Angela Pham, Event and Nightlife Photographer
Frantically cutting between dancers and social darlings with their equipment, flashes, and sharp elbows, there's at least one official party photog at every gallery opening, sponsored liquor bash, or VIP event you go to these days. Granted, their presence is nothing new (the highbrow social registries of the past lived on their shots), but today’s social shutterbug is hipper, younger, and more a part of the party than ever before. To get an inside look at nightlife photography's current breed we talked to one of its stars, Ms. Angela Pham of the Billy Farrell Agency, to see what's it's like to party from behind a camera.
Tell us how you got started in this very particular profession.
“I picked up a camera during my second year at NYU, but it wasn't until my time in London post-graduation that I started shooting parties for Vice UK. I remember the first party I was assigned to, at Bungalow 8 in Covent Garden — the kids were so incredibly posh and scathing, I couldn't even muster up enough courage to approach one person. People say I am very personable, but I consider myself a little shy.”
How did you get over that?
“When I moved back to NYC, I only wanted to work with the nascent Billy Farrell Agency, and hounded them for about six months. Now I’ve been there two years! Unlike other event photo agencies, they foster and encourage creative talent in all of their photographers. All of a sudden, I was being thrust into these very stressful environments with client needs, PR girls, socialites/celebrities I should know; and it's because of this I was able to develop so rapidly as a photographer. You quickly learn how to take good, publishable photos in a variety of conditions (often, less than ideal)."
Got any tips for budding party photogs wanting to follow your path?
“Wear a specific LAMD (Look-at-me-device) so that you become like ‘That chick with the monocle!’ or "That dude with the capes!’ After you've become a recognizable face on the scene, you can gain entry into almost any exclusive club or party.”
And what’s your response to all those people who say that your career is just one, long party?
“I’d say they are absolutely correct. But if anyone’s too envious, take solace in the fact that I'm often Photoshopping the shine from partygoer's T-zones until 4 a.m. That part is not fun. I act very frenetic and stressed when I'm shooting; it's very hard for me to engage in real conversations with guests and friends — I even utilize my camera as an invisibility cloak. I bet most people have the wrong impression of me.
“In any case, I’ve always been very self-disciplined (chalk it up to my Asian upbringing). When I'm hired to shoot an event, I become obsessed with getting great photos, not only for the client, but also potentially, for my portfolio. I do drink at events, but from a practical standpoint, saccharine fruit cocktails and precious Canon equipment just don’t mix.”
Got any juicy anecdotes from your various professional adventures?
“One time, I photographed an event at a pub in East London, I remember quickly snapping this man with a very familiar, handsome face. The next morning, sober, I looked at the image and it was my idol, Morrissey!”
That’s not that juicy.
“Sorry. My myriad of insane party anecdotes are reserved for my memoirs.”
Styled by Lauren Edelstein; Hair and Makeup by Bethany Brill.
Mr. Dino vintage top and pants; Noir The Pietasters Cuff, $165, available at Noir.
Photographed at Edi & The Wolf, 102 Avenue C; 212-598-1040.