Some people go on a vacation or buy a new designer purse with their Christmas bonus. Carianne Older bought herself a film camera.
“I started because I wanted to take nice photos of myself and my friends,” she says, “and then I made an Instagram for it.”
It was a prescient move on Older’s part. A few years later, she quit her corporate 9-to-5 and launched a full-time business as a photographer. In a world reliant upon digital technology, the 29-year-old chooses film photography and a vintage style. She’s captured notable images for Charlie Puth, SZA and other celebrities, as well as campaign images for Playboy, Puma, Jeffrey Campbell, Nike and more.
Older’s eye-catching work, partnered with her film-centric niche, lures big-name clientele while enabling her to remain loyal to her artistic inspiration. As a young woman in a male-dominated industry, Older now works to share her path to success with other young entrepreneurs who hope to follow in her footsteps—but how did she get here in the first place?
Older’s life has not always been lights, camera, action. Older attended college in New York, where she earned a BA in Arts Administration and Production Management. She graduated in 2017 and began work at a talent agency. It was a good job, but the realization soon struck that she was helping the dreams of those around her come true and letting her own fall to the side.
When the aspiring photographer bought that film camera to take photos on Instagram, she had no idea she was beginning a successful photography business.
Older moved to Los Angeles in 2019 with the intent of keeping her corporate job for stability but faced hardship finding a position that suited her. She continued to seek out a career in the entertainment sector while attempting to grow her photography expertise.
“You name it, I interviewed there,” she says, “all the big corporations, but no one hired me to work with my New York resume. It was such an omen of when you are supposed to be doing something at the right place, right time. My parents are both entrepreneurs—my initials are CEO—and they said, ‘You have to do photography. It’s taking off, and it’s doing well. See where it goes.’ Without the push of them, I would probably be working a 9-to-5 right now.”
YouTuber Tana Mongeau was her first major client, and the work continued streaming in from there. Her signature aesthetic propelled her from social media virality to on-call photoshoot must. Older showcases popular models and celebrities in a retro film frame, using lighting, costume and set design to achieve a custom vintage feel.
“I do shoot digital as well, and I make it look like film, but most of my work is film,” she says. “I just love the way film looks. With digital, you really have to edit the photo to make it look how you want, but with film, you buy a certain film and certain cameras because you know how it's gonna look.
“In my head, I can see it, because I was trained to shoot film,” she continues, “but digital, you get to see it and I almost don’t like that. It makes shoots drag by. With film, you get what you get, and you know it’s going to be good. There is something so special about shooting something where you don’t know what you’re gonna get. I love that, and I’m so impatient, so this has been a test of my patience. Film always delivers.”
Older is grateful for her corporate experience because that business-first mentality comes in handy when working with major companies and star clients.
“I have all my ducks in a row,” she says.
Today, Older leads a team of five that enables the creative professional to conduct her business at the highest caliber. It’s important to balance the imaginative side of creation with the grit necessary to run a smooth operation.
Functioning as a model, assistant and CFO, Older’s cousin is a prime example of a dedicated team member. Alongside some of Older’s closest friends, her support system runs deep, and allocating responsibilities to others is necessary for success in the workplace. Whether it’s an assistant at a shoot or someone to drop off her film, delegating tasks to others keeps her business both efficient and fun.
Being a female in a male-dominated industry, Older laments that she doesn’t see a lot of similar faces in the field. As a young female with her own team, she stands out, but she wants to see that change.
To help, she’s taken up the mantle of mentor. Through in-person workshops in Los Angeles, Older takes what she’s taught herself and applies it over the past six years and gives that to other people to see what they do with it.
“That’s very special and inspiring,” she says.
Older did not happen upon her success. Rather her entrepreneurial spirit and ability to connect with others resulted in the creation and growth of a film photography empire. She credits that in part to letting go of fear and urges emerging female photographers to do the same.
“Do not be afraid to put yourself out there,” she says. “If you like a person and want to shoot them, then reach out to them. If there's a brand you want to work with, dm them. If you are not sharing your work, the world will not notice that you are out there pursuing something.”
Widny E Bazile
Her unique aesthetic and driven attitude have solidified Older as a force in the L.A. photography world. To learn more about Older or to gain insight into her photography, sign up online for her upcoming four-hour-long workshop on September 9 at Billy Studios in Los Angeles.
Her creative talents and persistent exposition of quality work drive her success and pave the way for future growth. Older urges aspiring artists to develop those characteristics, too, telling them that “You just have to let yourself out because, if you don’t, people won’t know what you are doing, and people want to know what you are doing.”
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Photography by: Kevin Sikorski; Carianne Older