bal harbour blog

Spencer Higgins

Q&A

In between shots of 100-carat diamond brooches and piles of bejeweled necklaces, we sat down with photographer Spencer Higgins on the set of the Bal Harbour Magazine jewelry shoot to discuss his love for digital photography, finding inspiration in a bowl of soup and why there can never be too many cooks in the kitchen.—Tali Jaffe

What did you most enjoy about the jewelry shoot?
Jewelry interests the heck out of me. I really appreciate the craft. To stare at every facet of a piece and know that someone made it by hand, I definitely have respect for jewelry designers.

As a still-life photographer, are there any elements of your job that are especially challenging?
I don’t see any challenges, really. My role as photographer is to evoke emotion from the object. So when I look at something I think about what kind of character it will have, what kind of attitude is there. In a controllable environment like the studio, you have more consistency to do what you want. And for me that’s the fun part.

What have been some of your sources of inspiration?
We’re always on the hunt for something new. For example, I’m at a Thai restaurant and notice how the chili oil moves across the surface of my soup, and I think to myself, there’s something to that. I think every photographer has his eyes open at all times. I’m definitely one of those people.

When did you begin taking pictures?
Actually, it was in my freshman year of high school. My art teacher put a camera in my hands and said have fun with this. That turned into ‘I actually want to do this as a career,’ and I became hyper-focused on pursuing photography.

So after getting hooked in high school, you came to New York to study photography.
Yes, I graduated from Parsons in New York and my first job was with Benetton. They have this creative think tank called Fabrica, in Italy. They pulled in people from all over the world to brainstorm on campaigns and projects. And after some of the projects I worked on won a few awards, the next thing I knew I was working in graphic design.

What a fabulous experience that must have been for you.
It was great. There were all of these famous typographers and designers doing workshops with us. It captivated me, so I thought I’d run with it for a couple of years and then get back to photography. But a couple of years turned into nearly a decade.

So in the last few years that you’ve turned your focus back to photography, you only work on digital now, right?
Yes. I really prefer it. Even though I have some friends who will kill me for saying so, I just find it better. I’m not one of those who pine for ‘the golden age of photography.’ I like the instantaneousness of digital photography.

You had some pretty fancy looking equipment on the set.
Actually, what I was using is pretty much the standard for still life photographers, a Sinar P3. A lot of architectural and landscape photographers used to use them, and there’s a sort of famous old picture of Karl Lagerfeld leaning up against his. But now it’s just us still life guys. We also used a live-feed video so that the stylist can work from the screen to make adjustments, without me even having to snap a shot. That comes in handy.

Yes, we were all checking that out. Actually, does that ever bother you? When a pack of editors, stylists and producers hover over your shoulder on set, waiting for the image to come up on screen?
[Laughs.] Like too many cooks in the kitchen? No, not at all. I’ve never had a problem with that. I kind of encourage it. It’s a nice part of the process. I think that photography, in general, has changed. Now when you’re at a party, or traveling somewhere, and you snap a picture, as soon as you take it people are turning around to see the screen.

We’re all photo editors now, I guess.
Exactly. I’ve been shooting digitally for a decade now, and people just expect to see images immediately, wherever you are, whoever it is.

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