit more prep. At the end of the day no matter what I’m shooting as long as I feel I’ve put my stamp on it and that it can be recognised as my style then that’s what matters to me, that it is consistent.
How would you describe your photography style?
I’d say my style is diverse and has vibrancy. I like to shoot across areas of music, fashion and art and to have a hyper-real quality to my work, there is definitely an emphasis on colour with my style. With my live work I like to try and capture unique moments and almost take them out of the live context to make them more like portraits. I’m mainly inspired by pop culture and the surreal.
What was your first piece of commissioned work and how did you get it?
My first proper commission was working with a fashion brand called New Ultra Group, I came across their work online and emailed them just to say how much I liked their pieces. After that we met up in person, they liked my photography and then commissioned me to shoot their upcoming lookbook. I think that’s where I learnt that it’s important to let people know if you like their work and how reaching out and letting people know that you’d like to work with them can lead on to something bigger.
What does an average work day look like for you?
That’s what I love about photography as a career is that there isn’t really an average day, each day can be different - some days it’ll be doing emails, researching, admin work, meetings and other days I’ll be shooting either in the studio, on location, working on editing or prepping for another shoot.
How useful is Instagram as a platform for you, professionally?
Because Instagram is so big now, there is so much more content out there trying to grab your attention all the time. I find with Instagram it’s about how you use it that matters, it’s been a great platform for me to show my work and for people to see it that might not have seen it any other way and in the same vein it’s great for me to find inspiration from people I wouldn’t usually come across. Instagram’s also so valuable for reaching out to people and especially in the photography industry everyone can be more connected through it, I’ve met some people IRL from different countries from it, where again without it that may not have been a possibility before.
Which has been your favourite shoot?
It’s so hard for me to choose just one - My Nike shoot was definitely one of my favourites, it was with a movement artist called Paleta and she has such a great energy to shoot, that shoot also meant a lot to me as I had wanted to shoot for Nike for so long. The editorial I shot with Polyester will always be a favourite because it was so creatively free and I had women and girls messaging me after telling me how it had helped them accept and love their bodies more.
Music wise, Rosalia’s show was unbelievable to shoot, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to capture her twice last year on that tour. Lovebox 2018 was an amazing weekend, that’s where I got my Childish Gambino shot that’s one of my favourites - the whole lineup of that festival was so good - told you it’s so hard for me to choose one!
What are some of the challenges you face when working with clients?
Most people have been super chill to work with, you’re all trying to create the best possible outcome so it’s important to remember that when you’re dealing with other people’s opinions. One of the biggest challenges I find is usually after the project when it comes to invoicing, payment and chasing that up, it would be amazing if they brought a similar law in over here in the UK as they have done in New York to protect freelancers and self employed creatives with that aspect of the job.
As a freelancer, how do you get through the low periods when work is less frequent?
I’ve been working on this and it’s definitely to do with how you manage your time - so to be more efficient during those quieter times I make sure I schedule in things like personal shoots, any skills I want to learn or work on so that can add further value to my work, emailing and networking, getting inspiration etc. Now I’m 3 years in being self employed I can usually tell the times of the year when it goes quieter so I’ll also try and book any trips for that period of time as well to fuel my inspiration and take a break if I need it.
How do you manage to balance your personal projects with the commercial ones?
Again it’s all down to time management, how to use your time efficiently is one of the best skills you’ll ever learn. Realistically with commercial projects you’re often working to a tight deadline because there are usually so many other aspects involved so I know when those come in that I have to dedicate my time to them completely. I have a folder with my personal ideas on my laptop and a physical notebook so if I’m working on a commercial project and have an idea for personal work I make sure I note it down and when it comes to those quieter periods I can come back to that and make time to work on those personal projects.
What advice would you give someone entering the field of photography today?
One of the things I’ve always found to be true is to honestly believe in yourself - people will be less likely to work with you if you’re second guessing yourself and your work so you have to hype yourself up at the very least. Learn when to be patient and the times when impatience can be an asset. Embrace the fear, don’t feel like there is a ceiling to what you are capable of achieving. There are a lot of people producing visual content now with the rise of social media so if you’re in it for the long run, enjoy the process of building your brand and style, genuinely talk to people and be open to opportunities.