Speaking with Lucy Helena, we ended up discussing her senior project from art school. It was 2015, before her move to New York, before her success working at the TriBeCa Film Festival, CollegeFashionista, and her current gig at BravoTV. Looking over this project, I had to double check the year. Her photos from the project looked as if they were shot yesterday. She was ahead of the game, the current trends of photography, and had a heavy Instagram following from the apps get-go. Her friends pushed her to go further, and she had an inspiring passion for portraiture.
“I had one professor who told me what I was creating was not art… but that was one man’s opinion and that wasn’t going to stop me.”
When did you get your first camera?
When I was in the eighth grade, my dad got me and my friends a photoshoot for my birthday. It was one of those just very glam shoots, but I was obsessed with how the photographer was working. I knew I wanted to do what he was doing. A week later on my actual birthday, my parents gave me my first camera, a little Canon Rebel.
From getting that camera, when did you know you wanted to become a photographer?
In the 11th grade, I went to this summer program at NYU for high school students. While I was there, I met all these amazing professors. I was working with other students from all over the country, and I really got to work in a studio for the first time. I was working with these other kids that were so much more advanced than me, but we were still creating together and learning together. That was when I knew I was going to pursue photography.
You have a very unique style of portraiture. How did that come about, and have you ever had any pushback from that?
I grew up in a house in Pennsylvania surrounded by woods, and we had one neighbor. It really influenced how I started to create my visuals. When I went to college at the Tyler School of Art, I found myself leaning toward commercial and portraiture photography. This became sort of a push-pull in college of pleasing myself, but also pleasing the professors because Tyler is a fine art school. I had one professor who told me what I was creating was not art. I remember leaving the class being so hurt, but then thinking, that was one man’s opinion and that wasn’t going to stop me. After that experience, I knew for my senior project I had to work on something that would please them, but mainly push me out of my comfort zone. I needed to make my photographs stand out as portraits. That’s what led to me using color, lights, and fabric in my photos— this developed that dreamy quality you see in my work today.
After this project, what really launched you out of college and into your career as a professional photographer?
During my senior year of high school, Instagram was coming onto the scene and I loved it. We were all so new to it and didn’t realize the impact it would soon have on my career. I had a friend from home who was always on Instagram’s popular page. We started taking pictures and grew our followings together. By the time I was in college, I already had about 50K followers. I used Instagram to grow as a photographer and, even then, I truly cared about the content I was putting on display. I knew what I was showing to the public was going to be a reflection on me. I ended up getting a job right out of college at the TriBeCa Film Festival working on their social media. From there, I worked with CollegeFashionista and then onto NBCUniversal. Now, I’m working with more prominent brands, like UrbanOutfitters, and clients like Chloe Lukasiak, where I have a bigger platform to create an impact. At the moment, I’m using my passion for photography and love of curating content to run the social media accounts for my best friend, Tylyn Taylor, who just published her first book You, Me, and Her // @youmeandherbook.
What does it mean for you to be powerful?
My friends. The support I get from my friends is the only reason I can do what I do. For example, if a big company reached out and asked me to do a campaign, my instinct would be to say no, because I struggle with self-doubt. It’s my friends who remind me to look at all I’ve accomplished and what I’m able to accomplish. They give me the courage and support to move forward. That, along with clients who leave a shoot with me satisfied. When I shoot someone and they express their love for the images, and they are genuinely happy with the result, I’m reminded why I do what I do.