Gaby’s freelance work has taken her around the world. She's the creator of #BadAssWomenNYC, a photo series that documents female founders and entrepreneurs. Listen as Gaby shares with us her experience working in freelance fashion and travel photography; discusses her photo series; and ponders the future of visual design.
Gaby Deimeke is a commercial photographer based in Austin, TX. She studied Photography at Webster University in St. Louis, MO, and completed her Master's in Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion. Her work has taken her to 26 countries and 140 cities.
0:56 Megan Ingram (MI): This week we’re diving into the world of freelance female founders and visual design, which I could talk about all day. We welcome Gaby Demeike, who is a freelance photographer from Austin, Texas. Her work has taken her all around the world. She created a photo series, documenting female founders and entrepreneurs called #BadAssWomenNYC, and is an awesome part of the Ingram digital Outlaws crew. How's it going, Gaby?
1:19 Gaby Deimeke (GD): Hey, thanks so much for having me today. I'm excited to talk about all things, female entrepreneurship, and dive into that.
1:26 MI: Yeah. We're thrilled to have you. I love what you're doing with your "bad-ass woman" series. So for starters, for our listeners out there, talk about your series and what inspired you to start this series about women entrepreneurs?
1:36 GI: Yes. So I moved to New York. I studied photography in London, I studied fashion photography. And then after that, I moved to New York City, and I didn't know anybody. I kind of just went there and I was like, okay, I'm going to be a photographer or a business owner now. I need to figure that out. And so through a few years, I was building this network of all these women entrepreneurs and female founders. And that really helped me in my own business. And so I decided to create this photo project called “Bad-ass woman NYC”, where I photographed these female founders, entrepreneurs, creators. And then I did a little interview with them about their experience, and about the things that really help make their businesses successful. So before I left New York, I did a big gallery show of fifty-five portraits of all the women. And they got to all come and network together. And it was this amazing space of all these women realizing how much power we have, together and in the community. So that was really exciting for me.
2:37 MI: That's awesome. That's so cool. What type of women are you interested in profiling and which one has been the most compelling to you and why?
2:46 GI: Yes. So when I first started this series, I really wanted to keep it kind of intentionally vague on the rules of who could be in it because I kind of just wanted a lot of different kinds of people to come and meet me and be part of the series. So my only real qualification is, has to be a woman or female-identifying. And then, you have something that you've created or built, or you have a business you've started or you have a project in the community that you've built up. So I kind of wanted to keep it open. And because of that, I just got so many different industries, so many different kinds of people from different backgrounds. So, that was cool to just see the variety of it. And. Okay. It's so hard for me to pick a favorite because there are so many amazing women. Like there are angel investors and Broadway producers, and it’s just so many, but I will give one quick summary of two girls that I love. So it's Tammy Tibets and Kristen Brand. And they are co-founders of a non-profit called “She's the First.” And it's so amazing. They're working to give fundraising and raise money for girls and women who are going to be the first in their family to go to school and get an education.
4:06 MI: That's really cool.
4:06 GD: Yeah. All over the world. So they're really cool. And one of the cool things about the photoshoot we did was the photo I took of them was in the art gallery show, but then they ended up using that image, as the author photo for their first book that they published about how to make an impact in the world.
4:25 MI: That's so awesome.
4:27 GD: Yeah. So that really has a special place in my heart. And everyone should definitely go check them out because the stuff they're doing is really making a big difference in the world.
4:35 MI: Oh, that's so cool. And I do love that you keep it open-ended by the way because I think that allows different types of people, different stories, to show themselves, by keeping it more open, in the terms of the criteria.
4:50 GD: For sure. And I'm also continuing the series in Austin. So if any listeners know someone in the Austin area, feel free to reach out.
4:57 MI: Yeah, definitely. For Austin listeners, that's definitely a great call-out. With all the great momentum we've been seeing for women leaders in 2020. And now that we're pivoting into 2021, what does women empowerment mean to you this year?
