All images by Vivienne Gucwa. Used with permission.
Photographer Vivienne Gucwa is a social media master: she shoots, she uploads, she synergizes, and above all she networks with people. She understands that this industry is all about creating a solid body of work that will wow people, having large followings that help make your business more attractive, and about making sure that the work is in front of the right folks.
Vivienne first got into photography when she would take long walks to de-stress her mind. With commitment and perseverance, she’s become a Sony Artisan and a very well known photographer. She also has great advice.
For more on Vivienne Gucwa, visit AlphaUniverse.com/Artisans.
Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored blog post from Sony.
Phoblographer: You first got into photography as part of your taking long walks around NYC years ago. So when did you know that it was something that you wanted to do for a living?
Vivienne: When I first started taking photos, it was simply a way to record what I was seeing on walks around New York City that I was taking to de-stress from all of my issues. I was super broke, had just quit a few dead-end jobs and taken out student loans to go back to school for pre-med at the age of 30. I realized I loved the entire process of photography along the way. When people started contacting me to use my photography for paid projects, it was honestly surprising since I had never considered making money off of something I loved doing.
Phoblographer: Over the years, how do you feel that your creative vision has evolved into being the more refined state that it is now?
Vivienne: Initially, I started taking photos with a broken point and shoot camera because it was all I could afford and because the camera I ordered online arrived broken (the white balance function was stuck on ‘shade’ and was a bit warped) and I was too impatient to return it and wait for another to arrive. This led me to seek solutions to fix the issues with my photos. I started using GIMP because it was free and because I didn’t have money for software and inadvertently learned and fell in love with editing photos.
I would say that over the years, I have thought deeply about what it is that I am trying to achieve with my vision. It’s an ongoing evolution, for sure. I am really interested in pushing the boundaries of reality and experimenting with my own vision than simply showcasing the concept of reality. My world view has always inhabited a blurry place that dwells in the surreal aspects of time and place.
Phoblographer: Much of your work seems to be influenced by old paintings and vintage photos of cities in all their elegance. Where do you believe you draw inspiration from besides what’s right in front of you? What influences the way that the final photo is finally rendered?
Vivienne: I am heavily influenced by music. I grew up with music as my one creative outlet during a very tumultuous childhood. Music is such a cathartic release for me and I edit to music which influences how my final work evolves.
I am fascinated and interested in exploring how certain tones can produce feelings of different forms of nostalgia. Specifically, I am intensely obsessed with how color or lack of color influences memory and desire. My world view has always inhabited a blurry place that dwells in the surreal aspects of time and place. I think this is why cinema has played a heavy role in influencing my final renders.
I love the feeling of losing oneself in someone else’s vision whether that be via music, painting, a film, or even a photograph and with each piece that I complete, I hope someone else can lose themselves momentarily in my vision.
Phoblographer: You’re a travel photographer that has always had a big emphasis on using social media in your promotion. So how do you think Sony’s cameras and lenses really help you do that?
Vivienne: When I do work for travel clients, sharing my adventures and the places I am experiencing is of utmost importance. Travel is such an enormous experiential endeavor and it’s incredible that we are at a stage where technology gives us the freedom to invite people into our experiences.
The built-in wifi feature on Sony cameras is something I probably can’t live without at this point when I travel. Being able to take a photograph with my camera that is super high quality and then sharing it instantly to my phone where I can edit it on the go and then share it with my audience brings me such joy.
Phoblographer: What cities do you still want to go to and what is attracting you to those places?
Vivienne: I am obsessed with snow. In fact, my passion project for the last 5 years has been taking photos of New York City in the snow at night. The more extreme the weather, the better. It’s my happy place, my shangri-la. I love the feeling of being swallowed up by snowy solitude. There is an existential vastness in the middle of snowy places and landscapes that is very appealing to me. That said, the top of my bucket-list has always been Siberia.
Phoblographer: What are some of the best places you’ve been to?
Vivienne: Tokyo and Havana are some of my most favorite places I have visited and photographed. They are both so incredibly different and both travel journeys were enormously life-changing for me in terms of perspective and vision.
Phoblographer: What’s in your gear bag these days?
Vivienne: I am about to embark on 3 different journeys and am taking the same gear to all 3 of these places: my Sony A7R II , my Sony A7S II, my RX100 IV, and these two lenses: the 16-35mm f/4 and the 24-70mm f/4
Phoblographer: There are lots of photographers who fear their images being stolen or used for commercial reasons in regards to using Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. So what do you do to combat that?
Vivienne: Truthfully, I make sure that my body of work is in as many places online attributed properly. Images will be stolen. That’s a sad fact. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career as a full-time photographer if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and shared my work online in so many places.
Phoblographer: What are some of the biggest lessons you think you’ve learned as a photographer? Not talking about technical here necessarily, but about the business, networking etc?
Vivienne: Being a full-time photographer is probably 80% marketing and tons of grunt work and only 20% art. People don’t like to consider that to be the reality of it but it’s true.
Something else I have learned is that online is wonderful but once you use your online connections to make solid offline connections, that’s when the magic happens. Truly connecting with other people not only enriches and inspires me as an artist but it’s necessary to progress in a career.
Phoblographer: Where do you see yourself in one year as a photographer? Cinemagraphs? How do you see you and your business evolving?
Vivienne: I spent the first two years of my foray into travel photography traveling solo which was such an intense experience on a variety of levels. I think that this coming year will be all about traveling with others in order to grow as a travel photographer.
Business-wise, I am intent on building great relationships with my clients, new and existing. I love doing commissioned work. It’s what I thrive on as an artist. It’s how I grow and it’s what makes me the happiest. I would love to find a way to forge deeper connections with clients.