Here at Cats Like Us, we enjoy having in store events that feature fellow business owners, artists, and musicians from Western New York. This February 3rd 2018 from 11am to 3:30pm we will have Destiny from Sweet Heart Pin Up Studio (located just down the street from Cats Like Us) joining us again in-store to book sessions and answer questions for prospective clients. She's easy to recommend -- a real pro and sweet heart herself! We sat down with Destiny to learn more about her life, what inspires her, and how she approaches photography.
How long have you been a photographer?
My interest in photography began as a small child running around with my parents film cameras taking pix of our dog, my moms cooking, posing my cat in outfits, making my brother wear heels, ha ha! Later in high school I was head photographer for the yearbook staff. When I moved to the west coast at eighteen I always had a camera in hand. It was just something I always did like breathing -- I was always documenting everything.
Have you always wanted to be a photographer or did you do something different before?
Actually I originally wanted to be a musical theatre actress on broadway and I spent a lot of time in my childhood singing on youth theatre stages. It was my passion -- I loved performing! Unfortunately I had chronic reoccurring strep throat that started affecting my ability to audition and perform... I focused more on painting and making art after the pain became to unbearable. Photography as a job came much later, it was right there in front of me the whole time -- It was so obvious that I didn't see it.
Do you have formal training?
In the film age I went to Otis college of art and design the teachers there were very supportive I was always told I had an original eye for composition. My digital training came years later and was more hands on I had mentors or learned on the job. But mostly it has been trial and error... make mistakes, learn from them, try again.
Have you ever taken photos in any exotic places?
I have shot in some amazing places clients flew me to the virgin islands to shoot their wedding that was amazing lizards crawling around, the sand was white and felt like flour when you stepped on it.
Another time in California at El matador beach I was shooting actress Bridget Flanery at the same time as a movie was being filmed there and the crew thought we were part of it and started helping B into her gown.
Ha! That was fun. I just love shooting anywhere I can find adventure in an Elks Lodge or in someone's backyard.
What is your favorite kind of photo to capture?
I really don't have an actual favorite. Its something that happens while it's happening.
A shot will emerge and I get so excited I usually steam up my glasses and hope I did everything technically right to have captured it to perfection.
What is your favorite type of client?
My favorite type of client hands down is someone who thinks they won't photograph well or isn't photogenic.They are the best!
To hear how beautiful they look or felt after they see their pictures is what I live for.
Do you have any interesting anecdotes about a memorable shoot?
I feel like that happens daily Ha! Every single day at the studio I will be presented a set of obstacles and find a way to overcome them. Most recently I had a client bring her children in for Christmas pictures. Her kids are two and six I believe. I created this beautiful set, I had everything securely in place "childproofed". The kids just went bananas they did not want to sit for a portrait at all. So we tried to make it into a game giving them breaks from sitting by just letting them run in circles but being ready to get that shot if we got them in front of the camera for at least one second. So in between them ripping apart my set, and taking off some of their Christmas clothes and opening fake presents that were part of the background
I just had to laugh it reminded me of the scene in parenthood where the little boy goes up on stage and destroys his sisters play. I allowed kids to be kids and in the end we got these amazing, funny, happy even heartfelt shots. Just like magic.
Do you make other kinds of art?
I have always been a painter. Years ago I made these sculptural portraits of people on found objects I thought represented them.
I hung my paintings at restaurants and galleries and had sold out shows. Now on occasion I will paint a large scale mural for a business or commissions for people's homes.
What I love most about Sweet Heart Pin Up is that every new client is like a blank canvas so I truly get to do what I love everyday. All of my sets I designed and painted myself. So the whole experience for me is about making art for people to "pin up" to their wall.
What are your biggest inspirations as an artist?
I think I get inspired by something daily. It could be as simple as two colors next to each other, It could be a song playing that really evokes a feeling. My favorite time periods are 1920's,40's,50's and early 60's.
I just love the differences in wardrobe and makeup for those times and they are my favorite to recreate at the studio. Right now I find myself most inspired by Norman Rockwell I visited his museum recently and found that he was both coach and model for his subjects.
He posed them, he encouraged a more exaggerated expression out of them. He took everyday situations accenting and augmenting them to give them a more visual and emotional punch in his artwork. I related very strongly to his entire process.
