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A lot of photographers combine taking still images with filming videos in search of broadening their creative spectrum and ways of expressing themselves. That’s the case of Bethany Vargas, who says that moving image helps convey some messages that pictures can’t. Although she now creates dreamy pictures where fashion and fiction meet, and in which she pays special attention to detail and textures, her creative journey started with a pirated version of Photoshop with which she did banners for Myspace. Sounds interesting, right? She definitely is.

At which age and how did you start to work creatively?
I think at fifteen. I was in high school and it literally started out with a pirated version of Photoshop. I started to make banners for Myspace and then someone asked me to take photos, and it started to become this business and went from there until I had my seniors project. I was trying to make it creative and we had this weird fashion shoot – it is a secret thing, no one knows about my work previously. And from there it evolved, and I knew that I wanted to do more fashion and video work. So that’s where I am now.
So now you are a photographer also working with videos. Do you think certain things are easier to express over motion picture?
For sure, I think that’s why I am so attracted to video. There are definitely things I simply cannot express over photography. I am very inspired by music and I think that it is where the videos come from very much, even some of the photos too. I feel a certain way or there is something going on in my life and I just want to express it with video or photo, and that is the start of a lot of concepts for my shoots – but that won’t be apparent to the viewer. It is very open to interpretation, but it is how I get inspired for my motion work and how I try to make someone feel a lot more than through photography.

How and when do you decide if a project is going to be filmed or photographed? Do you sometimes do both?
I do both, but I really like to focus on one if I can. It is so much stronger for the project if I just do one or the other. If I have a really strong video project I will for sure put all my creative energy into that so it can be executed in the best way.
You do a lot of portraits. What is it especially that you like about working with people? 
Yes. That again roots back to where I started my photography, which was the senior projects. There I just saw people’s confidence boost up and it was something like watching their face light up when looking at a picture, just showing them from the back of the screen. That was also super fun for me, to just see themselves transformed and then translating that into my work. I now work with models but it’s still fun to see them when they see themselves in a different way. Because every photographer has a different style and every shoot you do is something unique. Especially with my work I feel like I put them in a very different style, atmospherically and aesthetically, so it is very interesting to see their reaction from my point of view. I also just love to connect with people.
Do you prefer to work with models who are strangers to you or working with people from your surrounding?
Most of the people you see on my site are strangers. I like to either creep and find the right person or find my muse. For example, one girl I found in a mall. I saw her and was like, “I have to shoot you”, but she was kind of scared. She didn’t speak much English and she was just visiting at the time – that was when I still lived in Seattle – and she said no. But three months later I ran into her again and I was like, “This is faith, I have to shoot this girl.” So I got up to her again and finally she said yes. We met and ended up shooting three times after that, and they are probably some of my favourite pictures.

Your imagery is warm, soft and dreamy but also very clean and somehow minimalistic. What are your references style-wise? Is there something in nature or life in general that you try to refer to? Where does your inspiration come from?
That is a great question. Honestly, my inspiration comes from a lot of places and it varies. It comes from life situations to music and feelings. For example, I like to grab on one thing and work around it, whether that’s a beautiful location where I think about what can we do and make it look super strong, or if it’s about how I’m feeling at that moment. How can I transform this inner photo in a tasteful way? And when it comes to artists, I really enjoy Edward Hopper’s paintings, and I also love Nick Knight, for example.
Do you make concepts or moodboards before your shootings?
I used to do a lot of them before shootings, but again, I just really like to build around one thing. Then I try to form a team and do a creative briefing with the moodboard and all of the details so they can understand what I expect from that shoot. And I show them what I want. It is really hard because I can see what I want but I need them to understand my vision, so it is about doing a lot of online research in order to find things that resemble what I’m thinking, or trying to write it out, or finding other inspiration so they can get it.
Is there something that you aspire to make people feel or see when they look at your pictures?
Definitely textures. I like to work and play with them and incorporate really nice fabrics or cool pieces. I really want that to shine through the pictures. But there is nothing more specific that I want people to feel. Is that horrible to say? I shoot for myself or in collaboration with the people I’m working with on the shoot. It is kind of our thing in this weird way. I don’t want you to feel exactly this or that. For a video work, it’s different. I think that with videos I want people to feel something special. It is music and video together and there is just something about that combination that should make you feel something. But of course, it is good if you feel something out of a photo. Then I did something good.

Being based in Los Angeles now, how would you describe the creative and fashion scene there?
I literally just moved here three months ago from Seattle so I am still trying to figure it out. But so far I have met some amazing creatives. There are so many talented people here and what I have dived into so far has been great.
And finally, what can we expect from you in the future?
I definitely want to keep challenging myself and I want my projects to get more on a larger scale, so for sure larger projects in the future. More video work also, but I really just want to take myself to the next level and I don’t know exactly where that’s going to be. Guess we will see when we get there.

Words
Julius Pristauz

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