These days, it seems everything’s coming up en rose for fashion photographer Pauline Darley. At 24, the Paris-based shooter has already established herself as an inventive editorial photographer and talented portraitist, able to create both captivating and insightful conceptual work as well as effective commercial photography for a list of clients that includes Armani, Sony Music, Canal+, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse Tam-tam and Universal Music. Her work has been published in Elle, Newsweek, Ever Magazine and numerous other magazines and blogs.
Despite her sky-rocketing success, the young photographer remains remarkably humble and enthusiastic—her emails are peppered with smiley faces, exclamation points and gushing raves about the other members of her creative team. Resource chatted with Darley this week (en français, bien sûr) about her three years in the biz so far.
How did you get started with photography? Did you study it in school, or are you primarily self-taught?
I started in my parents’ house in Burgundy when I was 17. At that time, I think I was looking for an artistic medium that would allow me to create. The camera and digital photography were accessible to me, easy to test things out with and to understand how the camera worked. I studied information and communications first in Burgundy and then in Paris. As far as the technical side of photography goes, I’m mostly self-taught; I never took a class. And when it comes to lighting in a studio, my partner taught me how that works.
What is it you like about fashion photography?
I prefer photographing people. That’s why I love portraiture and fashion photography. Fashion was the logical next step after portraits, since with the clothes/make-up/hairstyle you can create a real universe around a model. That’s what I love!
Tell me about your creative process with a photo shoot.
Well it depends. I have two approaches. One of them is very simple and natural: I just ask the model to come, she wears simple clothes and I shoot her in studio or outside. There’s not a lot of reflection behind it, just a desire to create beautiful images of the model. The second is more involved: I think of a theme (or a piece of an idea), I discuss it with my make-up, hair and stylist team, and we establish together everything that we’ll need on the day of the shoot. Everything is more or less controlled… These two modes of functioning work really well for me and I think I need them both as a photographer.
In English, we say that when we take a picture of someone, we have “shot” them. What do you think of this idiom?
It’s pretty accurate. “We shot his picture,” we took his picture at this precise moment when the person and the photographer decided to freeze that instant.
You often shoot more conceptual photo series, such as “She has waited too long” or “Requiem for a queen.” Where do you get your inspiration?
I don’t really consider myself creative. I love to explore a lot of things! Often I start with a small idea, which grows as I go along with my research and through discussions with my team. Every photo series is a team effort–if you judge that a photo is a success, it’s because everyone was at their best.
You’ve already had a lot of success as a photographer, and you’re only 24 years old. Are people often surprised by your age? What can you bring to the table that older photographers don’t?
I’ve heard a lot of comments about my age, usually funny ones. As soon as people trust me and like my images, there are no more concerns. And there are so many photographers much younger than me, and much more talented! I think that with digital (since that’s the generation I come from), we work perhaps more by feel; we have fewer automatic reflexes. To be honest I really don’t know; for me everyone has a place in photography. The “young” photographers don’t have the same style as photographers who have been honing their craft for thirty or forty years. Clients and magazines see what they prefer, and that’s all a matter of taste!
As a photographer, why do you love Paris? What does that city offer photographers?
Unfortunately in France, Paris is the only city that allows us to work in fashion, to have access to the top brands and the magazines. The press bureaus, the models, the teams are all here. But I’m thrilled to be in Paris—it’s a wonderful city!
Do you prefer working with clients or on more personal projects?
You really can’t compare the two! The first comes with financial compensation, and as a photographer you have to show assignments work. The second doesn’t; it’s just pure creation and allows us to show our personal style, our creativity. I can’t choose. I need both in order to thrive.
Your photos have been published in Elle, Newsweek and more. When your photo becomes part of a magazine or an article, does it stay purely your personal creation, or does its meaning evolve with editorial context?
Most of the time my photos in magazines are alongside an article about an individual (I work mostly for the press for images of celebrities). For Newsweek, it was different, because it was an image used to illustrate an editorial feature. Alas in these cases the images can take on a completely different meaning!