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Meet Duffy!

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Behind the Lens

Duffy-Marie Arnoultis a freelance 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 below…

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 in my job. This keeps things exciting and new. Each day I wake up not knowing exactly what will happen. 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. Being a freelancer means I do not have a typical 9-5 job. I have to be disciplined to get work done and keep my business records organized when I am not shooting.

You work for a photo agency. Can you explain what this means? How did this job opportunity come about?

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

I first started freelancing for the company 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 another photographer friend of mine who was shooting for the company out in Los Angeles. This has been a great opportunity for me because my photos have appeared in publications all over the world so early in my career and it has helped get my name out there.

How do you make time for both projects for which you’re hired and your own personal projects? What are some things you’ve worked on in your own time?

It is difficult to find time for personal projects because work always seems to take longer than expected! 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 Brother’s St. Gabriel in Madagascar during my vacation in April. I am still in the process of figuring out ways to share my experience and photos from that trip with other people. I also have a soft spot for photographing small dogs on the street!

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? How do you overcome those challenges?

I do enjoy being out in the city and around people, so 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 if there are a lot of other photographers there. Sometimes the situation can get out of control and it can be frustrating to be caught in the middle of it!

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.

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?

It really depends on the point of view and agenda of each media representative. I am interested in taking photos of people that show them at their best and represent truthfully the situation at hand. There are a lot of people out there only interested in the sensational and gossip-oriented news. A lot of publications and TV shows focus on the latest celebrity scoops and they 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 of these topics.

A lot of the events that I have been asked to cover in the past few years have been more celebrity-oriented so I have been faced with this dilemma. I am right in the middle of it, but at the same time, I am not obsessed [with gossip and celebrity culture]. I will not take a photo of someone if they do not want to be photographed, and if I somehow end up with a photo of someone that is unflattering or can be used for bad publicity, I will not post it. That is my policy! I want the people I am photographing to trust me and know that I have their best interest in mind. I prefer to photograph more newsworthy events or events where the celebrities are using their power as a celebrity to promote charities or other noteworthy causes.

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 it seems like you can compare Hollywood to high school and that “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 or don’t do anything at all! People can be harsh and critical, forgetting that they are talking about people just like themselves. It can be especially difficult for women, since they are expected to be picture perfect 24/hrs a day and be walking fashion advertisements. This is a lot of pressure, especially when there seems to be a desire to see these women when they aren’t so glamorous and certain photographers will do anything to get a shot of them like this. It is upsetting for me to see this play out in the news and know that because of this, I could easily be thought of as the “bad guy” just because I carry a camera.

Girls should not be expected to try to live up to the images put out in the magazines. There is a lot of retouching that goes on for certain photo spreads 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.

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Behind the Lens, cont'd...

Duffy has already traveled far and wide with her camera and plans on traveling more…learn about her inspirations and future goals!

Photo Copyright Duffy-Marie Arnoult

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

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. 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 with doing my portrait work and working with non-profits. 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 similar places around the world that are in need of outside help. Eventually, I want to be successful enough so that I can donate more of my time to different organizations and travel around the world to work on different projects.

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

My best advice would be to get started! Don’t wait another minute. Study hard, take photo classes, and practice. Join the school paper—I was a photographer for my college paper for 2.5 years. Internships and assisting are the best way to get hands on experience. Start talking to people and get the word out that you are interested in pursuing photography. You never know who will have a connection or lead 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.

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. I also like to spend time with friends on the rooftops of the city to gain another perspective. Rooftop culture is fascinating!

Check out these photos taken by might recognize the subjects!

Photographs Copyright Duffy-Marie Arnoult

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