By: Max Lorber, Arts and Culture Editor
After graduating last spring from USM, Belle Fall has strived to carve a place for herself as a professional photographer and videographer in Portland. Armed with a Panasonic GH4, and a growing contact list of local clients and creative colleagues, she has pushed herself to pursue her dream.
Since earning her degree in Media Studies, Fall became a member of Sixten photography studio, a space where she has been able to collaborate with other local photographers and models. She described the experience of being immersed in a creative environment with motivated individuals as integral to her evolution as a photographer.
“Sixten is a safe space to experiment without judgment and devise without boundaries. When you have a place like that, it feels like the possibilities of innovation are endless,” Fall said while discussing her work.
According to Steve Tsaitsios, local photographer and founder of Sixten, he asked Fall to shoot a promotional video for the studio, and was immediately struck by her visual dexterity and her distinctive style. He also noted communicating with her was effortless.
“She is just so easy to work with,” Tsaitsios said.
Tsaitsios said Fall asked if he was interested in accepting new studio members. Having a common interest in fashion, they began collaborating together on shoots with local models in the studio.
“I often find a sense of wonderment and searching in Belle’s work,” local photographer Joshua James Hand said while describing Fall’s visual style. “Her images have a tendency to be simultaneously soft yet bold.”
With her studio work, she has aimed to examine and ultimately challenge conventional notions of femininity and gender. In one shoot she took close-up photographs of a pregnant woman in the nude, filling the frame with her model’s rising belly. Recently she captured a shirtless transgender man who had undergone gender reassignment surgery, exposing the scars running across his chest.
“An image that doesn’t encourage a conversation is boring to me, to be frank,” Fall said about her photography.
Her choice of employing warm colors on set works to confront her audience without being confrontational, inviting them to question their presupposed notions of the subject. Her idiosyncratic style helps her access difficult topics, guiding the viewer into areas they may have previously deemed uncomfortable.
“I believe it’s important to push the boundaries in the way we tell stories,” Fall said.
According to her, networking throughout the Portland community, either in person or on social media, has helped her grow as a professional. Fall said after graduating from USM she learned to be more assertive, messaging or emailing anyone she thought might help her get a job, no matter how uncomfortable it may have felt at the time.
“All of my opportunities, whether it’s working as an assistant for a professional catalog shoot or having a space at a studio, have come to me through connections,” Fall said.
She cites her experience working on a photo shoot for the Peter Millar Spring catalog as an example of this technique of networking yielding results for her career. Through a connection she made in the Portland, she was recommended for a job as a photo assistant during the six day shoot in Georgetown, Cape Elizabeth and Portland.
Fall aspires to eventually break into the fashion industry as a photographer, as well as writing and directing music videos.
“I believe that music videos are basically fashion films with a loose storyline…I want to show reality in a surreal form and I really just love fashion,” Fall said about her hopes for the future.
Belle Fall’s work can be viewed at @beanfall on Instagram.