Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Countdown to nD Fest: What It's Really Like To Be a Photographer in Nashville

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 1:45 PM

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  • Photo of Lacey Cortez by Gina Binkley

It's Day Two of our nD Fest countdown, and today we're featuring local photographer Gina Binkley.

Binkley, who hails from Ashland City, Tenn., has lived and worked as a self-employed photographer, art director and graphic designer here in Nashville for "a long time." Her clients include The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Harvard Business Review, Garden & Gun, Oxford University Press and multiple record labels such as Sony and Warner Bros. While she's seen a lot of growth in our local fashion circle throughout the years, she stresses the need for Nashville to step it up and set the trends. She also believes that our rich musical heritage shouldn't be diminished as we progress forward, and that it's a unique facet that sets us apart from larger coastal fashion markets like Los Angeles or New York City.

How long have you worked in the local fashion industry?

I have had music, fashion and retail clients in design and photography for 20+ years.

Do you feel that there are more opportunities for the type of work that you do now compared to when you first started out?

Definitely there are more jobs in retail and for stylists. When I first started in the biz, the few stylists there were shopped mostly out of town. There were a couple of designers/tailors sewing custom clothing, but it had a very Nashville look.

What do you think is the hardest thing about or the biggest barrier to working in the fashion industry in Nashville? What would need to happen to overcome this?

I think there is an impression or stigma that Nashville is full of rhinestones, cowboy hats and pickup trucks. I think that is evident in film and TV projects that have been produced here in recent history. I actually love traditional western wear and I think we do it well here — it is daily wear for some people, not a costume. And I like a pickup truck with the right patina, but we are not Texas. The Nashville look is not the Texas look. That is often confused.

Style in Nashville has become very diverse, but I believe if we want to be taken seriously as a fashion contender, we must become a trendsetting city instead of following trends. And we have to step up the designer ante. It would be nice to have more vital and original designers creating here on a national level. Look at Florence, Ala., a very small spot just south of here that is home base to CFDA award winner Billy Reid and Alabama Chanin’s Natalie Chanin.

It is one thing to have great, accessible shopping, but you have to have a community of designers producing the goods and a team of people working to put it all out there. Then you have to have others investing and supporting. Lots of $$$. Can that happen here? It seems to be happening on a small scale, but how much can it flourish or grow?

Personally, I would like to see Nashville known as a city in the forefront for all things creative. That goes for style, photography, art, music, etc. The music biz has always had a life of its own, and fortunately it is a very exciting time for music in Nashville. But don’t forget music made Nashville — we should not shun our roots or get too big for our britches. Our southern musical roots put us on the map; they should be embraced, remembered and perhaps used as inspiration.

Our history is our ace, our biggest asset, and we don’t need to turn our back on it. That is what makes us unique as compared to LA or NY.

What is the biggest complaint you hear about Nashville’s fashion community?

I would like to see it become more inclusive and even more diverse, but I don’t generally hear complaints otherwise. From a photographer’s perspective, I would like to see more unique visions in the concepts and approaches to fashion photography done locally. Again, setting standards, not following. If we want to be contenders, we have to take chances and step outside the box. That starts at the top.

Alternately, what is the best thing about Nashville’s fashion community?

The enthusiasm, effort and hard work being done to make “it” happen.

Do you feel that, at some point in your career, that you’d want or need to move to a larger market such as L.A. or NYC to explore more work opportunities? What would keep you here in Nashville?

My work is very diverse. I was taught early on that you cannot be a one trick pony and survive. I do have clients in different fields based in NY and LA, so fortunately I am already working in those markets. I have always believed that if you offer something solid and unique you can base any place you choose.

What is the biggest misperception that outsiders have about the Nashville fashion scene?

I have been fortunate enough to work on film/TV projects based here in Nashville and also many music projects from labels in LA and NY. It is so funny to see and hear the interpretation of what Nashville is — like and how we dress, talk, wear our hair, etc. Most of the time it is a Hollywood fantasy, since 95 percent of these people have never even been here. I guess Nashville just conjures up a lot of visuals for people.

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