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Capturing Creativity: An Artistic Journey with Sibeli in Fashion Direction and Photography

Sibeli, with an impressive career spanning over 7 years in the industry, could you share how you initially discovered your passion for art direction and photography, and what motivated you to pursue this career path?

It all started very confusing. I was at the University about to graduate and I didn't know what I wanted to do for a living, I only knew that I really liked graphic design but it was not my passion. I didn't see myself fulfilled doing corporate identities, branding services or advertising. It was my fourth year of university when I decided to finally answer my questions, I took my laptop, immersed myself in dozens of articles, galleries and digital libraries to learn about the spectrum of possibilities that I had by having a degree in Graphic Design and Multimedia Arts.

On one of many websites I came across the term 'art direction', and upon further investigation I discovered that art direction and creativity was my thing. Why? It was a comprehensive execution of EVERYTHING I liked: a pinch of graphic design, editorial design, photography, typography, coordination... it was the perfect combo, and it wasn't limiting me to a single branch. As time went by, I recognized my inclination towards the world of fashion and beauty. I then decided to fuse my passion, with my tastes and skills: creating what is my current expertise: Fashion Direction and Photography.

Your expertise lies in fashion & editorial photography, but you also delve into commercial work. How would you describe your personal style and approach in these different genres? Are there elements that remain consistent across all your work?

My visual inclination shows minimalist tendencies, with quite clean layouts and structures, and very muted color palettes. Currently, this distinctive conceptual style is what sets my work apart. I also am a graphic designer so I believe you can recognize this signature style throughout all my work.

Having your work showcased in more than 30 countries is no small feat. How do you believe experiencing such a wide range of cultures and environments has influenced your artistic vision and output?

That's a wonderland question. Exposing myself to different experts around the world was what saved my life. The constant exposure to different photographic styles, styling styles, wardrobe trends, even image post-production trends, was what opened my eyes to a whole new world. It made me able to understand that everything we create is influenced by our environment and it is very important to take this into consideration when we need to work on a project for a third client. It is essential to fully immerse yourself about the product, its environment, its audience in order to deliver excellence; just like architects do when they are presented with a new project.

You've expressed a love for working with talented individuals across the production spectrum. Can you share a memorable experience or project that exemplifies the importance of collaboration in your work?

I swear it is not possible for me to mention just one, because each of my productions has an excellent and curated team behind it. Each concept involves different needs therefore different talents - since I started doing art direction I was lucky enough to have a curated eye to be able to choose the right people and each of them executed their work in a fabulous way. To this day, I have moved countries and I continue to be lucky enough to meet magnificent and talented people from whom I have a lot to learn. Pro-tip: surround yourself with creative people and your life will CHANGE.

Could you walk us through your creative process, from conceptualizing a shoot to executing it? How do you ensure that your vision comes to life, especially when working with a diverse team?

Absolutely. Firstly, it is necessary to define a "WHAT", that is, a concept, a media source, audience and objective (Creative Direction). For example: 'vintage style', 'for social media', for 'fashion girlies' and the main objective is 'sell pre-loved shoes'. It is very important that you define the first point perfectly since it is the base to be able to elaborate on everything else. Now comes step two, which is Art Direction: the "how". At this stage you must define how you are going to communicate a vintage style: you have to choose an adhoc location, a model with specific face features, and an excellent stylist and makeup artist to be able to transport the model to 1940.

You will define the wardrobe, the exact makeup & hair look, and provide posing inspiration. You must end this shoto brief to your entire work team so that there are no miscommunications. When it comes to pre-production, you have to create a breakdown of all the shots you need, photo equipment and lighting gear, how many staff people you are going to need to help you at the production moment, among other technical details. It is necessary to make "call" schedules for each of the talents: model, stylists, etc. to give them a specific time they need to arrive on set. Once the time of Production arrives, it is the photographer and model's time to shine: as a director you must direct the posing of the model and it is essential that the model is a professional to be able to evoke a high-level finish. Then comes post-production where you might need to do colour and lighting corrections, skin retouching and my favorite: color grading!

