PDN Photo of the Day

Creating a Spark

We recently received a large newsprint zine from New York City-based fashion photographer Gabrielle Revere. Étoile is a series of photographs encompassing a variety of work from the last five years, including commissions and personal work. One of the highlights of the zine are stunning photographs of supermodel Karlie Kloss, declared one of the top 30 models of the 2000s by Vogue Paris. In 2011, Revere was hired by LIFE to shoot a cover story and feature about Kloss’s life in front of—and away from—the camera.

Photo District News: How did the idea for Étoile come about?

Gabrielle Revere: Étoile is a visual diary of the most memorable experiences I have encountered along the way. Although the photographs are a mix of assignment and personal work, it was very important to me that the piece felt more like a published book, and less like a promotional piece. There was so much transition in my life throughout the past five years; it was time to do something big, with resonance, from a personal standpoint.

PDN: What was the editing process like?

GR: I compiled the images I was closely attached to. My original idea was to have a series of collages; spreads as mood boards. I started to play around a bit with the collage idea but the images seem to get lost as part of a collection within themselves. I narrowed down the images to moments that I felt had the most impact.

PDN: Did you work with anyone to do the editing?

GR: I sent my edit to a dear friend of mine who is a creative director. She has known me from the very beginning—before any photo assignment existed, when self-portraits and images of my loved ones shot on film made up the bulk of my work, and everything was about exploration and experimentation.

I trusted her judgment because she knew me as a person. She understood the “humanity” element of my work—and that my intention for Étoile was for it to be more than just a bunch of pretty pictures. She finalized the design and the pagination of the piece. She helped me tie the visuals together as words to tell the story, and I am VERY grateful for her help!

PDN: Where did you get Étoile printed?

GR: Prior to this, I had never printed anything as opulent as Étoile. I wanted to have a large-format piece and a small print run to preserve the “personal” aspect, but that was problematic. Most pre-press houses only print digitally and in bulk, with restrictions on size.

I was aware of the newspaper trend that was happening in the industry and it looked great, but I knew I would not be happy with the quality of the reproduction for the experience I wanted the viewer to have. I received quotes and paper samples from all over the U.S. and even looked abroad. It was quite the learning experience! In the end I worked with a small print house based out of Queens. They were the most cost effective without sacrificing quality.

PDN: You said you didn’t want this to look like a promo, but did you have a specific list of people you were sending them to or targeting?

GR: The target list was the toughest to compile. I curated a list of 1,200 creatives which became my “outline.” I cherry-picked them down to 600 individuals who I felt would most value and appreciate the work, as well as those who may have not been familiar with it, and those who may not have thought to see my work in this light. It was a balance of risk versus reward.

PDN: Have you had feedback on the zine?

GR: The feedback has been amazing. There has been some talk about publishing a book of the work and/or exhibiting the series in a gallery. I am open to the possibilities. I am just grateful it has received such a positive response.

So much heart and soul goes into a piece like this. I think for any photographer it is impossible to separate the personal from the professional because we are, in essence, taking responsibility for capturing the moments we share with people we have an intimate connection with, even if it is only for a fleeting moment. There are a lot if risks involved when you blur the lines of your personal life and set them free in the realm of your professional life.

All I can wish for is that the audience is inspired or moved in some way where they appreciate the work, and it sparks something within them. The finished piece is the icing on the cake. To stand out among a pool of such talented individuals is truly a gift and more than I could have ever asked for.

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