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Photographer Bethany Vargas On Why She Can't Imagine Doing Anything Else

Bethany Vargas is a filmmaker, photographer, and creative director based in Los Angeles. Her creative journey reflects the intersection of fashion and fiction, where her worlds of style and fantasy collide. Vargas is notorious for paying special attention to materials, light, and texture, and is able to effectively navigate both film and stills while spotlighting her subjects in specific and tangible ways. She creates thoughtful and dynamic content in a multitude of mediums and, unsurprisingly, is breaking boundaries in the LA photo scene.

We sat down with Vargas to talk about life behind the camera, her recent Nike collab, and Myspace. Read the full interview below.

How did your love for photography begin? When did you get your first camera?

Funny thing is I never thought I would be a photographer. It just kind of happened. I think I got my first camera when I was in middle school. It was a very basic digital point and shoot. I had to get those selfie pics for the Myspace days. [Laughs] During this time I was always playing around with photoshop and exploring the camera myself—this was definitely the start of my interest. Soon people were asking me to take their photos and it all unraveled from there. Now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

What artists have inspired you? Any favorite photographers? 

Nick Knight, Harley Weir, Paul Jung.

You have such a unique eye for light and color… what inspires your style of photography? How would you personally describe your style of photography? What do you want to be known for?

Thank you!

Textures, structured architecture, and unconventional movement inspire me.

I would personally describe my style as elegant with tasteful and playful elements.  Showcasing and empowering my subjects.

I want to be known for riding the line between unconventional and classic especially working with larger brands who want to push boundaries.

You have recently started to do more video.. what encouraged you to do this? What are some of the challenges you have faced learning a new medium? What are some of the pros and cons to both photography and videography?

I have always been inspired by music and when I love a song I replay it over and over but with that comes visuals in my mind. There is something about video that gives so much more emotion then a photo can and that is something I really admire about it. Some pros and cons between both mediums is I wish I could do both at the same time equally but I can’t. They overlap so much and I think having started out with photography has been an advantage with my video work.

Talk to us about some of your recent collaborations (NIKE, Matte Brand, Med Men). What inspires your creative direction for these collabs?

I have been wanting to shoot with a snake for so long and when Matte Brand video opportunity came along I thought it was the perfect moment to bring in a snake! It matched Brianna’s (Matte Brand founder) personality and clothing perfectly.

With Medmen x Paper Magazine this was a luxury weed shoot. This was a lot of fun because weed has such a negative reputation so the goal here was to make it classy and luxurious. I have been really inspired by floating objects and acrylic pieces so I found it fitting to mix it in with this shoot.

It always a pleasure working with Nike x Nordstrom on their video projects. I always feel empowered working with this team because I get to camera operate and shoot video for such a powerhouse company!

You do a lot of your work outside in locations…how do you pick your locations? Do you prefer shooting outside? Are you inspired by your locations/environments?

I don’t prefer one or the other as long as I can get “the look” I am going for. I do happen to often stumble upon cool locations randomly when im driving around or in a Uber. I always take a quick photo on my phone (most of the time its blurry) but then will go back and look in maps of the location of where the photo was taken and learn more if it will be a good fit for a shoot or not.

What are some of the challenges you have faced entering a male dominated industry? 

Wow. Where do I begin. I find this subject to be more relevant when I am working in video. For one thing, I find it empowering walking on set with men who are 8+ years older then me and I am comfortably operating the camera and directing. There have been situations where men try to “Mansplain” as if I don’t know what they are talking about. That is pretty annoying.   Some men are a little surprised when I walk on set and build and operate the camera. I have also gotten comments like, “I am always so surprised you know how to handle gear—you seem so feminine.”

The industry is definitely changing and there are more females now then ever which makes me so happy! I have learned to take all of this as a compliment and to feel empowered.

Do you think you will continue to pursue photography/videography or do you have any interest in more directing? 

Yes I definitely will. It’s such a big part of me and I still have so much more goals to achieve. I am pretty specific with what I want most of the time so I feel I have a pretty strong direction with all of my work going into it. As for video—as projects get larger I think I want to just focus on directing but recently I have found there is nothing like the feeling of handling the camera and directing vs just directing.

What does it mean to you to be a young artist in Los Angeles? Do you have any advise for other striving artist?

I would consider my self still pretty fresh to LA but to me it means opportunity, energizing sunny days, and a good diverse spot to come and go.

Advice for other artists is “to go with the flow”. For me, at first I didn’t understand the ups and downs of being an artist. You can’t force creativity and inspiration; you have to be patient, open, and fluid with yourself.

Now for a chance for readers to get to know more about the girl behind the lens…what is your summer 2k18 song? What’s is your favorite local place to go to for food? What is the one thing that is always in your purse? Who is your favorite designer to wear to date? Favorite accessory? 

Song: “The Child” – Alex Gopher.

“Hun43rd” – A$AP Rocky.

Fave local food: Masa’s deep dish pizza in echo park or leos taco truck.

YSL Volupté Liquid Color Balm in Hook me berry is always in my bag.

Favorite designer to wear to a date is Jacquemus—so classy with subtle sultry features.

Favorite accessory at the moment is these two saint silver chains I have not took of in forever. Just adds the perfect little sparkle to any outfit.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I think there is this big trend right now about being a female photographer or videographer as well as females being the subject in raw ways. Don’t get me wrong I admire how females are ruling right now but I think it has turned into a trend more then a genuine appreciation. Admire a body of work or artist because of genuine reasons not a trend.

What can we expect from you next?

You can expect more photo and video stories! I am working on a really cool short video right now! Its still in the development process but I am very excited about it! Stay tuned for more!

Images courtesy of Bethany Vargas

Stay tuned to Milk for more new artists. 

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