Lydia Hudgens

Lydia Hudgens

by Melissa Magsaysay

The Photographer Focusing Her Lens on All Beauty

Media as we know it is changing. Most notably are the visuals: people of color, of varying sizes and non-gender conforming are just a few ways that deviate from the traditional “straight-size” Hollywood celebrity or “It Girl” model.

Photographer Lydia Hudgens is one of the people leading the charge for change when it comes to what and who we see being represented in fashion and media.

Through her work with bloggers including Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason, the New York-based photographer captured the attention of plus-sized brands like Dia&Co, Gwynnie Bee and Eloquii. She also shoots straight-size, lifestyle and travel. The underlying theme to her work is beauty and what that means in today’s society.

To Hudgens it translates to turning her lens toward subjects that showcase diversity and represent a wide swath of our world. During New York Fashion Week, she gravitated toward lensing older women, curvier women and essentially not just the same editors and celebrities dozens of other street style photographers were swarming to between every show and event.

“I’ve always worked with a wide range of people but what got me excited was always true style, people experimenting with fashion and having fun with it.” Hudgens told New York Magazine’s The Cut in a recent interview about how street style needs to change. “I have noticed in the past that if another photographer saw me when I was shooting they would immediately rush over, but a lot of the time would lose interest if the subject wasn’t white or thin.”

Here, the photographer talks about the future of street style and how fashion should focus more on being fun and expressive rather than simply just flattering.

"I think we as a society need to work on the language of fashion and realize that not everything should revolve around flattering the body or appearing thinner. Fashion can be experimental, fun, exciting! We deserve that too."
Lydia Hudgens
Photographer Lydia Hudgens in New York shot by Carter Fish.
Lydia Hudgens
Model Arielle Pierre-Louis shot by Lydia Hudgens in New York.
Lydia Hudgens
Model Arielle Pierre-Louis shot by Lydia Hudgens in New York.

Q & A With Lydia

How did you begin working with Plus influencers and brands?

I kind of fell into shooting bloggers right after college and after moving to New York, I started working with Nicolette Mason after being introduced via a mutual friend and from there, I worked with more and more girls (Gabi Fresh, Kelly Augustine, Chastity Garner, Kellie Brown, etc.). Through these girls the brands heard of me and one of the first campaigns I ever worked on was Mynt 1792 for a blogger collection they did. Over the years, I've worked with Swimsuitsforall, Catherines, Dia&Co, Gwynnie Bee, Eloquii, Ellos and Simply Be. I definitely have the influencers to thank for introducing me to the plus market but I think I naturally fell into it because I connected with the industry closer than the straight sized market.

Do you notice an obvious division still between categories in fashion (age, size or ethnicity related) or do you feel like fashion is becoming more inclusive and lines are blurred?

I personally feel like we're in an interesting moment in fashion. More and more brands are jumping on board and expanding their sizes (not always done well or with the right market research to be honest) and while I'm happy to see it, I do think there's a lot more work to be done. Expanding a size or two into plus isn't enough but it's a start. I'd love to see more true plus models being used for campaigns, above a size 12/14/16, and more exclusivity in general. More POC, more trans models, etc. but I do think things are headed that way - slowly, though typically in the more fast fashion markets. I'd love to see more luxury brands making larger sizes but considering Honore 11, it's happening! Would just love to see sizes beyond a 20-22. I will say, I think that a lot of the audience is to blame - people would rather see an aspirational model of a smaller size then a larger woman (so I've been told via a few studies) and typically tend to respond better to safer, more flattering styles. I think we as a society need to work on the language of fashion and realize that not everything should revolve around flattering the body or appearing thinner. Fashion can be experimental, fun, exciting! We deserve that too.

Regarding the dearth of diversity in street style, where do you see this going? Do you think more photographers will start shooting a wider range of subjects based on real style or is it still and always a numbers (IG followers) game?

I've talked about this quite a bit recently but I do think a lot of it comes down to where the images are ending up, who's publicizing them, etc. If photographers are turning in images of POC, queer individuals or plus and they are being turned away left and right, then they might just automatically shoot people they know will be accepted so they can get paid. When it comes down to it they're just trying to do their jobs and typically they are trying to sell the images for publication. I personally haven't shot a ton of NYFW until just recently so maybe I came at it with a renewed eye because I was just excited to shoot fashion for the sake of fashion. But I also was allotted freedom to photograph who I wanted. In regards to people shooting influencers with high numbers, sure, I can see that but there's no guarantee the person will regram you or even give you photo credit. I also don't know if they follow many influencers, I felt like many of them had no clue who half the super big name bloggers were but immediately gravitated towards the more traditional editor, models or celebrity faces.

What are you doing to change what media and advertising looks like so that more people feel reflected?

My main focus this year is to work with more POC, models above a size 16 or unique, nontraditional faces and the LGBTQ community to spread more inclusiveness. I have a few shoots coming up that focus on editorial style and am truly excited to work with individuals that can bring a sense of freshness and creativity to a market that I think is needed. Plus specifically, I see mostly lifestyle or that pretty girl next door sort of vibe and I personally am tired of it. Plus women can do editorial, moody, and can do it without blatant sexuality being the primary focus. I'm also not a huge fan of photo retouching and am tired of seeing all these plus models looking like fat barbie dolls, so a focus on reality is also key!


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