Written By: Jayme Face
Jennifer Graylock is an amazing photographer who has photographed the red carpet to magazines such as Vogue to now her own furniture line. She talked to us about her exciting career and even recently winning the Timothy White Photography Award at the Hollywood Beauty Awards!
upfrontNY: How did you first get interested in photography?
Jennifer Graylock: Oh, that was back to the early days, I guess in high school. I wanted to draw realistically and I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t have that skill and then one day I was introduced to photography and everything just fell into place. That’s how it started.
upfrontNY: So, what specifically got you into Fashion and Entertainment?
Jennifer Graylock: I’ve always loved fashion. I loved all the fashion magazines forever Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, lots of Vogue. I’ve always loved those publications and I loved the photography. It was always very creative and very interesting and different and not the typical type of photography that you would see in maybe a photographer’s studio down on main street. That just got me all excited because it was closer to fine arts photography than your typical photography. I just blossomed from there.
upfrontNY: So, being part of fashion photography and red carpet events, does that influence your personal style and what is your personal style?
Jennifer Graylock: It does to a certain extent until I see the price tag and then that kind of changes my personal style. To be a little more serious, I do learn a lot from what I see at the fashion shows and what I see with the fashion designers trying to create and bring forth because they are all artists as well. To see what they come up with, it allows you to realize that I can wear two different patterns at one time and I’m not going to look like a silly, fool walking down the street. It totally works. So, you learn things that fit with your work or your everyday work or client work that isn’t too outlandish that still keeps you looking fashion forward.
upfrontNY: Could you also talk about your personal art style and business style a little more?
Jennifer Graylock: The business style it’s hmm how do I explain that? When I photograph somebody, I’m trying to bring out the person. At the same time, if I’m working for a client I’m trying to bring out the person and what the client wants me to get at the same time. The most recent one, I did photographs of Nicole Kidman at the red carpet during the Oscars for a high end jewelry house and they wanted Nicole looking very happy and beautiful and just red carpet perfect. My job was to get her with the ten seconds I had her in front of me and to get the shots that they could use.
upfrontNY: I was going to ask what makes the perfect shot, but I guess that depends who you are photographing for?
Jennifer Graylock: It’s not necessarily who I’m photographing for, what makes the perfect shot it’s that moment in time. You have to be in tune with what you’re doing and focused on what you’re doing in order to get that particular moment because it can never be duplicated. Once it happens it’s done. So, you have to be ready for it, you have to be prepared and when that person is in front of you, you have to be able to get them to give you that eye contact, to give you that connection within a very quick amount of time.
upfrontNY: So, is there any moment or photograph that really stands out to you over the years?
Jennifer Graylock: You know there’s been so many; it’s so hard to narrow it down to one. That’s really tough just to think about it. In my mind millions of photos are going through my brain now and I can’t just narrow it down to one.
upfrontNY: Is there a specific type? Do you prefer red carpet vs. an event or for a magazine?
Jennifer Graylock: For me those are all different categories. So for an event the most awesome event to do is the Oscars. You can get into a situation where you may not be able to get the person that you need to photograph because someone is pulling them away from the red carpet to do an interview so you never know what you’re going to get. And you have to be prepared to get everything you can possibly get within that type of situation. When you’re doing something in the studio, you don’t have that problem. You have the person in front of you and you have to work with them. You have to create something that is long-lasting that the client is able to use, for whatever they need to use it for. Then the fashion and the fashion shows, if I’m doing a look book for a client and it’s the model walking down the runway you have no chance for failure. You have to get everything the way the fashion designer envisioned it or you don’t get paid and you never get hired again. So, that has its own set of rules. Then you have the backstage photography, which is the beauty. That is a situation, where you can actually set things up to get what you want, but again you’re in a situation where you only have ten/twenty seconds, with let’s say Gigi Hadid, and your client is a big designer and they expect you get certain things within that period of time you have with them. You just have to knock it out and be able to do it.
upfrontNY: Talk about high pressure!
Jennifer Graylock: It is. It’s very stressful. It’s very high pressure because if you don’t get the shot you fail. So you have to just be able to know what you need to do and be able to get that done to be able to have a connection with a model whether it’s Gigi and or some other model. Even the young models that may have never modeled before, this could be their first big show and it’s like their debut and they’re all excited. They may not know how to deal with that type of atmosphere that you’re in; it’s like you’re in a packed subway car trying to get that perfect shot and you have to get that connection with that model instantaneously and make it work.
upfrontNY: In this world where everyone has a camera on their phone and with social media, everything is so instant does this impact, change or influence the world of photography at all?
Jennifer Graylock: Oh, absolutely. You get two things that happen, you get the instant gratification that everybody loves and then you get the quality which not everybody loves the quality of an iPhone photograph. They want to be able to have something better. You can get the shot with your iPhone and then the client will say ‘Oh, but we want to blow this up for a billboard.’ Well, I’m sorry it’s not going to work for a billboard. We need to use the regular camera to do that. Or you get into a situation where you’re working with the client and you’re doing everything with your professional set up camera equipment. Then the client comes to you and says, ‘It looks too good. I need you to use your iPhone instead.’ So, it could work on either way. Both have happened to me. It changed a lot, a lot of it is the instant gratification, newer clients, younger businesses, or we need the picture taken right now, but when they see what the quality looks like when they get their instant gratification they like to take a step back and go ‘Oh, I didn’t realize this. Oh, that’s not what we wanted. We really wanted something that looks better.’ Then you’re with the client going ‘No problem. We’re going to do it this way and then we can do other things to modify the image to work for your Instagram or your Twitter or whatever or another campaign you’re working on and then take it from there.’ I do social media campaigns for clients. We will go in and do a scenario and in a week, we will do enough for a six to eight month social media campaign. Every day, every couple of days, they can send out images. It’s a lot of stuff. For one client, I had a celebrity, we had to do a produced shoot in a studio for social media. We had to do thirty different set ups in four hours. It’s a lot and they had a game plan. They had to be able to use these pictures for ten months so it went from spring to Christmas to Halloween to summer to fall, all done within that four-hour period of time in the studio. It was quite a logistic scenario to set up, but we did it and the client was very happy. It’s a different world nowadays. It definitely is.
upfrontNY: You have been all over the world and have done a lot it NYC; what sets New York apart from everywhere else you’ve worked?
