[dropcap]M[/dropcap]eagan Long is a photographer and businesswoman working in New York City, whose work—usually featuring bold young women in urban spaces—can be found here at her site. “I think of myself mostly as a businesswoman,” she says, “because I am involved in so much, including my art installation service and running a frame shop in TriBeCa. Maybe I want to be the Martha Stewart of art.”
Tell me a little about yourself.
I am a 25-year-old businesswoman in NYC. I’m from Charlotte, and I went to school there at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for photography after teaching myself composition and style as a teen. There are so many talented people and amazing small businesses. I’m excited for our generation to expand career opportunities for artists in that city. I would love to get my M.F.A. at some point because I have more learning and growing to do.
Can you share more about getting started as a photographer?
I started shooting when I was 16 using my grandfather’s Canon. He always told me it was just a loan but I’ve been shooting with it for almost 10 years. I’ve collected about twenty cameras but it is still my main one. I always wonder if I would have reached the same place without it. He is dying now of cancer, which is the most upsetting thing I can imagine, but it’s really beautiful to know he will always be with me in my career. What he most certainly taught me was the value in hard work.
What is a day-in-the-life-of-Meagan like?
I am a full time supervisor at a frame shop. On my days off, I am prepping for photo shoots or going to designer’s studios to pick up wardrobe. I’m on set either styling or shooting or sometimes both. Lately I have been doing a lot of wardrobe because I think there is more of a hole in that industry. I probably spend most of my time emailing though.
How would you describe your photography?
I hope it’s a little bit humorous or sarcastic. Strong women. You look at it because it’s beautiful and leave with something extra. I try to select nontraditional subjects. I know what my audience wants from me—something traditionally beautiful—but I think I am growing a little bit, and maybe my audience is growing with me away from some sort of standard. I’d rather show you than tell you.
I really like the idea of “leaving with something extra.” Are there any photographers who you admire whose work has made you feel that you leave with something extra?
I really love contemporary female photographers like Jaimie Warren and Petra Collins. The woman who inspired my direction was Nan Goldin and I was able to meet her when I first moved to New York. I just happened to walk past the opening night of one of her shows. Nan really exposed a secret world, one that mainstream media had never revealed before in such a beautiful and intimate way. She definitely left future generations with a piece of Visual history.
Why do you find it so intriguing to photograph women? Was that your deliberate focus from the start, or have you worked your way into it?
I was surrounded by women, growing up in a family of 11 females and 3 males. I always had a lot of female friends too and they inspired me. I had an urge to highlight beauty in vitality and strength where I saw in other works women who were inaccurately portrayed.
I recently read a Guardian article about a trend of using female models posed as corpses. The use of the female body in the media has debated for ages. Do you tune into these sorts of conversations? Do they affect your work at all?
It does not affect my work at all because I have a duty to support women and portray them in a positive light. I don’t want to get into it too much because I could go on, but some things about this industry really do disgust me sometimes.
Nan Goldin and Jaimie Warren both do a lot of self-portraits. Do you?
No, that is something I have never done before and maybe that’s why I am so inspired by these artists. It’s very brave to focus on yourself and expose any flaws or something that may be considered a shortcoming by society.
What is your process like?
I used to shoot my friends but now that I am with an agency and working on bigger things I use agency models. I still always search for someone more unexpected and underrepresented. I also scout location. It’s probably something I’ve seen while walking the city, probably really colorful but broken down for some reason. I see beauty in imperfection so I guess that’s why I’m drawn to scenes that aren’t so pristine. And then I always base wardrobe on the colors from where we are shooting. On set it’s always very quick and easy and free.
You’ve also worked for magazines. What is that like?
I have worked at a few magazines for specific departments, Bullett being the most exciting. I am much more than a photographer/stylist and I want to try my hand at a lot of things. I’ve done production and casting, directing, editing, film, etc. I think it’s really important for our generation to be multi-talented since it’s so hard to excel at even one thing.
Of these many jobs, what are your favorites? What are some of the best learning experiences you’ve encountered?
I really am enjoying styling and learning more about how the business side of it works. Right now I’m definitely learning about patience and strength. Holding it all together when things get really intense because I can be quite emotional.
Any kick-ass female role models? For that matter, what is like overall being a woman in the photography industry?
I haven’t worked directly under any females now that I think of it. Maybe that’s why I overcompensate. I admire a lot of women but I can’t say I have direct work-related mentors. I do think women are at an advantage at this point and it’s because most of the people using tumblr and other forms of social media are young women. I definitely feel like we are making great strides.
What was your first exhibition like?
My first national exhibition was in Portland and I flew west with two friends to see it. It was at the height of Flickr so it was all of us young Internet girls together and a lot of them have gone on to be really successful so that was something I was proud to experience. I actually recently assisted Olivia Bee for New York Magazine and she was in that show. It has been awesome to see her career develop.
What exhibitions do you have coming up?
I don’t have any scheduled yet but I’m sure a few will come around this year. I am working with six different publications right now for features coming out in the next few months. I actually just finished shooting for Nylon Indonesia today which comes out in March!
Have you always known you would pursue photography as a career?
I definitely always knew this is what I wanted to do and never really thought before or after I acted on it which has probably always been my advantage. I moved to New York a couple of years ago because I knew that the same opportunities didn’t exist in my hometown. I had never been to the city before and only knew one person. I bought a one-way ticket and met someone from Craigslist that night to move in with. I also found a good job the next day on Craigslist and still work there. It changed my life so much that it makes me believe in fate.