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Girls Inc. Online

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Meet Duffy

Behind the Lens

Launch Duffy's photo gallery.

Duffy-Marie Arnoult is a photographer with an incredible portfolio. From remote villages in Africa to movie premieres, Duffy shoots it all. Ever wonder what it's like to be behind the lens at a huge red-carpet event? Duffy dishes all about being part of the media.


Q: Describe your job. What's a typical day of work like for you?

I am a freelance photographer, so there is a lot of variety. This keeps things exciting and new. Each day I wake up not and I either know I have a job to shoot, or I am "on call" in case a shoot comes up last minute. I am either sending out invoices or retouching image files for my clients. I have a lot of responsibilities and each day is a challenge to see how much I can get done. This means I do not have a typical 9-5 job. I have to be disciplined to get work done and keep my records organized.

Q: You work for a photo agency. What does this mean? How did this job opportunity come about?

I freelance for a major photography agency, so this means I am a contributing photographer, not a fulltime staff photographer. My assignment editors call me if an event comes up and then I determine if I can take it. It gives me more flexibility since I can refuse a job if I need to, but I usually try to what my editors send me to guarantee that they will call me again.

I first started freelancing as a photo editor, but I made it known that I was a photographer and available to shoot. I found out about the job through a friend of mine who was shooting for the company in Los Angeles. This has been a great opportunity because my photos have appeared in publications all over the world early in my career and it has helped get my name out there.

Q: How do you make time for both projects for which you're hired and your own personal projects?

It is difficult to find time for personal projects. I feel fortunate that I am making a career in a field that I love, but I am careful to try to preserve the love I have for photography as a hobby. Being an only child, I have an interest in photographing sibling relationships and this has been one of my ongoing projects. I also had an opportunity to photograph pro-bono [free of charge] for Caring Response and The Brothers St. Gabriel charities in Madagascar. I also have a soft spot for photographing small dogs on the street!

Q: When you are working for the agency, you are responsible for photographing celebrity red-carpet events from premieres to parties. What are some of the things you like about this job? What are some of its challenges?

Covering a newsworthy event or party is fun because I'm right in the middle of the excitement. It can be difficult depending on the status of the event—the bigger the event, the higher the stakes for getting the best photos. Sometimes the situation can get out of control and it can be frustrating!

I always try to stay calm and diplomatic if I run into a temperamental photographer or event representative. In the end, it's a job, and I do all that I can, but I am not going to jeopardize my values or integrity. I can honestly say that I have no regrets about the way that I have handled difficult public situations.

Q: Has becoming a part of the media changed your views on how the media portrays celebrity culture and influences concepts of fame, popularity, and body image? How so?

I am interested in taking photos that show people at their best and represent truthfully the situation at hand. A lot of publications and TV shows focus on celebrity scoops and will pay top dollar for images that back up their stories. The public seems to have an intense fascination with these celebrities and since they are buying the publications and watching the shows, they are encouraging the continuing media coverage.

A lot of the events that I have covered have been celebrity-oriented so I have been faced with this dilemma. I will not take a photo of someone if they do not want to be photographed, and if I end up with a photo of someone that is unflattering or can be used for bad publicity, I will not post it. I want the people I am photographing to trust me. I prefer to photograph more newsworthy events or events where the celebrities are promoting charities or other noteworthy causes.

Q: How have your opinions of the media changed from when you were growing up to your current position as a professional photographer?

I take everything with a grain of salt in the event photography part of my job. It is interesting because you can compare Hollywood to high school and the popular crowd. The people in the public eye are constantly talked about, liked for the moment, and then become yesterday's news if they make a wrong move! People can be harsh and critical, forgetting that they are talking about other people. It can be especially difficult for women, since they are expected to be picture perfect 24 hours a day and be walking fashion advertisements. This is a lot of pressure.

Girls should not be expected to try to live up to the images put out in magazines. There is a lot of retouching that goes on and the final image is unattainable in real life. On the upside, I am encouraged by the fact that a lot of female celebrities have recently been addressing the issue of body image in an honest way.

Q: When did you figure out what you wanted to do? How did you prepare for your career?

I have always appreciated photography, thanks to my father, who is a talented amateur photographer. My mother has also been extremely supportive of my artistic inclinations. I received my first semi-professional camera in high school.

When I studied abroad in France during my sophomore year of college I realized how important it was for me to document my time there. At that point, I was certain that I wanted to focus my studies in this area. For three summers during college, I signed up for classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to expose myself to life in the city. I took every opportunity I found to learn more about photography and network within the field.

Q: What are your long-term career goals? What would you like to accomplish with photography?

Right now, I want to continue shooting for my agency and also pursue more work with non-profit organizations and doing portraits. I think having a hand in the media is great because it keeps me connected with current events and culture, but I also want to balance this. I enjoy being involved with different organizations that are giving back to their communities and it gives me a sense of real purpose when my photos are being used in a truly meaningful way. I would also like to have the chance to travel back to Madagascar and photograph other places that are in need of outside help. Eventually, I want to be successful enough so that I can donate more time to different organizations and travel around the world to work on different projects.

Q: What advice do you have for girls who are interested in your field?

My best advice would be to get started! Study hard, take photo classes, and practice. Join the school paper—I was a photographer for my college paper for over two years. Internships and assisting are the best way to get hands on experience. Start getting the word out that you are interested in photography. You never know who will have a connection for you.

You have to be good to yourself. I am my own worst critic and I am constantly telling myself that someone else can do it better. But then I have been in the situation of being an editor and seen work that I could have done better myself. Developing a personal style is the way to go to get noticed and remembered.

Q: Last but not least...when it's time to chill out, what do you like to do for fun?

I love to eat good food and go to the park or to the beach. Reading a book is great, although I need to make more time for this. Visiting the many museums and art galleries New York has to offer is another favorite activity of mine.

Photographs Copyright Duffy-Marie Arnoult.