Sometimes you leaf through a high-gloss magazine, full with fashion, cosmetics and similiar – luxury glamour. Fantastic! But very often it also feels a little bit heavy, too dusty, there is a nuance of conservative look in the images, models with serious faces,… – the classical, usual way. But – before you’ll get the same countenance – take a look at the photographs of Jena Cumbo – and you’ll find something, that we call the ‘missing playful freshness’. Let’s take a closer look!
First of all – tell us a little bit about you – who ist Jena Cumbo, where do you live and what’s your daily job?
I’m originally from Rochester, NY – Home of Kodak – so I think photography is was basically in the water… I studied painting and photography at Hartford Art School in CT and went on to grad school at SUNY Buffalo. I spent several years making fine art portraits and was always facinated by fashion photography but didnt really get into shooting fashion until moving to New York City, upon which I started assisting on commercial shoots and gradually learned more about the industry, which is ever changing. After a brief year in Los Angeles, I came running back to NYC, I am currently living and working as a freelance photographer in Brooklyn, New York. Which for me means my job changes depending on the day of the week.
How would you describe your photography – and what does it mean for you?
I shoot a wide array of photography genres and subject matter, but the common thread in my work is narrative. With photography, I always set out to tell a story. Through my photos I try to convey a feeling of place or a sense of experience.
Your’re shooting this serie on the street – what was the idea behind it?
I wanted to do a summer theme fashion shoot. With my fashion tests, I am focusing on developing a body of work shooting young, urban, teen-ish looking stories. I like what happens when you give a model something to do, thats how the sport theme came up. Interesting things happen in the inbetween moments when you give a model a basketball or a pair of skates and going out onto the street and the court just seemed like a natural way to tell the story while giving it a sense of place.
Shooting on the street means also, that people are often want to know, what’s going on, starring at you and the model. Do you like that or is it sometimes annoying?
Well, I think it’s a bit annoying to the model…You always get an on looker or two, I’m kind of indifferent about it. For the most part New Yorkers don’t really look twice at people shooting on the street, that kind of thing happens all the time. In fact there were so many kids around in the last shot we did for that sporty series, that I had to time it, so that there wasn’t a little kid running through the background…I guess, that’s what we get for trying to take over the sprinkler in the park on a hot summer day!
What kind of equipment your’re using?
The first Canon 5D, I’m about ready for an update, I need to get something with a faster driver. When I work outside I like shooting with the canon 580ex2 speed lite off camera too to add a little flash to the day light, it’s super small and easy to move around with. I started shooting with film-hasselblad- but I have really come to love 35mm digital.
Did you plan the pictures before the shooting or is it a dynamic process during the shooting?
I always have a loose plan and do some initial scouting, knowing that I want to do a shot here or there and why… but my plans are never set in stone. Like with this shoot, it was suppose to be two models, but one couldn’t come last minute, so we had to change things a bit for a solo shoot.
Where do you find your inspirations?
My Friends, on the streets of NYC, that basketball court is right next to my apartment, theres a lot of young people around here with their own styles. I also draw or formed alot of my own kitchy style sense from growing up with 80′s and 90′s movies and TV. I like eclectic looks with lots of color and have a bit of a peterpan complex myself, so I guess that’s why I am drawn to shooting fashion with a younger vibe.
Perhaps a classical question – but what makes in your opinion the perfect picture for you?
I guess for fashion pictures, since we’re talking about a fashion story, it’s that moment, that in between moment, when something is controlled in terms of the lighting, the styling, but you get that look or action that feels real and natural and believable. There’s beauty in that.
Is there a photo-idea, you’ve never realized, but dream of it? Something, that is e.g. impossible in the “real world”?
There’s lots of things I’d shoot, if I had an unlimited amount of time and money. Doing shoots with more ‘production value’ would change things a lot for me. For example I’d love to do an underwater shoot, but that require a lot, a proper pool, a camera housing, a huge budget for clothing in case things got ruined…the list of needs could go on and on… it’s fun to dream, but I’ve been one to work with what I got.
What do you think about the main-stream “photography”. Everybody can buy today a digi-cam, everybody can shoot thousands of photos, everybody loads his images to Flickr and similiar… is it great, because more and more people are creative or is it “too much”?
I sort of love and hate it at the same time. the accessibility of digital has changed photography so much. I love that all different types of people have access to cameras and are taking pictures from their point of view. But the bad side of it is that now that ‘everyone is a photographer’ there are that many more dogs going after the same bone. I was young and just starting out when things were still mostly film and but I think it was a different ball game. I feel like it’s harder to stand out in the crowd now. But in a lot of ways that just pushes me harder to do my own thing and be creative in my work.
Jena Cumbo – where are you in 10 years … what’s your dream?
Hopefully doing better financially! For me it’s always about finding my balance, ideally I’d like being able to do my own creative work more frequently. I hope to get a rep agent, hopefully I will do that sooner than 10 years! Some of my dream clients would be to shoot for Teen Vogue, Anthropology, GAP…have an ad job or two… thats a nice 10 year wish list for me!
Sounds great – thanks for your time!
Credits “She’s Got Game”
Photography: Jena Cumbo
Stylist: Rachel Loeher
Makeup: Kim Caudle
Hair: Rubi Jones
Model: Kelly D of APM nyc
Interview by Emanuel Sprosec