KatchU recently welcomed LA-based photographer Sarah Barlow for a talk about her career. She has been a photographer for fashion brands for artists such as Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams. Barlow spoke about her beginnings, inspirations, and experiences working in the industry.
A homeschooled child, Barlow started her photography career in her early adolescence, specializing in wedding shoots. After two or three years, she embarked on music photography, shooting her cousin’s band while they were on tour. This experience cemented her love for artistic photography and prompted her to move to Nashville, Tennessee after graduating high school.
While based in Nashville, country superstar Taylor Swift became Barlow’s first A-list client. The two had been friends for a number of years without Swift knowing the extent of the photographer’s career. Eventually, a mutual friend set up the opportunity for Barlow to shoot the album art for the singer-songwriter’s upcoming project Red. Swift and Barlow’s friendship made the process relatively smooth as they were already compatible and “connected on the same wavelength.” Barlow would further collaborate with Swift for her following album 1989.
Barlow is a self-described “emotional shooter” and “empath,” which she stated lends to her motion-oriented style of photography. She emphasized the importance of finding something to bond over with her clients, even when she does not particularly get along with them. “There’s a level of confidence you have to put in, because putting the clients at ease with your level of confidence and warmth is key.”
When asked about her inspirations, Barlow immediately called to mind the music videos of Beyoncé and Rihanna and to the more indie filmography of Yorgos Lanthimos. She appreciates artists with “strong aesthetics” and hopes that her work emulates such qualities. However, Barlow noted that she doesn’t like to pull ideas out of thin air for her clients and prefers drawing ideas from her client’s work. “I like feeling the emotion of something and then tying it in with the art.” This, according to Barlow, allows for a more organic shooting process and allows for both her and the other party to be satisfied.
Barlow not only works with celebrities, but with fashion brands such as Hollister. Barlow described working for brands as being like a “hired camera,” since companies typically come to her with a final product already in mind. While she dislikes the lack of creativity these projects entail, she also acknowledges that this aspect makes for easier shoots. “It also helps that the models that I work with also know their angles very well,” she further added.
If you want to see more of Barlow’s work, you can find her on Instagram @sarahbarlow, or her website low-field.com.