Hi Emma! I’ll make this as painless as possible, promise.
Hi Tim. Ah that’s great, thank you!
No problem. So, first, tell me everything there is to know about you. Or we can just start with when you first got into photography. Up to you.
You had me there for a sec. I started really young. Growing up, my dad was initially a gaffer working on lighting for movies. Then he became a cinematographer and director of photography for commercials and TV shows. Now he’s a director, but this is all to say I was always around his work in one way or another. And he loved it all – especially film photography, which I naturally gravitated to and fell in love with.
Do you remember your first camera and experience taking photos?
It was some shitty digital point and shoot–maybe a Canon PowerShot? It’s funny, I was just finishing up Dan and Meg’s wedding photos (note: Dan & Meg are our mutual homies and how we got introduced to each other <333) and I remembered how fun it is to shoot parties and how that’s how I started. There was this photographer in LA named Mark Hunter - aka Cobra Snake, that I was obsessed with in high school because he always took photos of all the coolest people at these wild parties that everyone wanted to be at. I started bringing a Canon DSLR with a fisheye lens out to every party I went to.
What about parties do you think makes for great photography?
Everyone is super candid and the motion is fluid and natural. Also, on a personal level, it’s nice to be able to hide in plain sight behind the camera. Social anxiety, man. It’s cliché, I know.
At what point did you turn your hobby into your career?
I dropped out of UCLA my sophomore year and started working in a variety of creative capacities. I was a junior agent at a modeling agency, an assistant to a DJ, I worked at a web design agency as a product photographer, but they also taught me how to code? I learned whatever was in front of me. Then I decided I wanted to be in New York, so I moved with the intent of finding a job in the creative industry, but everything required a degree, which we’ve established I did not have. I gave up the job hunt and started waitressing at night and assisting photographers for free during the day to learn and network. I did that for a couple years and then began booking paid work. Three or four years later and I stopped assisting and went full time as a photographer. That was at the end of 2018, so it’s been a little bit now.
We love a hustle mome. But wait, I didn’t know you dropped out…
Yeah, honestly, I was just not good at school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my high school was very competitive and my friends were all super smart. It didn’t come naturally to me like it did for them. I was in the Arts school, but still had to take all the general education classes. Plus, I’m pretty sure I have undiagnosed ADD.
Yeah, same tbh. Let’s talk about your photography style. First, what do you love in a photo?
I love playfulness. I love it showing up in expression and posing. I love movement and subjects witnessed in the moment. I love when things don’t take themselves so seriously. I love color. Especially warm ones that remind me of home in LA.
I know how I might describe the aesthetic of your photos, but curious how you would?
It’s much easier for me to hear someone else explain it than for me to. But what I often hear that I agree with is that they’re soft and a bit dreamy or ethereal.
How do you achieve that blissful effect?
So I use a technique in the darkroom to soften the image. As you’re exposing the print, you hold a diffuser, like a piece of plastic, under the light for a super short period of time. It’s essentially what a soft focus filter on a lens would do.
I love the idea of “editing” the photo in the darkroom rather than in Lightroom or whatever. Seems much more human. Alright, I’m going to fire off a few quick ones... Here we go. What’s your favorite camera?
The film camera that I used for our shoot. - The Mamiya 645. People will tell you the R67 is better, but it’s too heavy for me. I can get much more movement and be quicker with the 646. Being able to be more nimble and capture better movement and compositions.
What’s your favorite film?
The same as everyone else, Portra 400 (120). Though I’m trying to experiment with slide film in the darkroom. Slide film is a positive type of film, rather than a negative, which is what Portra is. There’s a technical process I will spare you of called cross processing. It just achieves a much different coloring. Photographers in the 90s in fashion did it and I want to see if I can get it down.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given to keep growing as a photographer?
Don’t think there are rules for photography. Like people will say you shouldn’t shoot beauty on a wide lens, but going against that grain is exactly what’ll make you different. You always want to push further. Also, be constantly shooting and trying things out. Have a camera on you as much as possible. I need to apply this myself.
I know you shoot a ton, but post very little…
Recently I haven’t shot a lot of personal stuff. It’s been mostly commercial. But also there’s my indecisiveness. I’ll do a shoot and it’ll take me over a week just to decide which ones to post and what order to put them in. I prefer to keep it super curated.
I dig it. Thanks, Emma. You’re the best.
You can follow Emma on Instagram, @emmatrim.