We had the good fortune of connecting with Cassandra Plavoukos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cassandra, why did you pursue a creative career?
I chose to pursue an artistic and creative career because it’s in my DNA. Honestly, I think that as human beings we are all intrinsically creative. We all have a human creative impulse. It just presents itself at different times, and in different ways depending on the experiences and exposure we have, including who and what we are surrounded by. I grew up in a creative household. My Mother was a baker and seamstress and loved to write. My Father was a baker and a musician and was in a band. My sister was a singer and also in a band. Many of my cousins, whom I was very close to growing up, were also talented singers and musicians. One of them was even a photographer. I think it was kind of inevitable that I would fall into a creative career. The visual and performing arts are essential to me and integral in my work. I can’t even imagine a world without them. It’s everything that I am.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m an advertising, editorial and fine art photographer who specializes in portraits, dance, fitness, and active lifestyle photography. I am primarily known for my action images of dancers and athletes, imagery which celebrates the formal, athletic, and whimsical nature of movement. I think what sets me apart from others is that my personal connection with my subjects is evident in my imagery. There is a certain synergy, or exchange of energy that takes place on set. It’s not a passive experience. It’s a verbal or sometimes even non-verbal conversation between me and the subject/subjects that allows the essence of their talent to shine. People are often surprised that I’m neither a dancer nor an athlete. For me it isn’t simply about capturing them in action or at their apex even. It’s about capturing them at the “right” moment. Most of the time, That “moment” is simply a feeling that I get that I’ve “got it”. There is purpose and intent behind my imagery- where I place them in the frame, in which direction they are moving, if they are going up or down, what story they tell with their bodies, facial expressions, shapes, or gestures, for example. Most importantly, for me, is that the images convey some sort of emotion. It is very purposeful, and a process which really speaks to the talent and synergy on set.
I think one of the most beautiful things about any creative career, besides the art itself, is the community that you become a part of. Photography is no exception. I am most proud of the personal connections I have made within the photography community and the organizations I am part of. I am a charter member of LACP (Los Angeles Center of Photography), and a founding member of The Luupe. I’m also a member of APA (American Photographic Artists) and Black Women Photographers, which just celebrated its one year anniversary. Being invited to be on the board of the Los Angeles chapter of American Photographic Artists as well as on the Diversity Committee are things I’m also proud of. And I’m excited about the future of these organizations, and what they are doing to drive the community forward, especially as it pertains to BIPOC, LGQBTIA+ and other underserved and underrepresented members of the photography community. I’m also proud of all of the (local and national) awards and accolades I’ve achieved since I became a professional photographer. Last year I also launched a website to sell my large scale photographic abstract and landscape art, called Impressions by Cassandra Plavoukos. And lastly, I recently dove headfirst into the world of NFTs and crypto art and am super excited for what the future holds in this space.
I got to where I am today professionally by believing in myself, practicing my art, networking, education, and hard work. It wasn’t easy. Still isn’t. There are often challenges, but you overcome them by staying focused, being resourceful, leaning on the community when you need to, remembering who you are, why you do what you do, and pressing forward. Any photographer will tell you that photography is all about problem-solving. Those problems range in difficulty and challenge. Most people just see the resulting image/s, but they have no idea how much really went into it. They have no clue how many of your synapses were firing before, during, and after from pre production to post production. One of the things people often want to know is what camera I use, which honestly doesn’t really matter. There are images in my portfolio and on my website that were made with a $500 camera, some that were made with a $10,000 camera and some that were made with a $40,000 camera, not including lenses; but none of this matters because it’s not the camera that’s taking the photo, it’s me. And actually, I’m not even “taking” the photo, I’m “making” an image. That’s the difference !
I would want the world to know that although I have been a professional photographer for over ten years, my story is still being told. My brand is still being built. I also still create a lot of personal work and have a few long-term projects that I’m still working on, including my “Music+Dance=Love” series and my “In Water” series. And for every one of me, there’s hundreds + more. I would love for all photographers AND the “creatives” who hire us to ask: Who is getting a seat at the table ? And when they get a seat at the table, to look around the room and see who’s missing, and do something about it !
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take them to any outdoor venue where they can hear live music, especially the Hollywood Bowl. It’s just magical. We would have to find a place to dance salsa for sure! I would insist they visit “the strip” (Santa Monica Blvd.) in West Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Venice, where they’ll find some of the most fun, interesting, and exciting people. They MUST eat at Alta in West Adams. We would visit the California African American Museum, and also do a few art walks and photo meet ups downtown. We’d finish up with a day at the beach in Malibu, most likely El Matador or Leo Carrillo. They would be busy for sure !
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Santa Monica College Photography Department
Los Angeles Center Of Photography
American Photographic Artists
Black Women Photographers
All images © Cassandra Plavoukos. Jeremiah Buren Jake Casey Matthew “ET” Gibbs Hansel Aquino Lekeisha Moore Timothy Kim