The Fashionista Photographer
Name: Thato Lehoko
Class Standing: Junior
What made you decide to study photography?
I grew up around cameras. My dad had a camera, and I liked playing with it. It was like an old film camera. I was probably shooting just absolute nonsense, like blurry pictures all the time; they were terrible, but that was where I started.
So, did you ever get those Polaroid cameras and was film a thing from that point on for you?
I think the Polaroids are more fashionable today. As for film, I used the old ones where you had the really long rolls of film and you would lay them out and develop them. I never developed them; I just kind of gave it to people to develop.
What inspires you the most, or what has inspired you to pursue photography as a career?
Probably things like, I know it’s cheesy, but America’s Next Top Model and other shows like that because the photographers inspire me to carry on. I love the styles and photos they create. I also have an affinity for random photographers on Instagram.
Do you just follow photography people?
Oh no, I follow several; I follow lifestyle and power lifting—basically, I follow people who share my interests like that. There’s this one guy I’m looking at specifically, like I looked at his work, and I love it so much. His name is “queduong”—he’s very minimalistic, which is kind of like my style.
How would you describe minimalism in photography?
For me, it’s like a lot of empty space. It can be closed and it can be near, but not too many colors either. For my style, my main colors are black, white and gray. I either dress in those colors or a lot of my pictures consist of those colors. Then maybe I’ll end up adding a splash of color. I’m trying to go more into color, but we’ll see how that works out.
So you like simple colors. Cool. So if I ever wanted you to take photos for me, do you have photo-shoots for people?
I tend to do shoots if I have a class that requires it; I’ll ask people I know, “Hey, can I take a picture of you?” But if someone wants a personal photoshoot, I normally don’t deny them. I don’t usually charge people, because I’m still in school and students are still in school, but if an outside client asks I won’t hesitate to name a price.
You said you do fashion photography. Does that mean your clients need to be super fashionable to schedule an appointment with you?
Absolutely not. Actually, it varies depending on the assignment or what I feel like shooting that day. Usually, if I’m shooting fashion it fluctuates from lifestyle to dressing down to high fashion to just intense clothes. I’m still working on pinpointing what I feel most comfortable with. At this point, I have no idea, but I feel like it’s more toward a minimalistic high fashion genre. I’m going to give myself a couple months to kind of figure that out.
Where do you draw that passion for photography from?
I guess my goals, because I have a lot of set goals. They will probably change in time and the places I go, but just wanting to be able to reach a level where I can just easily pick up a camera, shoot, edit and know that the picture will be great. I really just want to reach that level. I want to say success, but at the same time I don’t want to make it sound like I’m just taking photos for the money, because I’m not. I want people to be able to see my picture and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s her style.”
You mentioned having goals. What’s one of your biggest goals?
Probably to graduate with my Master’s after my Bachelor’s. Also, to become a fashion photographer in Italy. That’s a further out there goal, but it’s there.
That is so cool that you want to work in Italy! When would you want to go?
I would give myself a year after my Master’s, because I would still want to relax and go home and be with my family, and then I would go to Italy. I think I will go back and forth, however. I’ll go when it’s the right time.
Why do you want to go to Italy?
I went there a lot when I was younger, because I lived in the Czech Republic. I was relatively close to Italy so I would go there during holidays to visit family friends. When I would go there I just loved the environment; it’s beautiful. It’s also the “fashion hub of the world,” although there are places now that are getting huge in fashion too. So, I guess it’s the main classical area where there’s fashion. After I get my Master’s it’s definitely where I want to go to grow my experience, and then I’ll go to other places in the world, but that’s where I want to have my main base.
I can tell you like to travel! Have you been several places lately?
I usually travel during summers. Depending on where my parents are, I will visit them during the summer. I tend to go home in South Africa every December, because that’s usually where all my friends are, and I can just relax there. It really just depends on what’s happening.
You take your camera with you everywhere you go, right?
I do, and I just got my new camera so now I really do take my camera wherever I go, because my other camera was OK but I love my new camera. I’m more attached to it.
Speaking of investments, it’s probably hard for freshmen to get a new camera. Should they start saving right away?
Yes, that’s one thing I wish people had told me: to save for a camera. When I was a freshman, being in the program, I thought I needed to get an expensive camera. I would have rather used the introductory class cameras for that long and then have enough money saved for a good camera. Some people buy a camera because they just like taking photos, and then they spend way too much money on a camera. It’s much better to wait, save and when the time is right, buy the camera. You can save up to a thousand dollars if you do your research. You can get a camera just as good, if not better, for less money. I didn’t do research before buying my camera, but it’s okay, it was a good mistake.
So, for someone who is majoring in Political Science, for example, or another non- photo major, you still suggest they take a photo class?
Yes! It really does help. As an art student, it’s easy because it’s within the same field. But if I was doing something else like psychology, it’s not really my thing, like a biology class—it’s something new and it’s cool. So then I learn more about it. Especially now because everything is photos. You can just walk outside and take a photo with your phone, and take an amazing photo, but it’s even better when you have the knowledge of photography with that. Because then you don’t really have to think about the photos you’re taking and your pictures turn out so much nicer. You start taking photos because of more specific reasons instead of just because it’s a nice photo. It’s a nice thing to have under your belt.