Study Abroad: What I've learned

 Papercity is a Dallas/Houston based publication and one of the few creative editorial opportunities in the Texas market. 

Papercity is a Dallas/Houston based publication and one of the few creative editorial opportunities in the Texas market. 

 i-D is a highly influential publication based in London and represents the style of the UK market. 

i-D is a highly influential publication based in London and represents the style of the UK market. 

Dallas has been my home for 21 years. I had never "lived" anywhere else for an extended period of time before I left for London. It was scary, exciting, and all of the other things you hear in every study abroad blog post. Despite a few dips of nerves or doubt, I don't regret a thing. I had never worked in a major fashion city. I've never shot in LA or NYC let alone an international fashion hub. It was nerve-wracking to be surrounded by the top people in my industry but equally an honor. I was able to not only learn more about the technical side of photography but better understand the fashion and content creation industry as well. 

My goal was to understand aesthetic and cultural differences in digital and printed content in magazines and brands in the US and UK. Of course, that is a very broad topic that is full of intricate answers that are also completely subjective. That being said, I think I have found my answer to the question. 

London is a place to grow and find your voice. The UK market is full of experimentation and homage to your experiences. There is something dream-like about much of the work in their editorials. It feels like how fashion in the US used to be prior to excess consumerism and over-saturation of content; fantasy and creating a reality in which a character exists in these clothes. I think the biggest difference in the London market was the constant push to create art. The photographers in the UK wanted to say something with even a basic product shot. In America, the focus is less on art and more about creating content that will sell and what represents a brand or company the best. While that still exists in London, I feel that the duality between artist and seller is more balanced.

From a standpoint of emerging media and communication, I noted a few differences in the distribution of content and use of technology. The United States is technologically superior. We are more in tune with using digital communication and expressing ourselves to an audience. I think the average digital citizen in the US is able to adapt more quickly to changes in social networks. A few of the photographers I worked with in London mentioned that they never used Instagram stories or posted behind the scenes photos because they didn't know how to do it in a way that would respect their art but also push them as a brand/personality. Distribution in the UK is also different. There are many more magazines and printed content especially specific to London itself as a city than there are in other markets. I would even notice locals reading magazines and newspapers on the trains to work, something I rarely see across Dallas. 

My biggest takeaway from this trip and study has been understanding the power of the consumer. In our current digital society, we have options. We have the power. We are able to curate a feed of products we enjoy and search for things (style, aesthetics) we feel are missing in mainstream brands/companies. The fashion industry is changing. It's exciting. Consumers give the final say in if a trend continues to move through stores or if a magazine can stay relevant and in business. 

In the future, I think the consumer will be able to make more and more decisions. While we will always be influenced by our environment, there is a shift happening in creating your own cultural identity. We are no longer limited to what "Dallas" or any other city says is popular. The individual can create their own style and aesthetic using methods of digital communication. As a content creator, this leaves me with more opportunities. I can be selective about brands that I work for, the images I would like to produce, and better myself as an artist in the digital landscape to grow and change. This idea applies to both a market across the ocean as well as the one I call home.