Photos by Bo Montalvo @Bo_Montalvo
What does beauty mean to you? Often times we see a picture and label it beautiful, but what makes it deserve such a title? Is it the landscape, the subject, the composition…or maybe it’s the feeling that one photograph can evoke.
We sat down with local Maui photographer Brittney Baker, who says that beauty doesn’t necessarily have to mean feeling beautiful. She strives to make everyone feel beautiful in themselves, but not the traditional definition of beauty.
While photographing people in ways they have never seen themselves, her mission is for everyone to feel beautiful in a brand new type of way that they’ve never felt in their lives. Recently she has been working with a lot of models with whom it's their first shoot ever and they haven’t thought of themselves as a model, so she captures and brings out sides that they didn’t even know they had!
Brittney Baker is a photographer and model born and raised in Maui. Having been here her whole life, she dove into the creative industry 15+ years ago. Growing up modeling got her foot in door of the industry by starting with still modeling and live fashion shows in restaurants and such, not fashion walks but more commercial style.
After modeling for a little over 5 years, she began teaching modeling and acting, and a couple of years later, around the age of 20 photography came into the picture. She had a model friend who did photo work, so that gave her a start in assisting with weddings and family photos. Her boss ended up being her mentor, which she says that she was lucky for since she didn’t have to go to school or pay for gear in the beginning but rather learned from the best in the business and with the best gear.
These days she is busy as ever with photography, as photoshoots are booked a month ahead of time...so busy that she’s having to turn people away, taking on 2-3 shoots a day! Most sessions consist of family, weddings, product companies, and a little bit of everything but mainly tourist family bookings.
She recently did a traditional Indian bridal look, which was her first time shooting that style but likely not her last as many Eastern brides and couples have been finding her online after seeing her creative looks and work with horses, making up 25% or more of her bookings.
While she does photography for a living, she’s also immersing herself into creative photos and projects, which the creative outlets, she says, help get her back into it, and doing more modeling lately for herself in a fun, creative realm.
As far as creative projects go, she has currently been working on a flower series, working with models and hair/makeup people, taking actual flowers and petals and gluing them on models’ bodies and faces, open to interpretation with artists. She is also making an art series and coffee table book.
Along the lines of creative projects, horse photo series have made their mark, having done 4-5 so far, which started with Melissa from Lux Aloha, who has a friend with a ranch up country. She says it has been once in a lifetime experiences to have horses at the beach, and she has continued working with Rachel and ‘Ohana Ranch and her horses – but to our surprise, she is actually scared of horses! Getting better each time she’s around them, we never would have known from the beautiful photos that result.
At any given time, Brittney says she has 20 shoots in her head planning all at once. With vacation to Mexico coming up, she's looking for sponsorships and companies to work with, all while connecting with models and industry professionals, making it a content/work trip along with relaxing.
So what are some past projects Brittney looks back on and thinks “I did that”?
Telling us about modeling with the big Maui fashion shows, art mix, and even Project Runway, she also looks back fondly on photographing with the High Flying Dress Company, which every shoot she says is amazing and totally different from the next. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, she tells us, and the owner Courtney of High Flying Dress rents dresses out anywhere in the world!
Planning future photoshoots with the high flying dresses, she says that she's very specific about her personal style. As a model younger in industry she had to be more open, but now as she gets older, she tends to stick with black, dark academia, gothic and a little grunge, embracing a Euro non-binary, comfortable style. Her style has developed since she was a kid who always loved black and a scene look, so that's something that stuck but evolved over time.
What inspires Brittney in her photography and modeling?
She tells us that a big inspiration since she started traveling is European style, with so many different cultures, architecture, buildings. Since being stuck inside this past year, she watched a lot of movies and television, drawing inspiration from TV shows about drag race and the drag community, sharing that there are so many things out there to work off of.
Speaking of this past year, how did that impact her work? When everything shut down from the zip lines, she says she was able to creatively get back into her photos. Once it started going the ball just kept rolling, and she luckily didn’t experience much of a lull!
She was also blessed in having good connections. Making a reputation and name for herself with modeling made it easier to slide into the photography side of industry.
A struggle she often finds is with being a woman in this industry and watching out for photographers taking advantage of girls. Fighting back for models and herself, Brittney loves working with her minor girls, as she understands where they’re coming from since she herself started swimsuit modeling at the age of 15. But with recent situations involving other photographers, she's deciding if she wants to continue taking photos for these girls, trying to protect them and not allow people on the internet to steal those photos.
Hawaii is special, she says, as she feels like anything goes.
"You don’t have to be 5’11 or size 0 to be a runway model. There’s also a sense of ‘Ohana, power in the mana that lingers with land, and we can really make the industry our own."
So what’s next in the life and career of Brittney Baker?
“World domination,” she jokes, “but other than that, my immediate goal hopefully this year but most likely next year is to start working out of the country taking photos. Photographing models here and there and slowly start making connections with people, I would love to travel to places like Egypt and take photos. I’ve always been interested in writing, so maybe photo journalism – going to Africa and taking photos of girls in school, Middle East and taking photos of the struggles there, going to Europe and taking photos of a model under the Eiffel Tower…
The goal is to be able to work out of the country and create a name for myself where people know my name and think ‘I have to book you for a wedding in Europe’.”
We all want more out of life...to know that we made a difference. Having gone through a lot of loss, Brittney tells us that if she found out she was going to die soon, the first thought she would have is “What would I do?” Not a tough question to answer, she says she would go around the world and travel and photograph beauty, pain, all the feelings and life in her eyes.
That is the legacy she wants her life to be.
So we ask you the reader, what is the legacy you want to leave?
Mahalo from the KAPAMAG Team,
Written by Katlin Tara for KAPAMAG
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