IN CONVERSATION WITH CARIANNE OLDER
Interview by Jana Letonja
Carianne Older, the famed LA-based film photographer and pop culture creative director capturing the essence of renowned stars, is shaking up the photography industry with her all-female team and unique journey from Hollywood, Florida to Hollywood, California. Carianne’s story of success, passion, and unique eye shows the world that you truly can have the American dream.
Carianne, what got you passionate about photography?
At the end of the day, I’m a theater kid. I was working on Broadway during the years prior to my career in photography. That theatricality is the foundation of my creative eye. I love making a photograph look like it was taken during another time and I pull lots of inspiration from theater production design.
Can you tell us more about the beginnings of your career as a photographer? How did it all begin?
Growing up, my mom always had a film camera on her. She was constantly taking photos of everything and before long I was doing the same thing. My photography hobby started to get serious when I was working at Abrams Artists Agency as an assistant in the talent department. I was so bored with a desk job, I desperately needed a creative outlet. I started a silly little Instagram account to post the photos I would take on the weekends or after work, and to my surprise it started to take off. Before I knew it, my hobby became my career.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work from?
On my off days, you can likely find me at a concert, a movie, a theater production or a museum. A lot of my inspiration comes from these worlds of live performance. I think the best way to avoid creative burnout is to consume art just as much as you create it.
You have contributed to movements in pop culture by focusing on the female figure as the main theme of your photography. What made you decide to focus on the female figure?
As a woman, I find it important to elevate femininity through my photography. I strive to shoot every kind of woman. My work tends to lean into divine femininity, not just the traditional, and dated, definition.
How would you describe your photography and what makes it stand out?
I creative direct the majority of my shoots. I have a very distinct style and I like to build a world around my ideas. I work closely with fellow creatives, mostly female, who help me bring my creative ideas to life. For the past year, I have worked on a personal project titled ‘Unconventional Clowns’ where I turn my friends and a number of celebrities into glamorous clowns. A lot of the clowns revolve around the personalities of who I am photographing.
As a creative director, you are able to create unique visions with a vintage flavor. What makes you so fond of the vintage style? What do you love most about it?
I love the timeless aspect of producing shoots that look like they took place in a different era. I grew up obsessed with the glamour of old Playboy shoots. There’s such a dreaminess to those photos that couldn’t exist within a modern aesthetic. I want to create that feeling when people consume my work.
You have shot countless high profile musicians and artists. Is there someone that specifically inspired you in your creative process?
For a very long time, I’ve been wanting to shoot Kim Petras. I finally got the opportunity recently at her show in Los Angeles. I feel creatively connected to her in two ways. Firstly, I love that she finds power in her sexuality and inspires her fans to do the same. Second, her discography is a study in the history of pop music. She gracefully dances from one sonic palette to the next, something that I try to do in my own work.
You not only focus on film, but on the importance of building an inclusive industry as you continue to break down gender barriers in the industry. In what ways do you do that? Why is inclusivity in this industry so important?
When I was growing up in Florida, the path to Hollywood wasn’t necessarily obvious to me. I want to be an example for young women who are aspiring to have creative careers. Part of that is how I post online. I don’t gatekeep my techniques and try to make photography as accessible as possible. But it translates into what I do in real life as well. I have taught several photography classes in LA and New York, specifically geared towards developing young female talent. I also recently hosted a panel of young successful women in entertainment at Soho House in West Hollywood. Talent is not limited to one demographic of person. By telling my story, I can show people that success in entertainment is achievable no matter who you are or where you come from.
What would be your advice to emerging photographers who are trying to build their careers?
There are lots of talented photographers who can create amazing work. What’s more rare is good people. That’s how you make yourself memorable to clients and build a good reputation. Yes, do great work, but also make sure you are leading with kindness, respect and empathy. That’s a big part of what cuts through the noise.
What is next for you in your career and your work? Are there any exciting projects coming up that you can share with us about?
I have a few really cool holiday campaigns coming up to close out the year, a notable one I can mention is Playboy. As for the rest, you’ll have to wait and see.