Photographer Scarlet O'Neill has this radiant personality that can be sensed from across
the room. I briefly met the pint sized, curly-haired, extremely adorable girl at Bicyclette and was instantly drawn to her. Paige and I then saw her from across the room at the Dakota Tavern, clearly sharing a love for live music, and as I waved to her she took a moment to recognize us. As soon as she did, she ran over, apologized for not waving back right away and excitedly engaged in a conversation about boys, bands and her first love, photography. That's Scarlet! Her warm heart and constant glow, not to mention her crazy talent is why she was our obvious choice as set and lookbook photographer for '90 Days' and it's why I became such fast friends with her. She has a way of capturing people in their most raw and natural element, finding the moments when you are your true self and expressing that beauty. Her love of life and everything she does radiates and creates a special relationship with everyone she works with. She has a tremendous heart and beautiful soul and her pure vulnerability comes through in every answer as she shares her life in this week's girl crush.
Was there a specific moment when you realized "Ah, this is what I am supposed to do"?
Yes, it was definitely a long time coming, but when it did, it was a pretty simple honest realization. I was barefoot in my kitchen, it was a few years ago and I was writing a to do list of all the people that were interested in booking shoots with me. The list was more than a handful of people and I just kind of went, "This is pretty sweet, people want to work with me and they believe in my work. I think I could really do this." Maybe not in those words, but it went something like that.
You've told me a little bit about a personal photography project that you have in the works that involves a lot of musicians and other creative individuals. Can you tell me more about the project and what inspired it?
Ohh this one makes my heart happy. In my past life, I was at school for theatre and since then, have found my heart missing working with other creative people. And, then, in my past-past life I used to work with a NY Times photographer doing the most raw, honest portraits and editorial work. Both things I missed too much to describe; there was born this little project of mine. It's basically a series of in depth looks into what makes up all the details of specific artists I have carefully selected (from musicians, to film producers, to actors, to designers, to stylists - artists of all kinds) . It's a three part process with two different shoots and a long interview. Already with three people I've started with, well - I cannot tell you just how inspired I've been learning all the ins and outs that have made these people. It's truly fascinating. But, that's all you get for now....
You also have done several live birth photography sessions. What are those experiences like?
At this present time I have photographed the births of four beautiful children. Two girls, two boys. One home water birth, a hospital c-section, a hospital natural birth and a second home birth. Each family that has trusted me to not only document this experience happens to be very close to me, so it makes it even more of an honour and leaves more of an impact on me. There are truly incredible. It's almost hard to explain this feeling because its like water rushing through your body and every part of you is affected. You are exhausted by the end and yet you really didn't do anything - especially to compared to everyone in the room. Watching a child come into the world, seeing two people instantly realize their lives are different, falling instantly in love with this tiny little being, your heart swells with a love that is really indescribable. Being able to document all the moments of the birth (and I have been there for hours and hours at length) highlight the most humanistic qualities in people. You are witness to these raw, real moments where people care beyond anything you know, show strength in a way you've never dreamed, are vulnerable and instantly fall in love. It's an experience that makes life beautiful and gives you faith in good things in our world. People often ask me if it makes me scared to have children one day, its completely the opposite.
You have such an infections personality. When I met you I literally wanted to be your best friend (and now we pretty much are!). What is a quote or way of life you live by?
Ana, the feeling was mutual!! Your radiant personality just sets mine into overdrive :)
Two quotes are a constant in my life, one is in fact printed quite large and framed on my wall & the other is actually something that is permanently on me :)
First quote: "Well, look who I ran into," crowed coincidence. "Please," flirted fate, "this was meant to be." It's kind of my view on love.
Second: "I am the hero of this story". This one is a constant reminder to myself. My life is all about stories and the stories that make up the lives of everyone I meet. I am constantly hungry to learn more and more about people. I am wildly fascinated. People don't realize how interesting and unique they are. But along the way, my focus & life became the life of everyone else; friends, family, clients... and I forgot about little old me. And, without that person, nothing can really work. I've been raised to be a very independent person, that I am a good person. Its my reminder to take some me time, to be always strong and to always be the hero of my own story.
