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Meet DTLA Photographer: Arayna Eison

Today we’d like to introduce you to Arayna Eison.

Arayna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I moved to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a model and actress but I found that I was constantly faced with the obstacle of not meeting the typical “standard of beauty” in the industry. Once, while at a shoot, I witnessed this well-known and well-respected photographer being negative and degrading to another model. The model was ridiculed for not being “beautiful” enough to meet his standards. At that moment, I decided that I wasn’t interested in the superficial side of the industry and that I wanted to completely do away with this “standard” and focus on real beauty, the kind that comes from within.

After that, I was – what my family and friends would consider – obsessed with learning everything I could about photography. One of the first things I did was contact three photographers whose work I respected and appreciated. I was determined to meet these people, so I sent emails and called trying to make connections. Fortunately, I was able to make those connections. I ended up working for two as an intern and enrolled in workshops given by the other. As an intern, I learned so much about photography, especially the business side of things and it was great to be able to strengthen my technical understanding at the same time.

After a while, I found my passion in portraiture and beauty photography. My heart was lead to shoot subjects in ways that captured their soul. I wanted to focus on the innermost parts of them that were frequently hidden, yet wanted to be seen. My infinity for fine art grew with my talent in commercial work. I gave myself 1-, 3-, 5- and 10-year goals and shared them with my mentors and other established photographers. As I continued to grow as a photographer, myself, my mentors quickly became colleagues because they soon encouraged me to pursue clients and build my own portfolio.

I was always, always, always shooting and using my model friends as muses for my practices. I was doing so much research and learning about opportunities outside of school, I was a sponge to every bit of information about photography available and everyone around me. The way I looked at life and people and things began to shift. I started seeing the world in black and white or image framing. I would critique the quality of light as people stood around living their lives. This is also when I started to really people watch, observing emotions and mentally capturing each moment that moved me.

A part of me feared failure, I’d moved all the way to Los Angeles to chase a dream and I was well on my way, but then abruptly shifted my goals. But, I knew the only thing I had to fear was no longer being my authentic self, so I welcomed each challenge that came my way. I realized that I cannot fail as long as I’m being authentic, I cannot fail at being who I am. And that’s a part of my style, how I decide on subject matter and even lighting preferences. I know I may not be for every potential client, but I know that I’m creating work that reflects who I am. When you purchase my work, you have a piece of me.

I’ve focused my work on projects that give me the space to use my talent while starting, what I hope are, meaningful discussions. I’m focusing on the humanity of elders, the seeds of “strange fruit,” and people’s love affair with music. I think of my photography as my legacy, it’s what I’ll leave behind when I’m no longer around. You won’t always see what I see in my photos, but my hope is you helps you discover a new part of yourself.

Has it been a smooth road?
Honestly, if it was easy, I wouldn’t want it. Nothing about the industry, especially on the commercial level, is easy. My decision to take this journey and share my work was a hard one. Even accomplishing my ultimate goal of being a paid photographer was difficult, it took almost a year before I was able to part with my first print.

There are a number of other factors that make this work challenging. For starters, technology. As technology continues to advance, more people consider themselves professional photographers. It’s a lot easier to break into the industry without paying your dues or really honing your craft as some and it makes it harder for art directors to find people who are truly dedicated to the craft.

Social media is also an obstacle. What could be an amazing way of branding yourself and promoting your work has transitioned into being a victim of popularity equating to validation. Too often, the number of social media followers a photographer has is closely associated with her talent and can determine the kinds of jobs she’s offered. Some of the most talented photographers I know lack a strong social media presence because they’re too dedicated to their craft to really invest in the tedious work of building an online following.

There are also struggles with finding a balance. Being able to find a creative outlet that is nurturing to your soul and establish a career path that is viable can be daunting, to say the least. Trying to maintain passion in a commercial-driven industry is something I struggle with each day. While I’m not at a place in my career where I can turn down all opportunities that don’t align with my passion, I’m trying to create a lane where I can survive solely doing the work I love.

For example, when it comes to portraits, I am dedicated to capturing the moments my subject’s self-perception meets the person they want the world to see., the second those two souls meet and find a way to co-exist. My portraits don’t reflect the end of the story, but the start. I want my audience to look at an image and see the subject opening themselves up for an intimate, and genuine, conversation.

My approach to commercial is a little different as I try to capture subjects outside the industry’s very limited “standard of beauty.” Our world is full of some many beautiful cultures, hues, shapes, sizes and features; yet advertisers are determined to stick to a few pre-approved archetypes. Beauty photography gives me the opportunity celebrate various skin tones, hair textures, and body types while working with brands that believe in my same understanding of beauty.

My most consistent goal is to use my work to celebrate the beauty of humanity and life.

What are your plans for the future?
I am currently focused on completing my commercial beauty portfolio to send to Art Directors across the country. While completing the work I find myself wanting to make sure I don’t just include model standards with various ethnicities. But include people standards of society, showcase various skin tones and body size. It is a very fine balance between the two structures when finalizing your portfolio.

I am planning a trip to Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and New Guinea to capture portraits of indigenous cultures. My commercial work is dedicated to capturing external beauty, but my fine art work is dedicated to capturing the essence of life. It is important for me to stay grounded and not to exist only within the commercial world but to also exist and photograph reality.

I am most looking forward to showcasing my work in gallery show in the spring. I am hoping to be sponsored by my current camera, lighting and paper manufacturer. Such sponsorships will bring a level of attention to my series themes and project that could spark a “unity” movement.

Let’s dig a little deeper into your story. What was the hardest time you’ve had?
I recently was faced with focusing on just beauty photography. It is important to build a name in one genre before showcasing work in another area. I enjoy beauty photography, but my portraits impact people in emotional ways that touch me. Each image I take I give a piece of myself to the subject and to capture them in a way that they can see their soul is very important to me. I was unable to leave that impact behind because it feeds my soul and expression in art is one of the ways I breathe.

In all art forms, you have to balance standards with breaking the mold. You have to make sure you able to speak and tell your story. In fine art portraits, I find myself often screaming my emotions.

What about “Wow-moments” – any moments that stick out? Any moments when you felt like you had made it?
In one year, I had the honor of sitting down or working with Matthew Jordan Smith, Catherine Asanov, Anthony Nex and Matt Sayles. After receiving some feedback from my favorite photographers and mentors I realize how close I was to achieving my dreams. Those dreams became goals and I started taking large strides towards reaching them. 4 of my images were selected to hang in a gallery show and 3 of the four received awards including “best in show”, “best black and white portrait” and honorable mention.

The honorable mention image was my first submission to a gallery show and I set a goal to place in the show the next year. Achieving that goal and sharing it with my mentors was a huge deal for me.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.araynaeisonphotography.com
  • Phone: 323-456-3606
  • Email: info@araynaeisonphotography.com
  • Instagram: @araynaeisonphotography
  • Facebook: @araynaeison

 

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3 Comments

  1. Rainey

    October 16, 2016 at 01:21

    Excellent

  2. Bill Davis

    October 15, 2017 at 23:52

    What i got out of the article is true CONFIDENCE and I am sure you will not be denied. Congrats and see you @ the TOP!!!

  3. Corinne

    November 16, 2017 at 16:16

    I love the shapes your models make within the photo. It’s as if they are lifting off the page.

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