Karen Collins

Pucci, Gucci, Ungaro and Numero. Italian Vogue, Japanese Vogue, Pop, and many high-end retailers and brands, Not a bad calling cards for a photographer who ignored the traditional paths to success, those being, going to photography school, getting a job as someone’s assistant, and being a man. Karen Collins took a different route, and buoyed by a supportive and connected partner and a bit of luck, has developed a career that any fledgling shutterbug would envy.

A New Yorker who once lived in San Francisco, Collins instruction in photography came from working in a color lab where photographers still used film, thus she learned the intricacies of light, color and processes. Encouraged by her boyfriend she bought a Sinar large format camera and started doing model test shoots in her apartment. When her boyfriend, Ucef Hanjani, redesigned SOMA and became its creative director, Collins, along with a handful of other young photographers, was given her first opportunity to shoot for a national magazine.

Considering all the magazines you’ve worked for what was different about your first jobs with SOMA?
There was a lot of creative freedom with SOMA. Back then we didn’t need to worry so much about advertising credits so i was able to put together a more personal body of work in a short time. it allowed me to think photographically and develop my own style. Working for SOMA was definitely a lucky break; it started my career and soon after I signed with an amazing agent at the time, Katy Barker, and started shooting for a lot of great magazines.

Obviously a lot of your work has been focused on fashion but do you consider yourself a ‘fashion photographer’?
I wouldn’t categorize myself as such really; I do a lot of fashion work but also do personal and advertising work. My latest job was for Air France, I shot their new global ad campaign which will launch in September, so that was really exciting.

Where was the Air France shoot?
We shot for 8 days in Buenos Aries and in Paris. I would have loved to see more of Buenos Aires, but often when working you don’t get to see much of where you are. however, it did make me want to go back. Once I shot at Giza for four days and never once went in the pyramids.

I know you have twins who, how does a photographer like you spend the end of summer juggling work and a couple of 5 year olds? hectic or relaxing?
Relaxing. I don’t work a lot in august and plan to spend time with our 2 daughters, spending some time away on the beach and preparing them as they will be starting kindergarten in the fall.