Anna Wolf Interviewed: How to Impress Clients with a Clean and Modern Aesthetics
Since graduating from Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, fashion photographer Anna Wolf has shot with more than seventy of the biggest names in fashion, advertising, and print. They include industry giants like Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine, Levi’s, Microsoft, L’Oreal, and Yves Saint Laurent — to name only a few. She also has shot in some of the most beautiful places in the world, including Italy, Thailand, and Argentina, and even spent a year living in Mexico City to learn Spanish. Currently, Wolf spends her time between New York and Los Angeles. An artist of the rarest breed Anna has been consistently creating Clean & Modern Aesthetics.
When I asked her what has been the greatest lessons photography has taught her, she insightfully compared photography to life therapy. “It is such a challenging path,” she says, “It really makes you look at yourself and your place in the world. Each shoot is so different and you get kind of thrown into the mix with all of these incredible and sometimes crazy people and situations.” And although she knows photography has taken much out of her, she continues because she believes it’s something she was always meant to do.
In this interview, Wolf talks about what photography means to her, explains her approach to portraits, and reveals what it takes to make clean and consistent work.
I love how seamless and clean all your work is. How did you get your start? How would you describe your work?
Thank you Freddy! I started taking pictures in high school – photos of my life and friends hanging out. It’s really interesting to look back at those photos to see that what I’m doing now has a direct link to how I started out. From the beginning, I wasn’t as interested in taking the picture, as I was in making the picture. I look at my work as being this great intersection between fashion and lifestyle – a mix between fashion that is approachable and low-key and lifestyle with really good taste!
Were you ever unsure of your talents? When did you find your visual voice?
I’ve always been unsure of my talents to a degree! Isn’t that the nature of being a creative person? But the longer I make work the more confident and content I feel – I care less about what other people think of my work and more and more I want to do things that I love and that make me happy. It’s a good place to be, but it took me a while. As for my visual voice – I think I’ve always had it. But it took a while to get better at editing my work and to start focusing the work toward a specific direction. When you’re new, you think you want to do everything. But the deeper in you get, the more you realize it’s important to hone in on your style and the direction your work is taking. I’ve learned to separate the work out in the world I love from the work I think I should be doing.
Storytelling has an important place in your work, especially in your lifestyle and portrait sections. This one, for example, harks back to teenage romance and all the thrills that come from young love. Do you go into every image thinking there’s always a story to tell? If so, how do you find these stories?
I think there is a story in every person’s face and I’m always trying to capture something that is real and authentic. So in that way, yes. This shot, in particular, was for a brand called Call it Spring – and the concept for the shoot was indoor/outdoor spaces. We were shooting for the Spring and Summer campaigns – everything for Spring was shot inside with a bit of an outdoor presence – just on the cusp of being warm. Everything for Summer was outside with a call-back to being inside. It was a super fun concept and, Douglas Bensadoun and Reanna Evoy, the creative director and art director I worked with were so incredible and talented. Such an amazing shoot.
You’ve worked with L’Oreal. I’ve always wondered how they get images that look and feel consistent. When hired, do they give you strict guidelines you must follow?
Well, I think they hire photographers that already fit their brand. So there isn’t much of a stretch with strict guidelines. But the L’Oreal team was super clear with their vision and really on point with what they wanted and didn’t want when we were shooting. As a photographer, having a super clear objective from the client is so important. I was really involved with the casting, choosing my team and studio and the dialogue about the direction was really open and easy. We had a reasonable amount of shots to do that day, so it gave us the room to come away with these really soft, beautiful shots. They have a company they run all of their posts through – so retouching went to them which really helps keep the consistent look for the brand.
Your portraits section features many great home environment shots, like this one for example. I love them. They uncover the root of a person. What do you look for when entering a person’s home? What details do you think every photographer should think about when making an environmental portrait?
There’s something so incredible about being a photographer because you get access to people’s lives. I really love getting into the space and really having a look around. Taking my time and looking at what story there is to tell. When I’m doing an environmental portrait story for a magazine (this shoot was for Dumbo Feather Magazine) I like to give them a wide range of options. Tight details and pulled back shots of the space, and the same for the subject that I’m shooting. Scale is so important when putting together a story like this.
Although it’s an ad for Microsoft, this close up seems impromptu. Her expression seems so warm and considerate. How did you find this moment? Was it impromptu? If so, what made you – at that exact moment – want to take her photograph?
Nothing is impromptu! There are exceptions to this – but it’s rare when doing an ad job that there is room for spontaneity. These jobs have so many moving parts, so many people involved. Hair/makeup/talent/producers/locations/lighting etc. etc. – that everything has to be super buttoned-up and planned. For me, the challenge is always to have constraints but to get in there and find that moment in all of the chaos. To really block everything else out and to make it about me and the subject that is in front of the camera. When I can do that it’s a successful picture.
What have been the greatest lessons photography has taught you about life? Any epiphanies while interacting with so many people?
Ha! What a great question. I’ve often thought that being a photographer is like being in life therapy. It is such a challenging path that it really makes you look at yourself and your place in the world. Each shoot is so different and you get kind of thrown into the mix with all of these incredible and sometimes crazy people and situations. You show up to set and have to get the job done regardless of what is going on. I’m a really intuitive person, and because of it I’m hyper-sensitive to the vibe on set. I’ve learned over the years that this is my strength but it can also be my weakness. I do my best to keep my sets fun and drama-free – and focus all of my energy on my clients and talent. I like to keep things super positive and really try to let go of things I can’t change.
A Photographer by profession but an artist at heart Anna is famous for her Modern Aesthetics and the cleanliness she brings to her captures.
Be sure to check out all of Anna’s work on her website!