Jennifer Graylock: Oh, New York, it’s the energy. It’s a very addictive energy to be there. Everything is going on at one time. You can do anything that you could possibly imagine, you could do photo shoots on the beach within ten minutes of Manhattan, mansions, brownstones, cobblestone streets, indoor studios, outlandish locations like the Morgan Library, the Met museum. I mean there’s so many places that you could photograph all within a tiny geographic area.
upfrontNY: Who and what inspires you?
Jennifer Graylock: I take in inspiration from a lot of different areas. As far as from the fashion world I take a lot of inspiration from Patricia Field and Anna Sui. They’re just so eclectic with their ideas and the way that they deal with fashion and how they look at things. I find that very exciting and it’s funny to see their styles and their passions that have been the same. Basically it’s the same theme they’ve had ever since they’ve begun and now I’m seeing it in Balenciaga, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, these different places that were always much more conservative. Now you’re seeing them being more creative, lots of embellishment. Just to see it, you look at it, you look at the patterns the colors the use of semi-precious stones and crystals and gold threads and other things; it’s just amazing.
I was fortunate, one time, I don’t even know how this happened. I was backstage at Valentino, during couture collection several years ago, and I walked over to Valentino and I told him Oh my God! The clothing here is incredible. I have to tell you it’s just beautiful and just give you my accolades. I bow to you. He laughed and he goes, ‘You love the clothing.’ I go Yes, it’s beautiful and he goes ‘Come I’m going to introduce you to each person who created each piece of clothing’. He had a set of seamstresses on each dress. Each person did the beading and the beading was done in corals and semi-precious stones. Up close you could see it, it was incredible. Far away it just looks like bead work, but the attention to detail was amazing. He held the show for an hour to show me everything and I kept on telling him, during the whole process, because he was making me nervous I don’t want to be blamed for holding up the show. I kept saying I have to go get ready to photograph. He goes ‘They can wait. You like my clothes. I love that you like these. I am going to show them to you. It was just amazing. Luckily there was like twenty/twenty- five looks so it wasn’t like a hundred looks. We did the whole thing and he showed me everything and I was just flabbergasted and amazed. Then he goes ‘Okay, get your spot and then I’ll start the show.’ So, I ran, got in my spot. I’m a nervous wreck like Oh my god I can’t believe what just happened and I saw him wave at me from the back-stage area and I gave him the thumbs up and the show started. It was surreal and amazing.
upfrontNY: And we can’t go without saying Congratulations on winning the Timothy White Photography Award at the Hollywood Beauty Awards! Can you tell us more about that and what it means to you?
Jennifer Graylock: It’s like words can’t even describe how much that meant to me! There’s no awards that are given out to the photographic community that’s coveted like the Hollywood Beauty Awards. It’s almost like our Oscars. To be nominated alone is just amazing because I know everybody out there that works every day in the red-carpet area. I know how hard everybody works and for them to find me and say hey we think your work is worthy of nomination it just blew my mind! Then to actually win it I’ve just been on cloud nine ever since. It’s amazing, not only for the photography, but the hair and make-up artists, stylists and everybody who’s behind the scenes that creates that image people look at, but nobody realizes how much work goes into getting that particular person to look a certain way before it gets into the magazine.
upfrontNY: Tell us about your furniture line.
Jennifer Graylock: I create furniture utilizing my photography. I take a photograph of maybe it’s a celebrity, maybe it’s some Koi fish, or some abstract design of like a flower-pot or something and I create fabric. Then I find the right type of chair that goes with it and I pair the two. I create what I call functional art that people can sit on, they can use them, they’re in their home, they’re different, they’re exclusive. It’s not something you’d find anywhere else and it’s utilizing imagery from my archive. I think there’s close to two million images now, after all these years. It’s just a lot of fun and it’s so creative because the chair frame is a frame. Instead of having your art photography on the wall you have it on a chair that’s in your living room. You can look at it, you can sit on it, you can touch it, you can feel it and when it wears out you can throw it out and get another one. It’s an exciting way to view photography and to actually use it.
upfrontNY: And perfect for New Yorkers with not a lot of space.
Jennifer Graylock: Yeah, it’s true you can just keep redoing the same chair. It’s been a lot of fun because you know I go into furniture stores and I look at interior design magazines and to me all I see is the same old same old. I see the same chair in leather that’s either black, white, red, any color. I see the same couch that’s done in the same type of fabric; the styling may have changed a bit, but I never see anything that’s very unique and different and eclectic. That’s how I go about making my furniture. You should take a look at www.facechairs.com. I take topical images of people in the news and create my take of the humorous. I have my Donald Trump chairs. I make fun of him. I have my Hillary Clinton chairs. I make fun of her. I have my celebrities. I make fun of them. So for me everything is all about enjoying, laughing, having fun, making fun of something and if you get a set of four or five chairs you can have all your favorite celebrities have dinner with you every night, if that’s what you want for your dining room. It’s just a lot of fun. Every time I create one I usually laugh hysterically because it just cracks me up.
The chairs were on an episode of Billion Dollar Buyer. That was fun, that already aired in February.