"I think creativity is a really important piece of productivity, and photography often serves as an outlet for me."
The work of photographer and filmmaker Lucy Blumenfield is one of a kind. Growing up in Los Angeles and attending school in New York, her work is all about telling individual stories, much like the diversity of the cities she’s from. Lucy began school at Columbia last year, and is working to pursue her passion of film in a career as a director or cinematographer.
Her interest in creativity began at a young age. She developed an interest in art--particularly drawing--when she was very young. When she was in middle school, this interest narrowed into photography, after being inspired by images on her Instagram feed. She was determined to learn more, and launched into an ambitious project to grow in her skills. “I realized I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be,” she says. “I did a ‘365’ project where I made an image every day. After that project, I realized I had improved a lot, which motivated me to continue photography.”
This project challenged her in ways that were incredibly important. “When I started I barely knew how to edit photos,” she says. “Being thrown into a situation (or rather, throwing myself into it) forced me to learn fast and consistently. Since I had to create so many photos, I found myself taking self portraits because I couldn’t always find models. Self portraiture gave photography as a means of self-expression a whole new significance and allowed me to have more control over the images and it also allowed me to develop my ability to direct models. As I went through the year, I could measure my progress just by looking at the photos. Almost every day I was creating something better than the day before, and getting closer and closer to putting out the idea that existed in my head.”
As she grew older, she developed an interest in music and concert photography. “I started emailing publications, some of which I was already working for with editorial/portrait work,” she says. Through those publications, I was able to get press passes for festivals and concerts. I think my first festival was Beach Goth in 2015, which kind of dropped me right in the thick of it and allowed me to shoot dozens of artists in only a few days.”
“I love going to concerts and talking to musicians,” she says. “Music photography is kind of a bridge between those two interests.”
Aside from her music photography work, Lucy also has a passion for film. In 2018, she produced her short first film, “Chrysopoeia”, earning selections in film festivals such as the Burbank International Film Festival and All-American High School Film Festival. A year later, she reflects on her experience with filmmaking and the project. “For me, film feels like the natural extension of photography,” she says. “It allows for more concept-building and narrative structure. Of course, that’s definitely still possible in photography, but I find film, especially in the way it can so easily encompass other mediums (music, dance, performance), a better platform to develop ideas and work with themes. I actually rewatched Chrysopoeia last night, and of course found so many faults in it and things that I can improve for my next project. But that was its purpose—just like the 365 project—to keep practicing what I want to do, reflecting, and then doing it again. Better.”
Her motivation to continue to grow is what inspires Lucy the most. “I’m usually pretty hard on myself, but when I finally come up with something I like, it’s a high,” she says. “I’m inspired to continue photography from opportunities to create work that I’m proud of and opportunities to work with other artists/musicians/publications.”
Understanding this balance and the influence it has on her work has been Lucy’s biggest takeaway. “Your mindset really affects the photos you take,” she says. “If I consciously tell myself I want to take really good photos before a particular shoot, my photos will be a lot better than if I hadn’t gotten into that specific mindset.”
Keeping up with a complex photography schedule while being in school isn’t easy. Lucy keeps an organized schedule to keep a healthy balance between work and school. “I think it comes down to managing deadlines and prioritizing,” she says. “Usually with school, I’ll have deadlines to stay on top of that come before my personal photography. Sometimes, I’ll have deadlines with my photography for clients or publications. However, these are deadlines I have more control over, since I can decide what to take in the first place. If I know I’m going to have a lot of schoolwork, I won’t take on as much photography work.”
“However, I also think creativity is a really important piece of productivity, and photography (especially self-portraiture) often serves as an outlet for me,” Lucy says. “So, carving out small amounts of time to create (whether that be photography or something else) can be helpful even if you have a lot of work. You can’t be a full time student and full time photographer at the same time (and that can be frustrating at times!) so you have to be able to prioritize how much you can take on.”
When giving advice to someone interested in photography, she reiterates the importance of working to find your creative voice. “Everyone always says this but it’s true: take so many photos. I saw myself really begin to improve when I created a structure for myself so that I was forced to take photos every single day. On top of that, be conscious about your vision and what you want to say. Photography is a means to say something, to tell a story or express a visual idea, even if that idea is as simple as a certain color palette or texture. Write, be deliberate, think about your inspirations and the messages you want to create.”
You can check out more of Lucy's work here: https://www.lucyellephotography.com/
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.