"Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you, and inspire you."
In January 2019, Gaby Deimeke started a photo series capturing the portraits of female founders, creators, dreamers, doers and entrepreneurs in New York City, partly to recognize these remarkable innovators and groundbreakers, but also to learn from them and discover the skills and behaviors linking them to success.
Just over a year later, the first 50 portraits from the series have been completed. The thread that emerged is the determination and resilience every single one of them has to show up every day for their dreams. These women went for it. At the tipping point, they bet on themselves and their ability to create something that could make the world a better place. Gaby hopes that through seeing their stories, you see pieces of yourself, too.
Create! Magazine was excited to catch up with the NYC-based photographer to hear how she built her photography business, developed her signature style, and what inspired her #badasswomennyc series. Read on to learn more!
Tell us about your interest in art and how you got started in photography?
It's kind of a funny story. When I was around twelve years old, my mom gave me her old point and shoot camera to take to a concert. But instead of taking pictures of the band, I shot my first portrait. I'll never forget the moment. I turned around, and there was a girl with a sunhat with colored beads on her head, and she was wearing a lavender tank top to match. She had her head turned and was looking off in the distance. Almost instinctively, I put the camera to my eye and clicked the button. And just like that, I snapped my first portrait. I looked down at the shot in awe. I didn't even have the terminology yet to understand that was a portrait of her face I had taken, but I knew it was something important. I looked up at my mom and showed her the photo. I waited to gauge her reaction. Her eyes got wide and her mouth turned into a frown. "Gaby!" she exclaimed, "You can't take pictures of strangers!" Nevertheless, I kept taking pictures until my parents finally agreed that it wasn't just a phase. I took my camera absolutely everywhere I went: basketball practice in elementary school, summer camp in high school, college parties, and then to London for grad school. And here we are almost twelve years later, and I'm so lucky to get to do the whole camera thing as my career. Every day I wake up and get so excited because I have the best job in the entire world. Photography has been one of the most challenging and exciting creative endeavors so far in my life, and I'm so grateful for it.
How did you build your photography business in its early stages?
I started assisting and second shooting for a wedding photographer in St. Louis, MO during college. It was a great weekend job for me and I gained a ton of experience and knowledge about wedding photography and camera techniques. When I moved to NYC, I knew I needed to get my name out there, so I tried a few different things to build my brand and business. I would DM influencers on Instagram and ask to collaborate: a free 30-minute photoshoot in exchange for them posting one of the photos on their social media and tagging me as the photographer. That worked really well to get me on the radar. I also did a lot of networking, whether it was an ASMP meeting, women empowerment groups, Meetups, messaging people on LinkedIn, and sending out hundreds of cold emails and follow-ups. I have found that persistence really pays off in that sense.
What were some of the challenges and what is your advice to other young photographers?
A big challenge I went through this year was on the business side of things. I have always loved photography, but it was finally time for me to get organized and professional with my business. I hired a social media intern, redid my website, had a graphic designer make templates and pages for my packages, and created a system and processes for every step, from when I get an inquiry until the photos are delivered. That really helped me streamline my business and be able to spend more time doing outreach and projects I wanted to be working on, rather than answering the same questions in emails every day. My biggest pieces of advice to other photographers are to 1) keep shooting and 2) charge what you're worth. If you don't know how to shoot something in a certain way or you want to learn how to edit a photo in a particular style, ask your photographer friends, watch a video on YouTube, play around with your camera and learn new things. Everything you could want to know about photography (and almost anything to be honest) is out there for free on the internet and is only a quick Google or YouTube search away. Don't feel like you have to go get a degree to be a photographer. Your portfolio is what will get you jobs, so always keep shooting and trying to improve and make your images better so you can grow as an artist. And for the second one. If you're getting a lot of bookings and no one is trying to negotiate with you on price, that means you're probably not charging enough. Rates vary between say, a wedding photographer and a fashion photographer, but make sure your price point is in a good place where you are actually profiting.
How did you develop your style?
My style is interesting because I started by shooting weddings, but then I became really interested in people and portraiture during college, and then I studied fashion photography in London, so there's definitely a fashion/editorial element to my work. Most recently I've expanded into concert and music festival photography, which requires a totally different skillset. I think it really just comes from trying new things, shooting constantly, and seeing what you like. One thing I love about photography is that my style and preference is constantly evolving. I see myself using photography as a medium to express my creativity, but overall more as an artist whose goal is to create art that makes the world a better place.
What was the inspiration for your Badass Women in NYC series?
When I moved to NYC, I wanted to do a photo series on women entrepreneurs and founders, mostly because I wanted to figure out what had made them successful so I could use it as a template for my life and business. So I spent a year and a half photographing female founders, creators, dreamers, doers, and entrepreneurs in NYC and interviewed them about their story and success. My goal was to create 50 portraits, and I hit that mark this March. To celebrate, I hosted a gallery show of all 55 portraits and invited everyone who was involved with the project to come check it out.
Congrats on the show! Can you tell us a bit more about it?
The gallery show rocked! Over 200 people came to support, and it was so inspiring to see all these incredible women talking and connecting together at the event. Each portrait had a quote from my interview next to it, so to see advice and thoughts from all of these women all lined up in a row together was very moving. We had pink Badass Women balloons and my friend Anisa gave a speech about why this kind of representation is so important. My favorite part was that a dad brought his seven-year-old daughter to the show because he wanted to show her that she could be anything she wanted. You can check out more from the Badass Women series on my website and you can check out a tour of the gallery here.
What's next for you in 2020 & beyond?
I definitely want to expand the series outside of NYC. I think the next cities that make the most sense for me are St. Louis, San Diego, Chicago, and Austin. So we'll see! I had 15-20 portraits set up to shoot in April in San Diego, but with the corona crisis, it obviously got canceled. Hopefully, I can make some more portraits when it is safe to do so. I also still shoot weddings, mostly destinations. Lastly, my friends and I started a music magazine where we interview artists and do show reviews of concerts and festivals. So for me, I'll always be working on some kind of creative project and trying something new.
Interview by Alicia Puig.