Melissa Rodwell is one of the fashion photographers I most admire, besides being a great person. She has had clients (commercial and editorial) all over the world. She also teaches workshops, and has released a DVD called “Fashion Photography Exposed”. She lives and works between New York and Los Angeles.
How did you get started in photography?
I saw an exhibit in Paris in 1980 and came home very inspired to learn photography. So I asked my dad if I could borrow his camera and he let me. He owned a Canon AE-1 and that’s what I learned on. I quickly made the jump to Nikon, though, and have been an avid fan of Nikon ever since.
Does one need to have formal training?
I would say that it is not entirely necessary to have “formal” training but a photographer MUST learn the technical aspect and whatever way he/she feels they can learn it, then they need to pursue that with everything they got. So in other words, if getting a college degree is important and you have the money or someone else has the money to put you through photography college, then by all means, go for it. But if you’re not blessed with excess amounts of money and a diploma doesn’t really mean too much to you, then take workshops, start assisting and test all the time with your own work!
What were the main obstacles you faced along your career?
I would have to say that one of the biggest obstacles along the way has been where I have chosen to live. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I feel blessed because of it. But….it’s not exactly the city to be in if you seriously want to pursue fashion photography. So I battled with it for years. I have gone to Europe to live and work and Australia to live and work and now finally NYC to live and work. Can’t say I love living in NYC. I love living in LA. But I do love going to NYC to shoot and to take meetings. It’s an amazing city. But LA is paradise in my opinion, and I’d rather live in Paradise than a concrete jungle. Now I am that lame thing called bi-coastal. It’s working for the time being.
What are the ingredients for success as a photographer?
You better have a truckload of passion for it because the journey is long, hard and sometimes very delusional so you must love it and want it with everything you got! I mean, you’ll struggle for a few years, you know? You won’t have the finances to do much else but throw back into your career, so times can be tough and I think it’s during times when you question what the hell you’re doing this in the first place. The answer should be somewhere along the lines that if you quit you couldn’t live yourself. That’s how it’s been for me, any way. Having a good understanding of the business is also very important. And then the usual charm, talent and big whopping dollop of luck!
Where do you find inspiration?
I DON’T find it by looking at fashion photography, that’s for sure. These days, hmmmm, I find it in the connections I make with amazing people and going out and living my life to absolute fullest and experiencing those moments of awe as much as I possibly can! Music, as well, has always been and will always be very, very important to me. And finally, reading. I love to read. I’m not a huge fan of the internet, I like to go out, meet people, have intense conversations, and in quiet times, I like to read. I never have a drought for inspiration. I am constantly inspired. Sometimes, though, I don’t feel like shooting, even when I’m inspired. Sometimes I’ll just write. Or throw my creativity in a different direction.
What photographers do you consider a reference in your field?
I love Javier Valhonrat, Paolo Roversi and Eugenio Recuenco. Their work is pretty much the only fashion photography I look at these days.
Do you post produce your images?
I do not retouch my own work. I hire top retouch artists in the industry to retouch my work. I refuse to sit behind a computer screen for 50 hours retouching a 10 page editorial.
What advice would you give to someone making a start in photography?
You should check out the new website I am doing with Marius Troy called BREED. It’s an educational website for aspiring and emerging fashion photographers. We are in the middle of building the site right now but in the meantime, check out the workshops we offer and submit your email so you can keep up to date with what we’re doing!!
After graduating from the Art Center College of Design, Melissa Rodwell embarked on a globe-spanning career as a fashion photographer. She has lived and worked all over the world, photographing for Ralph Lauren, Nike, Coca Cola, Honda, NBC Television, and Dell Computers. Her editorial assignments have led to her being published in Harpers Bazaar, Kurv, Jimon, Flaunt, And Men, Genlux, and Playboy. Simultaneously, Melissa Rodwell has had numerous solo exhibitions in Amsterdam, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Miami.
In 2008, Rodwell started the Fashion Photography Blog. In a short time, her blog acquired a large following of subscribers and readers. Melissa shares her knowledge of fashion photography and gives her readers an inside look at the coveted world of fashion photography.
Melissa Rodwell lives in New York City with her Pit Bull Mia.