We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Desage and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I am from the French Riviera, actually from a medieval village nestled in the mountains close to the Italian border. I studied Economics, and the curriculum included an internship at the Valentino boutique in Monte Carlo. The boutique is gorgeous, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, right next to the Casino, between l’Hermitage and l’Hôtel de Paris. And yes, that’s where the world famous restaurant Louis XV par Alain Ducasse is located. That was my office for two months. At the end of the internship I was offered a full time position, right out of school! I had to make the first decision that would impact my future. It was an amazing opportunity, but one thing I learned during the internship was that I was not cut out for a 9 to 5 office job. Instead I decided to go to Milan and pursue the modeling opportunity that was offered to me. Easy choice one would say! All I know is I never looked back, and for better or for worse, I have been self-employed ever since.
Starting my own photography business felt like a natural transition. I was at a point in my modeling and acting career where I really needed some sense of control. There is only so much one can do about the success of an audition or a casting. You go there, you are present, you do your best, and then you need to learn to move on to the next opportunity. The outcome is entirely out of your hands. I needed to be more creative, and I needed my creative voice to be heard.
Photography was something that had been tugging at me for a long time. On set, I would often look at photographers and their crew and think “that’s what I want to do next”. I had bought a camera, but was too intimidated to shoot until I got pregnant with my first child. Then my priorities changed. Starting a photography business felt like an obvious choice.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What excites me about a photo shoot is to connect to a moment of truth. In a portrait, I am looking to catch my subject off guard, in a moment of being their true self. For a fashion shoot it is to create a story that evokes true feelings. I think that’s why I love shooting fashion lifestyle, it is all about making it feel organic.
When I photograph a family it is about catching their connection, their love, their laughs in a natural and honest way. Photos are an affirmation that your love is strong and can be found everywhere– in the joy, the play, the tantrum, the chaos, the simplest moments. My work is about being real, about storytelling and connection. I offer my families an experience rather than a photo session. The shoot is surprisingly relaxed, fun and easy. My number one goal is for you to trust me.
I am very proud of PHOTO DE FAMILLE. I am very proud of the pictures I am taking, of the impact it has for the families. I know these pictures will be part of the family treasures. The kids will live with these memories, they are markers of time that will gain in heart value as the years pass.
What sets me apart from other photographers is my experience in front of the camera. I know how awkward and self conscious we become in front of the camera and I have a pretty sharp radar for it. Because of that I am pretty good at making people comfortable. The secret is to communicate and to have a good time. Laughter is like a sneeze, you can’t fake it! So yes, having a good time, feeling relaxed, and trusting that I will guide you, are all super important.
I am learning everyday. Sometimes the only thing I learn is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know!! Which is always a step forward! We live in a very interesting moment for entrepreneurs. We have so many tools and marketing platforms we can utilize at a very affordable rate or free even, and there is lot we can do ourselves. The challenge is that there is so much to learn! And we can only do it alone up to a certain point. It just gets overwhelming! This is without talking about last year. Obviously, it has been a year of challenges and lessons and finding silver linings in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. I am very excited to get back to the full swing of things, safely.
I am genuinely curious about the people I photograph, about their story, their humanity. I think what is important is knowing who you are, being true to yourself and speaking/shooting from that. Photography fulfills my creative and altruistic needs. I genuinely put my heart into everyone I photograph. You might pay for my services, but my heart I give you for free, it’s baked in the photograph.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
What I love about living in Los Angeles is how close to nature we are. If you come for a day, there are little gems in the heart of the city like Franklin Canyon or Tree People. There you can go for a hike and feel connected to nature.
If you were to come to visit me for a weekend, I would take you to Joshua Tree National Park and go to the Integratron where you can take a sound bath. We’ll hang in the desert and listen to silence, take some amazing pictures, eat at Pappy & Harriet’s, listen to some cool live music. We would stay over night at Pioneertown Motel or rent an Airbnb.
If you come for a week, we’ll head over to Big Sur. We’ll bring the kids, and camp there the whole time. We’ll enjoy nature, take some breathtaking hikes, share our stories around the fire pit. We’ll stop at the beach where the sea lion’s are, spot some dolphins and visit the otters up in Monterey. We’ll feel the strength, beauty, and rawness of nature.
Enjoy the present, have adventures, make memories.
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?
My shooting style is influenced by my experience as a model, an actress, a mother …and maybe being French. So in a way I do want to dedicate this shout out to all the people I have met and worked with. Everything about my professional world stems from a collaborative effort. We are teams telling the same story, whether in front of or behind the camera.
I am a self taught photographer but I have accumulated years of learning from observing other photographers and their crews. So I also dedicate this shout out to all of my unknown teachers.
Being self taught, I have to self educate. I found incredible resources at Creativelive. Kirsten Lewis is a wonderful educator, I recommend all of her classes. She opened up the door to documentary photography, a door I instinctively was looking for. I wanted to capture raw, intimate, honest family portraits– and here she was.
To put someone at ease in front of the camera I draw from my bag of experiences in front of the camera, as a model. It comes from establishing trust and having compassion.
A good picture tells a story, it evokes an emotion. Without my years as an actor, I wouldn’t constantly be asking myself “what’s the story of that picture”?
So you see, I am a product of my experiences- the good people I met and the not so good ones, the easy shoots and the cringe-worthy ones, the mistakes, the successes – all of it!