“I definitely always stood out, and I loved it,” says Chantel Philip, a photographer based on the East Coast. She spoke to us about her relationship with fashion and her journey into being a professional fashion photographer. The tone throughout the interview is all about confidence. We love her energy, her self-belief, and her photos.
I came across Chantel Philip via Black Women Photographers: an organization dedicated to helping black female photographers get work. The standard is high. However, alongside a couple of others, Philip’s work stood out to me. It’s filled with so much energy and vibrancy, and after speaking to her, I realize her work reflects her personality: fun, confident, and full of creativity.
What I love the most is that her photos often break the traditional rules of photography. Just like her approach to fashion, her approach to photography made her stand out and led me to want to know more about her.
Gear Used by Chantel Philip
“I also have a point and shoot film camera, a Polaroid camera, and a frequently buy Kodak or Fuji disposables. For my SLR camera, I love the Canon 6D it good quality and not as expensive as some other cameras Canon has. My favorite lens is definitely the 24-70mm it is used on most of all of my shoots. It’s the perfect portrait lens.”
Phoblographer: Hey Chantel, let’s start with how your photography journey began.
Chantel Philip: My photography journey began, I guess in high school. I grew up in the South Bronx in New York City. My first year of high school was in downtown Manhattan, that was the first time I had taken a photography class. It changed my life, it was amazing learning how to take photos and develop film. My mom and I ended up moving to New Jersey a year after 9/11 happened. Once in Jersey, I continued photography class, and it was such a different experience there. I learned much more and really enjoyed the projects we were given in class. I told my mother I’d like to be a photographer and continue to college learning more. My mother at the time told me she would not pay for me to go to college if I wanted to be a photographer, so I chose to go to school and learn about TV and Film production. It took me 10 years later to pick up a camera, teach myself to shoot digital and work with models
Phoblographer: You shoot fashion. Before we get into your work, tell us what your personal relationship with fashion is like.
Chantel Philip: My personal relationship with fashion is where I shine effortlessly. I can definitely pull off any look and make it look like it’s a usual day for me. I love creating a look for myself when I have somewhere to go, whether it be with friends or on a date. I also wear so many wigs, so I definitely do not look the same on a weekly basis. I’ve always loved clothing since I was younger and never wanted to look like everyone else. Especially growing up in the Bronx where everyone dressed the same. My friends were always in Sean John, or Roca Wear; I was in Aeropostale and shopped at a store called Delia’s.
Phoblographer: What is it about photography that you most enjoy?
Chantel Philip: I enjoy connecting with others, working on set and creating a mood, or a scene. I truly am blessed to have worked with amazing people and most [of them] have become my good friends. My photographs always come out better when I’m having fun, and the models or my clients are having fun.
Phoblographer: Some photographers like to get involved with what their subjects wear and how they wear it. Others prefer a more hands-off approach and focus on posing and making the photos. Which of these styles best describes you?
Chantel Philip: I’m mostly always involved in what my subjects wear, 90% of the time. I style most of my shoots, or have suggested what the person should wear. I love styling people and I’m really good at it. I try to pull out the best colors, clothing, shapes based on the person and the type of shoot. I encourage my subjects to feel powerful, beautiful, strong in the clothing they’re wearing.
Phoblographer: In terms of character and how you like to interact with models, what would a day on a shoot be like with you?
Chantel Philip: A day on set with me would be me playing music on Spotify and dancing to the likes of Rihanna or Megan Thee Stallion. Then Cold Play or jazz would come on and I would explain I have a very eclectic taste in music. But most importantly I ask the models questions about their life, get to know them more on a personal level. Ask them about their taste in music, and usually, from there either we are singing together or I’m dancing around setting up the scene while they’re getting their hair or makeup done. I definitely like having a fun set. It’s just relaxing to me to always be having a good time no matter what I’m doing.
Phoblographer: What career milestones have you recently achieved that have further validated your awesome photography skills?
Chantel Philip: The career milestone that validated my photography skills was being able to go full-time as a fashion photographer. I spent 10 years in the corporate world in different positions and industries. I realized that I spent a decade focused on someone’s dream but not my own. I went into the corporate world because of the conversation my mother had with me about not paying for my college if I majored in photography. But now my mom is requesting photoshoots from me every couple of months and bragging about my artwork to whoever has ears.
Phoblographer: To us, our readers, and your clients, your work is strong, diverse, and amazing. How do you feel about your photography?
Chantel Philip: I’m an artist so I’m hard on myself sometimes about my work and talent. I promised myself this year will be the year I level up in my work. I do think my work is good, but it’s not at the highest point of my talent. I’m also moving back into the world of film photography, so exploring that has helped me see things differently.
Phoblographer: From brand campaigns to look books, you shoot many different things. What’s your favorite kind of gig?
Chantel Philip: My favorite gig would be brand campaigns where I also creative direct. I really love taking the companies brand style and exploring the stories we could tell using my insights and creative instincts. I think the best thing that happened to me is going into corporate then becoming a photographer. I have skills from my corporate career and my talent as an artist, so I am well versed in what people want or need from a marketing perspective, as well as having the ability to execute that vision.
Phoblographer: When it’s not work-related, what kind of photography do you like to shoot?
Chantel Philip: The photography I absolutely LOVE to shoot is high fashion personal shoots. It’s so much fun creating editorials just because [I want to]. I also am “that friend” who brings a disposable camera on a night out with the girls and captures candid moments and makes friends with people we meet that night. My camera legit creates so many openings for conversations with strangers and great connections. It’s also awesome developing those photos and remembering the people we’ve met. I even have a separate Instagram account for sharing the film from some of those nights.
Phoblographer: I saw you’re using a website called Kavyar. Can you tell us more about the site and your experience using it?
Chantel Philip: I used Kavyar to submit to publications for my personal editorial projects. The website is a database for small independent magazines that photographers who want their work published digitally or print they can submit to them for free or for a fee depending on which magazine they’re submitting to. It’s nice to see your work in print when you’re first starting out. I wouldn’t recommend anyone paying to submit their work. I would recommend doing free options.
Phoblographer: What’s your main goal at the moment: one photography and one personal? (If you’re happy to share a personal one.)
Chantel Philip: My main photography goal at the moment is to level up in my photograph business and work. This year is more about telling more stories through my images, sticking to a stronger aesthetic and attracting higher level brands and clients. My personal goal this year is to live bicoastal by the end of the year. Currently, my home is on the East Coast, but having a base in LA would assist me with my photography goal.
All images by Chantel Philip. Used with permission.