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Photo Artist chat: Felicia McGowan

Mar. 9, 2020
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Felicia McGowan isn’t interested in fitting into the status quo. Born and raised in Southeastern Wisconsin, she spent most of her childhood unsupervised, playing on active train tracks and swinging over swamps on willow tree branches. She’s always had a soft spot for kids and a nostalgia for childhood. While living in NYC, Felicia found a love for photography and pursued children’s fashion photography. In conversation with Adolescent, Felicia discussed the importance of staying true to her own personal style. 

Adolescent Content: How does your "work in progress" tend to take form? 

Felicia McGowan: I wear all of the hats on my editorial shoots: styling, casting, photography, editing, even hair and make-up. So there’s a bit of artistry every step of the way, especially with styling. As soon as a new season launches I get a dozen emails from brands and showrooms with their new lookbooks. It sends me into creative mode. 

But something always goes wrong at the last minute or I simply bite off more than I can chew. So it mostly feels like work until I’m on set. Even on set, oftentimes people can’t see my vision or something goes wrong or a part of me comes off as unprofessional (my age, wearing all the hats, my camera, etc.) [Then] I end up proving myself in the editing stage. I get to just listen to music and edit to my heart’s desire. Editing is my favorite part and is when I feel most creative. 

Adolescent: When creating this piece, did you ever take into consideration the way that it would be viewed by your audience, or was it a completely personal process?

Felicia: This project was completely personal. I fell in love with the location and a dress that I found at a thrift shop. For personal projects I’m mostly concerned with the parents of the models liking the photos.  

Adolescent: Were there any unexpected challenges you faced while creating it?

Felicia: Usually my shoots produce a dozen challenges, especially with styling and pulling from brands. It’s refreshing when I DIY or thrift one or two pieces and just shoot for myself. For this shoot I only had one main challenge: I really wanted the dress to be tie-dyed, but the dye wouldn’t stick in the way I wanted. 

Adolescent: Honestly, how well do you respond to criticism?

Felicia: It depends on the criticism. I know that if I could afford better equipment I could produce better work. Critiquing the quality of my images isn’t helpful. Most of the criticism I receive is from parents who want free images anyways, but are mad that the pictures are like the rest of my pictures: not super smiley, grainy, dark. However, I recently did a workshop that was entirely portfolio critiques and learned a lot about my framing. I really appreciated getting criticism on something technical and not that of my personal style.

Adolescent: How does your art stand out from the majority of art that’s being created today?

Felicia: I shoot kids and have little interest in commercial, palatable work. I love embracing lo-fi, grain, angst, sorrow, and discomfort, even in little kids. My style isn’t very popular within the kids’ fashion industry, and I’m often told to take my style and shoot adults. 

Adolescent: How do you define success for yourself and your art? 

Felicia: Right now success would be being able to pay my bills. I don’t like accepting a capitalistic ideal of success, but this is a capitalistic society.