“Being a freelancer means surrendering to the unknown. You could not have work for a month and then all of a sudden get a call asking if you’re available to fly out the following week for a job.”
My first introduction to Kayla Rocca was through social media. A friend of mine wanted to show me the photography of a girl from her home town (Sarnia, ON) on Facebook. I was blown away by her talent and the raw honesty of her work. Her images showcased the people closest to her and personal life experiences.
Over the years Kayla has turned her passion into a full-time career here in Toronto, and thought she was perfect to interview for FIO.
What is your current job title?
What is your Educational Background?
“I have an honours degree in Theatre and majored in Performing Arts.”
What did you want to be growing up/while in school?
“I always wanted to be an actor or to work in TV/film or theatre. I love the art of story telling and have always been drawn to creating stories that provoke a emotional response. I have a great admiration for the hard work and skill that goes into film/tv and theatre production.”
What type of training did you need to complete to be in the career field you’re in now?
“I am a self-taught photographer. My drive & passion for beauty, and again story telling, gave me the momentum to learn as much as I could about photography. I attended workshops, assisted photographers, read books, watched YouTube tutorials, and learned a lot by trial and error. I was pretty fearless back then.”
“While I was confident enough in my knowledge and skill, I knew I needed more experience, so I applied for an internship at the Grid Magazine and luckily got the position. I interned for 4 months, worked my unpaid ass off, and learned as much as possible about photography, publications and the editorial world. I also had a lot of encouragement from friends and family… that helped A LOT.”
What are some previous jobs you’ve held?
“Recent advertising job with Finance Canada, resident photographer at Maderas Village, Toronto Life TIFF photographer for 2013 + 2014, Toronto Life Fashion Week Photographer 2013 + 2014, FASHION Magazine event photographer, Contributing Photographer at Vines Magazine and before I took on photography full-time I worked in the hospitality department at the Drake Hotel.”
What type of female would you recommend going into your field?
“I would recommend anyone with drive, accessibility, passion, versatility and most importantly social skills to enter this field. Someone can have an amazing eye and be great technically, but a lot of photography jobs involve interacting with all types of people.
As a photographer, you are constantly thrown into different scenarios and dealing with all sorts of people and their requests. In the advertising and editorial world, you are working with art directors, clients, and your editors. In the event & wedding world you are dealing with celebrities, socialites, brides, grooms, parents of the bride and grooms (hehe) and PR.”
“Being comfortable interacting with people is a major component of the job. If you have good social skills combined with talent, drive and skill then you’re set.”
What are some aspects of your job that people might not consider before entering it as a career?
“Great question. I would say that people who are entering the freelance world should know that a set work schedule isn’t very common. Being a freelancer means surrendering to the unknown. You could not have work for a month and then all of a sudden get a call asking if you’re available to fly out the following week for a job. You could have a couple really busy months, and then a couple slow months.”
What about working in solitude? Or working alone? Does this ever get hard?
“It absolutely is hard working alone, especially in the winter months! Luckily though, my social circle consists of mostly freelancers so we have similar schedules.”
Who are your role models?
“I look up to Frida Kahlo. She was progressive and absolutely fearless. I also admire Chloe Sevigny, she is a powerful female artist who is also quite fearless.”
Is there a strong female representation in your field?
“I would say more than ever there is strong female representation in not only my field, but also all creative fields. If you look in the media, we have incredible female writers like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling.
We have strong women in film as well, like home grown actress and film director Sarah Polley. In photography, we have the legendary Annie Leibovitz, as well as Katy Grannan and more recently publicized photographer/film maker/artist Alex Prager. I think that women are becoming more and more bold in taking the steps necessary to fulfilling their desired career paths. They are taking risks and finding careers that pair with their passions, that bring ultimate fulfillment in all areas of their life. I feel very fortunate to be supported by so many creative females, that continue to inspire my work and bring a sense of community to our field.”
How would you define your style?
“My style is very much influenced by what I am inspired by (people, culture, cinema, design, travel). My images are raw, candid and natural. Emotion and truth are very present in my images. The majority of my work is not staged; it’s simplistic, emotive and true to the moment.”
What is your day-to-day like?
“My day-to-day is never the same; that’s the best part about being a photographer. One day I could be on a film set taking stills, the next day I could be photographing an interior space, the next day a portrait, then the next day I could be shooting a bowl of pasta, or photographing an event, a festival, a look book, a celebrity, or a wedding… the list is endless. My career allows me to meet really interesting people, and teaches me so much about so many different subjects.
When I am not shooting, a lot of my time is spent editing, backing up files, talking to clients, emailing, going to meetings… and then there is the blogging and social media aspect of my job, and then the invoicing, quoting, website updates and when I have time organizing receipts for taxes….(grrrrrr).”
How do you utilize socially media for your work?
“Social media has helped me immensely as a freelancer. Facebook and Instagram is a photographer’s best friend. It allows me to share and showcase my work, and at the same time it’s free advertising.”
Has social media become a game changer for photographers?
“I would say so! Instagram allows photographers to constantly share their work. It is a great tool to find out who your audience is, what your audience wants, and what images stand out most. It allows people to visually create their brand and connects people from all over the world together.
However, I do find that people need to be careful with the brand they project onto their social media platforms. These days it’s almost as though people use social media (Instagram specifically) to curate the perfect life. I see a lot of photographers who make their life look effortless and extra magical. I try to post photos that make people feel something real, rather than posting photos of things that are perfect.”
What kind of shoots do you prefer doing?
“I enjoy photographing subjects that are interesting to me. I love photographing people in honest moments, I really enjoy photographing architecture & interesting interiors, and I truly love photographing anything with bright bold colours. My favorite shoots are those that feed my soul – when all elements work together (light, the subject, the ambiance) I get very very inspired. It’s that feeling that makes me excited to shoot.”
Can you tell me a bit about your travel photography?
“My passion for travel and photography has taken me too many interesting and beautiful places. In 2014, I spent 4 months in Nicaragua photographing for an amazing boutique hotel called, Maderas Village. It was an incredible experience and it was there that I found my niche for lifestyle photography.
While I was there, I met the two founders of an incredible NGO called the Latitude Project. I volunteered with their organization several times during my residency and documented their work and captured images of the local communities.
In 2011, I traveled solo to Uganda to volunteer at a charitable organization called Uganda Lodge. It was there that I found my niche for documentary style photography. I spent several months in rural Uganda working on a photo journalism project that helped Uganda Lodge develop a sponsorship program for children and families in need. I fell in love with Uganda and its people and culture.”
Looking back on your career thus far, is there anything you would have done differently? Or any warnings you would like to give to budding photographers?
“As cliché as it sounds, my advice is if you have a passion for something go chase it, but know that it will take a lot of work.
My advice to budding photographers is to always bring a back up camera, back up your files twice or three times, and if you’re shooting outside, bring a waterproof camera protector! I recently learned the hard way and got water damage when photographing Bill Murray haha.”