One of the things that I love about running Secret Design Studio is meeting a broad variety of people who are as passionate about mid-century design as I am. They can come from any profession, including furniture making, interior design, and photography. As part of Secret Design Studio’s “Industry Interviews” series I recently had the pleasure of asking Jessica Eisner, photographer, who has her sights on the world, and is a talent to watch, about her retro influenced, glamour photography. Jessica is always on the lookout for great mid-century homes, places and spaces for backgrounds for her photo shoots. Here are the questions that Secret Design Studio put to Jessica about her photography and her business “Jessica Eisner Photographer”.
Q1) Jessica, you have a great eye for catching the female form with your camera. I have heard of labels like boudoir photography, pin-up photography for your style of glamour photos. What label would you apply to your work, and how would you describe it?
A1) Oh thank you so much! I always get asked this when people ask me what I shoot and I always reply, “women”. But then they’re like,” Oh okay?”. So then I always just put it down to the word “Sultry”.
Q2) Jessica a lot of your photos have got a distinct retro vibe to them. Why do you have a preference for shooting in this way, rather than with contemporary backdrops?
A2) I feel you get so much more feeling from the photo when there is a story-telling atmosphere to complement the model and mood. It is also what keeps shoots interesting, and getting out and shooting in new places, and not the same old boxed room with studio lights glaring at the model.
Q3) Your family has an interest in hot-rodding. According to Wikipedia Kustom Kulture is “an American neologism used to describe the artworks, vehicles, hairstyles and fashions of those who drove and built custom cars and motorcysles in the United States of America from the 1950s through till today. It was born out of the hot rod culture of Southern California of the 1960s”. Can you explain the cross-over of interest between Kustom Kulture and your body of work?
A3) Yeah, they do crossover. I’ve grown up with it all my life, going to car shows and hating it when I was younger. I didn’t really understand or realise how cool my parents really were (laughs), and what I had in front of me waiting for me to realise what I could do with my creative interests. I used to draw women a lot, and wanted to be a model myself. l looked up to many inspiring pin-up figures in magazines and books. I loved how women in the Kustom Kulture were always celebrated for themselves and their amazing bodies at any size.
Q4) Do you have a favourite location for a shoot? Where is it, and why is it a favourite?
A4) I don’t! I am always searching for the next different location! But in saying that, I do love to go to Los Angeles for my shoots, I always get so inspired there and find amazing art deco locations, and the palm trees. Ahhh they are just so cool, so many good vibes.
Q5) Some of your shots are with professional models but quite a lot of your photos are of non-models. Who commissions you for private photos of themselves and why?
A5) This is very true! I love to shoot all women! I have been very lucky to photograph the several celebrities that I have so far, some of whom I had on my bucket list to shoot, which is now a big tick! But now for new goals and to keep going! As for “normal” everyday women who book photoshoots with me, it’s either really something personal, or for fun, or a confidence boost and I really love how I can make someone look twice at the photo of them and say they’re gorgeous!
Q6) How do you make your clients, who are not professional models, feel at ease in front of your lights and camera? Do most of your clients enjoy being your model for a session?
A5) That is a tough question because I really don’t know what I do. We just go with the flow literally! No plans, no music, no extra lighting, no people standing around, just me and the model, one on one. I have found if you full-on plan your shoot and don’t get what you wanted, it can be really disappointing and put a downer on the shoot because you are trying to perfect it. I like to do what I feel, the mood, the client: it just depends.
Q7) If somebody would like to engage you for a photo shoot what do they need to organise? Location? Clothes? Make-up? Lighting?
A7) When you book a shoot with me I will most likely already have a location set, so all you need to do is organise your own hair and make-up (which I strongly suggest you do yourself). You know your face best and you know what you like and how you look good/feel best. I want you to make sure during the shoot you’re 100% happy with your hair and make-up so it is totally in your control, and the same with your outfits. Wear your favourite dress or your sexy lingerie that you never wear and if it just sits in your draw, let it be seen! What a lot of people don’t know is I am mostly a natural light photographer but when that sun goes down and there is no good light is around I will shoot with a flash.
Q8) All of the photos I have seen are very sexy, and some are very raunchy. How do you draw the line between tasteful, and exploitative?
A8) I’m going to be honest, because that’s who I am, I really don’t know. Maybe it has got something to do with me being a woman myself? (laughs) I myself have been in their shoes before and know exactly what they’re thinking and feeling so I need to make a good connection. As I shoot mostly lingerie, women are at their most vulnerable state where they can feel whatever they want. All I know is everyone always feels so comfortable with me while shooting so I guess that comes out in images and not forced poses. I feel like exploitative images are very posed and to the point.
Q9) You have had some photos published for Vogue Italia, as well as some celebrity photos. Have you got a favourite subject? Or somebody who you would love to shoot?
A9) I would have to say my favourite celebrity subject to date is Mosh ( a Russian-American alternative model and burlesque performer). It is actually a pretty crazy thing, as in high school year 12 as my final art project I actually drew Mosh as my final assignment. Little did I know that four years later I would fly to Los Angeles by myself for the first time and photograph Dita Von Teese, who actually contacted Mosh and said “you need to work with Jessica”. So it happened! I finally worked with Mosh! And since then every time I’ve come back to the states Mosh and I have shot everytime. She’s seriously an amazing women and I’m so glad we finally became friends.
Q9) Are you on the lookout for suitable backdrops for your work? What is involved in shooting in somebody else’s home?
A9) Always… if the clients’ home is suitable with natural light anywhere can really work. If the location is lacking character then I focus more on what the model is wearing or how she is styled. It just really depends what look you are going for at the time.
Q10) You seem to travel a lot, both interstate and overseas for your shoots. What is next for Jessica Eisner?
A10) I know I still can’t believe I’ve been to America three times now in the space of two years for my work! I still think this year in 2018 I will definitely go back to Los Angeles for shoots; love it! Travelling gives me so much inspiration. I always go to Sydney yearly too, as I’m based in Melbourne.
I’m always happy to travel for work!
Q11) On your website you list your 2018 prices for your Melbourne based photography packages based on the number of outfits, number of photos and number of locations. Some of Secret Design Studio’s clients and friends have some great mid-century modern and post war houses. If two or more women organised a photo shoot at the same location, and at the same time, would you be prepared to offer a discount if they mentioned that they had heard about you through Secret Design Studio?
A11) Yes, of course! However, the size of the discount would depend on the number of subjects, and the single location, and single booking time. It could work quite well for a small group of girlfriends who are comfortable and relaxed with each other’s company, but it would not work in a large group as each subject and shoot takes time to get right. It would be best to contact me directly through my website and provide details.
Jessica, thanks for your time and sharing some of your beautiful photos.
Jessica’s website is at
Her website which includes information about booking a photo session, whether it be for an individual photo shoot, or even a wedding, and is currently selling exclusive limited edition prints.