But don’t tell that to Saturday High alumna Olivia Crawford. The Pasadena native recently graduated from Polytechnic School and is now studying art and art history at the University of California, Berkeley. Crawford’s passion for capturing the people and events in her life through photography not only made her a standout in her Saturday High courses, but it also landed her a very cool gig during her last winter break.
An ad agency discovered her work on Flickr and asked her if she’d like to be involved with Nike Sportswear’s “Look of Sport” campaign. The job involved shooting photographs of athletic and stylish individuals from Los Angeles, photographed in a style remaining true to her own aesthetic.
Crawford agreed, and the campaign appeared online last month.
“Olivia is a disciplined, focused and intelligent kid,” says Saturday High instructor David Sotelo, who along with co-instructor Evah Hart, taught Crawford twice in Photography 2. Sotelo recalls Crawford being particularly inspired by Nan Goldin and Larry Clark, two artists whose work he and Hart regularly feature in their class. “The work Olivia did for Nike—that aesthetic evolved out of the inspiration she got from those photographers, artists who were using their everyday life as a diary.”
We recently caught up with Crawford to learn more about her experiences in Saturday High and her work with Nike.
Dotted Line: Which Saturday High classes did you take?
Olivia Crawford: I took an oil painting course my sophomore year of high school. We painted from models and that class really helped me with my later photography courses, Photography 1 with David Sotelo and Photography 2 with David and Evah Hart, which I took twice.
Dotted Line: What did you learn in those classes?
Crawford: Both emphasized making your own projects and learning to be sensitive to your environment. We came up with projects based on what we were seeing in our own photography and what we were reacting to in our environment.
Dotted Line: Did those courses change the way you think about photography?
Crawford: Definitely. The “Day in the Life” project that both classes begin with was really important to my entire experience with photography. In that project, you take three to five disposable cameras and during the course of one day, from the time you wake up, and take pictures of everything you react to. The project teaches you that it’s not your technical skill that matters. Photography is all about reacting to your environment.
Dotted Line: So you did that project three times total. Was each time different from the others?
Crawford: They were all very unique. The project is really valuable no matter when you do it. If you could manage to shoot five disposable cameras every single day for the rest of your life, can you imagine what you could come up with?
Dotted Line: What kind of projects did you work on in your last class?
Crawford: I did a series of “before and after” portraits of my friends in my high school theater class. In general I take photographs of friends, so most of the projects I did in class were based on my life. I tend not to go out and do photo shoots, instead I take pictures as if I were doing the “Day in the Life” project all the time. “Day in the Life” made me hypersensitive to my environment. Now I’m always trying to be visually aware of my environment so that when I see something, I can react to it by taking a picture and making it part of my photographic body of work.
Dotted Line: How did the Nike Sportwear “Look of Sport” project happen?
Crawford: I’ve been posting my pictures on Flickr for a long time, and the agency that hired me for the photo shoot found me there. They were looking for young kids to shoot these photo projects to create a raw, hip new look for Nike.
Dotted Line: Who were the individuals you photographed for the shoot?
Crawford: Every photographer involved with the project had a chance to suggest people that were active and that also had a distinct style. Two of the people in the shoot, Daniela and Eric, are my friends. Some of the others work in Nike stores. They come from a lot of different places.
Dotted Line: Did any of the lessons you learned in Saturday High influence this work?
Crawford: Definitely. I’m normally very self-critical. But in David and Evah’s class I learned to trust myself. So I was comfortable enough to shoot the pictures and come up with something great. One thing that was great about the shoot was that I was able to shoot with film, which is what I love. Photographers aren’t usually able to shoot with film for commercial projects, but Nike wanted the pictures to be authentically my style.
Dotted Line: You prefer film to digital? Why?
Crawford: With digital, you can be self-critical as you go along, you spend a lot of time looking for the perfect picture. With film you don’t have that option. You can’t look at your pictures until a day or so later. I don’t have a problem with digital—it serves a purpose. But personally, I use film because I think the end result has more life to it.
Dotted Line: Is your career ambition to become a photographer?
Crawford: Photography is definitely what I love. I’m exploring different mediums, and I’m really interested in new media as well. I’m also very interested in the entire creative process behind, say, fashion photography or advertising. This Nike project really opened my eyes to art direction. Being able to come up with the creative idea and hiring people to help you produce it seems really interesting.
Dotted Line: Any advice for those interested in taking a Saturday High course?
Crawford: Just be really passionate about what you do and don’t be too self-critical. I’m really self-critical and sometimes I get down on myself. But you can’t do that to yourself. You have to continue to explore. If you continue to do what you’re passionate about, you’ll succeed.