Shirley Yu Interview

Finding new people in the fashion industry at one point became a past time of mine. I’d search for new photographers, designers, and model and then catalogue their information some where before continuing to search. One photographer I found during that time was 16 year old Shirley Yu. A young photographer, Shirley is already making a bit of traction in the industry shooting mostly tests for modeling agencies like Red, Request, Elite, and Ford. She admits that her proudest moments yet have been when her work was featured on popular fashion blogs Fashion Gone Rogue and The Ones 2 Watch. Right before releasing the debut issue of her new magazine Youth and Freedom, Yu agreed to answer a few questions for me.


MoaGB: How did you get into photography and why at such a young age?
Shirley Yu: I practiced photojournalism after buying a used DSLR in 7th grade. I then began to love taking pictures. It wasn’t until I looked at Richard Avedon’s work that I became interested in fashion photography. Why so young? It’s one of those fun things that its like if you could do it at sixteen, why not? Most of the models I’ve shot were teenagers anyway!

MoaGB: Do you feel as if the industry has been receptive of you and actually values your work?
Shirley: Just being able to go this far in fashion photography must be some sort of sign that they do.

MoaGB: There are increasingly amount of young people getting into the industry at a very young age, namely those like yourself, Tavi Gevinson, and your partner in crime David Urbanke, do you attribute this to anything specifically? Do you think the rise in technology has contributed to this?
Shirley: Tavi is awesome, just sayin. But I definately think the rise in technology 100% controls the influence of all the young people coming into the industry (unless they come from really rich and powerful families). I don’t think I’ve obtained as much of an internet following as a lot of other young fashion people, but I do tweet a lot and write on my blog sometimes (that no one reads) haha

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MoaGB: Speaking of Urbanke, the two of you have recently released your own magazine so what prompted to start your own publication of all things?
Shirley: It was started to showcase some up-and-coming talent and also to be able to work with established fashion photographers. David started it as the Editor in Chief, but I hopped along as assistant editor because I’m a huge magazine junkie and I completely die for fashion editorials.

MoaGB: After you had the concept of the publication how did you put the rubber to the road and actually go about making YF a reality?
Shirley: David first made the website and we began talking to other fashion photographers, coming up with plans, getting submissions, making a Twitter, calling in favors from all our fashion friends, and then insanely promoting the magazine. After everything, David put together the layout of the magazine. That’s how the first issue was created.

MoaGB:When going into a shoot do you come into it with an idea of what you want to do? I’ve been told that some photographers are very regimented and have each shot planned out whereas others really just allow it all to happen on the set; do you fall into one of these categories, or do you do things differently?
Shirley: I’m pretty spontaneous about shooting. I have a general idea of what I want, and I get inspired mostly by the model and the location. I definately don’t plan every shot, I cant even imagine that!

MoaGB: How important a part does post production play into your shoots?
Shirley: I hate retouching so I’ll do as little of it as I can get away with. I try not to overly screw with colors and lighting in post because I just want the photo to look like what I saw with my eyes that day.

MoaGB: Are there any ongoing influences that you have, whether specific people or just concepts?
Shirley: Well I’ve been shooting mostly male models for the past four months with about two female models every month. Shooting has been a huge binge of boys…but I’m currently trying to balance it out more!

MoaGB: I’ve been told by many others that relationships often play a more important role than talent when it comes to be successful monetarily in this industry, do you feel this way? Do you have any personal experience with the issue?
Shirley: In my opinion it’s only 51% about your work (maybe less?) and the rest is just who you know or how important your friends are. You definately can’t work in fashion without the connections to back it up. Monetarily, I wouldn’t know anything about haha but ive discovered this year that knowing important people who can get you into fashion week shows/presentations is always fun 😉

MoaGB: What advice would you give someone looking to get into photography?
Shirley Yu: Just develop good taste by developing a list of favorite fashion photographers (then constantly follow their work). Don’t be tacky!

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