Laura Dark is an alternative fashion photographer based in Columbus, Ohio. She is also the Fashion Editor of Dark Beauty Magazine. This interview was featured in the Summer issue of Sinical Magazine.
Laura Clemons: Tell us about your career as a photographer?
Laura Dark: I had started my art career as a portrait sketch artist, but decided that field was so very limited that I couldn't make a living from it. I had picked up some photography skills in high school when I was the yearbook staff photographer. I went to college for Graphic Design, but I hated the school and was burnt out by my second year and dropped out. I went back to my hometown and apprenticed under a local photographer for two years before breaking off on my own. I started taking images of families and wedding and then in late 1999 I started shooting bands. In 2000 I started shooting alternative models for their portfolio updates and alternative websites and fashion designers. Since then, I have been making a living from my photography in the alternative scene with bands, models, magazines, and websites.
Laura Clemons: What do you enjoy most about being a photographer? And, what aspects do you least enjoy?
Laura Dark: I really love everything about photography. I love drawing up a concept and coming up with the hair and makeup designs, picking out the wardrobe, building the set (real life or digital), setting the lights, shooting, and retouching. The process is pretty amazing. So many people think being a photographer is just setting up lights and pushing a trigger. There is so much more that happens behind the scenes, people just don't realize the art behind really great photographs. I'd say what I like least is the business aspect. I dislike collecting money and billing and taxes, you know, the not-so-fun behind the scenes stuff.
Laura Clemons: There are many highly skilled and talented photographers. What do you feel it takes beyond technical expertise, talent, and hard work to be successful?
Laura Dark: Networking is a HUGE part of business, at least is for me. It's more about WHO you know these days. I network my ass off. I contact magazines looking for submissions, I hit up wardrobe designers to shoot their new lines, have lunch with other photographers, etc. I'd say 75% of my business is networking. I tell new photographers to skip all the photography classes and take business classes. If you have the talent for being a photographer, you can pick up the technical stuff by apprenticing, but business is tough. You have to know accounting, have customer service skills, be able to sell yourself and your images. Without that, it doesn't matter how talented you are.
Laura Clemons: When creating a composition... what is your main focus?
Laura Dark: It really depends what I'm shooting for. If I'm shooting for a model portfolio, everything revolves around them. We make sure we get them the absolute best shots that will get them paying future work. If I'm shooting for designers, then the model because second string and the wardrobe is most important. So many photographers forget when they shoot wardrobe, it's about the wardrobe, not the concept or the model. A designer can't sell a dress if they only have photos from the waist up. If I'm shooting editorial for an editorial then the story line is the main focus. Making sure the makeup, hair, and wardrobe as well as background help feed the viewer a story and it continues throughout each image.
Laura Clemons: What photographers have been a source of inspiration to you?
Laura Dark: In photography I have been influenced by so many artists, but I would say if I had to pick one it would be Michael Rosen. His images are a mix of photography and digital artistry that is just amazing! Mr. Rosen creates a world of fantasy sometimes glamorous and sometimes scary. He takes you to this magical place and holds you there. I hope one day to reach that point in my art, to hold a viewer completely captive in my image.
Laura Clemons: How do you prepare your shoots?
Laura Dark: I usually sit down with my team and plan out who can be there for hair, makeup, wardrobe, and depending on assignment, which models will fit. We build a .pdf with the concept and pull inspiration images. We plan out everything and everyone we want involved, make contact, and then plan a date for the shoot once we have everyone on board.
Laura Clemons: What do you view as the most important aspect of a photo shoot?
Laura Dark: The most important aspect of ANY shoot is having a really great team to back you up. I've been really blessed with a team of extremely talented artists to work with. I have three main makeup artists; Mascaraid (MM#443421), Gray Artistry (MM#1149014), and Deanna Roberts (MM#2006614), I have 2 main FX Artists; Jason Ervin and Jason McCollum, 2 hair stylists; Synthetic Rebellion and Cleo Kostoglou, and my muse and model coach Odette Despairr (MM#1073625). I couldn't do half of what I do without these lovely people. They keep me sane if nothing else.
Laura Clemons: Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to working with models?
Laura Dark:I've been pretty lucky, I haven't run into a lot of problems with models. I would say my pet peeve would have to be models on cells phones while they are working. If you come to the studio to get images, don't spend 3 hours text fighting with your boyfriend while in the studio.
Laura Clemons: What projects are you working on next?
Laura Dark: I am working with Sick Apparel here in Columbus and we are going to release a line of T-shirts. I'm also working on a new photography book. I have a large chain store interested in picking up some of my images for t-shirts and handbags and hopefully that will take off within the next year. I'm also working with some charity projects recently and enjoy that kind of work, so I would say their will be more charity work in my future as well.