What do you enjoy about being located down the street from Cats Like Us in Tonawanda, NY?
When I got my storefront and saw that CLU was right down the street it was the cherry on top of my sundae. I love our retro block I see it as a destination-- it's great for a day trip!
There are so many great businesses including Atomic barbershop and salon (for a fun hair cut or color), Twisted Tiki tattoo (get an american classic tattoo), Goomba's boxing gym (get your old school box on) Vapee's (healthier alternative to cigarettes), Mulberry Tree Antiques and Attic to basement repeats ( lots of fun treasures to be found there), The Elks Lodge ( they have karaoke Wednesdays and fish frys on Fridays) and Cat's Like Us where I buy all my dresses, sweaters, sunglasses, skirts, scarves, belts, earrings, purses etc. I travel to the west coast a lot and visit all the pin up shopping destinations and I can say from experience that CLU has a great selection of retro clothing and sizing!
What do you enjoy about doing in store events at Cats Like Us?
I love doing in store events at CLU, It gives me a chance to connect with their clientele and meet new people in a much more approachable way. I think people can be afraid to just walk into my studio, this is a way to break down those walls and just meet me as a person and get more information. Plus you can't beat the shopping!
Have you ever lived in another city? Did you create art there as well? What drew you back to Buffalo?
I was born and raised in Buffalo NY, and after high school I moved to Phoenix, Arizona and that's where I began my west coast journey. A few months later I moved to Los Angeles I spent 12 years there. I also spent time in San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh PA. I returned to Buffalo 9 years ago because life pointed me in that direction and when I arrived I had this feeling that I could do great things here. I truly feel that Buffalo is my home and I am so proud to see how far our city has come and excited to see what we do next.
How long does it take you to produce a photo? What is the process?
A lot goes into a shoot that most of the time clients have no idea about. Sometimes I will create a scene just for them, I've bought wardrobe with a person in mind, or built/painted a set with someone in mind. Every time I meet a new client I ask them questions and take notes to help decide what we will accomplish that day. I will have them try on wardrobe to see what looks best, we will discuss hair and makeup. After hair and makeup I help them get into their outfits and make ensure they look amazing. Then we start shooting the entire step of the way I coach them with poses or suggestions and really try to put them at ease so they have a good time. A lot goes into all of it the makeup, the form flattering wardrobe, the best lighting for each scene, and the most body positive flattering posing, I use different lenses, cameras and lighting for different people and different scenes they are in. After they leave its a whole other process to import the photos safely and save them correctly. Then the editing can be depending on the client and the photo 20 minutes to an hour per photo. It is a very tailored skill, its meticulous and very time consuming. I try to get clients their photos in the most timely matter but it really depends on the job. For pin up/ boudoir shoots can be 2 weeks or longer, for weddings more like 12 weeks.
What inspired the name Sweet Heart Pin Up?
When I was first starting my business I wanted to run a valentine's day special I asked a friend of mine to be my advertisement girl. I did her hair and makeup had her pose in front of a pink fabric backdrop and handed her this big light pink heart that looked like a sweet heart candy and it had XOXO on it.
Later she posted her photos on Facebook and titled her album "Sweet Heart Pin Up" I saw it and was like thats it- you just named my business. I loved the name on many levels, sweet heart makes you think of someone you love and many times people do pin up or boudoir photos for the person they love. One of the definitions for Pin Up is -suitable for hanging on a wall. So I thought what a fun way to describe a photograph with out saying photograph. One of the phrases I have hanging at the studio says " Sweet Heart Pin Up - Photos for your sweetheart & photos of you & your sweetheart" I love capturing weddings, engagements, pregnancy, families, and making women feel pretty for their loved one. I just love. All the love. When I first got a tour of my storefront inside the bathroom behind the door was a vinyl valentine's decal on glass it was a heart and it said sweetheart on it. I thought wow if that isn't a sign. It reflected back on my humble beginnings and assured me that I was where I was supposed to be.
Where can we find you / book a shoot?
My website sweetheartpinup.com is very informative you can read over my FAQ section, look at my packages, and email me that way.
You can also contact me through my Sweet Heart Pin Up Facebook page, Instagram, or call / text me 716-803-5993.
P.S. Read about Meagan's photoshoot with Destiny in an earlier blog post here