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SOCIAL STUDIES // Simone Thompson - Photographer + Artist + Model

A while back I was scrolling through instagram and fell upon this beautiful human, and thought:  "I would be so honored to have them model for NOTO.  They seem so interesting, stunning, and unique."  Cut to maybe a year or so later and we just so happened to end up working together on a photoshoot.  Kismet, meant to be.  Simone then agreed to do a shoot for NOTO for our last beauty series, and my dreams came true.  Aside from being a beauty and one cool human, Simone is also an incredible photographer, artist, and dancer.  The talents are endless.  Over these months I have gotten to know them more and more and feel lucky to call Simone a friend.  Next dream, having Simone shoot a beauty story for NOTO. 

Who are you?
I’m Simone. I’m a 27 year old queer artist based in Los Angeles and I primarily work as a photographer and a model.

Why do you make your work?
I’ve been involved in the arts since literally as long as I can remember. My mom has a theatre and visual arts background and my dad is a pianist and composer so my parents got me involved in music and dance at an early age. I studied classical violin for 12 years and when I finally took a break from it at the start of my twenties, I felt really defeated. I just felt like I needed to be doing something creative but I wasn’t sure what else I was good at. I’m originally from New York but moved around a bit when I was younger. I moved back to Brooklyn when I was 22 and just started hitting up photographers whose work resonated with me and who I wanted to shoot with. I never thought about taking my own photos until a family friend gave me a Yashica FX-3 35mm camera and I just started messing around with it and taking pictures of my friends. That was 5 years ago and photography has become what I do for a living and I love it. It is the medium I can express myself most freely in.

What do you believe in?
I believe in taking chances creatively and seeing what lands. I think growing up playing classical music I had this warped idea that you needed to be classically trained to be good at something and perfection was the goal. But it’s totally ok to stumble upon something and if you stick with it chances are you’ll eventually find you’ve gotten good at it. I’m always really afraid of failing creatively but I’m learning sometimes you just have to dive in and not put so much pressure on the outcome.

Name one thing you say no to? 
If I’m honest, it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine when people ask what camera you shoot on or how you shot an image. I think everyone should find their own way stylistically and you can create a great image shooting on anything really! People get really hung up on gear and trying to replicate a style and as someone who is self taught and who learned to shoot on really inexpensive cameras it bothers me a bit. I’m not a very technical photographer and because I’m self taught and a woman a lot of people assume I don’t know what I’m doing. But at the end of the day if I’m producing work that I think is strong and that I am proud of that’s all that really matters.

One thing you say yes to?
I usually say yes to collaborating with people on projects. I love it and that’s how I’ve met so many of my friends. Just working with people blindly and eventually developing a bond with them. It’s kind of rare that I don’t connect with the people I’ve photographed.

What change would you like to see? 
This kind of circles back to my previous point but I would like to see more people create work that feels authentic to them. I think social media really inhibits individual creativity because you have unlimited access to other people’s work and everything starts to look and feel the same. I’ve been guilty of it too. It’s really hard to produce work that feels truly original. But I think just experimenting and focusing on honing your own style is so important. That’s what resonates with people but most importantly keeps YOU inspired.

Name one thing that makes you happy? 
Shooting something fun and unplanned with a close friend. Also shooting my girlfriend but she’s camera shy.

If you have used NOTO before, what is your favorite product and why? 
Ooh! I really love the Deep Serum. My skin really craves moisture so it works for me. I also really love the hydra highlighter stick :-)

How would you describe your personal routine ?
I feel like I’m always in a rush to go somewhere so my personal routine is fairly minimal. I don’t get dressed up much these days. But much of my day to day is spent driving around LA, heading to shoots or planning them etc. I have horrible time management skills so I’m chronically guilty of trying to cram too much into a day ha. This year though I want to focus more on cooking and exercise! I’ve gotten pretty serious about food and nutrition in the last year but I could be better!!

What did you want to be as a child?
I wanted to be a writer! I was always telling stories to myself to keep myself occupied. I wrote like crazy when I was a kid.

Can you remember one solid piece of advice you've gotten for the growth of your work?
Be confident about your work and don’t forget to stop and recognize your progress! In the beginning I had a really hard time calling myself a photographer. To me I was just dabbling and shooting my friends until that turned into something I really love. When you believe in yourself other people will too.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
I’d love to do a shoot with a Tim Walker one day just to get a window into his creative mind and process. My style is very different but I love how imaginative and tactile his work is. One brand that I really want to shoot for is Barragán. And I would love to create visuals of some sort for Dean Blunt because he’s a musical genius ha.

Who is one person in culture that you feel is making positive and inspiring change? 
That’s a tricky one! I think collectively as a new generation of artists we are all promoting really positive change. Everyone is outspoken and I am constantly inspired by people’s hustle and creativity. It’s all very unapologetic and I love it. It gives me the drive to keep going. 



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