Comet West is a Licensing Contributor born and raised in California. With a background in fashion, she incorporates playful color aesthetics and bold futuristic concepts within her portrait and lifestyle sessions.
Q: Describe who you are as a photographer. What defines you in this space, and what sets you apart?
A: I am just a kid, who grew up, and never stopped dreaming. I take real-life events and try my best to tell stories from them. Everything I create is all very intentional, from the colors, composition, mood, etc. I am wrapping life lessons up in photos.
For me, these images are very personal, and they are a direct reflection of a lot of hard times in my life. When I started portrait photography, I had just been diagnosed with PTSD. I had a lot of emotions. I felt I was a different person, and I felt lost. So, these images with women, muted colors, distorted reality, are a direct reflection of how I have felt living with PTSD. I need an outlet to express what I was going through without putting that negativity on others.
Q: How does California inspire your photography?
A: I was born and raised in the Bay Area. It would be the diversity that inspires me. Not just among people but with the amount of landscape options too.
Q: What gear will we find in your bag when you’re out shooting for the day?
A: My roots began in film, so you can find my Mamiya in my bag these days. I believe shooting film (with a rangefinder) brings me back to what I appreciate about photography.
Q: Tell us about your creative process and how you plan for a shoot
A: I actually will sit on concepts and ideas for months. I take real-life events and try to break down the emotions associated with that event or memory. I start looking at colors to find one that fits best with the mood I am going for.
When I was in college, I took a color theory class and it stuck with me. Through the hardships in my life, I have learned emotional awareness and how to identify my day-to-day moods. Some days are easier than others, but on the bad ones, I get my ideas for photos. I take the ugliness happening inside, and I transform it into digestible material. It feels good to target a specific emotion and memory, then create a new memory from it. I can’t change what has happened to me in my life, but I can change the way I let it affect me.
Q: How would you describe your aesthetic style? What inspires you when setting the mood for a photoshoot?
A: I would definitely say I am experimental, and I try to be dream-like. I just try my best to give the people something to think about.
Photography has been very healing for me, and I use the opportunity to share hard times without passing on the negativity to someone else.
Q: Can you tell us more about how you came to find and develop this aesthetic style?
A: I went to art school and spent one year in visual communications but graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. I used street photography to get me through some hard times, get out of the house, and ended up meeting some awesome people (my fiance included). Once I switched over to portraits, I made it personal. In some ways, they are just all self-portraits.
Q: Your series “Year of Clear Vision” uses muted tones, soft edges, and in some instances, obstructs the models’ eyes. Could you dive deeper into some of the metaphors and concepts you illustrate within this series?
A: “Year of Clear Vision” came to me after I spent some time living with PTSD. I was scared, I was lost, and ultimately came out of it all a better person. I wanted those not-so-great emotions to take on a new life. This was a story about growth and perseverance.
Q: Do you follow industry trends, and if so, do you consciously incorporate these trends in your photography? What sources would you recommend to photographers that want to follow industry trends?
A: Magazines, absolutely! I love fine art photography, and I would say it is my greatest inspiration. I probably have hundreds of magazines that I hoard. I also go to a lot of galleries, museums, and, in general, I try to stay on top of pop culture.
I love following industry trends and staying on top of what is current. I may not always follow, but I think it is absolutely worth knowing.
Q: You have been licensing your content on 500px since 2018, what are some of your biggest takeaways from this experience?
A: 2018 was the year I began to incorporate photography into my career. 500px not only provided me with a community, but also with resources to take my art further. I have learned so much about Licensing, and I believe it is essential for all serious photographers to know the business side of photography.
Q: What’s next for you and 500px Licensing?
A: I would say color and memory are what define me as a photographer, and I would never want to create something that didn’t resonate with me.
I am in the process of getting my own agency up and running. It’s called Galere Studio, and I am hoping to commercialize the inner workings of my mind! I am currently in the process of getting my studio together and would love to provide 500px Licensing with some fresh content.
Not on 500px yet? Click here to learn about Licensing with 500px.