Becky Yee is a commercial swim and lingerie photographer by trade and is on a mission to help women share their unique colors with the world. You can access her other creative works of art on her portfolio at beckyyee.com
At first I thought I needed more women of color in my book but then I thought color is much more than just about complexion. So I broadened my scope of thinking to women in color instead of just women of color. “In”, embodies so much more, as in the color of your skin, the color found in your personality, the color of your aura and even down to the color emitting from your bra.
How do you plan to expand your personal project?
I would like to shoot more women around the globe for this project and then show this in a gallery setting. I would love to show it in conjunction with one of the large lingerie trade shows like Curve. I think this can help spark the conversation about giving women the space to share their unique colors with the world in an uninhibited and bold way. Also, I want Women In Color to encourage brands to have all colors and shapes and body types represented in lingerie advertising and campaigns.
When and where did you find interest in photographing intimates/ lingerie in particular?
In all of my personal projects I like to explore the difference in space between private emotions and public perceptions. In many ways your undergarments are literally an expression of a private part of your personality that you wear every day, but you don't necessarily share with the public. We know it’s there, but we don’t physically see it so we don’t usually give it much thought. I want to give more thought to undergarments as an indicator of individualistic private emotions; emotions and parts of your personality that you may find difficult to share with the world. Sometimes the only person who sees your intimates are the people who you are truly physically intimate with.
How do you feel shooting this project?
My thoughts about myself when I work make me feel sort of “manly”. I always wear jeans and t-shirts, I get dirty on location when I'm kneeling on the ground –lifting heavy gear – and I feel very masculine. When I had my hardest shoot days and double bookings, I always found myself wearing the cutest, most sexiest girly underwear I had in my drawers. My underwear connected me to my feminine side and balanced me out during the day. I love that lingerie makes me feel sexy and feminine on the inside, no matter what I am doing.
I know you photograph both men and women, but if you have a preference which would you rather and why?
At the end of the day, I think of myself as a connector. I connect brands with their audience in the form of a photograph. So to me, the message and emotions we are trying to convey for the brand is more important than who I am photographing. I can go in to any situation and filter out the important bits. So if its men's, women's, group shots or even product shots, I feel confident that I can do a great job and get what the clients needs to enjoy the shoot.
I shoot mostly women because its a bigger market and the demand for commercial photographer for lookbooks, e-commerce and campaigns is greater in womenswear. But I also really enjoy shooting men’s. It’s a challenge, but I am always up for creating visual solutions for the clients.
I remember the first big men's underwear shoot I did. I shot Christian La Croix's boxed underwear. My assistant and I had so much fun at the casting. Usually its bikini girl after bikini girl, but this time around it was ripped-buff guys, one after the next. I love looking at bodies and skin. I think the human form is so beautiful in all its renditions and I appreciate it all; in sizes, shapes and forms, gender and of course color!
What motivates you the most, as someone behind the lens?
What motivates me the most is being able to capture the spark of life and personality that everyone has within them; all the emotions and beauty that I see in my subjects allows me to successfully share it with the world.
Do you have a particular favorite ‘go to’ camera for this style? If so, what is it and why is it your top choice?
I can shoot with any camera you put in my hand and rock it out. I was recently commissioned by Swim Miami to cover all the swim runway shows in Florida in July, 2017. I did all the photos and video live postings with Snapchat spectacles and my iPhone. It was so quick and easy and instant. It was also a great compliment for the new original Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Line for real women. The iPhone images had no retouching just authentic women enjoying being in the swimwear!
That was an exception to my normal routine so it was super fun. The phone was so light and in my hand at all times, but my favorite camera to shoot regularly with is a Hasselblad camera with a Phase One back. I want to try the mirrorless Hasselblad that is out, but haven't had the opportunity yet. If a rep from Hasselblad is out there, please consider a bikini shoot in Miami for a trial with me, haha!
List your favorite things about photographing the Women In Color project?
My favorite thing was seeing how sexy and beautiful every woman is. There were these images I have of women taking their shirts off. My initial impression of one woman was she was a bit mousey and shy. Not an overtly sexual or sex symbol woman often portrayed in large projects. But when she was taking her shirt off, I felt and saw what her boyfriend would find appealing and attractive about her. I thought, "Wow what a sexy woman.” And it was so lovely for her to share this private side of herself with us and made me realize I was quick to make a judgement based on incomplete information. So I had to check myself from doing that.
Again, my theme of private emotions and public perceptions always fascinates me. So seeing my initial image of this woman and then having it shifted in the process is always great. I also like how my main purpose of giving women a space to share their colors with the world, did in fact happen.
