Lucas Passmore’s images are the epitome of raw, natural beauty soaked in warm Californian sun. The connection with his subjects is palpable – this is genuine, no acting required. See for yourself and then tell me that I’m wrong (I dare you)…
Hey Lucas, thanks for taking time out to talk to us; let’s start at the beginning – how long have you been shooting and what first inspired you to pick up the camera? How did you get in to fashion & beauty photography?
I bought my first camera in 2010, directly inspired by LA/NYC photographer Kesler Tran. I was drawn into Tran’s style, which falls within the fashion genre, so it was a lock from there! From early on, I had always loved the photography of Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, and Peter Lindbergh, so fashion/portrait photography was always a field I admired and collected (photo books) but it wasn’t until I met Kesler that made me truly want to make my own endeavors into the fray.
Did you study photography or are you self taught? Did you assist before going solo?
I went to the University of YouTube, which is to say, typed in random keywords like, ‘How to get blurry background’ or, ‘How to use a curves adjustment layer’… and then watched endless hours of pro & amateur tutorial vids. I took a few local workshops in Los Angeles, including two hosted by Kesler. We became friends afterwards, and he would let me come along on his shoots with my own model, and we’d shoot side-by-side, with him giving me tips along the way. He also introduced me to his circle of friends, all of whom were professional photographers and the nicest guys on the planet – so, I would also tag along on their jobs & adventures, helping out and learning. I wouldn’t say I ever formally assisted Kesler or any of our friends, but when you constantly hang around like-minded people, you absorb a lot. I will say, I’m at a stage right now where I do need to formally assist in order to learn more/new/different things, so I will probably look into that in early 2016.
Who are your inspirations (not necessarily photographers)?
The aforementioned Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, and Peter Lindbergh are all in my pantheon of inspirational figures. Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Sante D’Orazio, Nick Knight, Ellen Von Unwerth, Craig McDean, Patrick Demarchelier… I mean, it’s really all the icons. I think the fashion photography of the late 80’s to mid 90’s is the golden age of glamour, fantasy and beauty; truly classic and forever contemporary— it’s no wonder every single one of those names (who are alive) are STILL working at the top of the industry today.
How would you define your style?
My style is definitely more loose and raw. Not Ryan McGinley raw (though I should take some tips from him!), but you can pretty easily tell that I do not have a technical background— for which I’m sure I’ve been passed over for more refined jobs. Part of what I struggled with (and still do, sometimes) is the need to want to be good at everything; to be able to do it all and be able to land ANY type of fashion job. I’d stress and beat myself up about not knowing certain lighting schematics or post-processing techniques. How does Bruno Dayan do that light? How does Guy Aroch get those colors? And what I’ve since come to understand is, no one else attempts to ‘do it all’; they just do what ‘they do’ best, and people hire them for that, not because they can imitate someone else. Like the old saying goes, “A jack-of-all-trades is master of none.” I’m realizing that I get hired FOR my loose and raw style – and that while I’ll miss out on perhaps more elevated jobs, I’m doing other jobs which I’m suited for in the first place.
Describe a day in the life of Lucas Passmore for us; how do you prep for a shoot? How does the day track – do you have a set process?
Any given day, I’m editing. A photographer spends more time post-processing than he does shooting (until he gets a dedicated re-toucher, that is). So for me, I’m up at 9am with the dogs then settle in at my station with my first cup of coffee at 10am. I have adult onset A.D.D. (but so does everyone else, it seems like!!), so I’ll vacillate between 2-3 different sets at a time throughout the day, all at different stages. One set, I could still be making selections; another, I’ll be doing first-pass color-processing; another, I could be doing more advanced Photoshop retouching. It’ll be like ping-pong amongst everything, all while some series on Netflix plays on my second computer monitor (just finished all of Friends, and I don’t care what anyone says, that show is still hilarious). I wrap things up about 7pm while drinking my first beer of the evening, and I’m out of my chair by 8pm for dinner and veg-out in front of the TV with the wife until bed. This has been the routine for nearly 3 years now, and it’s honestly the best kind of ‘day at the office’.
