International Women’s Day: Jade Keshia Gordon on crossing barriers
Meet the photographer
When I met photographer Jade Keshia Gordon from her office last year in a studio in Peckham, London, I wanted to ask a lot of things. Our conversation was taped after the first Black Lives Matter protests, and Jade was planning her talk to the Photography Show: “The Dos & Don’ts When Shooting A Black Model”.
So what advice was Jade planning to give, and was she starting to see attitudes change in the photography industry? “Everything is changing. My talk will cover the technical aspects of lighting different skin tones, but also things that you should and should not say. I have been in castings and on sets and I’ve heard people say things … “
Jade doesn’t like to see discrimination as working against her, but acknowledges that there have been times in the past when it could have hampered her progress. “In the industry, being a woman in itself is hard enough. And then I feel like, you know, being a black woman is also one thing. And then, being tall is also one thing.
So there are these three things that should technically work against me. I try my best not to think about it too much, but I’m sure it’s happening. I look at the people who are chosen for certain jobs, and I think, “I could do it.
“I like to see more women shoot. When I started, there weren’t many of us, and it’s so, so good to see so many women come out and enjoy the job. It’s more balanced now. I would say he still has a bit of time left, but it’s definitely going in the right direction.
Jade is a good barometer for noticing changes in the industry, having toured for almost ten years from the age of 17. “I’ve always loved photography, then I was given a low-level camera, which I used for about five years at the start. of my career. I started doing photoshoots with friends who told me, “Jade, you’re pretty good at this!”
When Jade’s friend then booked her for an official shoot – and a modest commission – she was elated. “I thought, ‘Oh my God! I got paid to do this job now. It’s my job.’ Afterwards, Jade tried her hand at college and university, photography playing a role in both.
“I did photography at the AS level, but I didn’t do well. I think I failed. I also went to college to study photography, but gave up. I was already working outside a lot, with new studios, so I thought I was going to do it myself.
Jade is a firm believer in using what you have and has learned her craft through trial and error, online tutorials, and an initially modest photo kit. “I’ve upgraded my camera now, but it’s been ten years. I had my Sony Alpha 290 camera until 2015 and used my last student loan to get a full frame camera, the Canon 6D. “
She went to Canon 5D Mark IV last year, having already used the Mark III. A follower of the brand, she loves looking for second-hand compatible lenses that are always in excellent condition.
When Jade first started in the industry, she stepped straight into the world of portraiture, fashion and beauty. “I was emailing people, just offering my services to them, in the music industry as well. I used to watch a lot of YouTubers and I was like, “Ooh, I can contact them too,” which I tried. “
The testing years for Jade were from 2010 to 2015. “I was still getting paid, but you know, little money here and there. But I was paid to do it, even at such an early stage. And then 2015 came along, and it was probably my year of change, when I started working with a well-known influencer. So I kind of tapped into the blogging world, and I became the photographer that everyone knew: “Okay, it’s Jade, she does that kind of thing.
Jade also does a lot of studio work – with now permanent space at Sugar Studios, London – and always working to improve her technical and lighting skills. “I don’t think I ever really changed what I wanted to do, I just improved it. I tried shooting a lot more indoors, just to get a feel for some lighting. Especially last year.
Even professional portrait photographers are sometimes reluctant to use artificial lighting, either for fear of making a mistake or for fear that it will complicate a shot. Jade, however, likes to experiment with lighting setups – a lot.
“I invested in new Broncolor lamps in December and I also work with the Vitec group and Lastolite. As much as I love outdoor shoots, just as well what you can create indoors. I think if you have the ability, try to do both.
Aside from lighting, another key skill for portrait and fashion photographers is working with models. Did the staging and the pose come naturally? “[Working with] models was interesting. I think, because I’ve always filmed people anyway, directing was something that I never had a problem giving. But finding models has always been a problem. Talk to agencies. It was really trial and error, especially early in my career.
Jade likes to look for new faces. “I have essential models. But I also like working with new faces because I feel like some new faces are amazing. Often times, they also need testing or additional experience. If there is a big budget, I could go for a mainstream model.
The next step for Jade – in addition to hosting her latest masterclasses and conferences – is to open her own studio. “It’s the only step that really makes sense. Everything else, I’m very happy. From a gear point of view I’m great and I work with a really good group of people.
She wrote a mini-book last year on the subject of branding and marketing, but recently she’s been writing a “real book” in the last few months in particular.
“The confinement did me good because I was able to write a lot. I will probably self-edit at some point next year. But I also take each day as it comes, because you never know what’s going to happen… ”