Get to know some of the industry’s top photographers and learn what it takes to capture that perfect shot!
How did you get your start as a photographer? How would you describe your style/aesthetic as a photographer?
I was living in France in 2006. In Paris, and I stumbled into taking photos through a couple friends of mine. Upon returning back to Canada after some years, I met my wife Alina, and she was interested in shooting fashion stuff and working with hair in the fashion world. I just sort of started to take pictures. I didn’t know anything, and I hadn’t done it before, I just became fascinated in photographing people.
I’m completely self-taught; I didn’t take any education. I just figured it out on my own by looking at people’s work and taking my past as someone who is really interested in illustration and painting and tried to bring that into photography.
It’s a difficult question, but I would say my style is very personal. My goal is always to see something beautiful in everything and everybody. Taking pictures is very personal for me, when I’m looking at a place or person, I’m trying to capture something I find interesting or beautiful about them. So, I think my style is very personal.
How did you begin shooting for the Contessas? (When did you first start?) Tell me about that. (Who was your first Contessa client? etc.)
I think it was about 2011, and I was shooting for my wife. She was the first person I shot for the Contessas. Then I met Michelle Pargee after I had been shooting for my wife for a bit, and we started working together. It just snowballed to where I was working with all the best hairdressers in and around Vancouver.
I know you had experience shooting with your wife Alina. How did this experience help you? Did you learn anything valuable from it?
She had experience and interest in shooting before we met, and then when we met it was so cool because we both became invested and fell in love with fashion and shooting pictures. She would help me, and I would help her, and we worked as a team to develop our skills. It was awesome because we could just talk about it any and all the time. It was beneficial for me, and we still work together on a lot of stuff to this day.
I understand you’ve worked a lot with Goldwell and their artists over the years—many who also enter the Contessas. How has working with these clients for the Contessas helped you grow your business?
Michelle brought me in on a program she does with Goldwell. It’s a three-day program where we do an educational class that leads to a photoshoot on the final day. It has given me a chance to work with brand new stylists all the way up to industry veterans, it’s been awesome.
Shooting for competitions has become something I feel like I specialize in. I’ve always seen competitions as a very important thing for hairstylists because it’s such a different experience than being in the salon. It’s the chance to really open up and be really creative. I think there’s a lot of hairstylists who are extremely creative that don’t get to do crazy cuts and colours everyday so it’s nice for them to breakout of working with clients to be able to really express yourself creatively.
Tell me about how you work with your clients on a Contessa shoot. Can you walk me through the process? How hands-on are you throughout the process?
That is dependent on the client. I’m not someone who will shy away from working with newer stylists. So, the process is different for everyone. I like to be hands on. I like clothes, I like fashion and I like pictures so when someone approaches me, I ask them what do you want from me? With my bookings I offer consultations on creative direction, clothing styling, and makeup. I try to be as hands on as possible, I want to give the stylist all of my knowledge so they can focus on the hair.
Someone will contact me; I’ll do a consultation to get an understanding of what category they are entering to give me an idea of where we are heading. Then I will ask for inspiration images from the hairdresser. For my photography I don’t want to copy somebody else so I will tailor my work to what they want. We then take the inspiration and build from there. We figure out what colours, lengths, and textures they are working with and work from there to make it all cohesive.
How do you deal with any differences in opinions that you may have with a hairstylist when it comes to shooting the collection?
I’m lucky that generally when I raise a concern the stylist will know it’s for a reason. My entire job and the reason for me being there is to make the best picture possible and that’s all I want. It’s not about me, it’s about what they want and me making the best picture I can. So, in general, they take my advice into consideration and if they decide not to go with my suggestions, at the end of the day, they have hired me to capture their vision and that’s what I will do.
What do you like most about shooting for the Contessas?
I have so much fun! I get to travel all over Canada, and the people I’ve worked with have become really good friends of mine. It’s this special thing where we are all coming together. It’s not about making money, it’s not about us doing something we are being forced to do, we are all there because we are so excited to do it which is the most amazing part. It’s always an amazing experience, its full of emotion- you get tears, and you get laughter. When a photo comes on the computer and I see a stylist moved by that picture, for me that’s what it’s about. It’s this joyous time we have to come together and create really cool things; I love it.
How do you feel when a collection you work on wins a Contessa? What does it mean for you? Is there a specific collection or winner that stands out to you (and why)?
I’m happier for the hairstylist than I’m for myself. I feel like I’m just there as part of the team to help bring their vision to life. I’m extremely proud of not only myself but of the hairstylist because we worked together to make something that was just an idea or a creative vision, we brought it to life, and we have allowed them to get the recognition they deserve.
My wife’s Canadian Hairdresser of the Year collection that I shot with her really stands out to me. I think she was the second youngest person at the time to win the award. To me that was really important because she worked so hard in the salon and when we were working together, she would spend months and months coming home after long salon days and working hard all weekend, so it was a really important one for me.
What are your top tips when it comes to shooting for collections? Any tips on how to plan a photo shoot?
Number one is play to your strengths, that doesn’t mean if you are a colourist only colour hair, but more so we have strengths so play to them.
Number two is look outside of hair dressing for inspiration. There’re so many things that you can get inspired by, for example architecture. When you look outside of hair that’s when you are really going to change the industry.
I think number three is even if you are just starting out, find people who can help you and who know how to do the things you don’t know how to do. It could even be a friend who knows how to dress really well that can help you with styling if you don’t have the budget to hire someone. Seek out help and find people who can help with the things you aren’t sure about.
Number four, simplicity. Over complicating things can make it a lot harder to make a great picture. You have to understand the essence of what you are trying to say with that collection and distill it down to its basic element.
Lastly, I think seek a photographer that wants to work with you not one that wants to push you in a direction that is not yours. Find someone who is there to help you.
I understand that the pandemic was especially hard for photographers. How did you get through this? Was there anything creative that you did to still be able to work with clients during the lockdowns? (examples: shooting with multiple people/teams on the same day, offering special pricing/packages, travelling to them, etc.)
Honestly just out of the want for safety I really didn’t shoot for clients. I did a few shoots on the editorial side and we followed all of the protocols, and we never had any issues, but I tried to make things on my set as normal as we could, so we didn’t interrupt the creative process.
I did back away from shooting for most of the pandemic because I didn’t want to take the chance of putting something together and be responsible for someone getting sick. I did shoot a little bit but mostly I was editing photos for people which was cool because people had photographs from collections, I did years ago, and we could reimagine them which was great.
To check out Kale’s work, click here.