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Life in The Pits
Crystal Schreiner tell us what it's like to photograph fashion week.

Image by © Crystal Schreiner. 

A little over 6 months ago, a fabulously fierce 23-year-old blazed in to my life and introduced herself as Crystal Schreiner, fashion photographer and entrepreneur. I've had the luck of working with her on an amazing photo shoot, and every day she continues to amaze me. Just this past weekend, she landed a spot during the Superbowl for a Pizza Hut commercial she directed. 

For the past couple years she has braved the insane photographers area at New York Fashion Week called the photographers pit, and she's about to do it again this week for the Fall shows.

Read on to get a front row view of what it's like to be a fashion photographer in the pits at New York Fashion Week. 

1. How could you best explain the photographers pit at NYFW?

Experiencing the pit is like experiencing being in a sardine can filled with bees. [Laughs] It's tight, so think skinny and get there early. The pit is a great place to meet other photographers and sometimes there is time for small talk before the show.  I've chatted with people from Italy, Russia, France, and tons of other cities. Once you find a spot in the pit, you set your camera up on a tripod and stay in the same pose for the entire duration of the show. Most photographers are pretty nice and we all work around each other to ensure nobody's head or shoulder is in anyone's way.

Every once in a while there will be a pushy person, but it works best to just smile your way through the situation and suck, tuck, and crouch for the shot.

When the show starts all you hear is shutters going off. It's an adrenaline rush, like some kind of camera war-zone. 

2. How do you stand out from the rest of the photographers?

There is a stereotype of fashion week photographers that I find to be pretty true. Most are men probably over the age of 28 or 30. There is a large percentage of international people in the pit. I'm bright blonde and try to actually dress for fashion week a lot of the time. 

People in the media usually dress for comfort, because lugging around the equipment gets extremely exhausting after 9 or 10 days. Some people would approach me thinking I was an editor or a stylist; I try to find a happy medium in what I wear.  A lot of the days I put some awesome killer heels in my camera backpack; I would switch into  them when I got to the pit to add some extra height so I can get a better view!  

I'm also many years younger than the average fashion week photographer. I've met a few other young women, but generally we are the minority in the pit. 

3. What shows were you able to attend this past fashion week?

Gosh, I can't remember all of them. My favorites were Calvin Klein, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Libertine, Walter Baker, Custo Barcelona, Milly by Michelle Smith, Rachel Zoe, and of course, the Blondes. 

4. Who were you working with?

 I was hired by Refinery29 this last fashion week. I did some street style photographer you can check out on their site. I also had the opportunity to work with Faces of New York Fashion Week.  It's an awesome, innovative project by the Ben Trovato team that showcases minute by minute, live action at New York fashion week by using Instagram and Twitter hashtags.

Although only two seasons young, the FONYFW has made a solid impact on the digital revolution and I'm confident in the team behind it and that it will only be getting more amazing. 

5. What is it like behind the scenes at the shows (I think I saw that you snuck backstage)?

It really depends which show. Being backstage for a HUGE brand in the tents is extremely chaotic, packed, crowded, loud- all the above.

There are people running around like mad, cameras everywhere, lines of journalists waiting to interview the designer, six people working on 'dolling' up a model all at the same time sometimes. The hair and make-up teams work quickly in an effective, efficient way. Then the models are off to jump into their outfits for the show and each girl has a section on the clothing wrack with her name on it and the looks she will be showing on the runway for that show.

Backstage is a lot different if the shows are smaller or not at Lincoln Center. My favorite backstage experience was at Libertine. The show was in a huge warehouse environment. It was raw, edgy, chill, there was plenty of space to work with for your shots as a photographer. The music was just a jamming.

Image by © Crystal Schreiner.

6. Which celebrities did you see, what what was the public's reaction to them?

I saw just a few. Paris Hilton, Kelly Osbourne, Heidi Klum, and a few more, along with the famous faces in fashion like BryanBoy and Kyle Anderson, and former Project Runway finalists.

I know Lil' Kim was there too, but I missed that.  I honestly don't get all hyped up about the celebrities that much, they are just people.  I love watching the reaction of [everyone else] though, that's my favorite part about it. Everyone is trying to get a photo of them. Basically that is what the paparazzi's job is: to capture all the limelight and see who's with who and what they are wearing. People Magazine kind of stuff.

Image by © Crystal Schreiner. 

7. What are some new ways designers are showcasing their collections?

Designers are creative people, and some have been taking the fashion week experience to a different level byreinventing how they showcase their new lines. The average runway show is a rather, how do I say, not all that interesting or different from the last. The clothes are always different, the music is different and sometimes that's it.

I've yet to see this but have heard some designers are showing a fashion film introducing their new line before the models come out.  Rather than doing the typical runway show, some designers  have a presentation that is more like a live photo shoot. Photographers and videographers can interact with models. There is an designed production set that looks as if it could be an editorial photoshoot

Check out Walter Baker's last show.  Girls with headphones and coordinated neon cords all connected to a DJ booth. That was one presentation!

Image by © Crystal Schreiner. 

8. Do you think more designers will adapt to give fashion week a bit of a face lift?

I really hope so. Cynthia Rowley really hit the spot this last season with her dynamic show at an off location with gorgeous balconies. I would love to see more creativity, or at least mix of runway and creative presentations.

More creative shoots also means more people and more work and more planning, but it's a trend I hope sticks if the budgets are there. I guess we shall wait and see. If I ever had a fashion show for a designer line, I would no doubt orchestrate it to be a live, energetic and spontaneous photo shoot. It keeps things fresh!

Libertine at Pier 59 Digital Studios NYC from Crystal Schreiner on Vimeo.

We are so excited to see what Crystal has up her sleeve for this season! Take a moment to follow Crystal on her adventures on twitter @crystaltweetz.

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