5:10 GD: So for me, I just feel like with all the craziness of 2020 for women, but just for so many groups, like for minority groups, for just people going through COVID and figuring out this new lifestyle, I feel like 2021, with Kamala Harris. We have a female vice president now for me, it looks like progress. And like taking that next step forward, like, okay, we had a crazy year. Let's get back on track and let's go for it this year. 5:39 MI: Yeah, I'm hopeful too, that we'll continue to see more great voices out there and continue to see some of the great things that did happen despite all the craziness and COVID and everything else, there were some great steps forward in terms of diversity and inclusion. Just overall and for women.
5:56 GD: Yes, totally. And I think like in general, you have to kinda have an optimistic perspective on it and know that, all right. What can I do in my community? And starting small to start making a difference, and then the impact that can have outward.
6:11 MI: Yep. Totally agree. Let's pivot into freelance. Obviously, the freelance community is near and dear to my heart. How have you found freelancing in this new reality with COVID and everything, and especially as we're moving from 2020 to 2021?
6:28 GD: Yeah. So I love the word that you just said there, which was pivot because I think that is what so many of us had to do. I think it was just this transition of figuring out like, Okay. After the shock wore off, this is real, it's not going away. Like we have to figure this out. It's kind of just, how can I pivot? How can I make my business something that still works? So, for me, and I think for a lot of photographers and visual creators, it was first figuring out maybe how can we do things virtually? I know for me now, how can I do photoshoots? Maybe they're outside. Maybe they're socially distanced. Maybe it doesn't look the same. But even during the lockdown, I was even doing some Zoom photo shoots where there's one model and I'm telling them how to do it. So it's kind of crazy that we have the technology now that we can kind of do that stuff. But yeah, I mean, even with networking and reaching out and in the industry, I think it's just like, okay, maybe we would've met at a coffee shop, but now we're just going to do a phone call or a Zoom meeting. So I've just seen it as a new way to figure out how I'm going to make my business work, but definitely in the beginning you're kind of stressed. But I think now that we've had a year to figure some things out, it's getting a little more smooth.
7:51 MI: I do think photography's one of those areas where it's, it's tougher. Like there are certain parts of, especially in the advertising business where, you know, the technology allows those gaps and you can kind of figure away, but it can be tougher when it's important to be in person. And then you've had, obviously, we've taken protocols and measures to make sure that everything is operating safely. But I do think that it has been a challenge, especially for shooting and videography and things in that realm, because there's so much that gets done with in-person-type shoots and physical environments.
8:28 GD: Yeah, I think that it probably has made me be more creative actually because maybe it's crazy.
8:32 MI: Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot.
8:33 GD: You kind of do just have to figure out creative solutions to things. But maybe I would have done an in-person model photoshoot, but now it's like, okay, great. How about you mail me the product to my house and I'll figure out a way to still make it look cool with props and on a seamless here. Obviously, I would not have wished COVID to happen, but I could see that I am pulling on my creative strings a little bit. So that's one cool thing that's come from it.
9:04 MI: Yeah. What has been in your opinion the most rewarding part of freelancing and the most challenging?
9:12 GD: Yes. So I was trying to think of how I was going to answer this. And I think it's kind of like the coin has two sides to it. And I think it's just like building your own business is so challenging, like as a whole, but then when it's all on you, then you also get all the reward of being like, wow when I am successful like I built that thing. That's just something that when you have your own business or you have your own thing that you're building, you're so invested in, you're putting all your effort into it. And you're working late nights sometimes, which can be really stressful. I think also with COVID, it can be isolating too if you're a solopreneur and you're just in your apartment doing it. You’re in your bubble, but then when you do see the rewards of that, when I see, for example, I did a photoshoot, a couple of weeks ago for a pizza restaurant. When I get to go into that pizza restaurant and see my photos on the menu, that's what's rewarding to me is finally seeing the benefit of the work coming in.
10:16 MI: And I think you're more passionate too. I've worked with big agency roles where, you know, you're cranking out those hours and it's long days, but you just don't feel that extra oomph or whatever that is that kind of gets you up in and out of bed in the morning, it makes you excited about going about it. But when it's your thing, and you can kind of make the call, okay, I want to do this or that. You can really see that thing come to life. I think it gets me inspired and motivated and all those things.