Every creative field has its challenges. Can you discuss a particularly challenging project and how you navigated the obstacles to bring your creative vision to fruition?

Of course! The first one that comes to mind is a Mini-sessions project that I did in downtown San Diego during last winter season. This project was created and planned in Mexico (remotely) and we did not know with certainty what the lighting was like in the studio we had rented, or even the size of it. At that time in my life I was a beginner when it came to strobe lighting since my expertise is in natural light, so we had to prepare the entire set design assuming spaces and measurements. It was a project outside my native country, therefore it involved a different culture, and a business model that I was not familiar with. Usually I work in at least 1 hour sessions, and for this project I needed to have magnificent seller shots in less than 15 minutes. At the end of the day, everything went perfectly, thanks to the incredible support of the team I worked with and it is an experience that made me realize the power I hold. That day I confirmed I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.

How has your work evolved over the last 7 years, and what have been some key learnings or milestones in your career that have propelled your growth as an art director and photographer?

My favorite milestone is EXPERIENCE. I cannot stress this enough. I have learned WAY much more by practicing and experimenting than I ever learned in college. I firmly believe that my visual signature style continues beating in each of my photographic or graphic projects, but as I grew older, I found the fact of creating things that you have never done before, LIBERATING. Something important I want to mention is that (sometimes it happens) a creator starts feeling "good enough" and stops prioritizing studying. It's the WORST thing you can do. I went through that stage years ago and I realized it was the worst thing I could've ever done. When I realized this, I came back stronger than ever to continue evolving and learning every day. My pro-tip? Work with new people, new models, new editors, NEW concepts. Fill your life with new input and I promise you, it is the most enriching adventure. My biggest learning is: I need talented people, and talented people need me. When you stop prioritizing your ego, your work and connections will skyrocket.

Inspiration plays a crucial role in creative industries. Where do you draw your inspiration from, and how do you keep your creative juices flowing, especially under tight deadlines or in high-pressure situations?

When I have a project coming up, the first thing I do is go offline to define the Creative Direction, and once I have that settled, I proceed to our favorite: Art Direction! I usually go to Behance, Pinterest, Dribble and Instagram to saturate my mind with refreshing visual input, it's essential to stay updated to actual trends. I like it think of it as: build a new idea with everything you saw, but from memory. I do not recreate exact ideas. Instead, I merge everything I see. Once I form a moodboard, I go back offline so I can bring the project to life by building the final brief.

Looking ahead, what are some goals or aspirations you have for your career? Are there any specific projects, locations, or collaborations you're eager to explore?

This question fills me with energy! Now that I live in the San Diego and Los Angeles area, I would like to attend and collaborate in important fashion and beauty events. I'm also looking forward to building my own studio and I know it's going to happen very soon! In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate each of the new opportunities that come my way. Every new client and every new experience is empowering!

Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring art directors and photographers who look up to your work and wish to carve out a successful career in this competitive industry?

The first thing I will say is: THANK YOU for staying tuned of my work, achievements and creative process. It is very important that you focus your energies on CREATING, instead of watching online creators. Spend time creating ideas and making your concepts tangible instead of scrolling through Instagram or Tiktok. It is scientifically proved that CREATORS are happier than the audience.

Tip number two: don't focus too much on your gear, of course it is important to have ideal equipment to achieve good results but it is not ESSENTIAL. Take it from my own experience, using my Canon T3i camera (more than 10 years old) I managed to be in magazines around the world. Focus on what is important: art direction, how you will capture your concept the best and most flattering way.

Tip number 3: please immerse yourself watching creators who are not from your city/hometown. The moment you start influencing your work in other countries and other cultures, your results will be much more nourishing.

Tip number 4: get up right now and get in touch with colleagues to create new things. Even people you don't know yet, reach out to them via Instagram and you will discover that there are many people who are dying to find a creative team with people just like you!

Tip number 5: and it is one of my mottos. Remember that if you spend your life to art, or design, you are nourishing your soul and the soul of all your viewers. Never stop creating!

Photographer: Sibeli Velázquez @siveees

Model: Ogaga Blessing @ogagablessing_



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