Fashion Week with Jodi Jones
Thursday September 20th, 2012
by Maria Luci
I step out of Penn Station excited for the day ahead. I had been invited to Merecedes-Benz Fashion Week by one of our top fashion photographers, Jodi Jones, who I quickly learn is somewhat of a fixture at the event. It seemed like everyone knows Jodi—and everyone loves Jodi. I was excited to tag along and spend the day in the life of a New York fashion photographer whose work has been in Vogue, Time, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and more.
But before I could dive in, I had to find my way in the city. After miscalculating the distance to our first event, I end up jogging to get to the Daisy Fuentes show on time. A bit sweaty, I check in and wait for Jodi to arrive. Soon enough, the petite photog walks through the door. Jodi’s stature may be small, but her presence is large, and it seems that everyone knows her. As well they should, as this is her 24th season documenting New York Fashion Week. She knows the scene so well that she was asked to help recreate Fashion Week as an adviser on Ugly Betty. When she first started, Jodi was one of the only female photographers in the “pit” and her years of hard work have helped pave the way for women shooting runway. Her energy, talent and drive have propelled her to the top of the fashion photography world. When I ask Jodi if it’s still a male dominated profession, she tells me that it’s a bit more even now, with many female fashion bloggers shooting the shows as well. She adds that being a female actually helped her out early on, as the male photographers were more deferential and less likely to shove her aside for a prime spot.
At the Daisy Fuentes show, Jodi sets up her “turtle”—a small stool she uses to claim her spot at the end of the runway—and grabs me to go backstage. She seems to go wherever she pleases, and although she holds the credentials to do so, I get the feeling she could walk backstage just about anywhere. I’d been told by other photographers that Jodi doesn’t take no for an answer, but her confidence doesn’t seem conceited in the least. Watching her work, I can see how she’s navigated this environment so successfully over the years. Her laid back vibe is a breath of fresh air in all this chaos. As soon as we pop past the curtain she grabs her Nikon and begins shooting the models as they’re primped and preened and tells me that this Fashion Week she’s shooting more creative shots along with behind the scenes beauty for a project she’s working on with Hasselblad. When she gets what she needs, we head out to examine the sponsor tables and grab swag. Jodi jokes that she gets all of her makeup from fashion week.
Grabbing a macaroon from a sponsor table, Jodi heads to the pit and asks if I’d like to sit with her. I try to snag what looks like an open spot before being chewed out by several photographers who not-too-gently assert that I’m in their way. I quietly retreat and take a seat for the show. Jodi later concedes that the biggest challenge of shooting runway isn’t the act of shooting itself, it’s in understanding the pit. “There’s a certain hierarchy to it,” she says, “it’s very much about working with other photographers and negotiating those two inches of shooting position, as much as it is being firm and standing your ground. The pit is a crazy place and you need to understand the politics and psychology.”
Once the show ends, everyone quickly files out and we leave for the Lincoln Center. In the taxi, Jodi and I discuss how she ended up as a fashion photographer. It turns out she came to New York to be an actress and after a few experiences in front of the lens, was asked to assist a local fashion photographer. After he brought her to fashion week she put together her own portfolio and began getting hired herself as a “house photographer.” She adds that “shooting as a house photographer means you work directly with the designer and always get whatever spot you want; it trumps all.” Jodi now often shoots as a contract photographer for the Associated Press and ZUMA Press. She laments about how crazy fashion photography is now, and how little they get paid these days adding, “I have clients getting calls everyday from photographers willing to shoot for free.”
Jodi checks her phone one more time and reviews the itinerary of shows we have full access to. She also answers emails from friends asking for passes. Once we arrive, we walk past a gaggle of fashionistas and fashion photographers. Inside, there are more sponsor and swag tables and even a spot to get your hair blown out. I take it all in, including Joan Rivers filming an episode of Fashion Police. Everyone looks fabulous.
I check in and Jodi runs ahead to get a spot in the pit. This venue is much larger and I cram into the back of the Milly by Michelle Smith show just in time for it to start. It’s wild—not so much the fashions, but the sea of spectators and photographers snapping away. The shows themselves seem all too quick, and the day is filled with a lot of “hurry up and wait”—but it’s exciting none the less. Celebrity faces pop up but I’m more interested in watching how the photographers work. It’s ordered chaos, all of them crammed together, viciously guarding their spots and shooting like there’s no tomorrow. And even though I didn’t get a warm reception there, Jodi does. She brushes off any gruffness from other shooters, admitting there’s a lot of “attitude” in the pit, but it doesn’t bother her. “You have to deal with egos every time you enter the pit. Over the years, I’ve made friends with all the regular top photographers and I understand how the game is played.”
After Milly, we end up on a patio where we chat with other photographers and stylists and everyone complains jokingly about the sponsor being a diet soda instead of an alcoholic beverage. Then it’s on to two more shows, Anna Sui (which I don’t even have a pass for, but Jodi sweeps me in with ease) and Vivienne Tam.
For Vivienne Tam, Jodi once again takes me backstage. The room is packed. It’s hot and tight, and photographers are crammed together with models and stylists. Not having eaten since the morning, Jodi and I inspect the spread of untouched food. I snag a cupcake and she grabs a dish of pasta before snapping a few more shots. Later, we line up with the other photographers—”like cattle” says Jodi—to get into the Vivienne Tam pit. Eventually a security guard gives the word and everyone rushes in. It’s mayhem—photographers running and shoving. I once again attempt to stay with Jodi but decide to take a seat in the fourth row instead of fighting tooth and nail for a spot I don’t strictly “need.”
After the last model departs the runway, Vivienne Tam comes out for the obligatory wave and the crowd exits. Jodi and I leave the Lincoln Center and walk across the street to the Empire Hotel. On the rooftop, we grab drinks and chat about the day. I ask Jodi what she thinks outsiders would be surprised to know about Fashion week. She replies, “it’s not as glamorous as one would think. Sure, you’re surrounded by the industry and there are cool parties and such, but Fashion Week is really hard work.” I completely agree, but as exhausting as the day may have been, it was still amazing to walk in the shoes (or should I say heels?) of Jodi Jones, fashion photographer.
View more of Jodi’s work at jonesimage.com.