Today we speak to
Stefanie Djie, a New York based photographer from Singapore.
Yanda: Tell us what do you do?
Stefanie Djie: I am part of a photography team (Stoltze and Stefanie); edit a 400-pages glossy biannual, S Magazine as well as the content for its S online channels; and run our 2500 sq feet. photography studio on Bowery in New York City.
I am always interested to find out what does a duo really means. Profit splitting or there are actually more good to it?
The way I see it, it’s not just about the profits. Being a team means that we get to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.
While we work together on refining concepts and ideas, Jens (Stoltze) and I focus on different areas for all our productions; I tend to the pre-production elements – deciding on the creative team, mood-board references, initial ideas, producing the shoot while he focuses on technicalities, lighting decisions and eventually, the post-processing.
On working with clients, we play up our appeal to the different genders. Jens gets away being sauve dealing with women, and in those scenarios, I take the back seat. I like to think that we’re just being smart about it (as sexist as it sounds).
What was your background and how did you ended up as a photographer?
I have a family who, despite having no understanding of the Arts, are supportive of my decisions (As a child, you have no choice over your experiences).
I was always interested in studying pose, body-language, semiotics and group dynamics. I am a very visual person; I love to observe trends (photography movements, seasonal runway trends etc.) and subtle motivations communicated through ideas and human behavior.
Knowing that I don’t possess the patience of a painter, nor the linguistic abilities of a sociologist and coupled with the bookish nerd in me (love speed-reading manuals), I felt like I’ve always had the temperament and stamina of a photographer. Which to me means, to be constantly on the move, to enjoy a speedy progression of your work and having the natural attraction to aesthetics.
There’s a saying that a good photographer needs to be a wanderer. What are your thoughts on this?
I think being a wanderer expands minds- any artist can benefit from archiving experiences, referencing cultures, seeing different lights.
By wandering, you are able to build context to your work. And I think that’s very important in our contemporary culture.
What about your editor role at S Magazine? How did it all get started?
S Magazine was established in 2004 in Copenhagen, Denmark. We like to think that we give freedom back to the art and fashion photographers; it was started for artists to create without boundaries and seasonal trends, be published and have an international dialogue.
I slipped into the role of an editor when Jens asked for my help with curating the online content after our beloved long-time online Manager Emilia, stepped down. It then evolved to more responsibilities when I proved too efficient (…for my own good, Hello Product of Singapore!) and now work with a small team (There’s just five of us) on all creative-decisions.
Was it part of a business plan? And was it vital for your practice or just for entertainment?
I would love to say we like to plan; but being a self-funded independent publisher largely means we cross the bridge when we get there.
What sustains you and the magazine?
Good wine to decompress, and New York to energize. Every day I am enthralled, and every day I am thankful. I have been living there since 2009, and I draw sustenance from the crazies in New York, the observations of new concepts popping up every week, and most importantly, the new people I meet every month from very diverse scenes and communities.
Describe your work to us?
Subtle ideas and sensitivity to how the photograph is lit.
Studio space at Bowery, New York.
Does the place you are residing at influence the art you produce? How different is it like back in Singapore?
I love New York for its relentless pace, the constant energy, and am very much spoilt by the proximity to multiple options at any given time.
Each project has a fast turnover and you are frequently commissioned at a short notice. Fashion photography is a team-effort; my art is only as good as the weakest link; therefore the proximity and opportunity to work with the best in the field directly influences my work.
I think people are the biggest difference to working in NY (versus Singapore). You have access to a larger pool of excellent collaborators you can work with, at any given time and opportunity. Your collaborators or assistants are the very same circle of people who produces for international titles; that access to the best of the field supports the quality of your work.There’s also more of a can-do spirit; because if you don’t take the opportunity, someone else will in the next second.
Is it harder out there?
Anywhere is tougher, than where you have the most comfort, no?
Do you feel you are at the most creative or better of yourself when you are out of your comfort zone?
When I’m out of my comfort zone – a physical place where I have my support network – I feel like an explorer. I start observing my settings differently, but I don’t necessarily think that’s being more creative if you put productivity or output in the quotation. Honestly, I get ideas but I don’t think I create a lot while out of my comfort zone.
So how is it like being back in Singapore for your show (at Canvas)?
Its always nice to be back and see friends and family. The Canvas team is really supportive and its been a great experience preparing for the show!
Any (good or bad) changes you can spot?
About Singapore? I live off a one-lane street in the East, and since I visited last year, there’s been way more traffic than it ever used to be for the past 20 years I’ve been there. There’s also a plot of forest that has always been there since I was born, that has recently been torn down for yet another condominium. I miss that… I do find it refreshing that there are several FnB concepts that are maturing to take upon an identity more than just being a copy-paste take from somewhere.
You will always think of and see, Home differently… There’s always the memory of what it used to be and the highest expectations of what you know more inherently.
Any work you wished you own or have created?
There is no one singular work I wished I owned or created, I am excited to see how my style will develop over the experiences of time….
Historically, I am a huge fan of Helmut Newton’s vision of a strong sexy woman who is fully aware of her sexuality and power. He changed a stereotype of a woman in fashion glossies, and established an entire genre of Fashion Photography.
Aesthetically, we are in different times (where sexuality is more prominent in media, Photography is less of a craft, and Technology has aided the overall Consciousness). I think we are in a period of exciting changes and technologies, it will be interesting to see where this cognitive surplus will lead us… creatively.
Any peaks on your next project?
Complex just named a project we did as Best New Fashion Ads for the season, alongside Heavyweights. We’re in the process of getting represented. I am excited to work with the dynamics of having an agent and being able to prioritize and focus on creative projects!
“On the Bowery” opens at Canvas tomorrow. Stefanie will be presenting an artist talk with her partner from 7pm at the venue on Saturday, 11th October.
More details here.