MARIELA FELIZ FERNANDEZ
Imagine you are sixteen and you have just moved to New York City from the Dominican Republic. You’ve got a camera and big dreams; you’ve been told New York is the place to make it happen. Ready, set, go.
Take a step back. That’s the path that 21-year-old fashion and portrait photographer Mariela Feliz Fernandez took to her career in the fashion photography world.
So how did this self-taught photographer (her only photo education has come via a few courses, YouTube videos, and online workshops) make it work? She worked hard and she worked relentlessly. In a lot of ways, Fernandez’s nascent career is the type that could only exist today.
Fernandez started snapping photos in her early teens so that she could create interesting and creative self portraits for her MySpace page. That whetted her appetite for the camera. It blossomed when she found the popular website DeviantArt, an online art and photo sharing community.
“I met and saw all these artists [on DeviantArt] and I got inspired,” explains Fernandez.
From there, she moved on to photo shoots of friends and more complicated portraits, all of which helped bring about her dream to live and work in New York City.
Fernandez is a social media maven. It’s how she keeps her business running. She runs eighteen different websites and profiles between her portfolio website, her Facebook page, her Flickr page and pages at other photo sharing communities.
She’s recently been building buzz through a 365 day self-portrait project, which, like the name suggests, has her posting a new self-portrait every day for a year. It's the second time she’s done the project and she finds it is a good reminder why she got into photography: self-portraits. What she found when she did the project the first time was that it was an excellent way to connect with a wide range of people and build her brand.
“Through the whole experience, I got a lot of people messaging me and letting me know that they liked what I was doing and that they felt inspired,” says Fernandez. “I’m not super skinny and people are surprised that I have the confidence that I have through my photos.”
Having confidence like Fernandez pays off, especially when she is, as Fernandez says with a laugh, “[her] own manager.”
Fernandez currently works primarily with clothing companies such as Arcade Clothing and LSD Clothing and modeling agencies such as Americana Model Management. Both are very hands-off when it comes to her work; they trust her to get the job done, whatever way she likes. That means, if she’s doing clothing, she picks the models and the setting. They provide the clothes.
While anyone looking at her work might glean that Fernandez has a distinct style to her work, she resolutely ducks that notions.
"People ask me that all the time, ‘What’s your style?’ Honestly, I don’t know. I believe that photographers, they evolve. At least I have,” says Fernandez. “If I see my work from even a couple years ago, I cant even recognize it as me.”
When you’ve got talent and confidence like Fernandez, evolving can only be a good thing.To see more of her work or to check out self portraits from her 365-day project, head to her Flickr.