Photographic skill, an overwhelming attention to detail, and persistent desire combined to land a dream assignment for recent Photography grad Mia Murphy. Her art appeared on a digital billboard installation at Times Square during New York Fashion Week 2022.
It is a peak moment in her young career and the realization of a tenacious vision. “When I moved from San Clemente, California in 2018 to attend FIT, I told myself that I wanted to photograph a billboard in Times Square. That would be the ‘New York thing’ to accomplish!” said Murphy.
“By the time graduation came in May, I thought maybe it would happen by the time I turned 25.” But her vision came to fruition three years early.
Chance favors the prepared mind, especially when it beholds a vision belonging to a talented and skilled creative.
In August, Eve Gay, founder and CEO of Stoned jewelry company, flew her to Jacksonville, Florida to shoot a campaign. “When I arrived she told me, ‘So these photos will be on a billboard in Times Square during New York Fashion Week.’ I was like ‘I can’t believe this is happening!’ It was surreal!”
She and Gay had previously discussed doing a “Bond girl” style photoshoot for a partnership with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and St. James House. But the decision was made to go with the theme for the Times Square billboard that would feature the company’s Jubilee Collection.
Model Hayden Webb was chosen for the shoot. Murphy, whose previous professional work was for Wilhelmina Models, said of Webb: “Her beauty and skill set matched the look we were going for: classic and fierce.”
Each photo had to be especially crisp and clear, says Murphy, particularly the jewels and Webb’s face. And the light had to perfectly illuminate them. “We were sitting on the beach at 5 o’clock in the morning, testing lighting over and over again until it was perfect,” she said.
Murphy decided on her resolution based on the scale of the project. “I made sure every single photo was perfect,” said Murphy.
“Mia was technically and creatively prepared for this,” says Photography professor Curtis Willocks. “She loves what she’s doing. She’s passionate. There’s an old saying ‘you’re only as good as your last photo.’ But for her, this is a kick start. She’ll keep going and challenging herself.”
For Murphy, communication, composition, lighting, and technical knowledge of her gear were critical to the success of the shoot. “Communication, because without the whole team working together and being clear about what needed to be done, it wouldn’t have happened.”
The large-scale project required more patience with taking the photos. She shot with a Canon EOS 6D Mark II with 24-105mm lens.
The skills she acquired at FIT, technical camera work, lighting, composition, and the science behind photography, allowed her to be more confident behind the camera, she says.
“What also helped were weekly critiques. I thrive off of constructive criticism. One of my favorite professors, Ron Amato, helped me improve my work. He was honest about what I could work on, all the while knowing what I could do best and that I would grow as a photographer if I put in the work.”
She also credits professors Curtis Willocks and Jessica Wynne. “They had so many insights and gave me confidence to try new artistic approaches.”
Murphy says she shared a similar aesthetic with her creative team, which included stylists, and art director and the model, who had recently appeared on the cover of Vogue Germany.
“Obviously I have been in situations where I haven’t met eye-to-eye with others and I still make sure to compromise and execute the photos,” said Murphy. But working with like-minded people led to this being one of my favorite shoots to date.”
Murphy’s billboard credit is in keeping with her career direction. “I want to work for magazines, name fashion brands and advertising and campaign work.” She continues to collaborate with brands, stylists, and models, and says she would like to find representation.
“Mia’s not only talented, she’s a good person,” says Prof. Willocks.
When it came to colleges, says Murphy, she looked at art schools. FIT was the only one she applied to. “I was so excited to be furthering my interests in New York City,” she said.
To see more of Mia Murphy’s work, check out her website: MiaMurphyPhography and on Instagram @miiamurphy.
To learn more about the Photography AAS and BFA programs, go to: Photography and Related Media at FIT.