10:42 GD: Totally. I totally agree with you there, but I also feel like we both are obsessed with what we do, and we just want to keep doing it all the time. Whereas some people might not like their job as much. But I think when you have a business, I hope that you love it because it's really exhilarating to feel the rewards of that.1
1:03 MI: Yeah, totally agree. I'm a big believer, obviously in the digital nomad lifestyle and hopefully, you know, fingers crossed, we'll be able to do more of that soon. What draws you to travel photography and just give me an example of your most fun travel story?
11:19 GD: Yeah. So traveling, in general, is just like, I think it's so important. Obviously, we can't do it right now, but fingers crossed for the future. You just get to see so many other cultures, see things that you wouldn't see in your own day-to-day life that can really expand your mindset. So travel photography is like another element for me, just because it's capturing all those different things and nuances and colors and patterns that you don't get to see in your normal life. So one really cool story is I got to do a summer abroad in Florence and Tuscany in Italy. And we did a photography month where we rented this villa, and we turned one of the bathrooms into a dark room. So we're out taking photos and coming back and developing them like the old school way where you have to- not just like clicking done- it's like chemicals and stuff. And locals would come and meet them or we would go out. Just get to talk to them and interact with them. And I, at the end of the day, like for photography, I use photography to capture people and their personalities and their likeness. And so portraiture is really important for me because I love capturing people in their environment. Like, that's my favorite thing. The format of the “bad-ass women” series. It's a person in their thing like that. That's just me in my essence. So I ended up doing one portrait of every person that I became friends with during that month. So it was two friends that I actually knew from St. Louis, where we had gone to college together. But then, people from other countries, locals in Italy, some people had come from Geneva. And then our professor, who's a photography expert who is actually from Italy. And so I did a portrait of every single one of those people. And just looking back at those, I'm like, Oh my gosh. I just love that I got to capture them and take their photo. Like that made me so happy. That's one favorite story.
13:29 MI: That's awesome. And that sounds like such a cool experience. I'm hopeful for being able to do those things, hopefully in the near future, definitely miss traveling and doing all that.
13:42 GD: Me too. I'm just counting down the days.
13:45 MI: Yeah, I know, right? Cultural diversity is one of my favorite things about the digital nomad lifestyle. Talk about the importance of learning about other cultures when traveling and what you've learned from it.
13:21 GD: Yeah. So I just think everybody should go out of the country they are from at least one time. Not just going to like a resort, but go find people that live somewhere else, like local people who are doing their life and talk to them and learn from them because it really, I can't stress how much it can open your mindset to seeing other perspectives, other ways of living. And even if you don't want to do things the way that other people do things from other places, I think it builds empathy, which is huge to have. Having a connection with other humans is like, wow, okay. I'm not going to live that way, but I understand that they do. And I can now empathize with them about that.
14:46 MI: Yeah. And even I'll say as someone who's a data geek. That empathetic part is something that we don't spend enough time thinking about, especially as marketers, because it is important that we're feeding that other side as much as we feed the more logical side of the brain. And that's what I love about photography and having experiences like that allows you to kind of tap into that other side.
15:01 GD: Totally. And you just get to put yourself in other people's shoes and really see things from a different perspective. I think part of the reason that I really like taking pictures of people, at the end of the day, I kind of like to know their story. I kinda like to learn about them and like, Oh, tell me about you. Tell me what this is about. I want to learn about this. So, it's all kind of wrapped in there, but in the best way.
15:38 MI: Yeah, that's true. And that's why photography is an art in a sense. As a fashion addict, I gotta ask you one of my favorite events of the year is New York Fashion Week. It's definitely on the bucket list in the near future. Can you tell us about your experience with fashion photography in London and working with fashion influencers?
