Behind The Lens with Portrait Photographer Juliet Lofaro
Inside+Out is delighted to present our next BEHIND THE LENS exclusive interview with portrait photographer, Juliet Lofaro. A third-generation image maker, Juliet grew up with a camera in her hand. Encouraged by her dad, Ray Lofaro (who was considered a “legendary director’s rep” for creating an agency that represented film and video directors for TV commercials), Juliet was offered the opportunity to become a still photographer on film sets. She found herself behind the lens of Hollywood’s premiere talent, having shot the likes of Liza Minelli, Robert Downey Jr, Sarah Jessica Parker, Paul Sorvino, Gwenyth Paltrow, Marissa Berenson, Jared Leto—to name-drop a few. No pressure there! She fell in love with everything involved in capturing these special moments and decided then and there, this was her calling.
When you spend time with Juliet, it’s delightfully obvious that she easily connects with people and loves hearing everyone’s story. As a portrait photographer, she strives to create an intimate, authentic glimpse of her subjects, uncovering their inherent magnetism and unique personality traits evident in her work. Juliet recently opened a photo studio in Woodstock NY– “a contemporary little jewel box filled with natural light,” she proudly says. Let’s find out more about her journey as a photographer and how much she loves living and working in the Hudson Valley.
“It’s the job of the portrait photographer to identify which part of the subject’s psyche is most emotionally available and to connect to it. A photograph Is the document of the connection” – Juliet Lofaro
Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
I was born in New York City and moved up to Woodstock with my family in time for my fifth birthday. I left after high school to Boston and then Manhattan. After a couple of decades in the city and a few years of suburbia upstate and in Austin Texas, I was excited to return and raise my children here in my hometown.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a photographer and how did you get your start?
My earliest setup portrait was at eight years old with a Kodak Instamatic. In ninth grade, as yearbook editor at Onteora, our director and Graphic Arts teacher Mr. Kenn White loaned me a camera from school. I loved photographing my friends. My dad encouraged my portraiture by hiring me to photograph the film directors he represented while they were at work on set to use for promotion. Being on a movie set with people working at the top of their game and having the privilege to witness and document it all was pure magic.
Tell us about your style of photography and your photo journey.
On those sets as a teenager, I learned quickly how to be the unnoticed piece of the puzzle. I had to blend in yet be in the right spot. I noticed later that this translated perfectly for wedding photography. I think much of my work is kind of quiet portraiture, about holding a perfect moment. In my twenties in New York City, I didn’t have much of a plan but I kept busy. My roommates started Blue Man Group. I worked with them Off-Broadway as I assisted and studio managed both fashion and still life photographers before call time. On my own, I favored portraiture. I set up a business for actor and author headshots and opened my first studio on 29th street in Chelsea. I love working with actors. It lead me back to the movie world and I became a card-carrying member of Local 600 as Stills Photographer right up until I was pregnant with my first child. Having that studio shifted my mentality from being a freelancer to being a business owner.
You just opened a studio in Woodstock NY, which must be very exciting for you. In addition to shooting portraits, do you plan on doing anything special there like photo workshops or special events?
I do love to throw a party, to invite people and see them mix together. I would love to share the space with other artists and host pop-up shows. Woodstock used to be a town of countless galleries and I miss that. My space is like a little jewel box, the tiniest studio I’ve ever had. But it’s right in town, and it’s just right. I intend to be there open-house style on Fridays during school hours this fall so anyone can stop in and say hello. My “By Appointment” sign gets turned over when I am there but not with a client to say “The Photographer is In”.
What type of camera equipment do you use? Do you shoot videos as well?
My dad put a Nikon in my hands when I joined the photo department at NYU. I’ve stuck with them so far, and still make use of my original lenses. As for motion, so far it’s just for fun.
Describe your creative process.
With clients, once I know who they are and what they need, we talk about vision. We share images of the mood they want or ideas I have. I have a questionnaire that I send out that often reveals a side of the person that isn’t clear upfront. That’s fun. Even with families, I like to go in with a solid concept in terms of styling and planning for the final product. I want to be so prepared that we just get to connect and play during the session. Yes, there is always an element that you can’t predict. But that is the muscle I have strengthened over the years, working together and getting to experience that spark of connection.
What is one question you’re constantly asked or what’s the biggest misconception about your work?
Say you call me up and ask for “just a quick picture”. This does happen. The time behind the camera is the smallest amount of time in a job and running a photography business. My intention is that you will have a great experience starting with the first conversation and getting a photo you love because I’ve put the time in to create this process.
How is your industry changing and how are you adapting?
It’s fun to see film trending again, though I am perfectly content to continue to learn and work in the digital realm. Anyone can step in and start charging for their photography. It motivates me to be better and to think of creative ways I can stay true to myself while I continue to build my business.
How do you find clients and what type of marketing do you do?
I do a little bit of everything and I’m found in all the different ways. Next month, half of my clients are return customers.
Do you leverage social media to get work and how is that working for you?
Not as well as I could so for now it works best for me as a way to remind the people who I already know that I’m out here consistently making pretty pictures. When friends and clients share my work and their communities see it, that is just the best.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
For sure the studio. The Woodstock Townspeople project is moving forward again. I’ve been collecting antique frames for years, and I am finally using them with my portraits and for prints to sell over at Overlook Outpost on Rock City Road. They look so cool! Everything seems to take time, but it’s going in the right direction.
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live + work here?
I have lived outside a few different cities, and it was difficult to feel at home. Not only is the landscape so gorgeous, but it’s also continuously changing. We can set up in a rough industrial spot and move to breathtaking rural vistas in a single session! People come from all over the world to make this their home. That’s part of what makes this creative community so vibrant.
How do you find your support crew: assistants, hair, makeup, and stylists? By the way, did you know we have an online directory that lists professional services like this?
That’s cool, I will check it out because I need a stylist for some ideas that are brewing. Both of my assistants approached me. One was through a friend and the other saw my sign in town. For hair and makeup, I call my friends in the film industry. They ALWAYS know somebody.
What impact does your business have on your town/community?
I would love it if my Townspeople project and events at the studio fostered more connection and community between social circles in this town and maybe even help newcomers to find their people.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
My crew at Playhouse Plaza: Bianca’s Framing Piazza, Print Express, and Mari at Evolved Interiors. My clients and I love to be able to stop in at Nana’s. Lynn at Fringe does my hair. I go to all of them, but no tattoos so far. LTL MTN just made my new website. Norm Magnusson for copywriting when I can’t find the words.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
More, better, available, accessible mental health support and housing for everyone during this crazy time.
What would be your dream assignment?
To photograph someone from a band I loved growing up, like Roger Daltrey or Stewart Copeland, with their family. Someplace beautiful, with them joining us for a meal al fresco afterward.
Who or what is your favorite person, place or thing to shoot?
I have a couple of old friends who have been my muses from the start. Getting them in front of my camera is always fun, inspiring, and feels like home. And, my family of course.
Who or what inspires you personally?
My parents were both wonderful humans and I often marvel at what they did with their time here on earth. I’m in a club with working photographers who I respect both personally and professionally. We check in with “how’d that shoot go?” “What happened with that client?” or “How’d you light that!?” I like to hear that even the most talented of us are still figuring things out and we are all finding our way on different paths in life, work, and art.
If you had to do it all over again, which career would you choose?
This one. I can’t imagine working so hard and enjoying anything else.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know.
I love to bake and I have the BEST recipe for Tomato Soup Cake.
What would be your dream local Staycation?
I’ve never stayed at Mohonk Mountain House, and I’d love to do that.
What is your current state of mind?
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