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Talking with Abbey Raymonde!

You grew up in Hawaii! Which island? How did that make your childhood special? How did it shape who you are today?

Yes! I was born and raised on Oahu and being from the islands is something I reflect back on a daily basis. It definitely provided me with a deep respect for all cultures and an understanding of - and the importance of - diversity. I recently had an Uber driver in LA from the Big Island and we bonded over how superstitious growing up local made us! I suppose you could also say it informed my unabashed love of color, and the fact that people, at least in NYC, find me disarmingly friendly at times. It’s the aloha spirit!

You're a photographer by trade, tell us how you got your start and your journey from then to now! 

One of my first memories is picking up my grandparents’ pocket Instamatic camera, peeking through viewfinder and pressing the shutter, and being so satisfied with the whirr of the flash cube spinning around. I was too young to know that there wasn’t any film in there and that the flash cube had long since burnt out! I ended up going into my first darkroom at age 11 and have been hooked ever since, so much so that I dropped out of high school to pursue it! I did find my way to Brooklyn to go to art school eventually, which led me to taking photos at raves and hip hop shows in the late '90s. The challenge of wrestling with available light to capture a moment is what really appealed to me. There’s something victorious about helping people feel like they’re up front at a show!

What has been the most ridiculously funny/coincidental thing that's happened in your career?

My career thus far has been a giant game of hopscotch. I am definitely living proof that one gig leads to another with the right attitude and hard work to back it up. I think a prime example was me having a slightly disastrous trip to the very first US Virgin Mobile festival in Baltimore - someone stole my passes and they wouldn’t let me in with my camera bag! 5 years later I was at the very same festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion as the festival host, counting down the fireworks alongside one of my favorite bands. Like, if that’s not an example of divine intervention I don’t know what is. But most of all - I’d have to say meeting my husband at M Pour Montreal festival still makes me laugh. We were both late to the delegate dinner and sat at the end of the table and talked for hours, not knowing really anything about each other’s backgrounds. Contextually it’s a pretty cool way to get to know someone, even though my friends were kicking me under the table! We went record shopping for 4 hours for our first date and have been together ever since!

You're always impeccably dressed. How important are accessories to your outfit? What's your favorite trend right now?

I’m blushing! The older I get the more I realize how a key accessory can make an outfit - whether I’m wearing a concert t-shirt and cutoffs, or a gown, the most important piece is usually what I add at the last minute. I’m getting back into watches in a big way - it’s like wearing a statement cuff but with a practical element as well. Besides, most of the time I take my phone out in public is simply to see what time it is. As for trends, thanks in part to the Christian Joy/Brittany Howard costume collaborations, I’m falling back into bold textile designs in a major way. I raided my mom’s closet the other day for a batch of Malia dresses from the 1980’s, which came from a textile factory on Oahu. They have a cult following on eBay and the bidding gets a bit brutal, so thankfully my mom, who always has incredible style, saved them for me! Speaking of textile designs, drop everything and check out To.be. They’ll put anything you create on a shirt with exquisite high res rendering.

If you met someone who wanted to get their start in a creative field, what would be the most important advice you could give?

Getting paid to do what you love is an incredible rush, and I think it’s imperative to forge ahead because it’s your passion whether there is money involved or not! No one really warns you about how the combination of art and commerce is a two edge sword. I have a friend that told me when I was starting out that “integrity doesn’t go unnoticed.” I find that’s pretty much the case. Living off creative pursuits in the entertainment industry is a giant mobius strip. The power of collaboration can take you very far. Stay true to yourself, take pride in your output and it won’t feel like work. There will be rewards. Don’t be rude.

Like many of the other people we feature, you travel a lot for work and for pleasure - where is the best place you've ever visited?

Hmmmm. I went to Falls Festival in Tasmania for New Year’s Eve a few years ago and it was absolutely breathtaking. We stayed in a cabin at the southernmost point, and drove to The Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart (also known as Mona) which changed my perception of what the exhibition experience can entail (and deliver)! It’s subterranean, and the curation is mind-blowing in that it’s all over the place and not chronological. Spontaneous. Art for the joy of it. That trip has to be tied with the time I went to Petra on assignment and definitely had “a moment” at the end of the canyon where the ancient treasury is revealed. I mean, a million National Geographic photographers before me took that shot, but there was something inherently satisfying about being there to capture my own experience.

You're also super knowledgable on lots of pop culture! What are some of your favorite things right now? Tell us what we should look out for next!

Oh, gosh, well I have to confess that Bernard and Edith’s new album Jem is kind of rocking my world right now. They’ve created this lush soundscape (seriously a sonic undertow) that just doesn’t let go. I’ve also never heard anything like them before, which is hard to do in this day and age! Same goes for Clarence Clarity - I just saw him live for the first time and it was incredible. He's got a live band that take the songs to new heights. As for cartoons I’m re-starting at the beginning of Adventure Time now that all the seasons are available. People seems to either really love that show or not care for it at all, and I am definitely team Lumpy Space Princess. As for other obsessions, I’m working on a documentary film with an artist, so I’ve been revisiting Pennebaker and the Maysles films to brush up on my methodology.

Let's talk about music - What was the one record that changed your life?

It is incredibly hard to pick just one… growing up our house was divided in two stylistically! My mom was an aerobics instructor in the 80s so there were a LOT of 80’s pop and new wave 45s floating around. I blame her for my obsession with Olivia Newton-John! On the other end of the spectrum my dad was hardcore into classical music, and to this day anything Verdi makes me weak in the knees. But I think as far as me forging my own path to discover what I loved it HAS to be David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. You know that song “Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide” where he wails out “Oh no, you’re not alone”? It slays me every time. Thankfully I'm no longer predisposed to lie face down on the floor in my bedroom to listen to it anymore! I also have memories of singing along to Diamond Dogs-era "Rebel Rebel" and jumping up and down on my bed. It's the perfect angry-dance song.

Talk about the watch you got, what do you like most about it?

I was lucky enough to get the [Rainbow Disk] model. I love the fact that instead of an hour hand, a perforated disk spins around and reveals 12 glimpses of color throughout the day. I'm studying chakras with the help of my yoga instructor  and am definitely a big believer in the power of color. It's a great pick-me-up, and again, beats pulling out my cellphone when I'm walking down the street! I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the transparent back of the watch, where you can see the mechanics!

If you could go anywhere, any time past/future/present - where would you go and why?

Ancient Pompeii (pre-eruption) for the parties, if I could be guaranteed that no one would try to murder me. Factory-era Andy Warhol hang time in NYC. The Clash on Broadway shows. Most of all, a future without prejudice or disease. As for the present, I'm pretty happy hanging out with my husband wherever our crazy jobs take us.

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Abbey Raymonde is a visual maven, primarily a photographer and DJ, she is also a project manager for Bella Union incubating new artists and helping international bands break into the US. You can catch up with her at abbeyraymonde.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @abbey808


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