We had the good fortune of connecting with Marni Epstein-Mervis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marni, how do you think about risk?
I am always learning, first, to trust my gut and that sometimes it’s important to leap before I look rather than play it safe. We don’t need to wait for the right time or the right pieces to come into place to be a leader, or an entrepreneur, or to make a change. This is a process, because I was raised very much to make practical, traditionally safe decisions. But what I’ve learned is that there’s no way to get big rewards if you don’t take big risks. So why not take the chance when the worst that can happen is that you’ll end up where you were in the first place? For me, the first leap was from a stable corporate job where I had put in several years, and leaving to attend a graduate program and cobble together an income as a freelance design writer (for about six publications at a time) because I knew it was time for a change. It was a risk and – although I didn’t really know it at the time – it started me on my trajectory to where I am today as an architecture and interiors photographer. You can spend your whole life waiting for the right time to start a business, go back to school, make a career change, etc. – but the sooner you start doing it, the sooner you’ll start living it. Later when I decided to first launch my photography business, I was already working a 9-5, working multiple other side hustles, attending grad school, and planning a wedding. It wasn’t an ideal space to start a business, but if I had waited until I had more free time, I might still be waiting. There’s literally no time like the present, especially since building a career or a business doesn’t happen overnight. I also think flexibility is key in mitigating risk. When I started my business it was as a content marketing and social media studio but what I quickly learned was that there was more demand for photography and video and I pivoted there. We still serve our core clientele of interior designers, architects, hotels and others in the hospitality industry. Being flexible has helped us serve clients better and it’s brought me greater creativity and joy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m most proud of the flexibility and adaptability I mentioned. For example, when COVID first hit and quarantine went into full effect, going into someone’s home for a photoshoot was out of the question. For that time, I shifted to shooting for more lifestyle brands and products for brands like Waikea water and Nomadica wine, shooting a number of projects I’m incredibly proud of even though they’re outside my normal subject matter of interiors and architecture. That adaptability I think comes from my range of professional experience and is actually what sets me apart as an interior photographer. My combination of experience – I have a background studying historic preservation, architecture, design, which allows me to imbue my photographic work with, not only beauty, but a strong sense of context and story, as well. Additionally, prior to launching my photography studio I spent many years in digital media and marketing, creating custom ad campaigns and integrated content for Fortune 500 companies and also serving as Head of Content at a real estate startup; I take my knowledge of what photos make people stop scrolling, and the kinds of stories that interest readers and publications, alike, with me into my photographic work; it informs everything from the way to style a home or hotel for a photoshoot, to brand strategy and art direction for lifestyle brand shoots. It’s all in service helping our clients showcase their work and build exciting and engaging brands. What I’m most excited about in the year ahead is getting to work with a number of new designers, exploring their aesthetics and challenging myself photographing some really exciting spaces.
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.
In a non-COVID world where everything is open, still in operation… The Blue Room, a secret prohibition-era speakeasy hidden behind a bookcase in the Los Angles Athletic Club. It’s a unique space to grab a drink or strike up conversation and is gorgeous space with design that’s a modern twist on a vintage British sports club vibe. The Nomad, it’s easy walk just across the street from the LA Athletic Club. With incredible historic architecture and lush interiors by Jacques Garcia it’s a feast for the eyes, a good place to grab a coffee or a meal. Cafe Birdie, every dish on the menu is delicious, not to mention the space designed by Sally Breer instantly evokes a kind of old-world brasserie vibe that you generally find only in places like Paris or New York. It feels familiar yet exciting, bohemian yet elegant. Figaro Bistrot – speaking of Paris in LA – the sidewalk setting at this Los Feliz bistro is great for people watching and striking up random but wonderful conversations with other patrons seated inches away. A concert at The Echo or The Bootleg are always a must. To get out in nature, a walk through Descanso Gardens or the staircases that dot the hills of Echo Park or Highland Park. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, Laine, is without a doubt the most encouraging and supportive of me and my career. I am so grateful for a truly incredible partner – someone that encourages me to grow, is always there to help, be a sounding board. There honestly aren’t enough words, so I’ll just stop here… Additionally I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by Jesus Sanchez, Publisher and Editor of The Eastsider LA. Without much experience Jesus hired me as a contributor, giving me to the chance to write and photograph LA’s east side architecture, cultural and community fixtures. It opened up the door to having my photography published in a number of other publications and shelter magazines and help put me on the path where I am today.