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Capturing Cayman: Philipp Richter's Lens on the Islands' Evolving Fashion and Beauty Landscape

Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your journey into photography since 2011?

Hello, my name is Philipp Richter, and I am a photographer based in the Cayman Islands. My journey into photography began from an interest in skateboarding in my early teens and endlessly looking through skate, national geographic magazines, and the odd photobook. After taking a photography class in my last year of high school, I stuck with it since and have been mostly documenting street, nature, skateboarding and just everyday life. In May 2022 is when I decided to pursue fashion and beauty photography which has been an interesting experience learning that creativity has no bounds.

On my third photoshoot is when I met make-up artist, Ocean Hall and working with her took my craft to another level. We’ve done work with all the top models in the Cayman Islands, the majority of whom are pageant winners. It’s a cool lane we’ve created because all our work gets published internationally giving us the position to help local models build a solid portfolio of work and put and showcase our work globally.

What initially drew you to photography, and how has your style or focus evolved over the years?

What drew me into photography originally is looking and browsing through imagery from movie posters, billboards, music albums, books, and magazine covers and figuring out why I liked it. I like how an image must be produced to give off a certain vibe to highlight a body of work, the best example is the movie poster for Pulp Fiction with Uma Thurman lying down smoking a cigarette next to a gun because its so iconic.

My focus now is documenting the evolving world of fashion and beauty in the Cayman Islands. It’s cool to look back at my first magazine covers and see how mine and Ocean’s crafts have evolved from our first submissions to where we are today.

How does being based in the Cayman Islands influence your work? Are there any unique challenges or advantages to shooting there?

The Cayman Islands is naturally a beautiful place to be in, which makes photographing its environment easy. 90% of the year there are blue skies with world-renowned beaches and beautiful sunsets, so scouting locations isn’t hard. A little tip, to find the best sunset location, go on google maps and look at all areas that face west, simple as that.

One unique challenge that comes to mind is when the crew and I get work into magazines that are found on newsstands in major cities, it’s a hard time finding someone to pick up the magazine. Recently we got a cover in Los Angeles with two submissions inside and everyone who we knew in LA couldn’t get to the newsstand, something similar happened in Paris earlier this year as well.

Over the past year, you've been highlighting the fashion and beauty scene in the Cayman Islands. What inspired this particular focus?

Coming from a news and broadcasting background, it was destiny finding out about Kavyar. The second I saw my first submission in a magazine, a light went off and that moment changed everything. Now I use the site to its full potential and shine light on the talent in the Cayman Islands.

It’s rewarding to see Cayman on a cover, it’s a sign to keep creating.

How important is it for you to submit your works to international publications? What do you hope to achieve by doing so?

I remember getting rejected by MALVIE in 2022 and around the start of 2023, finally got accepted into MALVIE confirming an increase in skill. International publishers, especially those with a low acceptance rate, are great magazines to submit to as the quality is high. It’s a learning experience seeing your work side by side creatives on your level from around the world. So, in a nutshell, the achievement of getting your work published is like how a plumber would get an advanced certification. MALVIE has the best rejection letter because it highlights areas that need improvement.

Can you describe the current fashion and beauty scene in the Cayman Islands? What makes it unique or different from other places?

Cayman’s fashion and beauty scene, in my opinion, is built on the back of people wanting to express themselves and come together to make art. The industry is very small, where certain people might be the face of a local brand on social media or a bus stop advert, compared to Miami or New York where you can be the face of a global brand.

There is a shift happening where catwalks are a part of events to liven things up and there is no shortage of models who want to be part of the experience. My goal is to inspire more art crews to come together and do work, I can’t shoot every model, but every model can be photographed if there are more photographers, make-up artists, wardrobe stylists etc. There are small clothing brands popping up which are themed around representing the island, a step in the right direction because more people are getting involved in the scene with equity.

There may not be much money, nonetheless there is love for the game and that’s what separates us from other places.

Can you share some notable milestones or achievements that have marked the growth of the Cayman's fashion and beauty scene?

A major milestone that has marked the growth of the Cayman fashion and beauty scene was on 26th May 2022 when Ocean Hall, Brittney Rose Bodden met me at Bruce Gordon’s old photo studio at Parcel 110. This meeting of minds was the start of something bigger than all of us.

While the Cayman Islands may be far from being a recognized industry in fashion and beauty, what steps do you see being taken to move in that direction?

The steps I see being taken for the Cayman Islands to be recognized internationally for fashion and beauty are:

1) Collaborate with creatives and getting involved in scenes that are in cities which are regional and affordable to travel to:

  • Kingston, Jamaica

  • Tegucigalpa, Honduras

  • Miami, Florida

  • New York City, New York

  • Panama City, Panama

2) Stay consistent and bring up more talent to keep the energy alive.

3) Host more art/fashion shows.

4) Take more risks.

5) Establish a strong community.

Have you collaborated with any local designers, models, or other artists in the Cayman Islands? If so, can you share some memorable experiences or projects?

The top 5 most memorable shoots are outside of the first shoot are:

  1. Working with Ocean on Chloe Powery-Doxey’s reign as Miss Cayman ’22.

  2. The first photoshoot we did with Georgina Kerford was memorable because she’s naturally talented and the shots we got with the sunset came out amazing.

  3. Mariah Tibbetts’s photoshoot at the Mission House got a lot of positive feedback because we used a historical site, a lot of people liked that we were highlighting Caymanian heritage in a new light.

  4. Shannon Crew’s first photoshoot with us elevated her modeling career and that was cool to see in real time, she got booked for a photoshoot the day after.

  5. Creating the official Miss Cayman World photos with Leanni Tibbetts was an honorable moment.

Where do you see the fashion and beauty scene in the Cayman Islands in the next 5 years? What role do you hope to play in that vision?

Right now, the Cayman Islands is strengthening its relationships with neighboring countries like Jamaica, Honduras, and Panama at the same time the island is seeing record levels of population growth. This allows me to predict in 5 years we will have a fashion industry that has a regional influence built on the back of one of the strongest economies in the region.

A rising tide lifts all ships.

For aspiring photographers or those interested in diving into the fashion and beauty scene in the Cayman Islands, what advice would you give?

The advice I will give is build up your skills using your friends and once you get a rhythm going on, reach out to established people in the scene for advice and ask to shadow their sessions. Getting involved in this field is key as the best experience is hands on experience.

You get out what you put in and have an open mind.

Is there a particular photo or project you've worked on that you'd like to share with our readers, something that encapsulates your passion and vision for the Cayman's fashion and beauty scene?

The photo projects I’d like to share outside of these beautiful portraits highlighted, are posts on the MALVIE site, search these titles and have a great day: West Bay, Ocean’s World, Downtown George Town, Gyal, The Shan State, Essence, Jewelry Box, Chloe, Town, Cinema, The Flora Directorate, Mission House, Style, Georgina Kerford, Honey & Caymanian Noir

Model/Wardrobe Stylist: Mariah Tibbetts @mariah.tibbetts

Photographer: Philipp T. Richter @philfromblazing

studio: Keep Kreative @keepkreativestudios

Makeup Artist/Creative Director: Ocean Marie Hall @distractedbymakeup



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