Fashion Week is a monster when it comes to photography. The pits are jam-packed, the scene is high-energy, and photographers flood the runways and streets, all for the same purpose: to shoot, work, network and find a way to stand out from the rest. For young photographers, it’s an absurdly intimating world to break into. But there are some who are pulling it off.
Meet Nick DeLieto, a 22-year-old college student and emerging fashion photographer. He got his start at NYFW when only a freshmen in college, sneaking into shows and working contacts he met on the streets for a chance to shoot. Over the years, he’s built an impressive portfolio, shooting for publications and brands like Coach, Raf Simons, and Hugo Boss. We caught up with DeLieto to learn more about how he faked his way into Fashion Week as a teenager and how to build your name as a photographer in the industry.
You’ve been a photographer for a while but how did you get into fashion? What prompted you to go to NYFW?
My love for fashion photography started with the desire and admiration I felt for capturing the dream world of fashion. The fashion industry interacts with art to create this world of beauty; these designers essentially create wearable art. Now, of course, fashion isn’t all pretty, but when you take the time to examine the art that’s being made across the industry, you can’t help but appreciate the efforts. My interest in high fashion came from delving into the history of high-end brands such as Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Dior. Haute Couture made me appreciate the thought, determination, and mastery it took to create world wide trends and insightful art pieces. Seeing the Manus ex Machina exhibit at the Met this past year reaffirmed that admiration I felt for artists in the industry. Also, when I was younger, I saw a John Paul Gautier exhibit in Brooklyn with hundreds of designs that took weeks to hand-make.
What was the first Fashion Week show you attempted to go to?
Fall of 2014 (Spring/Summer 14).
I noticed you’ve shot Reem Acra. How did you initially get into it?
In the winter of 2015, my friend and I were freshman in high school just waiting around Lincoln Center. I found a back door and just walked in like I belonged. Someone noticed my friend and I sitting along the sidelines in the waiting area taking everything in and offered us a front row ticket to Reem Acra. He said he liked our energy and how young we were.
Can anyone take photos at Fashion Week?
Anyone can follow the shows around outside from place to place. Street style photos are a huge part of the industry and I’ve seen great street style photographers hit the jackpot in their careers. Phil Oh shoots for Vogue US and started developing his eye by shooting outside of shows.
So how did you get into the rest of the shows?
I snuck in a lot. I faked confidence, gave fake names, name-dropped editors that I knew were big. It was a gamble every time and sometimes it straight up did not work. I was also offered opportunities by friends I made by just being around Fashion Week. I got my start helping cover shows for some stylists and assisting other photographers I befriended. One of my really good friends in the industry is another photographer I met at Lacoste. We actually got in a fight the first time we met, but smoothed things over and exchanged information. He loved my work and started offering me opportunities to succeed. When I started to gain a respectable portfolio in the industry, I began reaching out to publications and offering to cover for them.
Dope. Can you tell me how you’ve gone about getting backstage?
I snuck backstage when I was younger, which was significantly harder than just watching the show from the front of the house. Once a season or two started to pass, I began to email PR teams to request access. Most of them denied me as I was not with a major publication (or any publication) but some respected my work and offered me backstage access in return for some of the photos.
Can you tell me a bit about the networking opportunities Fashion Week provides for photographers?
Instagram. People that follow you for long periods of time start to build up this picture of you in their mind. They oftentimes then reach out to you and offer to collaborate or ask you for help. And I honestly just talked to people, and tried to be as down to earth and friendly as possible. Even now that I’m “allowed” to go to shows, I try to be open and friendly to anyone backstage. We’re all in the same boat and I realized that the industry can sometimes be difficult to navigate—it’s often harsh. Photographers and the like should be able to support each other and help each other out.
Which shows have you shot?
For publications I’ve shot Coach, Raf Simons, Monse, Hugo Boss, John Varvatos, Vfiles, Robert Geller, Diesel Black Gold, Suno, and Carolina Herrera, among others. For myself I’ve shot Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Desigual, Todashi Shoji, Prabal Gurung, Lacoste, Proenza, Carmen Marc Valvo, and more. I would sound lame if I named them all, but trust me, not all of them were my own doing. People in the industry have definitely supported me and guided me to where I am today, giving me opportunities and outlets to develop my eye and creativity.
Were you asked to shoot any of the shows?
Ah, here’s where I get my cover blown. But yes, the majority of shows I’ve shot, I was asked to. The others I either accompanied another photographer or got in on my own.
How did you get to shoot Grazia Italy? Did they approach you? Was it for Fashion Week or was it an editorial assignment?
It was just backstage coverage, not editorial. My photographer friend—the one I met at Lacoste—offered me some shows a few years ago that he needed help covering. Like I said, he liked my work and gave me opportunities.
Got it. Do you have any tips you can provide our readers for branding your business?
Post things you’re passionate about; things that catch your eye and really show your vision. Just because you have a picture of a celebrity doesn’t mean it’s good. Or just because you shoot film doesn’t mean it’s good either. If you focus on making good art you’re proud of your “brand” or portfolio will fall into place.
And yet you’re still very young. What kind of guidance have you had from mentors along the way?
I’ve received countless tips from other photographers. Sometimes I’m blown away by the way other photographers invest their time and energy into helping me. I’m still young and inexperienced in the community and always trying to learn everything I can and strive to learn from those around me. I’ve gotten tips on how to negotiate my worth as photographer, how to push for opportunities, how to pitch products, and, as lame as it sounds, to trust my instinct.
Do you have any other advice for faking it until you’re making it?
You’re never too young. Confidence and passion for what you do will carry you forward. Stay open, stay humble, and keep pushing.