Q+A: Blythe Thomas / music + fashion photographer

Talk about your photography style. I picked up film photography nine years ago, and did that far, far more than digital. I would only really do digital photography on summer abroad programs. Since getting to college, I’ve shot primarily in digital but am looking to jumping back into film. I edit my digital photos now with fade and grain similar to film photography. I love when old and new worlds meet. Photos now today seem to be so polished and airbrushed out. That’s a cool style style, but I’ve found as I’ve grown over the last year, I prefer to add that classic film look into my photographs.

Blythe Thomas / photography

Describe a typical day. It depends what day! Haha. Honestly since I came back to Nashville early June, it’s either a shoot day or edit day. I’m still a student though, and unfortunately have to go to class for one more semester. But a typical day right now is waking up, usually screwing up the coffee I’m trying to make, buying coffee then instead at Bongo Java by my apartment, going to class, spending the entire time in class on my laptop either editing photographs/designing/scheduling/emailing people back/looking up inspiration on Pinterest (aka not paying attention), hanging with friends, eating at points, and sleep. School time has become work time but with that Charlie Brown teacher noise in the background, haha. If it’s an editing day, I’ll just post up at a coffee shop, knock it out, and hopefully see familiar faces coming in and out. On a shoot day, I’ll shoot for a couple hours and, if I’m really hyped, immediately try to edit them. No day is really the same, no day is very typical. Which I’m very thankful for. But I try to use Sundays as rest days now. I found I was burning out too quickly. Freelancing makes it easy to work long days and hours. So I try to be mindful and balance work, play and rest… still working on that balance though haha.

Blythe Thomas / photography Blythe Thomas / photography

Tell us about some of your achievements and challenges as a photographer + creative. Achievement wise, I’ve been very blessed in this field. I was getting opportunities I didn’t deserve early on that I appreciate so much now in hindsight. There were things in high school that happened that seemed like I had MADE IT at the time haha, like placing 2nd in a photo competition or having my film photographs featured in a local gallery. One of the coolest highlights of my career to this day is shooting the CMA Awards red carpet and show in 2012. I was an intern for CMA at the time and they just allowed me this incredible freedom that day to shoot whatever, whoever, wherever. I can’t thank them enough. I then got to shoot the 4-day CMA Festival that following July, and that was a real catalyst for me going full time with photography, though I prefer portraiture rather than concert/event photography for me personally. Those are awesome achievements I’ll be forever grateful for, but I love the day to day victories of just individual clients simply loving the final product, whether it’s a photo or video. I work closely with one of my friends on her music and handle all her creative direction. I get so much satisfaction seeing her stuff take off. It’s cool playing any small part in the success of someone else’s life, especially people that just deserve it. I love, as I get older, seeing my friends dreams’ come true, and it’s a bonus if I get to photograph it and celebrate with them. It makes my life more exciting.

Challenges wise, I definitely fell victim to the comparison-game early on. There are a million and one amazing photographers in Nashville… and a billion everywhere else. It can either be intimidating (like it originally was), or it can grow you. I love reaching out now to those people I should be ignoring and competing against. I love learning from my peers, I look up to so many of them. There’s a fine line though of looking up and learning from others, and then being sure to focus on yourself. That’s why now I honestly just try to compete with myself and grow from what I’ve done in the past. I never want to put myself on a pedestal and think I have nowhere else to go/grow. So the challenge is constantly being able to come up with new ways to edit, think, and create content I’m proud of. But it became a lot easier when I let go of what other photographers were doing or who they were shooting. Focusing on myself helped a ton in gaining my own confidence.

Blythe Thomas / photography

Talk about one of your favorite shoots to date. This is always hard! I love whenever I shoot with my friend I mentioned before, her name is Louisa (go check her out)! It’s always fun shooting/working with your best friend and being on that same creative wavelength. We also work on more than just photography, so it’s cool for me as an artist to work in different areas of creative media. Photography wise, I loved though this one shoot I did in Pasadena (a suburb outside of Los Angeles) last March. I had just met the girls that I shot with that day, Aubrey and Megan, and we just hopped in the car and started driving towards mountains in a distance that we though looked cool. We dropped a pin in some random place and just drove into those mountains, racing against the sun and losing cell phone reception. A Free People-esque shoot was the goal, and I definitely think we achieved it. It didn’t hurt that the girls were GORGEOUS and honestly just had to stand there for the pictures to come out well. It was definitely some of my favorite scenery I’ve shot in (I love Nashville, but California, to me, offers such cooler, desert-y backdrops). That shoot grew me as a director and editor. I had to direct these two girls at once (which I had never done more than one before at that time), and try to make them feel comfortable even though they didn’t know me at all. It was the first time I really had done that, and I loved it! They’re still some of my favorite photos/memories I have on a shoot. I love when you collide with strangers and creativity just flows and works! I love to play music and rock out on shoots though, so it’s usually a good time and I hope to get client’s comfortable and feeling good, even if we just met.

What types of projects do you enjoy the most? I love shooting with musicians/other artists. The vibes are just always fun and usually they want something more out there in terms of content. Fashion shoots are also so fun. I’ve shot with Rocket + Lace and considerthewldflwrs now, and both times, I just loved interacting with all the people/models/designers the day of the shoot. I love how unique both of those brands were. My favorite shoots are always though when I connect with the person in front of the lens, whatever or whoever they are.

Blythe Thomas / photography Blythe Thomas / photography

Where do you find your inspiration? I get inspired by other photographers, mostly classic film photographers. I grew up looking through old photo-books and looked up to artists like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Vivian Maier, etc. Mostly street photographers, as that’s what I started on for years. I still look at those old school images, as well as patrol Pinterest and flip through magazines like Kinfolk, Darling and Free People catalogs. Sometimes inspiration strikes randomly though, and I’m lucky I have a couple friends on call who are always down to help (whether it’s a hit or a miss).

When it comes to the creative world, where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? Another hard question. I have a bunch of mini dreams. I want to go on tour with artists I am passionate about and believe in and vice versa. Just for a season of life, not forever. But I want to travel so badly and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it: documenting life with best friends and listening to good music. But I would also love to keep doing portraiture shoots with artists/musicians here in Nashville and fashion/editorial shoots. To grow my portfolio in those two areas would be the ultimate dream. They’re the things I’m most passionate about shooting, so to be able to do that full-time forever, that would be everything. I’m open to being pulled to LA or NYC, but ideally I’ll stay in Nashville full time and just go out on assignments. I’m really open to whatever plan God has in store though, He’s made this an awesome life so far in just a year and a half of doing this full time. By the end of five years, a studio would be awesome and a consistent work flow. 10 years? Being able to bring kids on a shoot. I know that’s probably naive, but I like to think mine could be chill enough to handle it ;).

Blythe Thomas / photography

Lastly, any life advice? Be all in. A pastor preached this once to me/my church church (January ’14), and I’ve adapted it in everything I do/believe in/every relationship I have. Be present, be rooted in what you’re doing, always be a little restless and challenge yourself to grow and become better. Don’t think you’re done growing, that you’ve learned enough. Don’t be a bully to yourself though, acknowledge and celebrate your victories but know there is always more if you choose to find it. Be a good friend, be humble, be determined, learn how to say no to things (the world still spins even if you skip hanging out with someone one night), always reply to emails, meet deadlines fairly quickly seeing as how we live in an impatient world, celebrate, challenge yourself, take a break, and be all in. Being all in means you just go for it, whatever the outcome. So, just go for it.