Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Jimmy Moffat SVA Interview

February 13th, 2015


Ask the experts: Jimmy Moffat

As one of the founders of Art + Commerce Jimmy Moffat has shaped the careers of everyone from Steven Meisel, to Patrick Demarchelier. Moffat’s role at Art + Commerce and his position as co-chair of the School of Visual Art’s MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program, make him the perfect person to provide practical advice for photographers looking to crack into the fashion industry, or take their craft to the next level. His dual roles provide him with a unique perspective – connected to photography’s legendary talents and its innovative upstarts. In addition to questions we felt were relevant for this unique interview, opened the floor to our readers’ questions which came in a wide variety; how do you break into fashion, what skill is the most important for a new photographer, why does a classical education matter in the age of digital – vital questions that Moffat tackles with honesty and wit.

With the deadline for SVA’s Master’s program fast approaching this interview is a must read for anyone interested in a career in photography, or a birds eye view on the factors impacting the industry.

Jimmy Moffat portrait courtesy of Art & Commerce
All other photos courtesy of SVA’s MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program
To apply for the Photography program (deadline is Feb 15 2015 for this session) please visit
A Q&A presented by SVA’s MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program

zane-zhou1Photo: Zane Zhou / SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program

In an age where everyone thinks they can pick up a camera (or camera phone) and become a photographer, what is the benefit of a masters program in photography?

Clearly, just because everyone can take a picture does not mean they can take a good picture. A masters program enables those photographers, who already have a strong knowledge of the technical and creative elements of photography to refine their skills and develop a more sophisticated point of view.

What separates a good photographer from a great one?

I think it is impossible to define exactly what separates good from great, but I would describe some of the difference as an obsessive quality with the ability to show us in their particular way that which they are seeing, feeling, thinking, dreaming. A distinctive and compelling point of view.

siri-sanden1Photo: Siri Sanden / SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program

Can you tell us about some of the notable success stories from the program, or students who you feel will be amongst the next generation of star photographers?

Well, the program is still relatively new and I don’t want to single people out while forgetting others, but some examples – from our first class, Bon Duke is shooting great videos and print stories and is now represented as a director by Art and Commerce, Ina Jang is having great success as both a fine artist and collaborating with brands as she has been shooting for Shiseido while exhibiting her work internationally and has a show opening….. Peter Ash Lee has been successfully been building his career shooting portraits of many great celebrities and artists as he continues to develop his fashion work. Moving forward in years, Paul Jung’s work in moving image and print is seen everywhere, Matin Zad continues to expand his work in advertising, editorial and exhibitions and Matin won last year’s Bottega Veneta competition. Last year, Boom Boom Bryan shot an 8 page self portrait fashion story for Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book.

When you, Anne Kennedy & Leslie Sweeney began Art & Commerce did you realize the impact it would have on the industry as a whole?

Not at all.

siri-sanden2Photo: Siri Sanden / SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program

Describe the kinds of students you feel would be best suited to / benefit most from the SVA masters program?

Again, photographers who have already mastered the basics of image making, who already have been involved in a fashion dialogue and want to develop their own voice as well as start to build a team and have the ability to meet and collaborate with other artists across the different fashion creative fields. Also, to take the opportunity to be connected to the fashion industry in New York and abroad and be taught by and exposed to some of the creative leaders of fashion today.

Over the years SVA has had many notable guest lecturers come and speak to the students, was there any particular lecture that stands out to you as being especially meaningful or of interest?

I think all the teachers who have brought guest speakers to the program would have their own answer to this question and I think it would be most interesting to ask the students. But, I will always remember when Tim Walker came to my class and spoke, not only for how memorable his presentation of work was, particularly some of his own student work that I had never seen, but also because of how clearly and persuasively he explained and outlying the process and value of preparation for a shoot.

What separates the SVA program from photography programs at other universities?

I believe it is the only one in America, at least, dedicated to Fashion Photography.


What do you think the next revolution in photography will be?


Other than the obvious technical knowledge, what do you think are the most important qualities a photographer must possess to succeed in fashion? Is it an editing eye, a strong point view, good networking skills?

An obsession with something that had to be communicated.

How has the industry changed for the better in the past 15 years? And for the worse?

The ability to create moving and still content at a high technical level by oneself at relatively low cost and the ability to share that content immediately and everywhere, though it has its downside, is of course wonderful. For the worse, the imbalance between the power of the wealthy and those who are not has commoditized creativity and expression to a terrible degree.

anna-morgowicz2Photo: Anna Morgowicz / SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program

Where do you see the industry going? Is online publication a viable medium or a launching pad for new talent?

Yes, and really there will always be the need for image makers and always talent will out, even as there are new and more ways to distribute imagery.

As much as training opportunities in the arts (such as the powerful SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography Department program) have become increasingly available, it feels like for artists to truly make it in the competitive fashion industry, networking and personal relationships remain paramount.

What advice would you offer to an emerging photographer struggling to build those critical relationships?

Identify who and what inspires you and reach out to those people or places and focus your energy on making connections with those you truly would like to emulate and do not waste your time or divert your focus with people and places that have no real meaning for you.

anna-morgowicz1Photo: Anna Morgowicz / SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography program

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