Last Updated on January 22, 2021
Photographic Producer Olivia Oliver makes use of a multidisciplinary approach to her career, and this has led to a great deal of success in fashion photography, commercial photography, art photography, and portraiture.
Oliver has worked with a number of prestigious brands and publications across the fashion and music industries, including Schon! Magazine, TEETH Magazine, Mont Blanc, Ollie Quinn eyewear, and Sony Music.
Before we look at Oliver’s recent career achievements and dive into her creative approach and sources of inspiration, we thought it would be fun to hear about some of her earliest interests within photography and the way those interests contributed to the work she’s doing now.
“In my early work, I was captivated by the process of taking portraits of the people around me, particularly my closest friends. At the time I was heavily influenced by the work of Irving Penn and David Bailey and as a result, I loved implementing clothing in my portraiture and experimenting with fashion over time.”
It’s easy to see how these early experiences helped prepare Oliver for her future collaborations with some of the biggest brands around.
This piece will be a brief look into the fast-paced career of this celebrated Photographic Producer and will examine how she has been able to maintain a unique style and creative sensibility while working in and out of major industries.
Adapting to brand identity
When photographing a client project, a photographer can’t simply let their personal artistic style completely take over, and this has everything to do with maintaining the brand identity of a client.
If you’re not very familiar with the practice of branding, it’s essentially about giving the subject in question, usually an individual or a company, a public-facing identity. This is how the general public will see the brand in question.
Upholding a pre-established brand identity is especially important in the fashion and luxury space, where brands want to communicate the prestige and quality of their products.
So while Oliver makes sure to put brand identity at the forefront when handling a shoot for a client, she doesn’t get a sense of creative restriction, largely because she works with many different brands who present themselves in a variety of ways:
“Brand identity is everything. Being able to adjust and adapt my eye to a client’s vision is a skillset that I pride myself on. Each brand is so different and it’s the rich variation of creativity in this profession that keeps me inspired and passionate.”
Another way to think of this process of supporting a distinct brand identity on each project is by picturing a Hollywood screenwriter.
The screenwriter has their own style, of course, and they have worked on many crime thrillers in the past. But when this screenwriter gets hired to write a quiet drama about a historic figure, it wouldn’t make sense to overwhelm the project with crime thriller tropes.
As Oliver explained above, a successful working artist always does what is best for each project, not just whatever they feel like doing at that moment.
The allure of film and a classic approach
Another decision that has set Oliver apart from many other professional photographers is her choice to shoot on film, and often with the same camera.
This stood out to us simply because there are so many DSLR and mirrorless cameras on offer today, many of them designed specifically for professional use.
While Oliver is very familiar with digital photography and all that it offers, she knew that film photography gave her what she needed to express herself fully:
“While my time in university allowed me to advance my technical knowledge and ability, I came to the conclusion that I will always stay true to the quality, emotion, and feeling that analog photography gives. I purchased my Mamiya RZ67 camera in Chicago a few summers ago and have since photographed all of my fashion photography portfolios using this one camera, one lens, and one type of film stock.”
Recently, Oliver has shown a selection of the fashion work she has shot on this camera at a solo exhibit in Sydney, Australia. She also used the same set up for an album cover shoot with Elle Limebear for Sony Music.
For professional photographers on Oliver’s level, each camera is a tool, yes, but it’s also part of a conversation, if you will, where both the camera and the photographer are contributing something vital to the work.
For any other professional photographers or aspiring photographers out there, none of this is to say that shooting on film is inherently superior. Rather, it speaks to the need for each photographer to make their own creative decisions while finding their artistic voice.
For Oliver, film photography just happened to be the best fit for what she wanted to create and what she wanted to communicate.
If you’ve never seen a professional photography shoot firsthand, you might be picturing a serene and somewhat cold atmosphere, but very rarely does that match up with reality.
Far more often, professional shoots are hectic and somewhat improvisational. Things can go wrong, situations can change, and these difficulties are what Oliver sees as opportunities for creative problem-solving:
“Professional photography is fast-paced and it’s very normal to see challenges arise during a job. It has been ingrained in me to always expect the unexpected and be prepared for hurdles that can arise at any given time. Whether this challenge is a severe weather condition or a last-minute decision from the client to change location, it’s about being aware, thinking ahead, and adapting.”
Being able to adapt as a situation changes made possible by a combination of technical skill of mindset.
On the technical side, if you don’t know how to adjust to, for example, different lighting conditions, then you’re going to be fumbling with your camera(s) and slowing everything down.
On the psychological side, if you get thrown off by whatever changes arise, then you’ll have a harder time staying professional and getting everything done.
But when you’re ready and willing to adapt, you can simply move forward and look for solutions as challenges come up. As you might have guessed, this is precisely what professional photographers do on a regular basis.
Finding inspiration, avoiding stagnation
This might only make sense to any creative professionals out there in our readership, but it’s not always enough to find a single successful creative approach to your craft.
It’s not especially satisfying to repeat oneself over and over and over for the length of an entire career.
How do creatives avoid this? They find new sources of inspiration and use them to avoid stagnation.
Did you ever have a favorite band that suddenly changed styles drastically from one album to the next? That’s a perfect example of avoiding stagnation.
Altering a style or approach brings with it a substantial amount of risk. The audience may not like the change, but for many artists, the risk is well worth taking.
So what inspires Oliver? What helps her discover new artistic directions? Well, in her own words:
“Creativity for me is all about creating from a place of self-expression and experimentation. I love being spontaneous, not putting too much pressure on myself, and seeing what ideas emerge! As of right now, I am starting a new conceptual still life project centered around globalization and I hope to exhibit these prints in a solo show next summer in Los Angeles.”
Those concepts of expression and experimentation are fundamental to the artistic process, and a similar approach has worked for many famous artists in the past, across multiple mediums and styles.
Even better, the need to avoid stagnation applies to situations outside of creative fields as well. We’ve all had times when our routines started to feel too repetitive or constrictive. Making even small changes to the things we take for granted can inspire a great deal of renewed motivation.
While Oliver has learned a great deal from her professional experiences and her personal creative exploration through the years, she made it very clear that her education and aspects of her career have taught her some very important lessons:
“My career so far has taught me the significance of being well educated and the prestige that comes with being an expert in the field. The quality of education and experience I have gives me the confidence to stay true to my authentic vision. But the most significant lesson I have learned over the duration of my career is the importance of having an agent. The support from my agent has been invaluable.”
Not many creative professionals can manage to carve out the kind of career that Oliver has made for herself, and it’s certainly a credit to Oliver’s ability and work ethic that she has been able to become a unique voice in her field and work with so many time-honored brands and clients.
As is the case with any talented visual artist, Oliver’s work always has a bit of her personality, her viewpoint, and her creativity inside of it, and it’s a combination that has become a kind of trademark.