Wisconsin Fashion Photographer takes a bite out of the Big Apple!

Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

Crystal Schreiner is a Milwaukee based fashion photographer that I connected with on (How else in this day and age I ask you?) Facebook! Her work is worthy of note and she is currently making short fashion films to hone her keen eye for composition.  I spoke with her in the week before she was to leave for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in NYC to take street fashion photographs for refinery29.com.  I wanted to delve deeper into her evolving career that has taken her from down on the farm to the fashion capitol of the United States.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

Where are you from in Wisconsin?

 

I'm from very small town in Wisconsin called Athens.  So small it's actually called the Village of Athens.  I even graduated the 8th grade with only two people in my class, including myself. I grew up next to a sheep farm with my wonderful parents, sister and two brothers. The town is most known for it's annual fair called the "World's Fair" that I try to make it home to every year and see my nearly hundreds of relatives at the big festivity.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

Where did you go to school?

 

I attended Marquette University, while also taking some classes at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. I'm mildly addicted to Spain and also went abroad for studies at the Universidad de Cumplutense de Madrid and with the University of Virginia in Valencia, Spain on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea for a semester. So I guess, I attended a lot of schools, which really has opened my world to new perspectives.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

What is your degree in?

 

I'm an advertising major. It's a cool degree to have! We learn how to brand and keep up with those ever-changing trends in the market. I also have a minor in Spanish, which I picked up while studying in Madrid and also in Valencia Spain.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

When did you first realize your passion for fashion and style?

 

Tough to say, I was always voted 'best dressed' back in the high school days, and also played a key role in costume directing in musical theater when I was younger which I think requires a sense of style. I even once spent and entire summer buying thrifted clothes, chopping them up and then attempting to sew them back together. A pivotal point for me was seeing European fashion while I lived in Spain. I attended my first Fashion Week there in Valencia and fell in love with how beautiful the everyday person dressed in Spain. Working under a fashion photographer in Chicago really influenced me too. It's always been something I loved, but seeing it in the big cities made me realize there were careers in fashion, and shit got real.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

When did you make the big move to Milwaukee?

 

I moved to Milwaukee in 2008 when I started at Marquette University. I had applied to Marquette on its last day of application. I had never considered living in Milwaukee until I got accepted to Marquette. It was pretty random actually. Going from a town of 1,000 to Milwaukee was a HUGE change. It was somewhat of a culture shock, but I had always loved the cities from my travels on family vacations- I knew I wanted to experience the fast paced life-style someday, and my journey started here. I've always had my eye on NYC though, I used to dream of going to Juilliard or NYU. I had a printed a skyline of NYC out and remember taping on the wall it in my room when I was 18. Milwaukee has been a great stepping-stone.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

What is your involvement in the fashion scene here?

 

In the Milwaukee fashion scene, I'm a freelance fashion photographer. I'm focusing on developing bigger creative shoots with production teams rather than many small ones right now. I also used to intern at Jennifer's Talent Agency downtown. While attending Marquette, I worked for our school publication, The Marquette Journal, on the "StylePhile" team as the assistant fashion editor and as a photographer also-, which gave me room to grow and learn in styling, photo, and filming. Our team really helped transform the fashion editorial department for the magazine in the 2 years I worked there.

Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week 

How did your gig with NYC based fashion website Refinery 29 come about?

 

I simply directly emailed the Photo Editor my photo work after seeing a posting that they were seeking photographers and she replied in the hour. I flew to NYC for the first time a few weeks later, met her and talked about the possibility of an internship. I had one class I needed to take to finish my advertising degree at Marquette, so couldn't take the semester off to make the NYC move, but before we parted, I offered to come back for the most chaotic time of the year in fashion, Fashion Week, to help photograph. We kept in touch, she asked me only a few days before Fashion Week if I was available to help and of I said yes (of course). Maybe five days later I was off to NYC on a plane for my first Fashion Week. It all happened so fast. I know why they call it a New York minute. Since we've kept in touch and I'm returning for another season.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

What is your favorite thing about covering Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York?

 

My favorite thing about covering fashion week in New York is seeing all of the crazy outfits on the streets. It's a big dress to impress event and the things people pull out of their wardrobes are both amazing and insane. I'm always looking for inspiration and bumping into some of the industry's biggest names for a quick photographer and chat in the streets gives me exactly that, inspiration and the extra push to dream bigger and bolder. The shows are beautiful and it's great to go backstage and see all the busy bees hard at work making the designers' new line glow. And when music plays, it's surreal.  I think I have a video of myself from one of the shows, I'm in absolute awe- I look hypnotized by the atmosphere.

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

What is your least favorite thing?

 

In the spring, it's still pretty chilly! So that was pretty rough. I'm from snowy Wisconsin, but I'm when I'm photographing street style, it gets very, very cold! Not to mention hard to shoot when your fingers are frozen. Carrying the photography equipment and laptop around on top of a fashionable outfit can get tough, but I wouldn't go anywhere without my camera so I make it work best I can. No heels for me!

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

Best fashion advice you've ever received was...

 

From my father. He probably didn't mean it in a sense of fashion, but it's great advice  "don't wear super short skirts!"

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

What advice do you have for others about a career in the fashion world?

 

Read about your dream career, discover who has your dream career and get in contact with them. Now! Be brave and reach out, email, tweet and call. Find a mentor.  Don't be discouraged when everybody you contact doesn't get back to you or open the door. Persistency is key. Find a niche in the industry that you think you can 'own' whether it is styling, photography, writing, designing, marketing, and focus on that. You must also have the look, if you're wearing sweatpants and tennies on a daily basis- it's going to kill your 'branding' on how people perceive you. And lastly, if you want a career in the fashion world, go to NYC and see what it's all about. Seriously, put yourself out there! 

 Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

Future plans?

 

As far as my goals in fashion, I want to continue shooting fashion photography and more-so move toward fashion films. My mind is a mixing pot of visions, and I must create work to stay sane! My ultimate goal right now is to really tap into the digital age and become part of the interactive revolution in the industry with fashion photography and filmmaking. There is a lot of room for innovation and the possibilities are endless. I see a move to NYC. Or maybe even LA in the future.  I'm always open to trying new things on my journey; I follow my gut and play hard. 

Crystal Schreiner photograph from New York Fashion Week

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