Get to Know Photographer Inez Lewis

Inez Lewis has been a part of the PLUS Model Magazine family for nearly a year and has produced some of our best covers and editorials.

As a photographer she is passionate about her work and as a curvy woman herself she identifies with the plus size industry. It’s no wonder that Inez has become one of todays most sought after photographers in the LA area.

[Maddy]  You have created a name for yourself pretty quickly in the plus size modeling industry as a photographer. How did you first become interested in photography?

[Inez] It’s funny none of my friends expected this.  The desire to be a photographer seems to have come out of nowhere but when I talked to my brother, he says that he is not surprised.  When I was a teen I always was into fashion mags (I didn’t remember that till he reminded me). I always loved Elle Magazine… that was my favorite.  I would fall in love each month with all the beautiful images.  Other than that I honestly never thought about photography.  I dabbled in plus modeling in my early 20’s.  I thought about getting back into it about 3 years ago and I booked a shoot and guess that I bugged the photographer asking a lot of questions.  He suggested I take a class and that was my start with photography!  After finding photography, I knew I wanted to shoot plus.  Through Chenese Lewis I was introduced to PLUS Model Magazine.  You, (Maddy) where nice enough to give me a chance to shoot an editorial last year.  Plus Model Magazine has exposed me to people all over the country and abroad.  Thank God I found photography and PLUS Model Magazine.  I didn’t know what to do with myself!

[Maddy] Who are some of your favorite photographers?

[Inez] I really am not well versed in who’s who in photography.  I do have a few though that I love.  Okay a short list…

Miles Aldridge – I love surrealism.

Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin – Just plain beautiful and dreamy!

Gary Scott’s studio work – Nothing too complicated but gorgeous!

Let’s not forget about the retouchers.  I do my own and still have a lot to learn.  Retouching can make or break a photo.  I have a lot of respect for those retouch artist out there.

[Maddy] You shoot more than just plus size models… do you feel like you have a special connection with the plus modeling industry because you are a curvy girl yourself?

[Inez] Just like you have a special love for people of your same ethnicity or nationality, I feel a special something for the curvy community.  We share so many of the same things in life.

It’s a bit complex… The desire to show the world that we can be just as beautiful, admired, intelligent, capable, sexy and desired as any of our thinner counterparts, but at the same time we have such issues about our self-image.  I realize people of all sizes have self-image issues but being an overweight majority in a world that puts thin girls on a pedestal is especially confusing and irritating to me. In my personal life and now in photography, it’s very silly to me that it’s hard to find fabulous couture clothing.  I want to shoot lovely plus models in beautiful high end fabrics and colors like what I see in straight magazines, but it’s not out there! (By the way if there is someone designing stuff like this CONTACT ME!). I could go on about this but I think most people know where I’m coming from.

[Maddy]  Some of your covers for PLUS have been fan favorites – tell me about your experience while shooting the Janice Dickinson models.

[Inez] That’s a huge compliment.  I’m really appreciative of the positive attention I have received since shooting for PLUS Model Magazine.

Now to the Janice shoot.  I was really a nervous wreck leading up to the shoot.  After meeting with Reah Norman who styled the shoot I started to feel better.  I did find the location but she came up with the wonderful idea of doing something retro.  I want to make sure everyone knows what a big influence Reah and Mia had on this shoot.  Mia did a lot to help Alana our new model get the most out of her shoot.  Also thanks to Mia, I did not have to deal with Janice too much while shooting.  That left me able to concentrate on lighting and all the other little things that go into making a good shoot. Let me not leave out hair and makeup.  Artemis, Marlene G and Jo Williams did an amazing job capturing what we where going for while dealing with all the cameras.  What a great team I had!

Ivory May being a veteran in this business was of course amazing to shoot.  She knows exactly how to use her body.  It was a joy to work with a pro like that.  I have been wanting to shoot her for some time and am really happy that I got to work with her on this project.

I believe this was Alana’s first big shoot.  She was a bit nervous and unsure at first but then really pulled it together in the end.  Dealing with more than one big ego on the set, all the cameras and excitement, I think she did a great job.  I can’t wait to see what she will be able to accomplish in the coming years.  One of my clients has already showed interest in using her for a campaign.

[Maddy] We chose two very different models for the September Editorial… Ivory being a seasoned model, and Alana being a newer model. As a photographer how do you help to bring out the best in the “newer” model?

[Inez] I think one of the key things in working with a new model is patience!  You have to allow for mistakes.  That comes with every shoot anyway.  I try to make sure the model knows that everyone usually needs to warm up.  It’s okay to feel nervous but then don’t take yourself so seriously and get over it and have fun.  I try to balance giving direction with giving artistic freedom to explore.  The more you shoot the better you become.  Practicing in a mirror is always helpful.  Not just before your shoot but in between looks if possible too when you are new.  Know your body, which of your sides is your best.  Play up your strengths.  Especially in a shoot with a new model it’s important to provide an environment of open communication with all involved.

Let me say that with this shoot for Janice, Alana did not have the luxury of patience and time and she still did a great job.  Kudos to you Alana!

[Maddy]  What are your personal tips for aspiring models working on their portfolio?

[Inez] I think it’s helpful to identify models with similar faces and body types that are where you want to be.  Take what works in their portfolio and then make it your own.  Shoot as much as possible and with different photographers, but be selective.

If you want to be a professional model you will need to plan your career.  I don’t think there is anything wrong at all doing sexy shoots but if you want to be a pro, know that it can lead you in the wrong direction.

And a few more tips… Don’t post untouched photos.  Do invest in a stylist.  Get your model bag together. When you shoot have a clear idea of you what you are going for.   Don’t assume that the photographer will just figure it out for you and you just show up.

Great shoots are not usually created by one person.  Collaborate on a vision and plan it out.  Planning is important.

[Maddy] What is next for you and where will we see your work pop up next?

[Inez] For plus modeling, I’m planning on traveling next year.  I’m working on a trip to Miami in Nov 08 and will come to NYC in the Spring 09.  I’m in the process of deciding what cities I’ll go to next year now.

Besides plus photography, I really love music photography.  I’ve done 4 CD covers and am working on more. I’m building my celebrity portfolio and am shooting a lot of that this winter.  I’ve done a cover for Sister 2 Sister magazine last year and am working on getting in to more magazines.

Most of all I want to show that people of all sizes can be beautiful and edgy.  I’d love to shoot a plus ad campaign that ends up in a major straight fashion mag.  Wish me luck!

View more of Inez’s work on her website www.ilcreative.com