Q&A with Photographer DARCY ROGERS


I believe in coincidences and in following a path lit more brightly by their prescience. Last week I had a conversation with a rep in which we discussed, among other things, how San Francisco tends to isolate itself from the larger art and commercial art worlds, to its detriment. In thinking about this afterwards, I realized that by writing a blog devoted almost exclusively to the Bay Area, I was reenacting this same tendency and not serving to connect SF to the other centers of advertising and editorial. And that it might be a good idea to reach out to the New York and LA communities.

Not an hour after I had this realization, I received an email from Darcy Rogers saying how much she liked and enjoyed reading POP. We had an email exchange in which she mentioned she had just moved to New York. I paid attention. I knew and liked her work, but didn’t know anything more about her other than she had good timing. I decided it was kismet and asked her if she would like to be interviewed for POP as our first Ambassador to New York.

I first saw Darcy Roger’s work at the 2010 APA Something Personal show. Hers was one of the few exhibitor websites I visited later that night. Roger’s photos have a soft palette, hazy light and a serenity and delicate beauty that I came to learn are indicative of her personality. When we spoke she was warm and unguarded yet deliberate and approached the interview with as much curiosity as I did balanced with a humble self-assuredness. This comes through in the graceful yet subtly powerful compositions of her fashion work, the vulnerability and depth of her portraits and her personal and quirky locations and interiors.

Rogers is an emerging photographer who recently moved from San Francisco to New York. She spoke with POP about the grounded approach that produces her ethereal images, about balancing authenticity and beauty, and the openness of the photo community in New York. San Francisco has lost a very promising talent, but I imagine we’ll see much more of her in the future!

A big thank you to Darcy for sharing her work and thoughts with us.

POP: What is your background and when did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?

I took photography in high school and dabbled in it throughout college. I graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2004 and stayed in Santa Barbara and worked at a startup tech company. The people I worked with were really great, but my actual job was so unfulfilling. I was essentially a paper pusher. I decided that I needed to pursue a career with more creativity. Because I had been taking pictures all along, studying photography was the natural choice. I decided to go to the Academy of Art to get a Master’s in photography in the Fall of ‘05. My thesis project was all digital and compositing and lighting. By the end of it, I passed successfully but was burnt out from spending so much time in front of the computer and lugging around lighting. I had a Hasselblad film camera that I hadn’t been using and when I finished school I started shooting with it.

I’d always loved fashion photography and the narrative quality that could come out of it. I started to shoot with natural light in a laid back way without any rules and that was the beginning of my style. I always want to be shooting and testing and building my book. I’m very happy with my portfolio but it’s always evolving. It’s always good to be working towards something.

POP: There’s such a beautiful very natural feminine quality to your work. How do you talk about your style?

The elements of my work are natural light, an authenticity and light retouching. I guess I was hesitant to call my work fashion. It’s not all about the clothing and even when I’m shooting it I’m not shooting from the standpoint of showing off the clothes. But I want the styling to have a purposeful look to it. I’m trying to capture a narrative. They have a storyline and I’m always working on this. I always ask myself what I’m saying.

I love Todd Hido’s work, I am really drawn to his use of light and color. For similar reasons, I also admire Katherine Wolkoff’s work. There is such a delicate manner to her photos that I really like. When I get stuck shooting, I always refer back to Imogen Cunningham’s Portraiture book. Her portraits are simply composed, yet striking.

POP: Your work balances authenticity and an ethereal and elegant beauty. What draws you to the locations you shoot in? And what goes into your formal considerations with regards to lighting and composition?

There are still general concerns you have to keep in mind even when shooting in a lo-fi style. I try not to get too wrapped up in this. I want people to look at my work and not know if it was shot with film or digital.

I don’t often shoot full body images. Stylists always ask me what shoes to bring and I always just tell them to bring some black shoes. I don’t often show them. I’m trying to tell a story about a person primarily. The story of the person and the location is more important. I’m shooting for the mood. I tend to shoot in close and not pull back a lot. I try to shoot in different ways, but I definitely have a certain way of shooting people.

I’m always looking for beautiful light and locations and want to capture the beauty of the space, the model and the clothing. A lot of the inspiration comes from the location itself. My style is romantic and airy and the locations and wardrobe are in that vein. I try to choose clothing that has softer lines.

A lot of the locations I choose are Victorian. This might be my San Francisco roots coming into play. I loved the Victorian homes and going into other people’s homes and seeing what they had. My parents were very into vintage furniture and décor. I had friends growing up who lived in interesting houses with nooks and crannies and light coming in interesting ways.

It was easy to find this in San Francisco. I also knew older funky hotels and houses. I’m so new to New York I’m interested to see what I find here.

