Fashion Photographer, Writer and Creative Director
My name is Lauren Moghavem, also known as Open For Edit, and I’m an editorial writer, fashion photographer and creative director.
When I was 10 years old, I loved going through my mom’s old photo albums. They were dusty, they were dirty, and they were stained, but I was so intrigued by them. I was specifically interested in everything behind the focus. It was cool seeing old photos of my mom and her family back in the day, but it wasn’t necessarily the people that I loved looking at. I found myself enamored by the setting and surrounding of each person. It was really interesting to see what things looked like for my parents in the 70’s and the 80’s in terms of aesthetics.
I would go through those old photo albums at least once a week until I was 12 just to look at them because I loved them so much. I would look at the same photos consistently, but every time I would see them I would leave some notes on the back of them with what I loved about each photo. Then I started cutting some of the photos out and pasting them on top of modern magazine covers for fun. I took an old photo of my grandmother’s face and plastered it on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. My mom didn’t like it very much… but I’d say that was the beginning of Open For Edit.
It was the start of taking something that had been crafted, something that you’ve had your own interpretation of, something that holds a strong meaning to you, and something that has been totally deconstructed and ripped apart to convey a totally new meaning of your own. That’s Open For Edit.
By the time my Bat Mitzvah had come around, I had all of these collages I wanted to show my friends. That was also when I got my first camera. I think my dad had seen enough of me ripping up all of these old photos, so he got me my very first camera, a Nikon D3300.
As a child, I always got bored really easily. Honestly, I still get bored pretty easily, and I think this is what has always motivated me to be curious. Photography has always been my passion because it has so much depth to it. Every photo has its own unique story and narrative, which sparks that curiosity in me. Who took this photo? Why does it look like this? What’s the story behind it? Etc. It was my hobby, then it became everything I thought about and then it became my own identity. Looking back on it, I’ve always known that this is what I wanted to do.
I would look at photographers and study what they do. I wanted to be just like them; going to runway shows, going to fashion week and really making that a career for myself was always my dream. It wasn’t until freshman year of college when I started doing those things and realized this is something I can actually pursue. It wasn’t that easy. There were definitely certain struggles along the way, but I’ve been blessed with parents and two amazing brothers who have supported me throughout this journey.
When I went to Boston University for college, I intentionally did not pursue photography as a major. I didn’t want to risk the love and passion I had for it by confining myself in the education system. I decided to major in something that would benefit my photography career and as a result chose journalism. I’m graduating from Boston University in May 2020, assuming Covid-19 quarantine goes away.
Open For Edit is the idea that everything has the ability to be opened, ripped apart, edited and created. A picture can hold a certain meaning to its creator, and a totally different meaning to someone else. It’s the idea that everything around you can be used or interpreted in your own way. I established it through collaging my own photos.
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Now I’m a freelance photographer. When clients hire me, I have a group of 10 incredible girls that I work with and who model for me to fulfill that work. I handle all of the photography, directing and content creation for my clients. We’ve worked with companies like Illesteva, Oscar de la Renta, Alice and Olivia and more. I’ve found that a lot of these big companies appreciate that I offer a complete service by bringing the models, stylist, directing and photography all through Open For Edit.
Well first I’ll start by saying I didn’t go into Open For Edit to make a business out of it. Going into college, Open For Edit was just my identity. Then it became an established business when I started freelancing.
I think the most important thing I did to get business was to build my website. I made every part of it on my own and I made it very personal to me. I wanted to make sure that it came from me. I already had a strong portfolio with a wide range of content, and my website allowed me to show it all in an organized, clean and concise way.
Clients want to work with someone that can answer all of their questions and demonstrate an ability to complete the work at the highest level. I’ve done that with my website by illustrating an array of different palettes and categories of work.
The majority of my clients have found my website through Instagram. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it. It is the best tool for artists. It’s a free portfolio and gives you all the things you need to share exactly what you want people to see.
Lastly, and before clients started reaching out directly to me, I would reach out to hundreds and hundreds of companies. I sat in my room and researched companies that I’ve never heard of in my life, but I loved their vibe and style. I’ve worked with a handful of them and that’s what really kicked things off.
I’ve learned that curiosity has been one of my greatest assets. I’m not sure I would have been able to make this a career for myself if I didn’t have that. I’m constantly asking questions, reaching out to new people, and just eager to learn. When you’re curious you find your puzzle. You find your obstacles and look for solutions. And when you’re determined, you put the pieces together to solve that puzzle.
I wouldn’t say I’ve found all of those pieces yet, but I’m committed to the process and determined to get there. I’m going to continue to work my butt off, focus on my goals, and not give up until I get there.
I’d attribute my success to my passion. It’s the reason why I’ve spent a handful of my college weekends on YouTube learning Photoshop, or Adobe or things like that.
I also attribute a lot of my success to being open to feedback. Although it feels great to get compliments about my work, I really appreciate those who have taken the time to constructively critique the work and give me ideas for areas I can improve. This is so important to me because I’ve never taken a photography class in my life. Feedback has been my classroom. The people who’ve sat down with me, listened to me, answered my questions and been there for me have been a huge part of my success.
