Pony Lott and Brett Seamans are a fashion and editorial photography duo currently stationed in New York City. Their edgy style captures the imagination with a vulgar elegance and hard sexual attitude. Often inspired by historical figures, classic art, and vintage cinema, they play on classical forms while adding their own lavish vision.
PetaPixel: First off, you two are a fashion duo based out of Brooklyn, NY. Tell us about how you started working with each other.
Brett: We both met at Rochester Institute of Technology, where we learned our craft. Every Christmas the school put on a holiday auction where they would sell used equipment. We bought a big lighting kit together thinking that we would share it but still shoot separately. As luck would have it, we decided to team up on one shoot, both eager to put the equipment to use, and the photos that were created were the best either one of had produced separately. We have been working together ever since.
PP: Was it difficult initially for the two of you to click in terms of building concepts and establishing roles?
Pony: Yes and no. As far as concepts, we have always been on the same page with that. That is one of the essential pillars of our relationship. There has never been a time where one of us suggests an idea for a shoot and had the other one dispute it. Instead, we keep building the concept together and the end result is a fusion of both our aesthetics. As far as establishing roles, that was a little bit more difficult in the beginning. Both of us were used to working by ourselves for so long and we would put so much hard work into our shoots, that it was sometimes hard to let someone else handle any aspect. We’re both perfectionists and as a result, we can be a little stubborn – we will admit…haha! But over the years, we have really developed as a team and we know each other’s strengths and weakness. We know when one of us needs a swift kick in the ass and we know when we can let something be. It’s not even about leaving the egos at the door; It’s about trusting one another to do what they do. Trust is something extremely rare but absolutely invaluable and the key to any type of partnership.
PP: How do you divide up the tasks for each assignment you work on?
Brett: One great thing about working together is we both have a completely different set of skills. Together we are able to put our greatest talents forward, while the other one fills in where the other lacks. It allows us to work and succeed in a way we would not be able to otherwise. For example I’m a lot more technically talented and work mostly with the lighting and the video editing, where as Pony works a lot more with the organization, contacting, emailing, and the photo retouching. The ideas, concepts, pre-production, shooting, sequencing, and everything else is always a joint effort.
PP: What does fashion mean to each of you, and what drives you to work in the fashion industry, as opposed to other branches of photography?
Pony: We both agree everyone has their own definition of fashion and it continues to be one of the more controversial subjects in the world. People either love or love to hate. To us, fashion boils down to telling a story while selling, whether it’s the commercial side where you sell the client, designer, their product, etc. or the editorial side where you are trying to sell an idea or feeling. To us, the latter is what really keeps us going and motivates us to produce work. Either way, we have the ability and also challenge to create this whole other world – with sets that take you to places that don’t exist, pieces of clothing that are so intricate that they themselves are a piece of art, a model who is a natural chameleon and can take on any character, the makeup and hair mixed with the styling that takes them there…We love that there really are no limitations in existence. We honestly wouldn’t be photographers if it weren’t for this unique field.
PP: What are the greatest benefits and challenges you find working in New York?
Pony: The resources and the people are the greatest part by far. We are incredibly lucky that we have some of the most wonderfully talented people on our team. Our photos wouldn’t be possible without them. Any photo that we take is just as much theirs as it is ours.
Brett: The biggest challenge is to make ourselves and our work stand out from the hundreds of others talented photographers out there. There are just so many images people are exposed to every day that we have to work even harder to have our photographs be seen and even harder for them to really “wow” people. It’s a real challenge to get people to stop for a moment and actually look at an image – an image that more than likely took several weeks of pre-production, countless hours of an entire creative team’s time and weeks of retouching, editing, sequencing and re-editing. We, as people, are so immune to imagery that is it rare that any of us stop and experience an image, let alone remember it for days after.
PP: What is your philosophy when it comes to making pictures?
Brett: Make them different. Make them mean something. Make them something that no one has seen and no one can easily reproduce. We want to create images that grab people, that make people think, and that no one can easily reproduce.
PP: How would you describe your style to someone who’s never seen your work?
