One of the unsung heroes of fashion week isn’t walking the catwalk or posing outside Lincoln Center, they’re touting equipment and shooting their shot — literally.
In an interview with WWD, Andrew Walker, staff photographer at Shutterstock, describes what it’s like photographing during New York Fashion Week.
WWD: What does a typical day during NYFW look like for you?
Andrew Walker: It really depends on the season. Some seasons I will shoot backstage, front-row celebrities, sponsorships or after parties, but recently I’ve been shooting runway shows. Each type of coverage requires a different mind-set and equipment, and each poses vastly different perks and challenges.
Shooting backstage happens an hour before the show and typically gives photographers the chance to be creative and capture moments of models getting their hair and makeup done, the designer attending to details and models relaxing before they hit the runway. Shooting the front row celebrities is simply mayhem, particularly if the celebrities are A-list talent. There are usually four or five photographers milling on the runway as guests enter the venue. The goal is to get full-length images of what celebrities are wearing and then a sitting photo of them sitting together.
Shooting runway is the most technically challenging and is completely do-or-die. Being successful boils down to two main things: having accurate camera settings and having a clean position in the middle of the runway. Once the lights go down and the show begins, you have a few seconds per model to get full-length, half-length, headshot, plus shoes and/or accessories.
WWD: How and when do you start preparing for New York Fashion Week each season?
A.W.: I always double-check that I have all the appropriate equipment and that it’s clean and ready to go. This includes my Nikon D5, Nikon 80-400-mm, Nikon 70-200-mm, Pelican case, monopod with correct head and new 64-gig memory cards. Outside of my actual equipment, I also always bring a charged camera battery and backup battery, protein bar, charged phone, headphones and weather-appropriate clothing.
WWD: Which shows did you shoot during your first season? Which shows are you excited to shoot this season?
A.W.: Unfortunately, I don’t remember the shows that I shot my very first season, partially because I was new to the industry and didn’t recognize designers, and also since I was new, I was never assigned to a big-name show. Starting out, I shot a lot of small, no-name designers that had fashion shows in weird locations and awful lighting setups. Those were challenging gigs. Thankfully, my situation has changed a bit. The downside to getting more big gigs is that I’ve become a bit jaded. I’ve shot every big designer show imaginable, so it’s much rarer for me to get excited to shoot something. Today, I revel in proper lighting and whether I am well-positioned on the riser.
WWD: From your perspective, how has NYFW evolved over the years?
A.W.: NYFW has changed dramatically since I started shooting at Bryant Park in 2002. It used to be quite a scene at the tents because it was the only way for designers to have their merchandise seen and photographed for buyers, editors and consumers. Then there was the Lincoln Center period, which felt almost like a trade show, a bit more corporate. And now, with the dominating power of social media platforms, designers can connect and communicate directly to their customer, and no longer have to adhere to a strict fashion week calendar.
WWD: Has technology impacted the way you work at events like NYFW? If so, how?
A.W.: The way we shoot photos isn’t incredibly different, but the results have gotten consistently better — better color, better exposure, larger files, everything tack sharp. Also the amount of time it takes my imagery to reach the global masses has been reduced to a mere minute.
WWD: What’s your main piece of advice for newer photographers looking to do what you do?
A.W.: Be nice. Making friends and making yourself a welcome addition to the ragtag group of fashion week photographers will help you immensely. It’s a small, tight-knit group of photographers, security guards and publicists who have worked together and known each other for years. If you’re new to the group and only out for yourself, your job will be harder than it needs to be.