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Students Behind the Lens: Skye Brumley

This edition’s student photographer uses a Tamron 35mm F/2.8 prime lens to collaborate with fashion and jewelry designers on projects at a top Georgia art and design college.




By Jenn Gidman
Images by Skye Brumley

At the Savannah College of Art and Design (aka SCAD), innovation is paramount—and the key to that innovation is the creative collaboration the university encourages among its academic departments. For photographer Skye Brumley, that means working in tandem with SCAD fashion and jewelry designers, using the Tamron 35mm F/2.8 prime lens to capture the vision Skye’s classmates are trying to bring to fruition.

“I absolutely love this 35mm lens,” says Skye, who uses they/them pronouns. “It's an amazing go-to lens, especially because I’m often shooting in small studios. It's the perfect lens to be able to get the close shots I need while still capturing the rest of the room.”

© Skye Brumley
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Most of the projects Skye collaborates on involve two-day sessions, with each shoot lasting about four to five hours. The team is typically comprised of Skye as the photographer, the shoot’s models, the designer, and a videographer, as well as an occasional set designer.

“The designer will reach out to me at the beginning of the semester and say, ‘Here’s my concept, I’d love to work with you and develop this further,’” Skye notes. “As we start to get further into the process, the designer will select the models—also SCAD students—which is a a process I’m sometimes involved with, but not always. Then, as we get closer to the shoot date, we’ll start to narrow down a location and decide whether we’re doing an outdoor shoot or in the studio, which is again dependent on the designer’s vision. If we don’t shoot in a studio, I have a white backdrop I keep in my car so we can use it wherever we decide to shoot.”

© Skye Brumley
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Skye’s own experiences and background often come into play during the shoots. “For one of our sessions, for example, my team collaborated with a designer who works with recycled denim,” Skye says. “We shot in a huge warehouse studio space in Atlanta—you can see it in one of the behind-the-scenes images here, showing the videographers hard at work. Our goal in this session was to show off certain aspects of the material, like the motion of a denim skirt with its frayed edges, or the different colors of the denim. My mother did lots of sewing when I was growing up and taught me a lot about it, so between my own sewing and design experience, as well as the styling I’ve done for multiple shoots, it helps pinpoint different elements to focus on, or figure out the most innovative technique to show off whatever it is we’re shooting.”

© Skye Brumley
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© Skye Brumley
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When working as a team, it’s critical to make sure all of the various parts come together to form a cohesive whole. For Skye, what makes or breaks a session is nonstop communication, from concept to project completion. “Everyone in the shoot is provided with the same mood board and concept board, so we’re all on the same page,” Skye says. “The most important aspect of the shoot, however, is that the designer and I are always talking. I have to ensure that at every turn, their original vision is coming to life. I’ll make sure I’m showing them the back of my camera throughout the shoot, asking if there are specific details they want me to focus on, whether we’re doing lookbook-style images or editorial-style photos.”

© Skye Brumley
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© Skye Brumley
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The coronavirus pandemic significantly affected how Skye’s teams worked on their projects. “We’ve often had to depend on natural light for our shoots, because we haven’t been allowed to check out any gear from the school,” Skye explains. “We had to use only what we owned ourselves. We’ve also had to contend with schedule changes due to the weather, or people having to go to class or dealing with a final that was moved. A few times models had to cancel as well—not because they had COVID, but because they got the COVID vaccine and didn’t feel well afterward, in some cases.”

© Skye Brumley
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Pandemic restrictions also affected the team’s numbers. “We’ve had to work with smaller teams and keep everything to a bare minimum,” Skye notes. “Thankfully, as more people are getting vaccinated, we’re now allowed to have multiple models in closer proximity. It used to be we could only use one model, or if we had more than one, they’d have to be socially distanced. We’ve been careful to fill out daily health checks and take everyone’s temperatures, and everyone but the models has been wearing masks—and when the models aren’t in front of the camera, they wear masks, too. Managing everyone’s health and safety has been one of our prime concerns during our shoots.”

© Skye Brumley
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© Skye Brumley
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With the end of their academic career on the horizon, Skye plans to graduate early if they’re able to complete four classes during the next winter quarter. “Then I’m going to go wherever the job is,” Skye says. “What I’ve been doing recently has been akin to a director of photography, so if I could do DP work, or art direction for fashion companies, that would be an ideal place for me to land.”