Another story was with a woman, who I didn't realize at the time, had beautifully large breast. She was so self-conscious of being big chested that she hid her breast from the world. She often wore men's shirts buttoned up to her collar and never low cut anything to show her cleavage. In fact, she was ashamed of how sexy her body was. So when she took her shirt off everyone in the studio was like “OMG, if I had breast like those I would be showing them off everywhere.” She received so many positive heartfelt compliments from the other women in the studio on how beautiful her breasts were and almost immediately her self-consciousness subsided and she felt good about her body. With her shoulders propped back, she began leading the shoot with her heart and her breast and all the photos with her in it allowed her personality to shine. It looked like she felt much more empowered to be herself and show the colors of her personality with the world because she was no longer hiding her body or her soul.
There were so many stories like this, where women truly felt they could relax and show their true colors with everyone in the studio. So I am so happy to be able to share these photos I created with everyone now.
Have you learned anything about yourself in the process of shooting this? If so, what?
I always learn things about myself. Like, how not to be so quick at judging a book by its cover, for one thing. Humans are complicated beast, as there are so many different facets and nuances to everyone. I see it every time I have someone in front of my lens and they always surprise me.
I also learned that colored powder gets EVERYWHERE, haha! My studio was covered in a fine dust of colored cornstarch. It took me a month to clean all the top surfaces and all nooks and crannies to get all the colored powder out of my studio. It was such a nightmare to clean everything up. Even funnier, was that some of models went home with colored powder all over them. They rode the NYC subway home covered head to toe in colored powder. They looked all crazy and colorful and didn't mind one bit.
So now when I shoot this project I move it to the roof of my studio and shoot outside and just hose down the rooftop. A great lesson learned.
Have there been any personal icons that have inspired your unique photography vision? If yes, how so?
Definitely Diane Arbus is a huge inspiration to me. Her photos just rocked my world when I saw them as a teenager. Her concept of peeling back the layers of your subject to reveal a different side to your subjects personality sits with me. I always like to see what lies beneath the surface; the world beneath your skin. I am a very curious person.
Where did the under garments selection come from and how did you pick each color for each woman, or did they pick it themselves?
The women picked the colors that appealed to them the most and we were fortunate to have Undies.com sponsor us with some of their very affordable and colorful lingerie. So if any iTEM readers are ever in the need of lingerie, please check out their website and support them!
Among this project, if you had to choose, which would be your particular favorite image and why?
I love one of the first ones I ever took, it is the one of Chantel Jeffries with the red powder. I was just testing out how the powder works and moves. I had a few misses and then it was only me and Chantel in the studio. So I had to throw the powder with one hand and then release the shutter with the other. I felt like an octopus. It was hysterical, but the minute I saw the image pop up on the laptop I knew we created a little magic.
Is there any one piece of advice you would give to people interested in exploring photography as a career?
Follow your passion and do what lights you up inside. Your way of looking at the world is unique so feel free to share it with the world!
What take home message do you wish to portray with this particular project?
I hope to provide a space for everyone to share their colors with the world. Your quirks, your idiosyncrasies and what makes you truly unique. The world needs your flavor and it's a better place when you can share and be your authentic self. So own your colors and share them!
Is there any additional information you would like to share with our readers that could inspire them?
I recently participated in a friends personal project called "More than my Numbers". Its a great project. Her mission statement is that she wants to encourage people to know their numbers but not be defined by them. If your interested, you can read my story and my struggle with my numbers here.
Tyler J. Drinnen, is the Founder and Editor in Chief of iTEM MAGAZINE,
a freelance fashion writer, poet,
photographer and abstract visual content producer.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Studies from Sonoma State University, where he wrote a weekly Opinion Column For
The Star, dabbled with his own radio podcast format, titled Saturday Nite Scandal, and helped to create one of the first of 25 Professional Student Lead PR Firms in the USA.
From there on, he continued his work by interning with Sonoma Discoveries Magazine and then shortly after wrote and interned for Fashion School Daily, where he solidified his love for feature writing and working with emerging talents from around the world.
In December of 2016, he received an Honorary Master of Arts in Fashion Journalism from the Academy of Art University. And what an achievement that was, to be the first in his program to have graduated a full semester early. Bringing him to four degrees in a short five and a half years, nothing will stop him from bringing art to the eyes of many.
He has worked in the fashion industry for nearly a decade, from commercial retail management to corporate level ghost writing. Now - he the poet - T.J.D. takes his life public with the independent launch of the urban California lifestyle based fashion-art movement, iTEM MAGAZINE: A Platform For Rising Artists.