This week’s interview is with the extremely talented Alice Gao – a New York based photographer. I have always loved following Alice due to her beautiful photographs, down to earth personality, and fantastic style. I’ve included some of my favorite photographs taken by Alice throughout the interview, as well as some of my favorite examples of her style as well. Enjoy meeting Alice!
Who are you? Where do you live, and what do you do?
I’m a freelance photographer based in NYC. I specialize in lifestyle and food photography.
You’ve been a photographer now for two years, which for many is a dream career. What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?
I love that every week is different. And I love bringing visions and ideas to something tangible. I’ve been very lucky to travel quite a bit this year as well – some of those highlights include Iceland and Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also greatly rewarding to work with other creatives and be inspired by one another. And since I work for myself, it’s nice to know that the amount of work I put into something directly translates to any successes I may have.
What have been some of the most difficult aspects of your job, that you could share with others who are considering photography as a career?
It’s definitely not nearly as glamorous as my Instagram or blog make it look! It can be lonely and tedious on days I’m in the apartment all day just doing admin-work and editing. Being the “boss” can be difficult because I never quite know if I’m making the right decision if there’s a hard call or choice to make for my business. I still struggle to find a balance between overbooking myself and being restless on days I’m not actively shooting. Also, standing up for what you think your work is worth can be a challenge, as it’s never fun to argue for a better rate. And in the beginning, I took on a lot of shoots that I was not interested in for very little pay.
What are some of your favorite photographs that you have ever taken?
Ooh, that’s hard to say. And not because I love all my photos but because I still think my best and favorite shots are yet to be taken. I do really like some of the simple iPhone snaps I’ve grabbed of little quiet moments. I’ve also enjoyed the work I’ve done for Kinfolk Magazine.
Do you have any simple tips for photography for a beginner?
Ah, probably too many to list. For one, shoot often. With phone cameras so great nowadays, there’s really no excuse not to say you don’t have a camera with you at all times. You can learn a lot from using your phone’s camera about lighting and composition. Two, really consider your light source. Lighting is a huge personal preference thing, but I tend to prefer things side-lit or back-lit and I use natural light when possible. Find out what kind of light you like, and position your subjects or yourself for that light. I could really go on and on, but i’d say it’s most important to just keep shooting and learning as you go. Be hard on yourself and critique your work. Don’t think you have to have the $3000 camera and $2000 lens to make it work – use what you have and shoot the heck out of it and then upgrade when you feel like your gear is the main limitation.
You have beautiful taste. Can you share a bit more about your style? How does your job influence how you dress?
Well, thanks! In a way I feel like my style is rather boring and uninventive. I stick with “uniforms” so to speak and when I do venture out of said uniform and buy something crazy for my closet, it sits there untouched and I eventually donate or trash it. I’m into neutral colors, slouchy tops, and either skinny black pants or distressed boyfriend jeans. I find that my job and my ideal style do not mix so well. I am a shorty and would love to be able to wear heels more often but clearly can’t do that on shoots. I would love to wear silk and cashmere more often, but it’s just not practical when I’m shooting, sweating, and lugging around heavy equipment. I think I do still tend to lean toward fashion over function, however, and often pay the price with blisters and high dry cleaning costs!
What are some of your most worn items in your wardrobe? How about your favorite items- those special splurges?
My AG ripped boyfriend jeans have gotten some serious mileage, as well as a pair of Chloe scalloped flats and recently, a sweet little Goyard crossbody (total splurge) that I can’t stop using, even when it doesn’t fit all my needs for the day. I also love a lot of my jewelry pieces, including an Hermes Kelly watch that was a birthday gift, and all of my minimal rings that I wear daily.
As a photographer, you have a unique perspective on style and an outfit may look in a photograph. What are some tips you could share for looking good on camera?
I think it depends more on the photographer’s ability and how the “model” sells the outfit rather than what the outfit consists of itself. If you look and feel confident in the outfit and the photographer knows how to capture the best angle, that’s a pretty great place to start. Of course, it helps if you’re not wearing blinding neon colors or ill-fitting clothing. And I think as a general rule, it’s great if you know how to dress for your proportions. For me personally, I have a crazy long torso and short legs, so wearing a long blazer and low-rise jeans would be a big no-no for me!
What are some of your other hobbies and passions?
Besides shopping and photography, I love food, architecture, and travel. I’m also passionate about urbanism. I love city life and learning more about the history of cities, and am unsurprisingly especially curious about NYC history and how its future is shaping up. My guilty pleasure is NYC real estate – it’s pretty fascinating in a sickening way.
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
Flying still scares the shit out of me, no matter how much I do it. Yes, I am that paranoid anxious flyer. Sigh.