16:00 GD: Yeah. So this was a crazy experience. The first time I did fashion week, I got to photograph it with the London College of Fashion, which is where I was studying fashion photography. So, there was a group of us students that got approved, and it was like crazy. They rush you in a few minutes before the thing, everything's like an hour late, always. They just don't even try to follow a timeline because people are just fashionably late. So they literally get a box of tape. They tape off the area and it's like a foot, it's so tiny. And so you're literally with like 30 photographers and then the show just happens and it's like an adrenaline rush. Cause you're taking pictures and then all of a sudden it's over in like 15 minutes. 16:48 MI: That’s much quicker than I thought it would be actually.
16:54 GD: Yeah, it's crazy. Sometimes people will wait for like two hours and then literally the show will be five or 10 minutes because maybe they have like 15 outfits to show or something. So it's kind of insane. There's like all this buildup and you get to photograph the people that are coming to see a show, and they're all wearing crazy fashion outfits and stuff. When I moved to New York, the next year I moved in January, and fashion week was happening in February and March. And I got to do a runway show there as well. So yeah, just really cool. I never thought I would be able to do that or get to do runway stuff, but yeah, it was cool.
17:32 MI: Yeah. That sounds like an awesome experience. What does the future of engaging visual content look like?
17:43 GD: Yeah, I think this is a great question that we should be paying attention to and asking ourselves as visual content creators. I think this is huge. I think that it's definitely moving in the direction of more realness, more rawness, I think in general, my generation and younger consumers are not, we don't want to see polished and the same body type in the same, perfect skin and perfect this and perfect that. Like people really do want to start seeing themselves. They want to see real people. They want to see not a fake thing, but more realness and rawness. So I think that's huge. I hope diversity is something that people are considering as brands are planning campaigns and shoots and all this stuff and visual content because we need to really start prioritizing diversity in the industry.
18:39 MI: Oh yeah. And it's definitely, it's been a calling point, especially you've seen it more in the last six months. I think there have been some agencies who have done a really good job of continuing to further that conversation and others where, you know, it's still an issue and we'll kind of see, I'm hopeful that, you know, we'll start to see more and more progress in that regard.
19:01 MI: Tell me a little bit more about visual types. You got the gifs, you've got the Reels, you've got like all that. What specifically, when you're thinking about the actual ad type on social media. Just talk a little bit about your thoughts about it in general.
19:15 GD: Yeah, I think you're totally right. I think visual media is definitely moving in a more video-centric place, so you're totally right. Maybe it's still photography, but maybe I'm taking a series of photos and making them into a gif. Maybe I'm adding movement. I mean, obviously, with TikTok, things like that are huge right now. So I think it's just kind of tapping into that, and for me as a photographer and visual creator, I really want to position myself in the forefront of these new things. I think a lot of people, especially traditional photographers, are more resistant to this new type of media and stuff. And I think, even though I might not know a lot about TikTok or making those kinds of videos or gifs, I'm going to jump in there and figure it out because I think that's where it's going. So, I might as well learn it now, and kind of be at the forefront of that.
20:08 MI: Are there things that you do in a shoot like visual identity, let's just say identity movement is a priority to help make that image, that photograph come to life?
20:20 GD: Yeah, absolutely. So, we'll definitely - when we're making the shot list. It obviously depends on brand per brand, what their vibe is, and all that stuff, but we definitely are putting more priority and emphasis on getting some gifs or getting a video clip that we can use for social and stuff like that. When I'm working, as I was mentioning, I was doing a restaurant. It's a new vegan pizza shop. I did the photoshoot for the shot list that you needed. And now, while we have this setup, let's go ahead and make a gif that you can also use for social. So being intentional about thinking through those kinds of things, as we're building our shot lists and the plan for the shoot, I think helps make sure that we're getting that stuff that we can kind of play with.
21:07 MI: I also think it talks about how integrated the teams need to be from the videographer and the producer to the creative director to the photographer because the brands that really do a good job of making everything cohesive and integrated, really win in terms of that final product, whatever that visual thing maybe, by letting everyone, letting all those people have a voice and letting each other communicate and figure out what’s the best direction.
