PHOTOGRAPHER PRODIGY OLIVIA BEE
With connectivity comes a rigorous outpour of culture and praise, quickly defined tastemakers and swiftly replaced promises. But, Olivia Bee. There's a maturity and sensitivity to her work, and her own persona, that strongly indicates something beyond the fleeting relevance.
Olivia Bee is one of the brightest new talents in photography, with shoots featured in Vice and Rookie and campaigns for Hermès and Roger Vivier. This young, Portland-raised photographer has quickly cemented herself into the editorial and commercial photography world. A dreamy, nostalgia-inducing style that stands out in the masses as much more than a blatant pastiche. While probing an interestingly beautiful energy, Bee often evokes from her subjects a personal, emotionally-driven aura — bringing to mind the existential understanding of acceptable. Interviewed by CHELSEA MOORE [originally published in SHK circa 02.14, at the time of this interview, Bee was 19-years-old]
I went to an art based middle school in Portland, so we were able to, like, work in the dark room as 11-year-olds, which was really cool. Yeah and just sort of living in Portland, having parents who are very supportive of the arts and that kind of stuff, which really helped. My dad does reggae music at night and my mom makes jewelry and stuff like that… So they’re both very artistic, but that’s not their background.
When It All Starting Clicking.
I just kinda kept working at it, kept really liking it and my dad gave me a really shitty camcorder for Christmas one year, and it also took digital photos, so I was using that a lot to take digital pictures. I was just going to Da Vinci, which was the art based middle school and I just kept doing it, really liking it, putting things on the internet, and then when I was 15, Converse approached me and asked me to do some photos for them.
Shooting Your Friends.
It adds a whole dimension to photos when there’s a relationship between the subject and the person taking the picture. And I also just like shooting my friends a lot better. There’s a level of intimacy and comfort.
I mean, I think definitely, when I first started taking pictures, they were horrible. [Laughs] And they were really sloppy. And I took pictures of things I wouldn’t be embarrassed to take pictures of. I think I’ve become a lot more brave with my camera, but also, just having a more sophisticated eye… My voice, I think is the same. Even when you look at my first photos it’s the same voice it’s just, like, coming through in a different way and it’s just more grown up and more sophisticated. And then also, the obvious, I shoot commercial stuff now and I didn’t when I was 11. But I still shoot personal stuff and I did when I was 11 too!
Next Stop, New York City.
I mean, everything in the world happens in New York, and Portland wasn’t really doing it for me anymore. It’s kind of like where people, young people, go to retire. And Baltimore is like the worst place in the world, that’s where I lived before New York, so I never really wanna go back there.
I had a boyfriend who was moving. But then I moved to New York, fell out of love with my boyfriend, fell in love with New York. [Laughs]
I just think new things are happening in Brooklyn, also it’s cheaper than the city and you can have more space. I like to have space... I just like having a little fantasy land and not just some apartment on 14th and 8th, or whatever, you know?
On Thing We Should...
Check out the photographer Synchrodogs.
You should be listening to the band The Memories.
Your voice is your own so don’t let anyone else figure that out for you.
images courtesy of Olivia Bee