New York, New York
Image © Sabina Miklowitz
A Sky Full of Stars
First Place – Self Promotion / Personal
ASMP: What was your inspiration for taking this photo?
Sabina Miklowitz: This image came from a test shoot I did with an agency model. In contrast to my usual method of meticulously planning everything down to the last detail, I didn’t really have a concept in mind for this shoot, and I didn’t work with any stylists. Mary (the model) is so striking in her own right that it somehow felt wrong to cover her in makeup and distracting wardrobe pieces; I opted instead to take her to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (though I suppose that detail doesn’t matter for this particular image) and focus on capturing her natural beauty. This shot was by far my favorite from what we got that day because the sunlight coming through her straw hat created little specks of light that mimic the freckles on her face.
ASMP: What kind of setting do you prefer?
SM: I definitely prefer to work on location. Shooting in a studio allows for total control, but there’s something very sterile about the result. There are endless possibilities when shooting on location, and I enjoy the improvisational nature of deciding what available light and objects inspire me in the moment. As for a type of location, I go through phases like anyone else. I think I work best in settings that provide dramatic and angular lighting and background elements, but occasionally I’m in the mood for something softer and more organic.
ASMP: What type of lighting did you use for this image or series?
SM: All natural light (with a reflector to bounce some light into the model’s face).
ASMP: How long have you been shooting this type of photography?
SM: My interest in photography began when I was 9, but I didn’t start shooting portraits until sometime in high school. It started pretty casually, with me snapping a few candid portraits of friends wherever we happened to be hanging out, but eventually I discovered I had a real passion for curating a wardrobe and incorporating props and crazy makeup. By the time I started college I was pretty much exclusively photographing people, and my preference for constructing a story rather than documenting one led me to pursue fashion photography.
ASMP: What other photographers’ or artists’ work inspires you?
SM: My favorite living artist is Vivane Sassen. Her work manages to toe the line between fashion and fine art in a way that’s really captivating, and the way she uses planes of color and shadow to obscure her subjects is both playful and mysterious. Her posing is also somehow both natural and totally bizarre, and you’re left with a lot of questions about what is happening in her images and how on earth she got the idea to make what you’re looking at. Her photographs are also graphic in a way that I aspire to, in that they make an impact when viewed at any scale. A few other favorites include Paul Jung, Jamie Hawkesworth, and the classics, Irving Penn and Lillian Bassman. Outside of the realm of photography, I’m a big fan of Jesse Draxler’s mixed media/collage work and Luis Barragán’s architecture.
ASMP: What kind of gear do you use?
SM: I primarily shoot with a Canon 7D, and either a 50mm f/1.8 or a 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 lens (both Canon). I’ve had the upgrade itch lately, and I’ve had my eye on the Sony a7R III that everyone’s been raving about, but switching brands is an expensive ordeal. When I shoot with lights (and I’m not in a studio that provides them), I use my Alienbee B800s.
ASMP: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started your career as a photographer?
SM: I wish I’d known that being a professional photographer is 20% creative at best and 80% business, and that photography as a career is not very well suited to introverted personalities. It’s a lesson I’m still learning: that the work alone will not catapult you to success, and that you need to hustle–relentlessly–and stop waiting for people to notice you because they won’t unless you make them.
ASMP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your work? Go ahead, surprise us with something unique and unusual.
SM: Not photography related, but–I almost went into music instead! I am a singer, I’ve played piano and violin for most of my life, and I used to write my own songs (I even self-produced an entire album in high school). Ultimately I felt that music was too personal a thing to make into a career, so I refocused my creative energy on photography. I haven’t written a song in some years, but I am still an active singer; in fact I sang with a choral group I am a part of at Carnegie Hall last year!