With her camera out of battery, Emmie America ’14 made one last effort to finish her photography project for school with her phone camera during a short layover in her hometown Moscow. She decided to photograph Masha Raeva, a model and her best friend, in designer clothes at the last minute. According to America in an interview with The Phillipian, those photos were some of the best pictures she had ever taken. Refraining from following the latest fashion photography trends, she allowed her own style to shine in the photos.
“For fashion photography, there are a few photographers who are setting the trend. When that is what most people are commissioning and what most people are interested in, it is really hard not to try and be like them. As much as I really appreciate their work, it is really not the same direction of where I want to be going,” said America. “I realize that instead of trying to be them, I should just follow myself because no matter how much I try, I will never be as good as them at their thing. I should probably just discover my thing instead.”
After receiving her first camera when she was 13, America began to utilize photography solely as a way to involve herself in the fashion industry. She gradually discovered a passion for the medium of photography itself during her time at Parsons School of Design in New York.
“[When I saw] the good stuff I started making, it all clicked with me, and I realized that I should keep going with this. [This] was when I tried to isolate myself a little bit from fashion photography and just kind of remember where it all started and why I wanted to take pictures in a very naive way,” said America.
After various internships and a job at MODELS.com, America decided to take a break from college and is currently freelancing in Russia. She has been working for Vogue Russia in the past year, establishing connections with many well-known models, such as Odette and Lia Pavlova, dubbed by Vogue as some of the top runway walkers of Fall 2016.
“[Working for Vogue Russia is] kind of surreal as in I just never expected it to happen so quickly, but it’s also a job. You don’t always get to do what you want to do, and you have to come up with ways to stay true to yourself while you have a lot of limitations, unlike stuff I would do for myself or independent magazines… But when you do win those little battles, it feels really rewarding, and also I get access to amazing stuff, like the kind of clothes you get there I would never be able to get that kind of clothes from independent magazines. It feels really cool [because] I remember collecting Vogue Russia when I was little,” said America.
In the past summer, America photographed the cover story for the independent magazine “King Kong,” exercising more freedom and narrative in the style of her photography than she was allowed to in Vogue Russia. America described this as one of her proudest accomplishment in photography.
“[It was a] really cool process working with ‘King Kong’ because they were much more creative and open to my ideas and helped me develop them and make them into something bigger and better. It looked like there was something being told here and it felt really reflective of the kind of photography I want to be doing. It was a really cool experience, and the first time an editor really believed in me, and they really trusted me,” said America.
Since graduating from Andover, America has continued to develop as a person and as an artist. As she searches for her voice and direction in the industry, she has found a particular love for showing a connection with her subjects through her photographs.
“The past two years has been rediscovering my voice and figuring out how to establish it and stay true to myself and how to improve. It’s been a lot of asking myself questions. Why photography? What does it mean to you? Why did I start?” said America. “I realized that relationships really matter to me and that it is people that I have photographed that really inspire me so I am trying to stay in close touch with my subjects. I use the same models a lot. I try to get to know them before shoots and make sure it is a collaboration not just me telling them what to do or just me taking pictures of whatever they are doing. I think that aspect is super important to me.”
America’s passion for photography has only grown in the past few years. She strives to highlight the uniqueness of each photograph by focusing more on the narrative than technical elements.
“Photography is something really special. You are taking reality but you are pulling it through yourself, but still creating something that is real but also is not. Every person could take the same photo so many ways, not technically, but the connection with the subject and the composition and perspective. It is more the feeling for me. The same picture can look happy or sad depending on who takes it, that’s the bottom line of it. I wouldn’t say there is a grand message in my work but it is definitely always exploring some kind of personal story, some kind of, not necessarily struggle always, but some kind of experience,” said America.
Looking back at her time at Andover, America appreciates her experience working as a Photography Editor for The Phillipian. It was from her role as an editor that she learned self-discipline, a skill that she applied in college and continues to apply in her jobs.
“I was still a kid at Andover and when I left Andover. My experience of photo back then was very limited because I just didn’t have access to the same stuff as I did in New York City. [In New York], I started growing up and discovering myself. Back at Andover, it was just taking pictures and I really didn’t know why. I just had a passion and I was just going for it. I also knew I wanted to make art and this was the way I was creating something that was available at Andover,” said America.