Hometown: New York
Checking in with Terence Connors is always envy-inducing. The US photographer and filmmaker’s life seems to be an eternal summer, shooting campaigns in locations across the globe with his partner and muse, Zippy. After spending his teen years filming and photographing skateboarding in Paris, and using any money he had on renting out darkrooms, Terence then scored a scholarship studying cinematography at college in New York and has been on a steady ascent ever since. He’s one of our favourite image-makers in the fashion world and beyond, and Bright Young Things 2020 would be sorely lacking if Terence wasn’t in the mix. We caught up with him on a sun-drenched afternoon wherever he was in the world, in the midst of shooting Zippy at golden hour.
Hey Terence, how’ve you been?
Good man. I’m actually like walking with Zippy (Terence’s partner) to go shoot a photo. The light’s beautiful and we have this deadline of outfits to shoot; a brand sent us, like, 37 outfits. It keeps us out of the house, cruising and looking for shots.
It seems that a lot of people from the States are trained from a 16mm perspective because it’s more available, whereas in Australia, it’s so hard to process and develop film that a lot of people learn on REDs and Clara cameras. What’s your thoughts on that?
At university, we weren’t allowed to shoot digital the whole first year. They said that shooting on film—because we had to pay for processing and film ourselves—would make us really think twice about our shots. Before you shoot photos and work at being a good filmmaker and storyteller, you have to have that intent, is what they’re stressing. And like I’m 18 and, you know, I got no cash to spare, I got a scholarship to go to school in New York. Before that, I was just a skate rat living with my parents and I wanted to work in a skate shop and be out at night and having beers with mates. When I moved to New York and went to school, I didn’t have much money to spend on all this film. So, when you did get your film developed, it was at this little lab in the East Village that was super-cheaply run by students; if they ripped the film they’d just staple it back together and weird shit like that. But what it taught us, I think, was a valuable lesson: think about your composition and what you’re trying to say. Six years down the line, when all of a sudden shooting on film becomes trendy, I was like, ‘Oh, I need to shoot on that same camera I didn’t want to shoot on in college.’ I spent so much time practising on this stuff; it was a good return.
What are your favourite film cameras?
I don’t really like using one camera in particular, because they all serve a purpose. It’s more what do I want that final product to look like and what’s going to dictate that? And then you choose your camera. The camera’s just the tool to get it done, I’ve never put too much importance on it after that. But like when I was younger, when I met Hollywood for example, I was like a camera geek languishing over the idea of getting my hands on a camera and trying something. But what I didn’t realise is that it’s important to be able to show to clients that you can give them what they want, because a lot of them lack imagination. So, if they don’t see something in your reel they want to replicate, they’re not coming back.
What about on your own personal trips?
When I’m travelling I just try and take the smallest camera, like a little Olympus, a little Contax. The Olympus is a favourite because you can just toss it without worrying about it breaking, ’cause it’s 80 bucks, y’know?
During all the downtime, have you had that opportunity to reflect on all the opportunities you’ve had to experience so much of the world and different cultures?
I just realised how lucky I was. Once you start working and hustling in New York City… It’s just so nonstop, and I feel like for the last 10 years I hadn’t been really taking a break; I was on a high from it, almost addicted to working. I love it. My favourite part is being on set with the crew, with people, different creative people, collaborating. It’s just that energy. The fact that we get to travel around the world is… No one told me in school that this was even a job. All this time on our hands has made me realise that we were going at a crazy pace, always on a plane going somewhere. I was always packing up to do another thing, looking at different treatments to go somewhere.
It’s been a good time to kind of rethink our priorities, how we’re living our life. Also, like, what kind of work we’re putting out, work that’s important to us and where this industry is going to go now; particularly with fashion and advertising putting bread on the table, and what is going to happen with that from all of this reshaping. It’s a creative industry filled with creative people who are bound to find good creative ways forward.
Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to, creatively or personally, once we’re out the other side of this?
I’m craving human contact. The last two months I’ve been doing a lot of jobs with Zippy, and we’ve been really, really fortunate that brands immediately caught on to what the solution was for shooting and have been sending us clothes. We’ve been shooting and working and it’s been really nice in that way, but I’m really craving being back on set with people and sharing ideas, you know? Because with filmmaking—photography is a bit different—it takes teamwork to make something good, you know? Every person’s a key player. I love when it’s just ideas and throwing stuff around and then we find something, hone in and make a commercial or whatever.
Are there any countries you’ve really been drawn to?
Yeah, I would say Australia. I love it there. Every single person that I’ve met in Australia is so warm and welcoming and happy and exciting. Honestly, I love it, I love the energy there. Every single one of Zippy’s friends she grew up with—when she was like 15 and moved to Sydney from New Zealand—they all welcomed me with open arms; I was like one of their friends. Even with Hollywood—who meets someone and within two days, lends them camera gear and it’s just that chill? And that wasn’t just like a one off, you know, that happened so many times with so many people I met.
Nice. And everything’s obviously in a standstill at the moment, but is there anything you’re excited to see happen creatively at the other end of this?
I think in New York, in this particular industry, I would say that, you know, people putting more importance on creativity versus the cult of celebrity and fakeness, you know? Maybe it’s a good time where everyone gets a kind of slap in the face to be a little bit more down to earth and respectful… Less into all the glitz and the unimportant stuff, the superficial stuff that exists a lot in our industry. It’s not my personal taste, you know? I understand that it’s also an industry that needs that in order to sell more, like, handbags, but it doesn’t get the best out of people. But I’m excited about personally trying to work on a balance, I’m shooting a music video next week, which is something I’ve wanted to do for I don’t know how many years. I’ve never done one and I finally found the time to write a treatment. And there’s this cool little film I did last year with Zippy for a tequila brand that we’re partnered with. We’re launching the main summer campaign we shot in St. Barths late last year, so that’ll be cool.