It's safe to say UK-based Olivia Bossert doesn't do things by halves. Not only is she a successful photographer, working with brands such as Barbour, Joules & White Stuff, she is also a blogger and teacher. Olivia runs a series of courses for budding photographers who want to start their creative career on the right track. We sent her the New Petzval 80.5 mm f/1.9 MKII Art Lens and some Lomography films to test out and she talked to us about the importance of using the power of imagination to create work that's personal and unique.
Hi Olivia, welcome to our Online Magazine! Could you introduce yourself to our community?
Of course! Hi, my name is Olivia Bossert, and I’m a fashion and beauty photographer based in London. I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, but moved to the UK 10 years ago to study here, and its been my base ever since. I first picked up a camera when I was about 15, after stumbling on flickr.com, and over 10 years later, I’m still as addicted to photography as I was back then. As well as being a photographer, I teach other photographers about the business of fashion photography - which I love!
As a fashion photographer, it could be easy to overlook the emotional aspect of photography and focus solely on the products. However, we find that your photos also tell a story – what’s your process behind that?
Oh thank you so much, storytelling is a massive part of my work. For years I felt like there was something missing in my work but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I had a mentoring session with a photography consultant who pointed out that my photos lacked much of a story. They were pretty…but that was about it. Something clicked that day so I went home and began to write out literally stories. I’ve always had a very vivid, active imagination and used to (possibly still do) tell myself stories in my head about things I would do, or could do.
In the last two years, I’ve started taking the stories that I make up in my head and creating editorials based around them. It’s added a whole new level of depth to my work and has really elevated it. And it makes the whole team much more involved because the model can put herself in character, the stylist can pull clothes which will fit that character, and the hair and makeup artist can ensure that the makeup suits that character. The important part is to keep it all fashion, and not fall into the trap of making the images too theatrical. It’s about having a hint of a story, but not have it be overly obvious. It’s a fine line, but one that I’m really enjoying pursuing.
What does the photoshoot of your dream look like?
Oh my goodness, I have so many dreams. I went on a trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe two years ago and absolutely fell in love with the locations out there. Most of my work is shot on location, as that really helps me to tell more of a story in my work, and my imagination was running wild out there. The light was unlike anything else I’d ever seen before.
I’m planning to take a trip back out there with a full team, and models and do a full fashion shoot. Covid has put a stop to that plan for the time being, but as soon as I can make it happen, I will!
Everyone is talking about the analogue revival. Is it something you’ve also witnessed in your professional life? Do you receive more commissioned work asking specifically for campaigns shot on film these days?
I’m so happy that analogue is having such a moment again! I’ve actually always shot on film as well as digital, and throughout my time as a photographer, analogue has always been something that everyone aspires to, but seems to be quite intimidating to my generation of photographers.
I’m really happy to see more and more young photographers showing an interest in shooting on film. And yes, I absolutely am receiving more interest from clients in having me shoot their campaigns or editorials on film. You simply cannot recreate the look and feel of film digitally (at least I’ve yet to manage!), and most of my clients are always after that nostalgic, dreamy vibe that film brings to any shoot.
You tried out one of our Art Lenses for the first time. How was your experience with the Petzval 80.5 Art Lens compared to your regular lenses?
I’d never, ever used a lens quite like this one, and it definitely had a small learning curve to it! But once I’d grasped how it worked, I loved it. My work always veers towards being soft and romantic, so this lens, with its ability to create such soft, dreamy backgrounds absolutely suits my work. The images that were taken on it definitely stood out from the rest.
It was also your first time trying out the LomoChrome Purple and the Color Negative 100 films. How did that go?
I am absolutely in love with the Color Negative 100 film - that’s going to be a permanent addition to my kit! I adore the sharp colors, and it really suits my work, which is generally quite bright and colourful. The LomoChrome Purple film was a lot of fun to shoot with as well! I put that in one of my little point and shoot cameras, and snapped away with it for about a week. Some of the shots were hit and miss, and it reacted strangely to some colours, but I really really love what it did to green fields! It made some of the shots I got look really dreamy, so I was very happy with that.
You are very active online and have made your mission to educate less experimented photographers on the behind the scenes of the industry through online classes, a newsletter, a podcast and tons of templates. We absolutely love that! What are the most common questions you receive?
I love to teach, and working with other photographers to help them find success in the fashion industry is very important to me. It can seem like a very intimidating, strange industry if you don’t know it, and a lot of photographers tell me that it feels very out of their reach. The biggest question I often get is how to get consistent clients, or how to start making money as a fashion photographer, so I have two online courses that focus on those topics. One is called “First Fashion Client” which is perfect for beginners who want to better understand the industry, and follow a step by step strategy for getting that first client.
The second is called “Pitching With Confidence” which is about how to effectively pitch yourself to brands and magazines. When I was building my career in the early days, I found that the most effective form of marketing that I did was physically reaching out to my dream clients, and asking them if they wanted to work with me. I literally went from having never worked with a brand before, to working with some of the biggest brands in the UK in under 6 months! Photographers began to ask me how I’d got so much work in such a short space of time, so I put together a super in depth online course which walks you through every single step that any fashion photographer needs to get them from never having pitched before, to pitching their dream clients and landing life changing jobs. I still pitch myself all the time today, and it’s absolutely the most effective strategy out there!
Is there anyone you look up to as a mentor or inspiration yourself?
I admire so many people, both in the photography world and outside of it. Betina Du Toit is a fashion photographer based in Paris that I adore. I’m also a big fan of Agata Pospieszynska. Outside of the photography world, I follow a lot of entrepreneurs, so I take a lot of inspiration from people like Erin May Henry, Alex Beadon, Alice Benham, and Elizabeth Stiles.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
I’m about to open up the doors to Pitching With Confidence again (19th of October if anyone is wanting to join the course!), so that’s always very exciting when it comes around. Otherwise, I’ve got a lot of shoots booked in, both campaigns and editorials, so after a long period of being quiet because of Covid, it’s nice to feel busy and back at work.