The Girl Who Took Those Degrassi Pictures
Hi all. The lady in that picture is Olivia Bee. She's a professional photographer who's still in high school -- she's 17 -- and she took all of the gorgeous still photos at the Degrassi: Now or Never teaser shoot with all the fireworks and whatnot. We like her very much. Especially after talking to her. (Btw, most of this interview is about the life of a teenage professional photographer, but if you just want to skip to the part about the Degrassi shoot, click here.)
So, first of all, how did you start getting paid to do photography while you're still in high school?
Well, my freshman year in high school I got a bunch of emails from VSA Partners, and I kind of disregarded them because I was like, "That's probably spam, whatever." And then I got an email from Converse directly and they were like, "Hey, we'd love to have you take some photos on a shoot, kind of a mentoring process and we'll pay you, and it'll be really fun," blah blah blah, so I got to skip school and go on a shoot in Portland for Converse. And I just got to experiment and see what it was all about, take some photos, and then everything just kind of followed. They took a chance on me and now, this is happening.
That's amazing. How did they find you, Flickr?
Wow. Did you already have a ton of contacts on Flickr before that?
Yeah, I had a lot of followers, and that came with the popularity I guess. It was all pretty much by luck.
Were you nervous at all? Does any of this faze you? It sounds like it could be really intense.
It is intense. Before I worked with Converse I was so nervous. I didn't even want to go, I was so scared. I was like, "What are they gonna think of me? I'm totally not gonna be able to take pictures once I get there because that's just what'll totally happen to me." But it was fine. I'm always a little nervous right before, if things aren't working out, or if there's no schedule, or the shoot is disorganized. But if I'm just taking pictures then I'm totally fine.
New Degrassi guy alert: Jake, played by Justin Kelly
I would imagine there's a huge difference between taking pictures of your friends in a relaxed atmosphere and like "Well, we're on a deadline, and these people are only here for four hours, and you need to get the shot."
It's really different. It's like I have to be an adult, I have to transfer from being this stupid kid who just hangs out with her friends all the time and I have to be a professional, and I have to deliver. There's a lot of pressure, actually. But as long as I'm still taking pictures I can deal with it, because that's what I do for fun anyway.
Has anybody ever been snotty to you because you're 17? Or underestimated you?
Yes. All the time. I get so much snottiness. People just think I'm like a little kid, and 'why are they paying her to do what all these other people can do; why would they ever hire someone who's that old; she's never gone to college."
You just brush 'em off?
I'm just kinda like F.U.
Haha, word! So how did you fall in love with photography in the first place? Well, I took a darkroom class in 6th grade because I went to an arts-based middle school. And I really was really bad at it at first. I took a lot of pictures of Christmas ornaments and stuffed animals, things it wouldn't be embarrassing to take pictures of. And then I just started spending extra time in the darkroom -- I don't know, it was kind of an accidental, found love. But now I can't live without it.
How do your friends feel about being photographed all the time?
I think they like it? I guess some people are annoyed like "Aw, why do you have that camera again" but it's just playful, not pissed or anything. Most of the time, they really like it. It's kinda cool, they're like the characters of my life and I think they realize that. And no one takes family photos anymore so the moms like it, too.
I have friends who are videographers or photographers who always have a camera at any event, and they've told me how people are sometimes like "Oh God, put down the camera and just experience this" but the next day, everyone's SO psyched that the pictures and video exist.
TOTALLY. Totally. The whole "Time" thing. [By this I assume she means like capturing time, time being linear. You know. The whole Time thing.] Plus, I feel like, people can say that to me, but it's like "No, this is MY way of experiencing it. This is how I want to experience everything." It's not their deal, it's mine.
What is awesome about photography?
There are a million moments you could capture, but capturing that one that's perfect... it's pretty amazing. You can make a whole other world with things you already have. It's... it's like real life on paper. Or fake life on paper, depending on how you look at it.
Does having a camera ever help you meet people?
Oh yeah, all the time. It's mostly short little conversations, but I like short little conversations.
So. This Degrassi shoot. What was that like?
It was crazy. 'Cause I'd never been on a TV set before. Usually still production [as in still photography, vs. video] is: a producer, you have your assistants, you have your gaffer, the stylist, the make-up artist, and then I'll have a studio teacher. But with this there were like 150 people and they all had different jobs and that was just crazy for me.
A studio teacher -- so even if it's a one-day shoot you have to have a studio teacher because you're a minor?
It depends on what state, but yeah. California, definitely.
Were you already a Degrassi fan?
We actually watch it in Health class at school. Usually episodes about STDs or relationships, violence... because Degrassi covers a lot of teen health things like that. Usually we had a separate episode for each lesson but sometimes we would just watch it, just 'cause.
Your health teacher sounds awesome.
What do you remember from that day?
Well, it was freezing. It was going from like 7pm to 5am, which, I'd never done that before! I had a 4:20 am call time a couple weeks ago but this was like ridiculous.
Oh, and it was actually pretty funny... when they were filming the scene where Sav was standing on the lifeguard chair swinging his jacket around and there were all these fireworks going on, and since they weren't filming for sound, he was just kind of yelling things because it was supposed to look like he's yelling. And he was just like "[BAD WORD] DEGRASSI! THESE KIDS SUCK!"
Hahahaha. I love that guy. Did you have favorite characters or favorite episodes before?
Now I've met them and I can't pick favorites! I like 'em all, they were really sweet in person, too. It was really nice to know that they weren't stuck-up or anything.