PELOOC FOUNDER SARA AVANS FLEW TO NEW YORK AND INTERVIEWED SILVIE BONNE, PHOTOGRAPHER AND AUTHOR OF “NYC GUIDE FOR INSTAGRAMMERS”
Silvie Bonne is a Belgian photographer based in New York. Armed with a Nikon and an iPhone, she loves to go out and explore the city, and then share her captures on Instagram. Silvie also likes to encourage others to do the same, so she created the ultimate “NYC Guide for Instagrammers”, listing an array of both the most popular and the most unexpected spots for impressive Instagram shots.
We’ve reported here her conversation with our founder, Sara, where Silvie gives insight on her life as a photographer and provides useful advice for phototakers and photography enthusiasts alike.
Sara: Hi Silvie! Would you like start by sharing your story with us?
Silvie: I am a Belgian Photographer and I’ve been living in NYC with my husband and teenage son since July 2017. My dad introduced me to the magic of the darkroom when I was six years old, and since then I never stopped being fascinated by photography. I took my first (analog) photography classes when I was 19 and kept experimenting. Somewhere in my thirties, I decided to go full force for my passion. I went back to school, graduated in photography, and one year later I could live my dream as a full-time freelance photographer. I’ve been a full-time freelance photographer since September 2015, and I’m still very happy with the choices I made that year. However, moving to NYC meant that I had to revise my business completely. It started with making the “NYC Guide For Instagrammers,” something very different from what I used to do. When the book was finished and in the bookstores, I still wanted to share more beautiful places in NYC. Also, I had missed photographing people after months of taking pictures of the city. So, I developed a new concept: the NYC Photo Shoot Walk, which is the perfect combination of my two biggest passions, photographing New York, and photographing people.
Sara: What were your 3 biggest challenges when you started with photography, and how did you overcome them?
Silvie: Just like so many entrepreneurs, I learn by trial and error. My biggest lesson was probably learning to say “no.” Saying “no” to requests that do not fit with what I do and how I work. By saying no to these types of assignments, I can fully concentrate on what I love doing, and this results in getting more jobs that fully match my style and feel.
Sara: How did you come up with the idea to write the book “NYC Guide for Instagrammers” and how long did it take you? Can you tell us a little bit about the process you went through in order to create the book?
Silvie: The “NYC Guide for Instagrammers” is a combination of photographs, background information, Instagram tips, and fun facts. It’s the book I needed when I first came to The City, but since I couldn’t find it in stores, I decided to make it myself. I worked full-time on it for four months: researching, photographing, editing, and writing. When I first launched the idea to my publisher it seemed so easy, but it turned out a lot more work than I thought! Despite the tight deadlines and the underestimated work, it still was a lot of fun and now I am quite proud of the result. Since October 2018, the book has been available for sale in bookstores, museum stores, and online stores.
Sara: Out of the 100 Instagrammable spots you featured in your book, could you tell me which are your top 3 and why?
Silvie: I can’t choose a top 3… I like so many spots for so many different reasons. Also, since the book came out, I’ve already found at least 100 new NYC Instagrammable spots. So, now it’s even harder to choose.
Sara: Nowadays, competition is high in basically every field, but especially in photography. So, an absolute beginner could feel discouraged or intimidated. How would you suggest approaching photography to someone who is getting started? Are you self-taught or did you go to school to become a photographer?
Silvie: I think education and experience are the key to become a professional photographer. I also think you can never have enough education and experience. As a 19-year-old, I took evening analog Photography classes for two years in addition to my Art Teaching education. Around the age of 33, I followed a 3-year evening photography course to get my official diploma as a photographer. After my training as a photographer, I attended many workshops with various photographers, including Sam Hurt, Alain Laboile, Tom Museeuw, and Food Bandits. In New York, I took several photography courses at ICP (International Center of Photography): “Minimalist Lighting,” “Documentary Portrait,” and “The Modern Metropolis.” Beside courses and workshops, I try to go to exhibitions, museums, and galleries as often as possible, and I look for street art and public art wherever I can. I follow photographers who inspire me, and I surround myself with a community of photographers I can exchange experiences with and ask questions.
As for experience, it’s simple: I take pictures EVERY day. If I don’t work for clients, than I work on my own projects. I keep experimenting and I keep trying to get better every day.
Sara: I spotted an article in your blog titled “Top 10 Eco Friendly Coffee Bars in NYC.” I’m a coffeeholic and sustainability-freak myself, so it really caught my attention. Would you share with me your thoughts about how the environment matters to you? What is a simple, eco-friendly habit that we could develop starting today?
Silvie: I believe change is possible. We managed to damage the world big time, but I think we can (and we have to) make a change in the other direction, although it will be at the expense of luxury and stuck habits. Since I was 15, I’ve hardly eaten meat, and lately I’ve been experimenting with vegan recipes. For four years, I haven’t shopped at big clothing chains and I only buy something new when I really, really, really need it. I no longer drive a car (which is easy in NYC). I buy local fruits and vegetables (a.o. via @misfitsmarket ), I almost never drink coffee out of disposable cups, and I bring my own bags to the supermarket. Every time I need to take an airplane, I make a donation via co2.myclimate.org for the miles I’ve been flying. I hope every little effort helps.
Sara: How do you like Pelooc? How do you think it will be useful to phototakers, those who are getting started, or simply seeking a chance to practice photography, without the pressure of calling themselves a “photographer”?
Silvie: I think Pelooc can be an interesting platform for people who are starting with photography, as well as for fresh entrepreneurs or instagrammers. For “phototakers,” it’s the perfect way to gain experience, both in taking pictures as well as in working with clients. For “photolovers,” it’s the perfect way to get original pictures, because I believe images are key in communications. (It’s known that an image worth a thousand words.) At the same time, it’s important for both (starting photographers as well as starting entrepreneurs) to know when it’s time to take the next step in professionalism. A professional photographer needs to be fairly compensated to be able to grow and make a living out of the job.
Sara: Thanks Silvie. We couldn’t agree more, and we are thrilled to support Pelooc’s phototakers learning, growing, and eventually becoming full time professional photographers. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.
If you want to discover more about Silvie and follow her projects you can find her on Instagram @bonnesilvie. And if you liked this interview, leave a comment here and let us know, and we’ll continue sharing inspiring stories.
Written by Sara Avans
Photo credit: Silvie Bonne