Perspectives in Fashion Imagery: An Interview with Sierra Pruitt
If the intersection of art and faith could be embodied, Sierra Pruitt would be that person. A Portland-based photographer specializing in fashion, portraiture, and editorial, Sierra’s life and work carry purpose and intention, the overflow of which is her creative passion and innovation. She is currently transitioning to England, where she is continuing her education at the London College of Fashion.
Tyler: Photography wasn’t your first choice. How did it become your passion?
Sierra: I was studying theatre in college because I wanted to become an actress, but I wasn't really passionate about it. During my second year, I started taking pictures with my iPhone, posting on Instagram, meeting other artists, and just experimenting as much as I could. So when I got my first camera, I just wanted to create something, anything. I found myself drawn to portraits – I loved taking photographs of people to convey expression, emotion, and body movement. I gained confidence by posting on Instagram. Friends, family, strangers, and companies were taking notice of my work and encouraging me with their words. God had given me a gift to express His beauty.
What led you to fashion photography?
I started dabbling in fashion photography after visiting London. It was a completely new idea to me. I have always been in love with fashion, it has been a huge part of my life, and the main source of my inspiration. But I never really thought I would choose to create imagery for fashion. I looked through magazines, designers collections, runway shows, photographers, editorials, any form of fashion communication and I started creating right away.
Your transition from a theatre major in Portland to a fashion school in London hasn’t happened overnight, and it wasn’t necessarily seamless, either. How did you navigate these decisions?
I looked into programs at my university in Portland, and there wasn't a photography program or anything really close to it. I didn't want to waste my time on a degree I didn’t want to pursue. So I quit and started my freelance photography business. My parents were supportive about it and saw my growth being out of school.
Initially, I was an advocate for not ever going back to university, because I was self taught and already succeeding as a freelance photographer. But after visiting London, my whole view changed and I wanted to study fashion photography there. I realized I knew little to nothing about the industry, studio lighting, and just freelancing in general. I needed schooling not only for the technical aspects, but how to conceptually think about fashion and its relation to photography. I also realized I’d be creating connections in the industry I couldn’t make on my own.
How is fashion photography different from other styles of photography? What goals and challenges does it present?
It pushes boundaries. When you watch runway or look at a fashion designer's work, it's different. You wouldn't really see people on a normal day wear what’s being showcased. But that's it – fashion is artistry, not just clothes you wear daily. It takes more innovation and imagination to create imagery that really stands out, which is the challenge, but that’s what I love about it. I feel like it’s a more creative avenue then the photography I created before (lifestyle/commercial). Fashion photography is weird, disturbing, and edgy. I love that. It demands the viewer to think differently. It's a story. You are not only showcasing clothing, you are telling a story through the fabric and movement.
What sets you apart from other photographers in your style?
I create imagery that isn't objectifying or very sexual. I don't like to promote nudity or lust, which I think is very apparent in fashion imagery you see today. I want to stand firm in not objectifying women sexually, and that sets me apart from others in photography.
For some, the fashion industry may be a provocative environment to enter. How has your church community responded?
I have been encouraged by my community to follow my calling. I've gotten more praise then negative feedback. People see how the fashion industry is broken and materialistic. I was worried even choosing a field that is very materialistic in nature. But I believe I am suppose be in a industry you don't always see God in. He is working and we need Christians to be the creative minds behind these huge industries. People see that, know who I am, and know what I stand for.
Where do the avenues of creativity, faith, and fashion intersect for you?
Christians should be on the top of creativity and innovation because we are created by the creator – the God who created everything. We have 24/7 access to Him. The fashion industry needs followers of Jesus to break the gap and share Jesus through this medium.
Jerry Lorenzo (Fear of God) is a perfect example of a man after God through his fashion line. He has worked with huge brands and celebrities in the industry. He is changing the way people view God and is changing the fashion industry. It gets me so stoked because it's a testament that God is doing amazing work in fashion!
As an artist, I should be creating work that pushes boundaries and challenges my creativity. I’ve been challenged in every way and it has been so worth it. The day I put heart and meaning into my photographs is the day I found purpose in my work. God put me in the right place and has used this opportunity to show me my true potential as a photographer. I am called to create this imagery, to change perspective, and bring a new story to fashion photography.