New York-based Laura Okita is a professional beauty photographer and portraitist shooting in medium format film. Her signature style often is a play on palette and the features of the human face. Make-up is an essential aspect of her portraiture in giving certain auras -- be it from electric colors or pastel hues. The composition's akin to vintage fashion portraiture, such as renowned photographer Yva. In this digital age, the film format's long been abandoned by professionals, opting for the seamlessness the digital medium can provide. Here, we have Laura going against the grain as she brings a breath of fresh air in the professional realm.
Hi Laura, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, tell us more about your film grind. How did it start? What made you stick to film?
I moved to NYC from Colorado after graduating from college for modeling. After a few years living in NYC and working in fashion, I started studying fashion design in NYC. Since I used to be a model, I would photograph myself in my designs. My pieces having been influenced by the 1930s and 40s inspired me to try to take images that felt vintage. I found a 120mm film camera on Craigs List and was hooked ever since. Film has its own life - color, texture, richness or softness. I always like the images I shoot in film more than a digital.
You mostly shoot in editorial portraiture. May you tell us more about your format? Why stick with 120mm?
I have tried 35mm. It definitely has its advantages but the grain is different than that of 120mm. I shoot a lot of beauty and close up or macro shots so I need as much sharp detail with a soft even grain as possible. I really like the feeling and shutter of a larger camera like a Mamiya. The medium format really slows the shoot down to make every shot count.
As a photographer, what's the most important element for you when composing your photos?
The most important thing for me is light. Sometimes lighting inspires me and sometimes it drives me crazy (like being outside on a partly cloudy day) but it really defines the mood, color, everything.
In this digital age, shooting in film easily sets a photographer apart. As a professional portraitist shooting in film, may you share to us how you differ from other portraitists?
I feel that film allows me to achieve the softness that I want in my photographs. I'm very inspired by fine art and I like to have a painterly feel in my images. I find it very difficult to achieve that digitally.
If you can collaborate with any person for whatever endeavor (photography or not), who would it be and why?
I would love to collaborate with Chef Virgilio Martinez. I feel that shooting beauty and food could have interesting similarities. He is not only uniquely creative making culinary works, or art, but to also be able to see and photograph all of the landscapes and locations he explores would be amazing.
What's an ordinary day look like for Laura Okita?
I'm almost always either home working on my computer or I'm at a studio for a photoshoot. The most I ever seem to get out is picking up and dropping off film from the lab. I do all of my own retouching and I scan my film, so the majority of my day is spent doing one or the other. I feel it is an important part of my creative process. I'm living and working in NYC. Whenever I really need a break I like to go back to Colorado. I still do retouching in Colorado though! Same day just different state.
Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
I am just about to finish everything up for the summer. The fashion world mostly goes on vacation in August. This divides the year into the Spring half (January-August) and the Fall half (September-December) I am definitely working on mood boards and shoot concepts now in preparation for when it all starts back up again September.