Name: Jude Liana
Swank: Photographer/ Fashionista/ IT girl
Take a look: JudeLiana.com
Photo by Shelby Sells
Following in the footsteps of the dope native New Yorker photographers that have come before her— think Tina Barney, Jane Evelyn Atwood, and Diane Arbus— our Swanker of the week’s way of capturing grit through the lens sets her apart from many of her peers. 21-year-old photographer, model, fashionista, and IT Girl Jude Liana— formerly known as Yung Bambi— spends her time between the Big Apple and L.A., steadily on the bi-coastal grind to realize her dreams. See what Jude has to say about growing up in the Lower East Side of New York City and how it has informed her work, as well as her thoughts about our generation’s obsession with social media in this week’s Family Swank.
Mass Appeal: What made you want to work on the other side of the lens and become a photographer?
Jude Liana: Well, I actually started out behind the lens. My mom gave me my first camera when I was about 12 years old, so my interest in photography began before I had even been in front of a camera. Modeling started a few years later, but even so, I always knew I preferred being behind the lens as oppose to being in front of it. The sensation of capturing the world through your eyes has always felt more like my calling.
MA: How did growing up in the Lower East Side inform your craft and your style?
JL: Growing up in the East Village/Lower East Side wasn’t anything crazy to me as a child. I guess I was just very used to the gritty and raw culture around me, which I definitely enjoyed, but also felt I had taken for granted throughout the years until I had the opportunity to photograph it all. When I received my first camera, some of my first photos snapped were simply my neighborhood and the people in it. So looking back, and even looking at my style now, I’d confidently say it was where I grew up that influenced and still influences me artistically today.
MA: What do you like shooting? Do you have a favorite subject?
JL: Street photography has always been my favorite type of shooting. I also really dig shooting portraits of my friends and strangers as well.
MA: Spending your time divided between New York and L.A., have you found that one coast is paved with more opportunity?
JL: At the moment, I feel like because I’m a new California resident, I’m more focused on trying to discover what opportunity is available for me here. I’m still so young and I feel like being new to a place like L.A., it’s simply too soon to assume one coast has more opportunity than the other when I haven’t even really discovered my full potential here yet.
MA: What do you wish to accomplish as a photographer?
JL: Right now, my goal as a photographer is to have people look at my photos and think. Doesn’t really matter to me what they think or what their opinion is as long as they had some thought evoked the minute they looked at my work. That is gratifying enough.
MA: You’ve modeled for Opening Ceremony as well as for other brands. Do you prefer being directed or directing?
JL: Definitely directing. It comes naturally when I am behind the camera, and I’ve always had a strong interest in artistic and creative direction. It’s something I want to further explore in my career as I grow in this particular field.
MA: Let’s talk social media for a sec. A while back you had a Tumblr and Instagram under the pseudonym “Yung Bambi.” Then, you deleted it all and started afresh, under your real name. What prompted you to do that?
JL: Last year it became increasingly dark for me and I felt overwhelmed by it all at one point. It was just too much. Long story short, I did make a return to Instagram and Tumblr, just now with a bit more of a professional approach to it all. More showcase of my art, less meaningless selfies and pictures of my pizza that I felt everyone needed to see [Laughs].
MA: That being said, do you feel like our generation has an unhealthy dependency on social media?
JL: No. I’m a firm believer in embracing whatever defines our generation. I think as everyone now knows, this generation is straight Internet. That’s just the facts. If you can use that to your advantage, make money from it, further promote you and your career through it, then all I gotta say is: That’s dope. It’s definitely crazy to me how advanced this generation is becoming and all that, but I think if you can balance IRL (In Real Life) with URL, and can have some days where you pay your phone no mind and go on a cute adventure with some friends, then you’re all good in my book.
MA: Aside from being a photographer and part-time model, you’re a downtown New York City fashion IT girl as well. Where do you find yourself shopping? Do you have any favorite brands?
JL: Thrift stores, Goodwill, flea markets, eBay. Cute and cheap is the best combo to me.
MA: Describe your style in three words.
JL: Affordable. Sexy. Tom-Boy. (All-in-one)
MA: What has been the single most interesting photo series you’ve shot?
JL: I would have to say my trip to the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain in California. There’s loads of pictures from that trip on my blog and then a more selective photo set on my website. If you don’t know what the Salton Sea or Salvation Mountain is, look it up now!
MA: Film or digital photography? Why?
JL: Film. It’s what made me appreciate photography. That feeling you experience when receiving the photos from that roll you dropped off at the lab, super hyped to see how they came out. Even better a feeling is when you develop the photos on your own and actually witness the picture come to life.
MA: What can we expect from you in the future? Any upcoming photo exhibits or collaborations?
JL: I don’t know, I can’t really say. But I do know is that I go hard and I will always go hard, so look out for me and I won’t disappoint.
MA: Tell me two things that people would be surprised learning about you.
JL: I’m obsessed with romance, and “No bro, I don’t smoke weed.”
Hit Djali up on Instagram (@djalibc) if you think you’ve got swank!