21:39 GD: Yeah. I think the communication piece is key because you're totally right. Especially if you have the brand and then you have an ad agency, and then there's like the person who's doing video and then the photographer. And if we're not all communicating to know exactly the pieces of content that everybody needs for the different elements, that's where the miscommunication can really be an issue. So I think you nailed that. It has to be a full team communication to figure out exactly what piece everyone needs... for web, for social, for all these different elements.
22:15 MI: Yeah, that's the call out there for those one-person social media teams that are hanging around trying to get it. You need to have more people involved. And that's the benefit. Social media isn't a one-person thing. It's like five, six, seven people working cohesively in all these different elements to make it really come to life and work.
22:35 GD: Yeah. And back to the diversity piece, it's like the more different voices and different backgrounds that are talking about it. That's when you get the best content because you have the most voices adding ideas. So I think it’s kinda beautiful in that way.
22:49 MI: Exactly, I totally agree. And I'm hoping we'll see a lot more diverse voice amplification over this year, because I think it's needed more than ever to have, not only within your internal teams but just in general, just making sure that those voices are heard. I think it's really important for brands as we move forward this year. What's one trend to look out for in 2021?
23:06 GD: Yes. So, I mean, I know we've talked like a million times about diversity, but it's the thing that's on the forefront of my mind, just as I'm looking at all the content I'm creating for this year forward, I'm like, I never put this much emphasis on it before, and I want to make sure that I am now. So, it's just something that I think, as we've already mentioned, like eight times, I think it's huge and I really just encourage everyone if they haven't made it a big priority. It's something that we really need to be talking about in our own businesses, putting a priority and focus on.
23:53 MI: Yeah. And I like that. It's starting at the photography video level where you're starting to think about it. What are we putting on our website? What are the models that we're going to include in our shoot or really thinking about it in that regard and making sure that you're being inclusive of everyone that's involved in the process?
24:14 GD: For sure. And I think there's a lot of unintentional bias. So, I never thought about my Instagram feed, I never scrolled through it and looked at it like, okay, how many different body types do you have? How many different ages do you have? How many different ethnicities and abilities do you have on there? Because I want future brands or future people, when they look at my page, I want them to be like, okay, there's someone that looks like me, or, Oh, okay. I feel safe in this space. So I think the more that I can prioritize that the more it's even going to lean toward me working with brands and organizations that are like-minded in that way. And in the end, we want to have clients and people that we can work with and we feel like they have the same values. So I think that's one of my main reasons - I want to make sure my values come through my work. And because I think back to what we were saying earlier, that's what brands are pushing more. It's less about the pretty content, but what your values are and what you stand for, and what charities you work with. People care about that stuff a lot more now than in the past. So I think that's another trend too, are companies really being more transparent with the organizations they work with, their values, their priorities. For example, if they're sustainable, then people might buy from them versus another brand that's doing the same thing but isn't promoting that because people want to support sustainability now. So thinking through that kind of stuff.
25:41 MI: And that's actually- as an agency, that's actually how I look at brands. It's are you creative, curious, socially conscious, bold? As opposed to what's the industry, what's the revenue size, and define them in those terms. Getting back to your series and how you defined whether you'd want to include a female or not in the project. It's the same idea. You want them to stand for qualities and what are those things? What are your values, as opposed to letting me get more tactical with some sort of criteria?
26:15 GD: Yeah. I totally think that's something that we're just moving toward, people want to work with brands that are socially conscious and things that they also care about.
26:26 MI: Yeah, I totally agree. And you're seeing that more and more across the board. In terms of how people are viewing brands and the brands that they choose to talk with and buy from.
26:36 GD: Yeah, for sure.
26:39 MI: Well, it was so great having you on today. I really, really appreciate your time. Where can listeners find you?
26:44 GD: So they can find me - I'm @gdeimz on all social media, including TikTok, which I've recently started making some TikToks.
26:56 MI: Oh, there’s a fun TikTok call-out.
26:58 GD: Just so you know. I'm going to throw that out there. And then send them to my website gabydeimekephoto.com. So I'd love for you to come to check it out and see the fun content work.
27:10 MI: Well, thank you so much again for joining the show today, Gaby.