During a period of a year or more, while living in London, photographing kids seemed to be insistently making it’s way more and more in to what would eventually become my job description. I had been working as a fashion photographer and probably preferred thinking of myself in those terms.
For nearly a decade I worked diligently to build a body of work in the kids domain that I felt would represent me. I had made three trips to Milan to show my work to Vogue Bambini when I felt my work had reached a new plateau. The last two appointments gave a response that was encouraging but didn’t lead to any work.
On the advice of a good photographer friend I rather dramatically changed my approach to photographing children. I started to concern myself far less with concerns of styling, and I started to shoot kids in a way that reminded me of the days when I first started taking photos. In less than nine months I had a fresh new body of work. Inspired by these new photos I got rid of ninety percent of my earlier children’s work. Something new and more personal was definitely taking shape and I was excited seeing my images express something that didn’t actually remind me of other children’s work that I had seen.
I was so pleased with much of this new work that I was less concerned with whether other people would like it or not; realizing of course that it’s always nice when people appreciate what we do. I was planning to move to New York when I thought about Vogue Bambini again and thought I’d contact them if only because it was easier to get to Milan from London.
I called the magazine and set an appointment with the fashion editor who had responded to my work when I had met her on my prior visit. I was set. I traveled to Italy and at the determined hour eagerly (and a bit nervously) arrived for my appointment, only to find that I would be showing my work to one of the assistants. I had come all the way from London only to meet someone whom I knew would have no impact whatsoever on the possibility of having a relationship with the magazine. She looked at my work and I was told only that there had been an emergency and that the fashion editor would not be available.
I now felt as though I had spent time and money for no discernable purpose. I was seemingly out of options. I could have left my book and picked it up the next day, hoping that someone else would look at it, but I felt that my work merited more than that.
The first place I had lived after leaving Los Angeles (where I grew up and started photography) was Milan. During my three plus years there I had befriended a guy named Luca Stoppini. He was the assistant to the Art Director of Vogue Italia. I got to know Luca well. We had become friends and he had become a sort of mentor to me. He had now become the Art Director of Vogue Italia, the youngest ever Art Director of one of the three major Vogues in the world. I felt as though this was my remaining option however slim it may be. After some reflection I made my way over to Lucas’s office in Milan and was told that he was out but that I could come back at the end of the day. I returned, only to find out that he was unlikely to be there until the following day.
I wrote out a note simply saying that I was in Milan and needed to speak with him and would be grateful if he could get in touch with me. Discouraged, I went to the train station to make the journey back to Bergamo where I was staying with friends. While on the train my phone rang. It was Luca. I explained my predicament. He told me that although he hadn’t seen any of my work for quite some time, that it was not right that I had come to Italy based on an appointment without being properly received at the magazine. He said that while he couldn’t promise anything, he would see what he could do. We spoke the next morning but he still didn’t have a response. Finally he called me back with news; “ok, you have an appointment with the editor-in-chief. She has to travel tonight so you can’t be late.”
I arrived promptly for my four o’clock appointment and was greeted by a woman with a welcoming smile, Giuliana, editor-in-chief. We were joined in her office by the fashion editor, the same person with whom I had scheduled my original appointment. Giuliana took plenty of time looking at each photo in my book, after which she took a long pause. I wasn’t feeling incredibly positive. She then proceeded to specify which photos did not correspond to the feel and needs of her magazine, but she also commented on three photos that she really liked and why she liked them. As she spoke I was taking mental notes. I felt as though I better understood what their needs were and what I could do moving forward as her information and time had been so valuable. I now felt my determination and persistence had been worthwhile.
Just as I was preparing to gather my things and depart she turned to the fashion editor and said (in Italian) ‘let’s do a try’. I was surprised but very excited. She told me what the story would be and for me to think about how I wanted to approach it. As I left the meeting I had to remind myself that as excited as I was, I hadn’t ‘done’ anything yet. I now had to come up with the right idea for the proposed story.
My first story for them looked beautiful and writing this article reminds me of how proud I was when I saw it. Some of the photos I loved, a few not as much, but seeing it in a beautiful layout and printed stunningly is an experience I won’t soon forget.