Prodigy 18-year-old photographer: ‘I want to evoke nostalgia in everyone’
Olivia Bee may be young, but her work has been sought after by some of the world’s most iconic brands.
“I’ve worked for Converse, Nike, Subaru, The New York Times,” the 18-year-old professional photographer from Portland, Oregon, tells The Weekly Flickr. “I did a really big feature for Hermès this summer, which was really amazing to be trusted so much by such an iconic brand.”
When Olivia snaps her camera, she has one ambition: “I want to evoke nostalgia in everyone,” she says.
Coming from someone with less than two decades of life experience, that may sound a bit sophomoric. But just take a look at her photos and her resume.
“I am really inspired by daily life and the beauty that that can hold: like the way someone holds their pencil or the way someone smiles at their best friend or the way someone walks down the street,” she explains. “I am very influenced by the ’60s and ’70s, and also the styling from the ’70s really influences the way I put colors together, but I think that you can see that I shoot through a young lens.”
She got her start in photography by accident while in middle school at just 11 years of age.
“I wanted to be in video production, but they gave me photography,” Olivia explains. “It was kind of like the best mistake that could have been made by my school counselor, because I just, like, fell in love with this art.”
But her love for the medium did not come immediately.
At first, “I was really frustrated with it,” she says. “But then, slowly I became less and less frustrated and more determined to make really nice photos.”
Shortly thereafter, she began to post her images to Flickr. “I just really liked to show the world what I was seeing,” Olivia says.
“I was a freshman in high school when Converse approached me. Their ad agency kept sending me Flickr messages, and I just kept ignoring it,” she says, explaining that she thought the messages were spam. “And so finally, Converse emailed me directly and was like ‘Hey, this is Converse, we wanna shoot with you’ and I was like ‘Whoa, I know about Converse.’”
Before she knew it, they invited her on set for a photo shoot. Olivia was just 15 years old at the time.
“I was so scared,” she recollects. “But by the end of the day, I was like, ‘You can do this for a living?! Sign me up!’”
“Being so young and working in the fashion industry is really great,” she says. “I get to work with a lot of amazing brands, a lot of amazing people, but it is also hard because when I am hired for a job or I am working on my own photo, I give it 100%, sometimes 500%.”
Olivia works roughly 80 hours a week and gets really involved in all her work. She likes to do all her own styling, color correcting, editing, casting, and set design. She is also very often her own muse.
Despite the long hours and tireless effort she puts forth, she loves what she does.
“I love photography because it is a way for me to really to show my life to myself and be like ‘look at all this amazing stuff you’ve experienced,’” she explains. “It really makes me think that my life has been totally worth living and really helps me appreciate every single day.”
Her advice to photographers who are just starting out: “Don’t focus on success, that will really do you wrong. Success in terms of money and fame — that won’t mean anything. You should focus on success in terms of what you love and what makes you happy.”
Visit Olivia’s photostream for more of her photography.
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