HOW DID YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY BEGIN?
"I've always been super creative. I started shooting around nine years old, but I was also dipping my thumbs in so many other creative outlets by that point. I painted, and by the time I was in 6th or 7th grade I was writing short stories and playing with graphic design in Microsoft Word (the only accessible program I had at the time). I attribute a lot of my creativity to the environment I put my mentality in from a young age. I read Harry Potter from when it came out (I was in first grade) all the way through grade school. I feel that series had a huge impact on me creatively. It made me realize I could manifest and manufacture whatever world I wanted to exist in. I began to shoot a lot, my parents would keep buying me small digitals for my birthdays.
At around fourteen or fifteen I realized I wanted to start pursuing photography as a career. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut called Durham. At the time, it had a population of around 6700 people. I worked at a local pizza spot at fifteen and saved up enough to buy myself a DSLR. I started shooting weddings and senior photos in my hometown. I decided I would go to art school. I attended Lesley College of Art and Design in Cambridge, MA from 2013-2017 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography with a minor in Graphic Design. I waitressed all through college and worked internships and at restaurants in the summers.
When I graduated I worked as a Photographer for BMW of Boston for around seven months. I learned a lot but I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do at all. I watched the creative scene and fashion scene in NYC. I began going for weekend trips, test shooting for agencies. I'll never forget this one afternoon in Times Square on a visit. I was with my friend Michael. Two pm on a Saturday, busiest five-block radius in America, Times Square. Out of nowhere a man came up to me. He said, "You're Sydney Claire right? I follow you on Instagram. I love your work". I'd never been recognized or anything and in that moment it all just kind of dawned on me. It clicked. I realized my art could be so much bigger than myself if I took the steps at 22 years of age to make it really happen."
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
"With the current pandemic, I began shooting my friends, models, strangers through FaceTime. I screenshot or use my digital camera to capture the images while on the session. I feel it has only made me better as a photographer. I've had to get more creative with a small frame, through a phone. I've had to get better with direction. I've had to have stronger creative concepts going into the shoot. It has been critical in my development through the Coronavirus epidemic.
I've started to play with digital manipulation within the imagery, and most recently shot a model from Finland through FaceTime. The expansion to international calls versus national calls has opened up a lot of creative doors for me and I want to push the idea. I think it's really magical to be creating work in my own genuine style, and work that I am satisfied with conceptually and visually, while getting to work with people I normally wouldn't have access to. I've had a lot of beautiful conversations about the pandemic, and how artists and creatives are handling the stress and anxieties of dealing with zero human interaction.
It's going to be an ongoing and developing project through the epidemic. So currently, I'm working on Quarantine Portraits through FaceTime."
WHAT INSPIRES YOU
"Honestly, the most inspiring thing in my industry is seeing yourself and those around you succeed due to hard work. It really motivates you. You realize that your dreams are actually possible, that they, in retrospective, aren't that far away. I've watched a ton of artists that I've followed because I knew they would succeed, succeed. You can just spot it. You see the work, you see the vision, you see the style. You see an image on your feed without any tags and you know it's that artist's work. Then all of the sudden they start getting big gigs. They start gaining traction. It's like the blink of an eye.
I wonder what it feels like to be Tyler Mitchell, Sasha Samsanova, Renell Medrano. All artists that I have watched just literally take off. It inspires me. It reminds me that young artists can succeed if they have a clear style, they work hard as hell, and they really really want it.
They know what it feels like to look back at your work and say "I'm doing the damn thing." They are achieving everything I want and more and I use them as my motivators. I'm 24 years old, but so are they, so who's to say I don't have credibility to be shooting those same campaigns and editorials? I feel that when you see someone in the same age bracket as you as a young artist really going for it and doing it, it reminds you that it is possible for you as well. It reminds you that it is all just an arms length of hard work, perseverance, and patience away."
WHAT MAKES THE PERFECT WORK DAY?
"I've had a perfect day at work and I've cried at the end of it out of gratitude. Any day I can wake up and shoot. Any day I have a bunch of incredible creative energy around me, make something amazing and completely in line with whatever I desired it to be in my head. Any day I come home, edit it all and just sit there in absolute bliss. If I could just have millions of perfect days like that till the day I die, I will die so happy. It will mean that my work has given me what I've wanted it to: a lifetime of experiences with my own personal renditions of those moments through photography to remember it by."
