‘I Think Chemistry is Such a Big Deal With Photography’
Foster White likes to browse the women’s section of a clothing boutique. He’s been doing a lot of that lately.
The young photographer has made an early career shooting women’s fashion. Now the lead photographer for Georgetown-grown Tuckernuck, he finds women’s clothing ‘completely beautiful’—with inspiration at every turn.
‘One of the joys I get every day is looking through the stacks of line sheets and look books our buyers come back with from tradeshows. Being able to look through those to see how people design and photograph them, the paper they use—I love that stuff. I have one look book that so beautiful, it’s framed and hanging in my house. It keeps big inspiration around.’
Six years ago, that big inspiration began as a small opportunity.
Foster fiddled around with his dad’s camera as a kid, but became serious about photography in high school. He was drawn to the dark room, and discovered taking pictures was a cool way to meet people.
After taking a year off after graduation to work in the restaurant industry and freelance, he enrolled in a trade school program on Thomas Jefferson Street for formal studio training. In one of his last courses, the instructor had a friend whose daughter was co-founding a clothing company and needed a photo intern.
‘I was 17 at the time, and everyone else in class was triple or quadruple my age! They weren’t worried about internships; they were there to hone a craft. I was one of the only people to raise my hand, and then I interviewed and got it.’
That new clothing company was Tuckernuck, launched online in 2012 by three DC women. Foster was there from the beginning, learning the do’s and don’ts of shooting to sell, finding a space to produce the photos, and figuring out what a Tucknernuck shoot should even look like.
‘It wasn’t the beginning of e-commerce, but we were in that swell where retailers realized they could get the word out in a more cost-effective and unique way if they used online tools. We got more into Instagram a few years after that, but the company was built on the back of Shopify.’
Four years later, Tuckernuck opened its first brick-and-mortar boutique on Wisconsin Avenue, and recently created a studio space in the back of their new offices. There, Foster typically works with models twice a week—collaborating with the production department to get the product from the warehouse to the photoshoot to the website. Shoes and accessories are also shot off-model to expedite the process.
‘We have a regular rotation of models, but we also bring in new faces. Now that we’re expanding, we have the budget to explore more. Before it was a lot of shooting on the backs of family friends.’
Foster has honed his craft along the way, but says the intangible ingredient in any effective photoshoot is chemistry.
‘It’s such a big deal when it comes to producing something you like. I suppose that’s for everything you do, but people forget about it for photos. Chemistry really matters, and getting to know people helps. Talking about things that aren’t photo-related. Music is a huge passion of mine, so I like to ask a model the last three artists they’ve listened to. The conversation spins from there.’
Chemistry aside, Foster credits a successful shoot to the way Tuckernuck merchandises and styles the clothing.
‘The intent is to sell to you why’d you’d buy this item and where you’d actually take it. It’s not just a beautiful item that you like. You know you have an event you’re going to and this is where you can take it to. I think that’s what makes us stand out.’
Using Georgetown as a backdrop when they aren’t in-studio, Foster and his team typically work three weeks to a month in advance to shoot product for the website, but promotional shots are often posted on social media just days later.
‘It’s such a blessing that you can take a walk here and figure out how to pluck from anywhere for a photoshoot. There’s always at least one corner in Georgetown we can use.’
As Tuckernuck evolves, so, too, does Foster’s scope of work. With the company’s first custom clothing line debuting this year, the production department is exploring printed catalogues—a thrill for any digital-age photographer to see their pictures in print.
Most recently, Foster shot a look book promoting Tuckernuck’s Clean Slate spring refresh. It’s the kind of work that excites him moving forward.
‘The team leaned in really hard with the styling and they nailed it. I think the photos look great but it’s such a perfect marrying of the two. It’s underwhelming when you have cool photos and the style isn’t there, and vice versa. It was all there. Now I want more collaboration, and additional avenues to pull in more creatives and bring a fresh perspective.’