Interview with: Enga Purevjav

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Enga Purevjav    (Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav)

Enga Purevjav is a New York-based photographer, known for her sultry and alluring images. Here she discusses what it is like to work as a female in an industry predominantly run by males, and a typical day shooting.

Your photography is renowned for being sensual and sexy, what is it you enjoy about displaying this sort of imagery? and how do you plan which way an image will be shot?

I photograph the woman I want to see and am inspired by. I never plan anything out for a photo, I look at my subject and photograph the thing I find most sensual or mysterious about her. 

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Had you always wanted to go into the photography profession when you were younger? what inspired you to enter this field?

My family is in the arts, my mother was a dancer and my father an actor. I grew up around all kinds of entertainers and remember being backstage of so many theaters and arenas all over the world. It seemed natural for me to go into photography because it’s a world of costumes, light, stories, and inspiring other people.

As a female photographer, have you had any tough experiences within the industry since you started?

It’s definitely a tougher deal for a woman in the photo industry. Most photographers male or female have an all male crew because it’s very much a physical job with equipment, travel, and being on set. A lot of women in the industry have to downplay their femininity to seem more dependable and strong enough to endure the very real physical challenges. Even when in an office environment many women have to work with an all male staff and learn to deal with all of the testosterone. Women in the industry have to work 10x harder to go through the ranks and to eventually become professionals. But it’s a vicious circle because they then hire more men than women anyway… 

Not all experiences are like this but it definitely happens. There are so many ways of getting around it and learning about the industry from other people who are outside of the box and can offer a completely different apprenticeship. In general, I’ve noticed that many female photographers develop and go within themselves – their work can be more sensual and personal and their photographs often tell a narrative. 

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

There is a lot of debate over the ‘perfect type’ of body shape when it comes to women modelling today, as a photographer what is your take on the situation?

There will always be debate about body types in the industry but the thing is that there is a niche for every kind of body type. For high fashion and couture it will always be size 0-4 and a height of at least 5’9 to get on the runway because the clothes simply look better for presentation on that body. Certain brands will always use models of that size for ads and runway but the store carries sizes for all types of women. Other brands will prefer to use models that are relatable according to their customer. It all depends what kind of brand it is and who their customer is. 

What are the highlights of your career so far?

My highlights are being able to work with subjects who are free to experiment and give back during a shoot, those who are comfortable with themselves and their bodies are the best subjects.

Is there any advice you would give to those hoping to break into photography?

Know your history! Learn all you can about the history of photography, the area you want to excel in, the ground-breakers before you, and what exactly you’re adding to this history. The worst thing a photographer can say is that he or she is completely untrained and knows nothing but just took up a camera and has fun – this is a hobby for amateurs and tourists who should stick to their iPhones. A serious professional will seek to learn everything and anything about all areas of photography. Be realistic. These days there are too many gadgets, too many cameras that are idiot proof with all the problems fixed for you in advance, too many people, too many unnecessary bad photos in the world – why add to it. Also, the economy isn’t the way it used to be when the pay was at its all-time high in the 80s and 90s for photographers because it was still when the photographer was considered an “auteur” and had final say. Today it’s the editor and the accountant who holds sway over the final picture selection for publication. If you wish to be a paid commercial photographer be very realistic about the creatively stifling and completely controlled kinds of jobs you will have to do to earn it. Very very few creative jobs will appear and most will be unpaid. 

There is no shame in being a fantastic commercial photographer. It takes a certain character and skill to produce top quality commercial images and we all have to make money. We all wish the big ad campaign will come our way with the big contracts. Being a photographer today means multitasking on a huge new level. There are stills, video, behind the scenes stills and video, Instagram posts, interviews, your website, tumblr account, self-promotion even though you may have an agent Etc.. But it’s important to come back to yourself at the end of the day and take personal photographs for yourself that remind you why you’re a photographer in the first place without all the extras. 

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Can you explain the process of a typical photo shoot? what does it involve?

A typical photo shoot begins when I have met with my subject and how they strike me and what’s special about her. Sometimes I may engage hair, makeup, and styling but most times I do it all myself. I usually shoot film and it’s just me and the girl with a bag of clothes and an idea of where to go and what kind of mood I’m in. I use whatever available light there is in the location we are in, I rarely if ever shoot in studio. 

Has there been a shoot that is a particular favourite of yours?

I still love my shoot with Kimera at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. She was completely open and so expressive and trusting. I unknowingly shot double exposures of her on old film from my first week in school at FIT. The results were incredible beautiful and so many shots were just magic. 

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Image: Courtesy of Enga Purevjav

Imagine you are trapped on an island, what 5 items would you want to have with you?

The people I love, camera, music, great food, and a helicopter haha. We’ll escape for a while, have fun, and then leave.  

If you could visit a country in the world you haven’t been to, where would it be and why?

I would love to go to Venice – the light!

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