WHAT IS THE MOST FULFILLING THING ABOUT BEING A CREATIVE?
"There is something so magical about creating and being a creative. It's a high that no drug could ever achieve. It fulfills you in a way that no other job can fulfill you. Why? Because you sit back at the end of the day and look at your product, and what is that product? It is your vision. It is your creativity and your emotions personified. You are able to convey your voice and your artistic vision through creating and you end up with a product.
That product often has so many people involved. In photography, my product is made up of incredible makeup artists, hair stylists, clothing stylists, models and set designers. It's just beautiful. You have a whole team of people that have put their creative minds together to create something. The product holds an association of the day. My days are always amazing. I have wonderful creatives surrounding me with wonderful energy. So I always have a wonderful, positive association, and that adds to your love of the final product.
There's nothing like being completely satisfied with something you've created. Those are the moments when I am so fulfilled that I legit start crying. And when you start to see your hard work pay off after a ton of patience and frustration. That makes me cry too."
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING YOU HAVE HAD TO DEAL WITH AS AN ARTIST?
"Financial stability. This economy isn't made for us, this country isn't made for us, the world isn't made for us. We are few and far between in a capitalistic society.
We have to find other ways to supplement income if we want to be full-time creatives. We have to get crafty and creative about making money. It gets really frustrating. I feel freelance is also very up and down. You feel rich one month because of one campaign, then the next you are barely scraping by. It takes a long time as a creative to reach financial stability. It also takes a ton of patience, frustration, and being dead broke.
I'm just starting to feel financially stable at 24 years old after freelancing for two years. You just have to understand that the money doesn't come until really late in your career."
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE?
"Go for your dreams. Move to whatever city you have to move to. Don't wait. Don't save up money. You will get in a perpetual state of "it isn't enough money yet" and you will never leave.
I attribute any success or acclimates I have to the fact that I just went for it. I moved to NYC with $300 in my bank account because I knew it's where I had to be. I didn't wait, I didn't save up money, I didn't let personal relationships or fears of failure distract me. I just did it.
Your life is short and you only have so long to get your voice out to the world. Make sure you are using your time wisely and to it's full extent."
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE IN 5 YEARS?
"I want to be in NYC with an apartment that has a home studio in it. I want to be shooting campaigns and editorials for Chanel and Harper's Bazaar. But I want to be shooting those campaigns and editorials in my style. My vision.
My current inspirations are where I want to be. They are being contacted by brands and magazines for THEIR images. THEIR style. THEIR visions. They don't have to compromise their creative integrity. They have made their name, their physical name, their entity. They see their work on platforms that's reach are far greater than themselves and those around them.
In five years I want brands and companies and magazines calling me for the "Sydney Claire" Shot. That's when I feel I'll have really started to make it."
WHAT IS YOUR ART BISH MOMENT?
"I scouted an older woman, early 70's, in a restaurant I worked at in Dumbo this past August. Her name is Cynthia.
We went back and forth about shooting for awhile. She had never modeled before in her life or even been asked to. I kept getting busy but I just knew I had to shoot with her. Eventually I got a team together with some of my favorite creatives. I booked out the studio on my 24th Birthday - October 15th, 2019.
When I mean that was the most emotional shoot of my entire career I mean it. I cried. Cynthia was so grateful and happy to be there. You could literally see her loosen up and get comfortable. By the end of the shoot she was having a blast. She moved me that day, she moved my whole team too.
I ended up getting a few of the images from our editorial published in Vogue Italia. But my proudest moment was after. Cynthia told me she loved modeling and she wanted to pursue it. She was a retired nurse. I ended up booking her a few months later for a sleepwear brand campaign I was shooting.
Seeing Cynthia on the brand's website made me so emotional. She got paid for the day and she was a booked model.
Me and Cynthia have maintained a close relationship. We have often gotten together and we often call each other and have conversations. She is a very big part of my life in so many ways. Her impact on me is unlike any other.
Our beautiful relationship and booking the campaign for Cynthia are my proudest moments as a female creative."