Marissa Findlay has had a unique, behind-the-scenes view of the fashion industry her whole life. As the daughter of local fashion legends, Elizabeth and Neville Findlay, founders of ZAMBESI, Marissa is a respected fashion photographer and producer, shooting for New Zealand’s biggest brands.
In the third interview of our capsule collection series of behind-the-scenes interviews in the lead up to NZFW, we spoke to her about a life spent in the fashion industry.
You grew up around fashion and creativity. Did you always know you wanted to work in the industry?
Yes, I was very privileged to be immersed in the fashion world from a young age. When I wasn’t at the boatyard with dad, watching him sand and varnish, or listening to Rod Stewart on the radio while he tinkered away on his car, I was sitting under mums sewing desk, designing clothes for my dolls or backstage at show fittings and fashion shoots. I do, however, remember really wanting to be a truck driver until about age 10.
I guess that changed when dad gave me his Pentax to borrow. I used to dress up with my friends and we’d take pictures at the bottom of the domain by the old train tracks.
I still have those pictures and they are actually pretty timeless! Mum had a huge stack of Italian Vogue’s and I would rip out pages of the amazing black and white fashion spreads of Linda, Cindy and Naomi by Peter Lindbergh and stick them on my wall. Lindbergh was the first fashion photographer that inspired me, and he still influences my work today.
What does a day in the life of a fashion photographer look like?
Shoot day for me would be:
When I arrive on location and have met the team, I brief my assistant on lighting setup, then I’ll chat with hair and makeup to direct the models look and talk about lighting, go over looks with the stylist, test the model in the setup and start shooting.
I love working within a creative team, I’ve made such great friends in this creative industry and it’s always fun and refreshing.
Photography in the digital age is also a lot of editing and processing, a lot more than when I first started and was shooting on film.
I used to love turning up at the lab, collecting my film back from the night box that thrill of seeing what you’ve created after 24 hours of anticipation, hoping everything has turned out well!
Visiting the lab to order and collect prints was also hugely social for our industry, I loved bumping into other photographers and having catch-ups, helping each other edit, seeing what everyone was up to.
With a finite amount of film for each shot, a lot of skill and consideration is required, compared to shooting digital with instant results.
The flip side of this, much more time is spent in front of a screen, processing and grading, uploading and sharing files, I miss the social side of visiting the lab every day.
Where do you prefer to shoot: in a studio, or on location, and why?
It really depends on the direction of the shoot and what we are shooting.
I love a good location and natural light, I like to discover and make use of a location in a unique way, something unexpected, and there is always that special moment that will happen by chance. A simple background can make for an incredible image with the right model, I’d say I’m in my element on location, I love to shape and manipulate available light. I am very particular with my casting and styling so that all elements have synergy.
Do you have a photo/campaign that you are most proud of?
AH! Too hard! I have loved so many ZAMBESI campaigns, I think because I’ve always had creative control. Freedom gets the best results, I’m so lucky to be trusted 100% by the ZAMBESI team. I also had creative freedom working for Black Magazine, the late Grant Fell was always supportive of my work, he and his partner Rachael have an eye for talent and they nurture it.
What’s the best thing about being a photographer?
Instant art haha! I am so impatient! I was accepted to Elam and ended up going straight to Unitec to study photography because I didn’t want to do two years of all the other mediums.
I used to paint but I’m too impatient to let it dry, I want to capture what my mind is imagining instantly, I’m a very fast thinker and I need to get the images out super fast and the camera can keep up!
When someone looks at your photography, what do you want them to know about you?
That I am committed to producing the very images best each time I shoot. That I am passionate.
What would be a dream collaboration for you?
Getting to shoot again with make up artist Aaron De May, who is now one of the worlds most influential make up artists, and his partner, stylist Dean Voykovich.
I met them when I was 18 assisting on a test shoot with the late Craig Owen.
Dean found out I was related to ZAMBESI and decided I was his new BFF haha, but beyond that, we all had an amazing connection and produced some incredible work back then that really pushed the boundaries, they were 100% supportive of my work as a young photographer. I miss them so much! I have so much gratitude for my time with those two.
I also want to mention my BFF Terzann Elliott, she is incredible to work with because she’s open-minded and willing to work fluidly in the moment, and that suits my style of allowing things to evolve organically on the day.
TRUST THE PROCESS. That’s always the best way to collab.
What are you most looking forward to about NZFW 2019?
The amazing people I work with!
You produced and directed the ZAMBESI show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. Can you tell us the differences between MBFWA and NZFW in terms of show production?
When you’re producing a fashion week show, what does the build-up to the event involve?
TOO MUCH WORK NOT ENOUGH SLEEP.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever been given?
Love what you do.
Any advice for anyone wanting to become a fashion photographer?
Love it for the right reasons.
Where can we follow you?
What don’t you leave the house without?
My dog, Dusty!
New Zealand Fashion Week 2019 is running from Monday, August 26 – Sunday, September 1. Stay tuned to The Last Fashion Bible for the lastest NZFW updates.
All photos courtesy of Marissa Findlay