Prepare The Flash shines a light on folks that shine a light themselves. The people behind the camera, taking pictures of the artists we all love. Let's take a look behind the scenes of some of Belgium’s most infamous clickers. For this edition, we had a chat with Raia Maria-Laura.
Imagine being away from home all the time, your parents denying you to follow your passion at first and eventually quitting school because you weren’t good enough. One year later, you’re a 20 year old shooting with the Kardashians personal make-up artist in Los Angeles, taking pictures of a bunch of famous Belgian people, mailing Usher to set up a shoot, traveling to all European fashion weeks and furfilling your dream of being a fulltime photographer. Raia Maria-Laura is a perfect example of someone who took advantage of all the possibilities given to us in the DIY-era. We talked to her about what got us here and her future projects.
When did you fall in love with photography?
"I remember studying film and telling myself that I never wanted to do photos. The turning point was my thesis project, which obliged me to take pictures and made me discover a whole different side of myself. Studying at Pikoh (Hasselt) really helped me develop as a person, I then went to Saint-Lucas but that didn’t really work out. I quit school because they want to take you in their direction, not guide you in yours. I would invest so much time in my projects but still get a low score. But then someone taking pictures of, for example, a Barbie-doll would get an A."
How did the ball got rolling for you?
“Well, as I've said, last year I quit my studies at Saint-Lucas, which had me thinking what I was going to do next. I didn’t hesitate when a friend asked me to join him on Paris fashion week, and after realising that all the big shots were going to be at the Balmain show, I dragged him with me. The plan was to just take pictures of every model leaving the building. After publishing those, Balmain asked me if I could take pictures backstage. And my social media also blew up after I posted pictures of Kim Kardashian."
You had some good moments in 2016, what is your best memory of that year?
"No doubt I had my best moment thanks to Joyce Bonelli, who is the makeup artist of the Kardashians. I’m a Kardashian fan and tagged her when I made a picture of Kris Jenner last September. She followed me back, and when I said I was visiting LA soon, she told me that she loved my pictures and was up for a shoot. I remember arriving there totally stressed out, it didn’t felt real. I also went to Paris Fashion Week last June and a lot of stuff happened since then. If you live for your cause you should just go for it and it’ll work out."
Usher also recently shared your picture, how did that go?
"I posted my picture of Usher on Instagram, and he DM’ed me saying that he liked the picture. I then ended up mailing with his marketeer who said that Usher wanted to see more. He also reposted the picture on his Facebook. We were arranging a shoot when we were both in LA, but due to circumstances it didn’t happen. Let’s hope it will in the future!"
Who do you work with in Belgium?
"I did a shoot for CFE Belgium’s latest collection. I also took pictures of Karen Damen one time and shortly after that I got to shoot all kind of famous people from Belgium, from Louis Talpe to …"
How would you describe your style of photography?
"I would say 'streetstyle portrait': I capture outfits in combination with face expressions, I want the image to be pure and show people how they really are. Fashion week is my main thing and it’s always a challenge, mostly you only get one shot at a picture because of the paparazzi pushing you back. But you have to stay focused! I like the adventurous part about it though. Solange passed by and I couldn’t even take a picture, but I won’t go yelling and pushing like the others (laughs)."
About that: any tips for new photographers?
"Do something that you like, don’t try to copy others. I experimented a lot with what I wanted to do: I tried nightlife once, but that didn’t really interest me, so it’s really important to feel what you are doing. If taking pictures of stars is what you want to do, go for it. I would say it works for me because I’m not starstruck. I’ll be like "hey what’s up". Also, branding is really important these days. Instagram opened all doors for me. And surround yourself with people that also live for their passion. Someone once came to me like: "I get bored when I look at your work". But if you know what you're doing, what your next moves will be and how you’re going to implement that, there should really be no place for negative energy. Keep your circle small!"
Who do you absolutely want to take a picture of in the future?
"Kris Jenner. If I can get a picture of her, I’ll have all the Kardashians in my collection (laughs)."
What are the plans for this summer?
"I'll be definitely going back to Paris fashion week. I’ll also be at Les Ardentes, doing quick portraits. Lil Uzi Vert & Young Thug are definitely on my list! And I'm making plans for Los Angeles. The coming months will be very busy!"