Sara Kerens is a fashion and editorial photographer splitting her time between Dallas and New York CIty. Some of her recent clients include Anthropologie and Marie Claire.
Were you always interested in photography? How did you get started?
I started out Pre-Med and wanting to be a cardiovascular surgeon. My parents are still disappointed I’m sure of it. I took an Intro to Photography class in college because it was a hobby. My professor, Cade White, encouraged me to apply for an open position at the newspaper. Within the year I was the Chief Photographer. I kept shooting even after leaving the paper to be involved in student government. I shot engagement pictures in college to make extra money and charged $35. I know. Learning the business side of photography was a bit painful for this Rio Grande Valley girl.
Could you elaborate a little on learning the business side of photography? How do you manage business, marketing and promotion?
the business side of being a freelance photographer is a beast!
Yes, the business side of being a freelance photographer is a beast! I love the creative aspect of photography. I had to learn how to manage the money, the marketing, producing and much much more. Being a freelance photographer without an agent is like having 5 jobs. I sought the advice of many people in photography as well as public relations directors, and marketing gurus. At the end of the day, it falls on me. Social media has been a huge way to get my work out, especially to audiences that I may not already be in contact with. It’s important to present yourself genuinely. Who you are and what you enjoy and are doing. I am a very extroverted and positive person, and you get a feel for that through my tweets and posts.
How are you developing your personal vision?
I have several goals that I desire to accomplish with my career and personal life. My work and life often overlap because of my interest in certain subjects. At this point, I am both shooting and showing my book to a wider audience. This helps see how my style and interests work with a variety of publications and clients. I desire to travel and live in Europe, so that influences the track that I am pursuing and the type of work that I spend my time on, even personal work. My style overall is consistent, but I like to push myself and even challenge myself to try different techniques or subjects. It’s fun and keeps it interesting.
How often do you take photos?
I photograph daily. Even if it is my iphone, I snap at least 5 photos a day. I Instagram consistently because for me, this is such a fun way for me to share my life and work with those who care to look and be a part of it.
Do you mainly use digital?
I shoot mainly digital because that’s generally the most economic route. Clients usually want digital as well, especially with fashion as they can see the images immediately on screen and take home images from the shoot the day of.
I take Polaroids when I am able. I photographed a Dallas band, Fox and the Bird, on tour last summer. I shot over 100 Polaroids in the two weeks I was with them along with video and still shots. A printed piece has been in the works for a while and I’ll let you guys know when it’s finished. Very excited about it.
I have a lot of film cameras that I play around with, and do personal projects with.
I know you go back and forth between Texas and New York, could you discuss your reasons for doing this a bit?
I grew up mainly in Texas and have lived there since graduating college. I first visited NYC two years ago on a last minute trip. There is a huge market here, and I see this city as a place to pursue my foreign interests as directly as I can from the U.S. I have amazing clients in Dallas that I want to continue working with a well, so I found that working in both cities was a great fit for me career wise. There are extremely talented creatives in Dallas and the city’s art culture is really taking off. It is an exciting time to be connected there. There is a strong Texas presence in NYC. I have many friends who have moved here, and several of my favorite stylists and makeup artists are Texas transplants.
There are extremely talented creatives in Dallas and the city’s art culture is really taking off
Do you have someone you look up to in the field?
I have had several teachers and photographers guide me and push me along. Dallas specifically has been an incredible place to learn and grow. I have been very fortunate to work along side extremely talented and kind photographers. People want to help you. You have to remember that.
Do you have a dream assignment?
I have many. I would love to shoot a catalog for Anthropologie and Free People, do a piece on Iceland for National Geographic, as well as document Sufjan Stevens’ next tour. I photographed his Age of Adz tour performances in both Dallas and Brooklyn, and they were both incredible. I would love to join the Cousteau family on a sea adventure and document that as well.
How do you stay motivated?
The girls in my sorority in college joked about never seeing me without a camera. It’s true. I love what I do. It is internal and my desire to express myself through photography is pretty strong.
Was there one project that gave you that “ah ha” moment, where you knew this is where you wanted to take your work?
