As a freelance professional photographer I start each year with zero certainties. It is the heart and soul of being freelance in any creative profession. To become successful as a fashion photographer is a long hard road. However, it is a much greater challenge to stay relevant. To do so you need to become a hybrid of sorts. Not only must you have a rock solid history of delivering and accelerating on creative concepts, you must also be able to look down the road with a sense of creative prediction. You need be a part of defining what imagery will become rather than being a passenger. It is the hardest of all balancing acts and it tests your insecurities on a daily basis (oh yes we all have them!) If it was mathematics I would say the equation of being successful in the fashion industry is something like ‘Fashion Photography = Experience + Relevance² (FP=E+R²). The moment you take your relevance for granted, or consider yourself essential you will find out (through deafening silence) just how ‘essential’ you actually were not. While fine art-photography allows for years of thought and curation, fashion is about right now and whats next. It is a zero tolerance world with very worthy competitors quite ready to step into your shoes at a moments notice.
Over the past decade it has been my great fortune to shoot backstage at the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, one of the most dynamic creative environments imaginable. And each year in the months leading up to the show the same question rattles around in the back of my head, “Will I be asked back?”
So when the President of Victoria's Secret and visionary for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Ed Razek, called me six months ago and said, "The show will be in London and can you shoot on the plane over as well?” there was no way to play it cool and hide my enthusiasm. London meets Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is as good a creative proposition as it gets. And being asked back by one of the most relevant brands in the world is a very big deal.
What Ed and Victoria's Secret have accomplished with their fashion show is unparalleled. An hour of prime time network television, featuring the biggest music acts on the planet and all driven by the opportunity to see 40 or more of the worlds best models in one place at one time. For the models the show has become the ultimate validation. For the music artists it has become the sexiest gig in the business. However, it wasn’t always that way. When the show started Victoria's Secret had to bet very big on what the future could look like and then they had to stand by their vision. They looked way down the road without blinking and as a result of their experience + vision² they have become major global influencers as a brand. There was no such thing as a runway show on network tv before Victoria's Secret and CBS decided there would be. They changed the game and probably the best example of that is how the title ‘Super–Model’ has been vanquished to the 90’s and replaced by the a new definition of excellence - 'Victoria's Secret Model’.
So my note-to-self and anybody aspiring to succeed within the fashion industry. Is don’t ever, ever get comfortable with today. Get out there and be a part of defining what tomorrow will look like. Your success depends on it. I look forward to watching the show with you on CBS December 9th at 10PM Eastern, 11PM Pacific. I have no idea if I will be shooting backstage in 2015. That will depend entirely on my relevance.