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Office and on-set intern with Cass Bird, a Brooklyn-based photographer

Elle Perez '11 (photography)

Posted 04.01.11 by MICA communications

Found internship ...

by sending her a brief cover letter detailing my experience and a résumé. I didn't hear back for almost four months! By that time, school had already started and I couldn't intern for her. I was disappointed that I couldn't work for her but elated one of my idols even responded. The following spring I decided to try my luck again and sent her another e-mail -- this time she responded in less than 24 hours.


Cass is one of my favorite photographers, and I decided I wanted to intern for her because of the way she is able to simultaneously work on advertising and editorial photography while working on her own fine art photography projects. I wanted to see how a successful photographer managed her studio in terms of working with film, invoicing, getting advertising and editorial jobs, producing personal work, and working with galleries.


Every day was different, which I really appreciated. I acted as a second assistant on photo shoots for magazines such as Time, Jalouse, New York Magazine, Dazed & Confused, and Paper, and traveled to New England for Urban Outfitters' fall catalog and the mountains of Tennessee for her personal work. Cass is a very adventurous photographer and loves to shoot outdoors, so as one of her assistants I did a lot of running through the woods (getting really dirty), wading through rapids while carrying film and two Leica cameras, running around New York with various celebrities, and climbing onto rooftops.


Cass photographs a lot of celebrities, so I was able to meet people like Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl), Johnny Weir, Paz De La Huerta (Boardwalk Empire), supermodel Freja Beha, and many others. Perhaps more importantly, though, I was also able to meet hair stylists, make-up artists, and art directors of multiple magazines and agencies. I also now have personal relationships with people at top photographic labs and multiple equipment houses, photo studios, and production houses -- all of whom are incredible resources.


I was surprised to learn how much work went into a photo shoot appearing "effortless." Cass and her first assistant, Diane, are both extremely organized and make sure that nothing is left to chance on any project. From an outsider's perspective, it would look like all we are doing is having fun on set. But in reality, everything is carefully calculated.

Lessons learned:

I'd say one of the most important things I learned was how to solve a problem quickly, as well as how to think ahead and anticipate snags in a plan. I've been able to utilize the skills I picked up to produce my own work more effectively. I've also been able to take some of the tactics and strategies I saw Cass use to get earnest reactions from people when I photograph them.