"I'm in love with cities I've never been to and people I've never met." What's one city in the world you haven't been to but are dying to photograph, and a person you haven't met but would love to meet and photograph?
Easy questions, Paris, France. I've been dreaming of photographing there since I was in French immersion. And, to photograph Ellie Goulding would be a mega dream, total girl crush on her and everything she does.
A couple of favourite songs that get you through long nights of editing are…?
Hardest question ever... but I can answer it, although my tastes tend to change by season. Currently, I have on my stereo: The National - Pink Rabbits, old school Sheryl Crow - I Shall Believe, Hey Ocean! - Steady, Neil Young - Harvest Moon, Kirty - All I Really Know, Ellie Goulding - I Know You Care, City & Colour - The Hurry & The Harm, July Talk - Let Her Know, The Avett Brothers - Pretty Girl from Michigan, The Lumineers - Hey Ho, and Tegan & Sara - I'm Not Your Hero.
I know you are a hopeless romantic like myself, and have photographed countless weddings. How would you envision yours one day?
It's true, I totally am. It's so true, it's scared away more than a few boys, lol. I actually grew up never dreaming of my wedding or getting married. When I think of the word marriage, I think of a lifetime being with someone you call home, someone who challenges you, someone who is your partner in life, who kisses you goodnight and holds your hand when you are on walks. And, despite being someone who loves her social media, I am actually quite private when it comes to my own life, my friends, and my loved ones. I know that I would have the smallest wedding and that when I do, it will probably be very, very short notice. I think I'd do it like this because after all my experiences, when you know, you just know, there is nothing else by that.
You collaborated with Bicyclette on our first short film project, '90 Days', how was that experience for you? What did your photography eye see on set that others may not have seen? Besides all of us having a total love fest for one another, ha.
I love Bicyclette. I love everything about it and when the opportunity for me to come along on that adventure arose, I jumped on it. And, it was just as imagined. Perfect, inspiring and a photographer dream land. I think because I was there to do stills and lookbook stills, the pressure was a little less and I was able to really just observe and create images I felt were honest to moments that were happening, whether they were when the film was rolling or not. There is something so beautiful in those down moments when people are getting into character, or in between scenes when they don't think anyone is really watching them. Those are the best moments. The whole shoot made my beyond happy. Everyone was so excited to be there that it was this infectious feeling that fuelled the whole weekend, actually- the whole month.
You definitely appreciate style (you even have your own signature hair style, I'm calling it 'The Scarlet'). How would you describe your personal style and do you have any style envy for a specific person, time or place?
This is the hardest question! I think a lot of my style comes from stories of my great grandmother. That and an equal love for two very different women, Drew Barrymore & Audrey Hepburn. I like timeless pieces that are fun and comfortable, but also just a touch different or special. Give me lace, denim, soft colours and I am happier than a bird with a french fry. I wear jewelry that has a story or history; I wear a ring that Anne Sportum custom made from diamonds that belonged to my great grandmother & am known to wear more often than not a locket that holds something very important to me. I am someone that often gets inspiration and always approval of two of my most stylish friends, Anne Sage from The City Sage and Olga Barsky who works with She Does the City. And, now with Bicyclette here, my wardrobe is quite fresh & happy.
What does magic mean to you?
Magic. It's instantly just being happy and feeling it rush over you like wind from the windows down on a long car ride. It's being surrounded by everyone who loves you. It's knowing that someone knows your favourite song and how many sugars you take in your tea. It's how you take your coffee. Its' peanut butter cups in your ice cream. It's puppy snores. It's barefoot dancing. It's love and affection. It's being completely comfortable falling asleep on someones shoulder. It's knowing that nothing is perfect, but that's what makes life so beautiful, scars, bumps, sunsets and all. That's magic.
What are a few of your favourite Bicyclette pieces currently in store?