For our 5 Questions series, we ask creative professionals five questions about the nature of creation and collaboration. This week we spoke with commercial director and fashion photographer Daniela Federici. Born in Australia and based out of New York City, Daniela’s career has seen her work with brands like Nike, Samsung and BMW, and photograph celebrities like Debbie Harry and Chloe Sevigny. With work that has graced the pages of magazines including Vogue, Interview and Elle, Daniela recently emailed us from Mission Beach, Australia to talk about some of the celebrities she’s had the pleasure of working with, pulling inspiration from unlikely places, and an emotional photo shoot in Mumbai.
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LASTBLOG: Where do you go for inspiration?
Daniela Federici: I’m inspired by things constantly from films to books, exhibitions, and life in NYC and traveling and just having a constant cultural curiosity. As a creative director, photographer/director, I’m constantly noticing typography, cinematography, sounds on the street, and a quirky graphic on an Indian Papa dam box to the embossed invitation to Morko Morri’s performance of Madame Butterfly at La Fenice. Over the years my brain has evolved to absorb and take note on everything my senses experience.
I also have a huge book, film and music library, but I find with experience, it all accumulates and rattles around in the depth of my brain.
LASTBLOG: Walk us through one of your favorite things you’ve created.
DF: I’ve been fortunate over the last 25 years to work on so many fantastic print and film projects from my early days shooting Anna Nicole Smith for Guess to Ad campaigns from De Beers to BMW, and all the great editorials with Vogue, Esquire and GQ. I’ve loved shooting celebrities like Prince, Debby Harry, James McAvoy, Chloe Sevigny, Radiohead, Heidi Klum and so many other amazing talents.
However one VERY special shoot was being chosen to do the campaign for the reopening of Taj Palace Mumbai. I had been a hostage during the terrorist attack there a year earlier, so to go back and do the campaign was emotionally cathartic and I felt extremely honored.
I worked with Stephanie and Andrew from The Sacks Agency NYC, creating a campaign based on ‘Elegant Moments’ at the various Taj Palaces, including the Taj Mumbai and the stunning Jaipur and Hyderabad Palace Hotels. The later two being two of the most remarkable palaces in India.
The cathartic emotional shot was the one of the staff celebrating the re-opening of the Taj Mumbai, on the staircase. It was symbolic as this is where my fellow guests were being shot in front of us and thrown down below. Photographing the staff celebrating the reopening, after they had lost so many family and staff members, showed India’s resilience to move on and a message to the terrorists that the attacks were futile and so very unnecessary.
The video shows that moment when my crew and I all became rather teary eyed and super proud to be part of this evolution.
“…I find with experience, it all accumulates and rattles around in the depth of my brain.” – Daniela Federici
LASTBLOG: What is the value of collaboration?
DF: Collaboration is what makes something good become brilliant. When the right talents are put together magic can happen. Look at Vreeland and Avedon or David Baily and Jean Shripton or Madonna and David Fincher. It’s about an art director and a brand, a photographer and model or fashion editor, a director and a pop star. It’s about two or more talents coming together with a similar vision that inspire each other to be the best they can be. It’s about excelling in ones own abilities because of our respect and admiration for which we are working with.
LASTBLOG: Tell us about your most memorable collaboration to date.
DF: I’ve really loved all the Traveler collaborations with Mark Connolly, former fashion director for Conde Nast Traveler.
Mark is so exceptionally creative, with wonderful vision, that it is always an inspiring experience. We have a similar approach to our craft where we approach each project with an entirely different technique. His styling always varies based on the idea, as does my lighting and color palette and yet our work is so identifiably ours.
Our many shoots together range from models styled like tropical birds, flying through the rainforests in Costa Rica on Zip lines, to our Maharani shoot at The Umaid Bahwan Palace in Jodhpur India, to our Broome shoot that resembled a Hitchcock Muse being dropped in the Australian Desert.
Mark always liked the crew to spend a few days location scouting and settling into the environment and then we would have 2-3 days shooting for 10 pages. Each shot would be part of a travel log as part of traveler’s format, but always have a high fashion edge. We could get away with ideas that other magazines could not. These were all such brilliant adventures and our passion and enthusiasm shows in the shoots.
These fashion shoots on Travel started our web show and travel guides collaboration. We worked on the TV show pilots and now are creating a travel App with curated travel guides.
“It’s about two or more talents coming together with a similar vision that inspire each other to be the best they can be.” – Daniela Federici
LASTBLOG: Who would you like to collaborate with, past or present? Why?
DF: There are so many people I’d like to collaborate with that it’s hard to list just one. However I’ve just written a ten part documentary TV series that would mean collaboration with Vanity Fair and The Academy of Motion Pictures. And the response has been favorable so hopefully this will be a phenomenal collaboration and a passion project I’ve worked on for a few years.