There are so many people that have a hand in making New York Fashion Week work—from models to makeup artists, designers to DJs—but the one person that really brings fashion week to life for those not lucky enough to attend is the photographer. Frazer Harrison is a Los Angeles-based events photographer who has been working front and center at fashion week for the last ten years, but he has also covered the Oscars, the Sundance Film Festival, and plenty of other celebrity events in between. We sat down with Frazer to discuss how it all works. Read on!
Can you tell us a bit about your career and what it entails?
My primary job with Getty Images is that of an entertainment events photographer—I have worked there since 2001, and previous to them, I spent 15 years in the UK working for newspapers. The year kicks off at a fast pace with awards seasons, meaning that I cover most of the major red carpet award events including the Golden Globes, SAGs, People’s Choice. Then we hit the snow and cold for one week to cover the Sundance Film Festival, which includes covering premieres, on-the-street work, parties, and sponsorship events. We fill in a week with Los Angeles premieres and events, and then I go out to New York Fashion Week where I shoot house runway shows for IMG. It’s then back to Los Angeles for the Oscars, a fun week of parties and events, the Independent Spirit Awards, and then the biggie itself, the Oscars. March and April consist of the Academy of Country Music Awards in Vegas, followed by the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in Palm Springs. Summer blockbuster hits us, then it’s the occasional fashion, wedding and baby shoots. We also get to hit Miami Fashion Week, followed by New York and Aruba Fashion Week. October, November, and December are all scattered with red carpet events, parties, and entertainment news, as well as candid shoots all thrown in for good measure. As you can see, what looks to be a glamorous lineup of events is, in fact, an assortment of long hours, travelling, and high-stress situations. That said, I wouldn’t want to trade it in anytime soon. It’s a lot of fun and I do get to see what only a privileged few get the pleasure of experiencing.
Can you walk us through an average day (and night) on the job at fashion week?
Well, on average I would cover 6-7 shows a day—the first starting for me at 10, which would mean arriving at 9.30am, making sure that the taped-down spot has not got a tourist case sitting on it, and then it’s the waiting game, standing on a two-foot-by-one-foot spot in a riser, slowly getting crammed in until it’s close to impossible to get out. The doors to the public open about thirty minutes prior to a show starting, so thus begins another wait until the show starts at half past the hour. It lasts for about twenty minutes, and then we have to slowly break down while the audience leaves at the same time, all in low lights and bodies tumbling all around. Now repeat that six more times until the last show is done, normally around 10pm, and then it’s off to find food, wind down, and sleep, and do it all over again for eight days.
How has the atmosphere changed at shows since street style photographs became so popular?
It seems a little busier in the Lincoln Centre courtyard than when the event was at Bryant Park, but they shoot something that I’m not required to shoot as I’m pretty much exclusively runway photography.
What would you look for in a street style subject?
If I was assigned to shoot that then I would be looking for street-smart fashion—both men and women—elegance, beauty, and anything that stands out and would make a great picture.
Do you ever come across people waiting for a street style photographer to take their picture?
Of course! Wannabe designers will stand around with models and look for exposure, and then you have the ‘out there’ fashion people who you can’t ignore as it will always make a chuckle on social media.
Once you have your subject, how do you “capture” them?
With fashion, a lot of the images you shoot with a style in mind. I like to go the long lens, out of focus background—eliminating the distraction of buildings and people in the photo. Sometimes the urban setting can be used to make it cooler, but that takes more time to set up and most of the time you only have a few seconds to get the picture, so I play it safe and go with what works. Fill in flash shorter lens will give you a red carpet feel, so a lot of the time it’s personal choice on how you are going to create the image.
What is the craziest thing you have ever seen during fashion week?
Crazy… well, we had fur protesters storm a show a few years back. This year a front row guest needed medical assistance and had to be carried over the runway during a show. And a couple of years back, I was standing on a riser at an offsite show which started to collapse during the show. We shot through it as it kept dropping, suddenly, every few moments, but we held out. I think about 100 photographers held their breath that show. I know I did.
Is there anyone you just love to photograph again and again?
I love shooting the Hollywood legends—Clint Eastwood, Warren Beaty, Kirk Douglas. Those are the Hollywood stars that gave me my love of cinema, so while they are still among us, I get a huge thrill out of shooting them.