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Erika Astrid


Photographer: Erika Astrid @erikaastrid Stylist: Shalev Lava'n @shalevlavan Model: Sara Cummings @saracummings @storm_la Makeup: Daniele Piersons @danielepiersonsbeauty Hair: Ashlee Rose @ashleeroseboots Camera: Leica S (Typ 007) with Elmarit-S 45 f/2.8 ASPH. (CS), APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120 f/2.5 (CS)

German-born photographer Erika Astrid believes that the energy of a shoot is palpable in the resulting images. As with all her work, in this independent project she set out to capture the character and emotional complexities of her model and, ultimately, herself. In doing so, she strives to break stereotypes and expand our idea of beauty.

How did the shoot with Sara Cummings come about?
I’d been wanting to do a shoot with her while she was still living in NYC but it never worked out, so when I went to LA and saw that she was there, we finally made it happen. I love finding muses and then building the shoot around them.

With this being an independent project, how did you assemble your team?
I do a lot of personal projects and always work with amazing artists. We just want to create art, and doing so without a brief from a publication or client gives us much more freedom. There are a lot of people who I regularly work with, and I also have a long list of people I would like to collaborate with, so it’s usually pretty easy to get a great team together that just wants to have fun.

What are the qualities you look for in a model?
I’m always looking for something special – the model has to inspire me. I’m not keen on conventionally pretty models - that would be too predictable. I prefer models with an interesting look, who really know how to move and are not afraid to let loose.

How long have you been working in fashion photography, and how did you start?
It all started in 2012 when I moved to a tiny town in the US. I was running my own clothing label and had no-one to shoot my collections, so I just started doing it myself. That’s when fell in love with photography. I’d already reached the point of wanting to move on from designing, so it felt very natural to switch to photography.

How would you describe your visual style, and how did it evolve?
I never know how to describe my own style, but I guess I like to create some sort of fantasy and tell a story, as opposed to simply photographing a girl in front of a wall. I love making mood boards, and I usually conceptualise characters prior to the shoot, so the model can immerse herself in a specific role. With Sara, the main focus was on capturing her essence, and doing something a little out of the ordinary.

Over the past few years, there seems to have been a shift towards greater diversity in fashion photography – both in front of and behind the camera. What is your perception of this development?
This has never been an issue in my work, because I’ve always favoured unusual looks over the classic ‘pretty face’ anyway. We are humans and we are all different, so to me it seems like a no-brainer that people who don’t fit the conventional stereotype should be represented in fashion photography. But it’s nice to see the industry is catching on, so that every face you see no longer looks the same.

You have previously shot some editorials with the Leica S007. What was that experience like?
Yes! I loved it and I didn’t want to give it back. The camera is definitely heavier than any other camera I have used but the images are so beautiful and soft. I love how the focus is not perfect, but rather like a film camera. The operation is pretty simple, without too many buttons or functions, which I also love. Overall it's an amazing camera and I’d shoot with it anytime.

You are the founder of the online platform Kunst Magazine. What can you tell us about it?
I started KUNST in January 2018, but I had been dreaming it up since 2015. I knew that I wanted to give other artists a platform to showcase their work without any client-imposed restrictions. But it took me a long time to come up with a name that was just perfect – which seems silly in hindsight. I started as soon as I had the name, and it has been growing super fast ever since. Next step will be to grow my team and to go into print, which might even happen this year.

You’ve done numerous fashion shoots in Los Angeles. What are the main differences between the world of fashion photography in LA and NYC?
I used to go to LA for shoots quite a lot when I still lived on the West Coast, before moving to New York. I’ve also just been back there for a job in August, and that’s when I realised that I need to be bicoastal. LA and NYC are polar opposites. NYC is fast and rough, and LA is super slow and soft. LA is about being pretty and sexy, and NYC is more out there and weird. I love bringing my European/NYC eye and vibe to LA, and I think the people I work with really appreciate it. I’m actually moving to LA soon. I love NYC and everything it has been and done for me, but it’s time to move on.