POP: Do you feel that perfect composition and extensive retouching in some way limit the ability of a photo to capture a mood?

I’m not opposed to Photoshop. It’s a great tool. But the photographers I admire most capture a mood. It depends on the purpose of the shot and with an ad it might need to be perfect. I think for me it is about the mood and story primarily, but composition and the general look of the photograph cannot be discounted. Without these elements, the photo may fall flat.

We are bombarded with images in this culture. And it takes a lot to get someone to stick with an image. I think it’s important and valuable to remember that photography is a tool and a medium that can do so much.

I definitely want my work to convey beauty, but also to tell a story. It’s my challenge to figure out how to keep the look I have and incorporate more into it. It’s fine for it to be about beauty but I always want people to remember it and come back to it and think about it.

POP: Many of the people I interview have a deep integrity and commitment to bring some authenticity to their work.

It’s tricky. There’s nothing wrong with selling products. I like the style I shoot in and want to keep shooting this way. It’s my point of view and my perspective on things. It’s not applicable for every brand. I want to keep my voice and authenticity true. I want to continue to be hired me for the style I shoot in.

POP: There is a very intimate quality to your portraits. You say with regards to the locations you choose that you love going into people’s homes and looking around. It seems like you really get to know something about the people you photograph, that they’re letting you in and allowing you to reveal something quite private. Can you talk about your process for photographing people?

I really do love going into people’s homes and looking around. When I photograph people, I always suggest shooting in their homes. Not everyone goes for that and I understand, your home is your private space, but I always suggest it first. If time allows, I like to spend some time with the person, talking with them, asking them questions, etc. I have a really mellow personality and I think it helps keep the portrait session relaxed. Even if something is not quite working out, lighting, composition, etc, I try to just calmly work around those issues without making it a concern of the subjects. Sometimes, people don’t have a lot of time to spend and if that’s the case then I’ll find an interesting space with good light and build the photo off that.

POP: You recently moved to NY from San Francisco. Did you move for work? How is it going? How are you finding the photo community there?

I went to NY in Nov. ’09 for the first time ever. I knew right away I wanted to move there. I got home and sent out a mass email telling everyone I was moving to New York. I had second thoughts, but by the summer of ’10 I realized I needed something different and new, a change of scenery. I’m from San Francisco and was born and raised there. I wanted to be inspired by new things. I think I knew San Francisco too well.

I moved to New York three weeks ago and it’s been great. I’ve met a ton of people through networking and San Francisco connections. So far, it’s an amazing network. I haven’t encountered the cliché New York personality. People have been so open and friendly.

New York is the center of publishing and this was behind the move. It felt so limited in San Francisco because there are just a handful of magazines there. I’m definitely in the emerging stage of my career and looking for editorial work to build my career. I’m looking for assisting work and also emailing all the magazines and dropping off my portfolio.

During my time in SF, I had the opportunity to work with some really great people. Before I left, I contacted everyone I’d worked with, assisting and otherwise, and asked them for their contacts in NY. I have a great network in SF and it’s been a big help getting connected in New York.

It seems like the network is really deep here and you can just step into it. I’m approaching people in an open, non-aggressive way. Just asking for suggestions. Being new to New York is an advantage as it allows me to ask people for advice, even things like a favorite restaurant. I just open up to people and tell them I’ve just moved her and this is a great conversation piece. They want to tell me things about New York—the photo community and what museum to go to. Moving here has bolstered my networking abilities.

POP: If we looked at the wall above your desk, what would we see?

Typically there is an assortment of magazine tears that I find inspiring. I also like to print my images on 4×6 cards and arrange them in different ways on the wall to play with the edit.

POP: Favorite campaigns?

I really like what Levi’s has done recently with their campaigns, with slogans about work. I think it is inspiring and speaks to the times we are in.

POP: Where do you find inspiration?

I am often inspired by other photographers; I love looking at photographers’ websites. I also like going to museums and seeing films for inspiration. I am an avid reader and this helps me think about story lines and narratives. I don’t know much about architecture, but I love going for walks and checking out buildings. I was lucky to live in San Francisco which is rich in architectural beauty. In my short time in New York, I can say that I am equally inspired by the buildings I see around me.

POP: Dream job?

Dream job would be to shoot the Anthropologie catalog.

One Response to “Q&A with Photographer DARCY ROGERS”

  1. This is so great for an interview and showing your work. It was so fun and interesting to read the interview, and I’m so proud of you and so happy and glad you have moved to New York. I hope for the very best for you and your work and career. We miss you and I love staying in touch. I wish you could come in July to Elizabeth and my gallery show, but NY is a long way away. xoxox diane

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