There was a point that I decided I was going to photograph things of interest to me, even if that meant I was hustling all week and shooting nonstop in my spare time. Once I started doing that and posting it, I began to get requests for similar paid assignments. That process was a huge “ah ha” moment for me. I will continue in that way.
Do you have any favorite photo books?
Can I count Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants as a photo book? Laura Wilson’s Hutterites of Montana is a favorite. She is the photographer that documented Richard Avedon when he was shooting “The American West.” I remember contacting her when I first moved to Dallas because I wanted to meet her and learn from her. About a year after emailing and calling her rep and not getting a response, I realized that she was Luke and Owen Wilson’s mother, and why I never got a response. Laura, if you’re reading this, I would still love to meet you and hear your stories, and I am not after your sons.
What was the most helpful part of your ‘education’ that wasn’t photo related?
Connecting with people is the most important and helpful part of my ‘education’ that was not photo related. Life doesn’t make sense without relationships. I work with people who have stories, and great depth. I connect with the people that I’m photographing. It makes a difference. I learn so much from the people that I come in contact with. Letting your subjects tell their stories will translate through the photos.
Connecting with people is the most important and helpful part of my ‘education’ that was not photo related
What are you inspired by?
Music definitely inspires me. I often have thoughts or ideas of shoots or movement by the particular music I am listening to. I’m also inspired by a variety of people and environments. Wes Anderson’s genius is inspiring as well as Tim Walker, and I think that I have whimsical dream inside me like that.
I like the grit and dirt of life as well, and maybe it’s just my generation, but I am inspired by life as it really is.
I am inspired by people who are passionate about life or passionate about what they do, or actively working to change things for the better, and those that have compassion for people, for the human spirit.
As Jack Kerouac wrote in one of my most favourite books, On the Road, “They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
People inspire me. The human condition inspires me and motivates me. In the depth of depravity there is great hope.
People inspire me. The human condition inspires me and motivates me
How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
I define success as quality of life. That means relationships and living. My day to day life is enjoyable and challenging. At the end of the day I believe that I am working hard, and I do not think that the work I’m doing is changing the world. I think I express beauty and show the reality of the world.
What’s next? Any exciting projects coming up in 2012?
I moved to NYC in May to pursue more editorial, lifestyle and fashion work. I will be splitting my time shooting in both Texas and NYC. I have been working on a book of some of the subjects that I have photographed. I would like to get that finished this year. I have some projects on the horizon in LA and in Europe.
We all are dying to know, how did you get the Anthropologie gig?
The short and sweet of it is that I was contacted by a scout. Being at the Mothership was certainly a dream. I shot their online merchandise in studio. That was so much fun because I got to see all the beautiful apparel and shoes before anyone else had seen them. I met their copywriter as well who names and describes all the clothing. Fantastic job. I was there for a week shooting and stayed in their bed and breakfast on the Navy Yard – which is completely decorated with Anthropologie bedding, furniture, EVERYTHING. I am looking forward to opportunities to work with the company again.
For more information about the Anthropologie shoot, check out Sara’s blog post.
Favorite fried chicken?
Favorite breakfast taco?
Taco Joint. They have my heart. Jalapeno ranch! It’s incredible. Plus everyone that works there is so welcoming and they remember your name.
Drink specifically – Anything with gin in it. Place to get drinks depends on the night. School night: Strangeways and the Windmill. Weekend: The Gin Mill, The Londoner (also great fish ‘n chips). Mimosas: Smoke – they make them right and they are bottomless.
Do you collect anything?
Dresses perhaps. I also at one point had 4 copies of Settlers of Catan – all the same 483 Mayfair version. Klaus Teuber has a hold on me. I have since narrowed it down to just one copy with the expansion pack as well.
Any hobbies outside of photography?
I make notes of inefficient traffic areas or lights and make reports to the city. I also collect those paper miniature scale models of iconic city buildings and monuments and never actually put them together, even though I promise that I will. I also love to watch dance movies. I cannot wait until this summer for Step Up 4 Miami: Come for the Sun, Stay for the Heat. Please tell me that MTV contacted you and that I will be spending one day on the set of Missy Elliott’s music video learning the choreography.