Who wouldn’t want to stay forever 21? Beautiful skin, shiny hair, happy-go-lucky lifestyle, and the freedom to wear pretty much whatever you want. Well, New York-based fashion photographer Chris Hunt knows a little about being forever 21. He previously worked as a contract photographer for Forever 21 (for four years) and still frequently freelances for them. Forever 21—a clothing retail chain—strives to embody the look of fresh twenty-somethings with their trendy and carefree fashions. Chris’ fashion photography is the perfect compliment to their clothing style.
Eager to learn more about his extensive Forever 21 work, I asked Chris to give me the scoop:
How did you first start shooting for Forever 21?
They called me in for a meeting to show my portfolio. They were looking for a new photographer to shoot for one of their brands, Heritage 1981. I made a good impression and they ended up hiring me for a location shoot. They liked what I did and how I worked, and continued to hire me around once a month.
After four or five shoots, they started using me for some of their other brands, including the Forever 21 line. After a year or so, they were using me so often as a freelancer it made sense to put together a contract where I guaranteed them ten days of work per month and shot for all their brands. I was excited to have the opportunity to really be involved in shaping the image of their entire company.
How much creative freedom did you have?
It really varied from brand to brand and even shoot to shoot. Sometimes the client had a really clear concept going into a shoot and it was my responsibility to execute that to the letter, of course still trying to bring a little of my point of view. Sometimes the client would have a general idea and it was up to me to work with them to focus that into a story. But more often than not, we would go into the shoot almost winging it. I was flying by the seat of my pants on these shoots, but I actually found it quite fun and exciting.
Have there been an particularly fun shoots?
The Heritage kids shoot at the amusement park was a blast. The crew spent our lunch breaks racing each other around in the go karts. I am really inspired by locations, so I loved the places we had the opportunity to work, like the vintage record store or the graffiti walls in Venice Beach. But some of my fondest memories were after the shoot and the whole crew would go out to dinner, or even just stop off for a beer and to gab and have a good time. It really was like working with a good group of friends.
Overall, what’s it been like photographing for Forever 21?
Working with Forever 21 was a really wonderful experience with a great group of people. Anytime you have a client that you work that closely with, it becomes a family and I know I made some lifelong friends there. And as a photographer, it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to shape the look of such an influential fashion brand. There was some debate at the time about going into a contract that was going to take so much of my time, but I really wanted to do it because I put a lot of value in having such a close relationship with a client. After a solid three or four years working with them I know I made the right decision, and I really feel it changed my career and even my life for the better.