Pony: Our work is growing and developing towards a more dramatic feel – whether it is through intense color or harsh black and white or over the top in the subject matter. We tend to have shoots that are very themed will inspiration pulled from history, movies, and famous or important women in particular. We are not inspired if there isn’t a story behind our shoot. Some might argue that we over-do it, but we pour countless hours into research on the subject or idea we are shooting and we make sure we stay as true to the important details of the story as possible. More often than not, we develop the idea as if it were a slightly watered down high production Hollywood film – we have back stories for the model’s character, reasons why they may or may not do something, certain ways they need to pose, hold a certain prop, etc. While a majority of this stays between the walls of our office and our team’s ears, it is all a crucial part to the end result.
PP: What kind of gear do you use on any given shoot?
Brett: We shoot a little differently than most fashion photographers. Since our concepts are usually inspired by cinema, we like to shoot in the same dramatic feel. We shoot mostly with continuous light sources, this allows us to seamlessly switch between or simultaneously shoot stills and motion. So with only a little more time spent per shot we can produce photos and small videos which doubles the product for our clients and gives us a lot more content to sift through to produce the best story. The continuous lighting also eliminates having to wait for strobe power packs to recycle so we never have to worry about missing the one perfect moment in a look because of a misfiring strobe. We also shoot with a Nikon D800, Nikon has for a long time handled digital noise at high iso is better than some of its competitors, which allows us to capture crystal clean images using anything from HMI lights to household light bulbs, so no matter what the budget or the location we can kill the shoot without having to worry about the power of the lights. The D800 also is able to capture a clean raw video feed out of its HDMI port, which (when the shoot calls for it) gives us a nicer, cleaner video image as well as a lot more flexibility when color grading or compositing the video.
PP: You often incorporate elements of CGI and illustration into your images. What is the inspiration behind working this way?
Brett: It stems from our main goal of constantly creating new work that has not been seen before. We’re always trying to be on the cutting edge of new ideas and technology, which allows us to take full advantage of our creative ideas. We work with an amazing, multi talented artist, Kristina Fekhtman, who helps us with our illustration projects to really make them special. Sometimes it might be adding small illustrative elements, such as the series where wings were added to a model’s dress. Others might be more intensive with half of the photo being illustrative. CGI also can take make forms in our current work and new work to come. Whether it is an image of a model interacting with an object that was never on set or walking through an environment from a different world, or all the way to producing CGI composited videos that the viewer can interact with in a tablet or smart phone. While we tend to be suckers for history and anything old or vintage, we understand the need and the want to embrace new technology. Finding new ways of incorporating it into our own product and brand so that we can produce unique work, give our clients a more exclusive product, and possibly develop an entirely new way to sell an idea or trend.
PP: Talk about the last big project you worked on.
Pony: We just recently created this big editorial based on Spaghetti Western films and Western Graphic novels that we mentioned earlier. It was a High-Production (Our favorite word) project that has been a 4-month process from the beginning of the concept to the final editing of the images. It was featured in GLASSbook magazine, in this past month’s issue. The final story featured 5 models, multiple look and set changes, 20 unique shots, and some video clips. With a lot of pre-planning, a hard working devoted team, a couple of prop guns, some pizza, and a positive fun exciting western atmosphere we managed to fit it all into one 10-hour day of shooting.
PP: For each of you, what is your favorite image from your entire body of work to this point, and why?
Brett: That is like asking a mother to choose a favorite child – haha! Our opinions are constantly changing as we keep producing new work. There are images, we love when taking, pick apart and hate when editing, and then love again 6 months later. We’re very critical and perfectionists and use our current images, to improve upon new images. We’ll let you know when we think we have a favorite….
PP: What’s the most important thing you want your potential clients and team members to know about the two of you?
Pony: We moved to New York for one reason: To be photographers. We take great pride in what we create just like you do with your products. Every decision we make is based on how does this help our career, we do everything we can to produce the best product possible. When working with us we will be with you every step of the way and our team will work tirelessly on your project. You tell us how far you are wishing to go, what you can do and we will take you beyond that.
PP: What projects or assignments are you looking forward to shooting next?
Brett: We like to keep our upcoming shoots top secret. So check the website or Facebook page from time to time or shoot us an email and you’ll see as we produce. All we can say is we are consistently trying to push each shoot further so it’s only going to get bigger and better.