Cover Photo Credit: Olivia Oliver
Olivia Oliver has always loved bringing an original perspective to her work, which spans fashion photography, commercial photography, art photography, and creative production.
In a time when photographic trends both within and outside of marketing seem to come and go with each passing year, Oliver’s work focuses on sharing the unique qualities and emotional tone of her subjects.
Each project has its own story to tell, a nuance Oliver spoke about during our recent interview.
Oliver has worked with legacy brands such as Mont Blanc, Gucci Beauty, and Ollie Quinn, and her extensive experience in fashion photography has taken her to some of the biggest fashion shows in the world.
On top of it all, a solo exhibit of her work will be opening in Sydney, Australia next week (from time of publication).
For photographers and viewers alike, Oliver has some very valuable insights on the nature of professional photography today and how it can be used to accomplish more than you might think.
Do you have a consistent, driving artistic philosophy?
My artistic philosophy is remembering that life always gives back to you when you express yourself through art and work hard in the process! Even if it takes time, there is always progress in art and a route to self-discovery along the way. I think it’s incredibly important to not be too hard on yourself or your creative journey. Often as creatives, we are perfectionists and this can, at times, hinder our chances of experimentation and creating happy accidents.
Would you say that storytelling is an important aspect of your creative work?
Whether it’s commercial or personal work, storytelling has everything to do with creativity. Even if you don’t set out to tell a story through imagery you always do tell something. In every commercial job, there is a story to tell and a brief to meet.
In my latest shoot for Mont Blanc, we told the story of an incredible real-life dancer and the way he uses his Mont Blanc luggage when traveling for work. I loved working on this project and telling this story. In my fashion work, I am always seeking to tell a story of beauty and rawness without relying much on free Photoshop tools.
In my latest editorial for Schon magazine, titled ‘East of My Abundance,’ I collaborated with a prop stylist and a fashion stylist to create a story centered around how, in society, Asian women are so often depicted as timid and shy. Through thorough primary research and educating ourselves in history and culture, as a team, we created a story of images that challenged the misconceptions and stereotypes that have become ingrained into society.
When did you start exploring creative production? Did you know right away that this role was a good fit for you?
I fell into creative production very naturally. A producer that I knew of, but had never met, approached me via email one day and asked if I wanted to do some production work. Instantly I really loved the ability it gave me to see another side of a commercial job compared to what I was used to from photography.
I love being organized and prepared and I pride myself on my ability to think ahead and thanks to this I instantly felt like I fit the role. I have since been involved in producing a range of incredible international productions for clients such as Ollie Quinn, Huawei, and Gucci Beauty.
When shooting outdoors, does your creative approach change in any way?
Definitely. For this, it really depends on the shoot itself, whether it is commercial or personal work. Shooting outside as opposed to in a studio on a commercial job means there are more elements to consider and generally it’s a less controlled environment.
You constantly have to be thinking about the client and how you can control the environment to suit the brand’s aesthetic and aims for the photoshoot. For instance, in my cover shoot for Sony Music with singer Elle Limebear, I knew the brief and the desired look was always soft light, no harsh shadows. Because of this, I had to change my creative approach to ensure we were shooting at the right time of the day, in the right weather conditions.
In my personal work when I am shooting outside I would say I put less emphasis on the elements of the image and focus mainly on the light, letting that create all the magic! In contrast to this, in the studio, I tend to ensure I am putting more emphasis on the styling, the accessories, or the hair and makeup in order to bring the shoot to life.
How often do you carry a camera with you when you’re not working?
My main camera is the Mamiya RZ67. This is an extremely heavy studio camera that unfortunately is far from a pocket camera. The majority of medium format cameras are heavy, which is really unfortunate, especially when traveling for work and exploring a new city with so much inspiration around me and wanting to capture every detail.
Having said that, I did carry around my RZ67 in Stockholm when I had some spare time to explore the beautiful city while I was there to shoot for Stockholm Fashion Week, and the shots that came from it were so worth it!
I also think the iPhone is an incredible tool and an instant way to capture a moment, as is a disposable camera! I try to always carry around at least one of the above when I am not working.
Do you have many influences within the world of contemporary photography?
I try not to look to too many artists in the field as at times I think being naive in this regard can be better. It’s extremely easy to fall into the trap of being too influenced by another artist’s practice and slowly, without realizing, start to mimic their style. Often we forget how beautiful our own unique eye can be to a subject.
Of the inspirations I do have, I would say overall they are less contemporary and more pioneers of their own time. These are some of my favorites, many of which I was introduced to during my Bachelor of Arts studies in Fashion Photography at The University of the Arts London: Saul Leiter, Anne Brigman, and Corinne Day.