Emily Stein is a London-based photographer, who at a young age has already worked with companies like MTV, Vice, French Connection and Vogue to name a few.
Her work has taken her all around the world, creating a beautiful portfolio of happy, pure and poignant pictures of people from all walks of life. Stein has a friendly and relaxed rapport with her subjects, so the creation of We Are Photogirls by Stein and her business partner, Celia Willis, couldn’t have been better suited to her style.
Established in 2005, We Are Photogirls was set up to provide a medium in which young girls create their own fashion shoot. They’re taught how to take photos, apply colourful, ambitious and dramatic make-up, create unique styling, and perhaps most importantly, how to appreciate one's self-image. We Are Photogirls encourages girls to believe that:
Everyone is beautiful.
You don't have to be six-foot tall and a size zero.
Everyone has a unique style and beauty that should be encouraged and celebrated.
We Are Photogirls has recently published a book titled DIY Fashion Shoot, a guide to recreating their eccentric shoots with step-by-step details on art direction, styling and on editing. We spoke to Emily Stein about her previous work and ventures leading up to the creation of We Are Photogirls.
When did you start considering photography as a serious profession?
When I was in my last year of uni studying Fine Art I did a project with some traveller girls on a site. I started to photograph them as they were obsessed with fashion - I felt so privileged that these girls let me into their lives and so inspired that they let me photograph them. After that project there was no looking back. All I wanted to do was take photographs.
I then went onto doing an MA in documentary photography at The LCC and from then did anything to get into the industry- worked in photography studios, assisted photographers (some of whom were pretty tough to handle) and made my own work and sent it to magazines until I got my first shoot for Dazed & Confused. Randomly, that was the day I met my husband who was in the band I photographed.
Your work outside of ‘We Are Photogirls’ plays a heavy focus on youth, within the young and old - what drew you to this?
I am drawn to people who express a lot of their personality in their own style and the way they choose to dress as well as people with unique and particularly interesting faces. I think young and old people tend to be more open about who they are and how they feel - when you are young maybe you haven’t built up so many barriers and when you are older you let go of some of them - I think there is an honesty in the young and the old which subconsciously draws me to these subjects.
Do you have any prominent influences in regards to your work?
I love so many photographers - from fashion photographers to documentary photographers. I was probably particularly inspired by Diane Arbus and her biography - she wandered the streets of New York and immersed herself in the lives of those who were often seen as outsiders.
Does your work promote positive self-image within young girls?
YES. This is our number one priority. It is so important to promote positive self image and for girls not to feel they have to live up to retouched standards and celebrity culture. Girls have enough pressure on their shoulders and enough confusion growing up. This message is really important for us.
What was the most memorable piece of advice you were given when you started to take photos?
I didn’t really feel I had much advice when I started taking photos. I was working in the fashion industry and was very put off by photography by some of the people that I met and how they would treat you because to them you were a nobody. Actually maybe that was a good thing to learn as it taught me to never behave like that or to feel I had to try and become part of that world to make work - to follow my own path and believe in myself as that’s all you’ve got really.
And what advice would you give to a photographer in the making?
I would say that being a photographer is HARD. You will get constantly ignored, turned down and feel like a bit of a loser. For a long time you will have to do something else to make your living but make sure it is something that inspires your work or that you could document as part of your work. If you are working in the industry be thick skinned and don’t take anything too personally. Work hard and keep working hard and don’t give up
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
The incredible people you meet from all walks of life that you would never meet otherwise.
DIY Fashion Shoot - We Are Photogirls is available to buy online. Check out Emily's website here.