Do you have any big projects that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
I just wrapped a shoot for Maxim Magazine a couple of weeks ago, and just now starting to get into post-processing, after they recently sent me selects (they are so amazing to work with). Outside of that, the Spring 2016 look-book rush is just around the corner, where designers scramble to put together their forthcoming line-release, which means I’ll be busy up until Thanksgiving with line-sheet and look-books. Then, the holidays are usually slow, save for the constant of E-Comm, so when I’m not shooting that, I’ll probably mess around in the studio more and try to learn some new tricks!
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for a budding fashion & beauty photographer trying to get their start in the industry?
For you budding and up&coming fashion photogs, know that what I’m about to tell you is the hard truth. It’s not advice. It’s not an opinion. It is gospel. There is no argument or debate. In other words: I am not wrong, in any capacity, as I say this to you: when it comes to fashion photography, what matters most is 1) The face, 2) The fashion… and 3) nothing else matters. Not your gear, not the brand of lights, not your double fluorine coating on your L lens, nor its super UD lens elements. Nothing that any of the camera companies tries to sell you, nor that any of the endless photography-forum debates tries to reverse engineer… absolutely none of it matters if you don’t shoot the right face in the right clothes. So many people say they want to be fashion photographers but have no concept of what that really means. In the end, what they won’t admit to anyone, least of all themselves, is they want an excuse to attempt to shoot naked or half-naked women. By and far, the majority of photographers I see on Instagram branding themselves in the fashion realm, only have work consisting of awkward nudes or girls wearing whatever Forever 21 outfits they pulled out of their closet. In order to shoot fashion, you need to SHOOT FASHION. Yes, ‘fashion’ is loosely interpreted, and doesn’t have to be some $9000 couture gown— it can be commercial, it can be basics, but it HAS to be something. As far as models go, it says just as much about the kind of girl/face you do not shoot, as it does the ones you do. A lot of guys think it’s good enough just to shoot a hot chick. It is not. If your ‘fashion’ book is full of super-hot busty sorority-types, that is hurting you far more than you know; understand there is a difference between fashion photography and glamour photography… even portrait photography. When it comes to models & faces, fashion has a look… yes, that ‘look’ is wide & varied, and every now and then, a face comes along that redefines what we all thought…. but nonetheless, it is a look. You need to chase that look. A good place to start is with modelling agencies, not the internet. I know I sound like an arrogant dick… but I see so much emphasis (and naive kids’ money) put on everything but the fundamental core of the industry, which is clothing and the innate principles that come with. New photographers need to know, you can’t buy your way into being a fashion photographer with cameras, lights, and gear. Taste, style, and vision are really what you need to get anywhere… and best of all, they are free.
I really have a problem with guys who only shoot naked girls, but insist on calling themselves fashion photographers, because it’s misrepresenting the industry and misleading aspiring photographers that this is OK and will get you work. Nudity & sex has always walked a line in fashion photography, but there is a line. Fashion photography isn’t your ticket to a live, hands-off strip show. Use nudity when appropriate or thematic. Don’t shoot tits every single time, just cause you can.
I notice on your Tumblr feed that you spend a lot of time responding to questions from your readers, be it models or photographers. This is a really rare quality today; why is this important to you?
My Tumblr was supposed to be mainly for me; a place to post my b-roll, my edits that didn’t make the cut, or just simple model tests; it was intended to be a place for me to go to when I wanted an overview of recent work, so I could study images after getting some distance from them, in order to see if whatever I was attempting to do (composition, lighting, processing) still held-up or if I could now see its flaws (there are always flaws). Over the last five years, it seemed to have also become a place where photographers/models would write in with questions either about a specific set I had posted or about the industry in general. I have never presented myself as any voice of authority or veteran experience: if I’m being honest, I really only just now have my foot in the door of only one small market (Los Angeles); I’m not some expert shooter with a vast client roster and dozens of covers under my belt. But I’m guessing that’s maybe why people write in so often, because I’m only about one step above them, and they want to know how I got to that next step… and I’m happy to tell anyone anything I know (spoiler: I don’t know that much), and that is principally because I was in their position only a couple of years ago, and it would’ve been helpful if someone said, ‘hey, this is how you contact a modelling agency and this is what you say…’. It’s all stuff like that— rarely anything technical, as I’m sure everyone can tell I’m not that technical, haha. Alternately, both my parents were teachers, so I probably have some teaching gene that’s just now emerging… but I take a lot of pleasure relaying what little I know, to anyone curious.
See much more of Lucas’ work here:
All images copyright Lucas Passmore