2019’s September New York Fashion Week was the biggest rush of my life. I met someone that gave me the opportunity to go backstage and shoot The Blondes, Oscar de la Renta and Alive & Olivia.
This was the craziest and most unexpected opportunity, especially because it wasn’t really planned. I just took a week off of school to go to fashion week. I wasn’t invited, I just decided to go. I was so lost when I got there, but at the same time so inspired by all that I saw. Every single direction I’d look there was a recognizable face and a really talented photographer that I knew.
I remember walking around aimlessly just trying to take it all in. Backstage was a shit show. Everyone’s getting hair and makeup done, the rooms are tiny, it smells awful, and everyone around you is absolutely stunning. I just shot everything I could. I remember coming that night at 2AM, grabbing my laptop, uploading all of the photos and editing until the sun came up. The content came out amazing and it was an incredible experience of learning by just getting myself out there and doing it.
Being at school in Boston and doing photography part-time was really challenging. There have been a few opportunities I’ve had to turn down and that’s been really hard for me.
I did miss a lot of school going to New York and LA for work. It got to a point where I called my dad and told him I’m not sure if I want to go to Boston anymore and he gave me the idea to take a leave of absence to move to New York. I have to say I’m so grateful that my dad supported me through that. I would have been a terrified parent if my daughter called me saying she wanted to ditch college.
I ended up moving to New York as a junior in the fall of 2019, and I signed up for classes at Parsons. I dropped out of Parsons after my first day of class. It was a pretty bad class, and I recognized that it just wasn’t the experience I wanted. So, here I am in New York completely lost. I have no routine, I have no classes and I’m living in a shoe box.
I took my resume and my portfolio and showed up at 7 different companies. I just walked right in. Obviously, the majority of them turned me down right away, but I got lucky with one. All it takes is one, and for me that one was Milk. That’s where I met my mentor Cassie Aaron, who was willing to sit down with me and give me her time. She called a meeting on the spot, and I found myself in a room with 4 people on her team. At this point I’m probably about to cry as I’m asking them to take me in for half the semester for work. I even told them they didn’t have to pay me, I just needed to learn. They were so incredible. They offered me a job and it was the peak of my experience in New York. I was directing shoots, interviewing designers, did some stuff for Fashion Week, writing and given a lot of really amazing responsibilities.
I learned that it’s really okay to let go of your ego and do whatever you have to do to get what you want. For me, that was essentially just getting on my hands and knees until I found work.
I’m at this point where I’m finishing up school and it’s time to make photography my full-time job. I’m excited and probably a little bit impatient when it comes to the things I want to accomplish. Ultimately, I want to be a world renowned photographer who evokes curiosity through the Open For Edit brand.
Website – It’s absolutely crucial to have a name for yourself with your own unique URL. I did mine through Squarespace, which allows you to scroll through so many different templates and find a style that works for you. It’s not the easiest to use, but once you get the hang of it, you can make a really cool platform for yourself.
For photo editing I use the Adobe programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. I don’t particularly like to use a lot of tools for editing. I think in terms of organization, the best app for me is AdobeBridge where you can categorize, highlight, and arrange photos easily.
Before every shoot I make mood boards on Google slides. It’s simply a slide with all of my styling, hair, makeup and everything that a person needs to understand what story we’re telling with the shoot.
GPS Radar – Photographers can apply to this app to get access for Fashion Weeks.
I have five cameras, a Nikon d3300, Fujifilm x-t2, Fujifilm x-t3 pro, and a Yashica t4. My favorite are the Fuji’s because they’re super small and easy to handle around and it shoots better than my old Canon and Nikon cameras. A lot of my best photographs were unplanned just because I was able to carry this little Fuji with me.
I’m totally not a technical photographer but I do use a tripod sometimes.
Softboxes are great for portrait photography. I used these softboxes for most of my work, especially if there isn’t natural light around.
Books: The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freidman. It walks you through how to analyze a photograph, how to critique your own photographs, how to take a photo and more. It teaches you about the different dimensions and technicalities of photography and aesthetics
When it comes to other books I really just enjoy looking at the photo books of photographers I admire.
I would say to start by consistently reaching out to people you admire. Some of them will answer you and you never know what door that could open. I’d say the same thing when it comes to freelancing. At first, you’re going to have to go and get the work and by reaching out to companies consistently.
If you’re in fashion photography, go to fashion capitals and do some street photography. Learn how to just snap photos really fast.
Build your identity as a photographer before anything else. Get your content together, build your website, set up your Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook, and put your resume together. Then apply to apps like GPS Radar and send out emails to people you’re interested in.
I’m still doing the same things that I did when I started. I’m reaching out to companies and people that I think it would be interesting to collaborate with. I’m showing up to events, and I’m working harder than ever. Freelancing and networking have been the best way to learn.
I’m also always looking at photo books and studying them because I want to publish a book of my own next year.
The biggest advice I want to share is to take advantage of the resources around you. If you look up to someone, really get to know their path- Where are they from? How did they get so successful? Which companies have they worked with?
Another piece of advice is to stay curious, be persistent, but be patient by asking questions and asking for critique and feedback. Be patient with your results and progress.