Natasha Gerschon grew up thinking a career in the arts wasn’t an option. By pursuing her passion, the Toronto-based fashion and beauty photographer created a new world for herself.
Natasha Gerschon has this memory of being seven years old, holding her grandmother’s camcorder and being acutely aware of everything in the frame. The pace of what she was recording had to be just right. She would carefully steady the handheld video camera so her shots didn’t look shaky.
As much as she loved capturing stories, she assumed her creativity would be reserved for recording family get-togethers.
“Growing up in South America, being an artist is almost out of the question,” she says. “It’s something you do as a hobby. You have to be a doctor, an architect or a lawyer to make a living. I never thought I could make photography, or anything that was artistic, part of my professional career.”
Gerschon painted and sculpted, but it wasn’t until she was in Grade 9 – her family having moved from Argentina to Canada – that she was fully exposed to photography. She took a class and learned the technical ins-and-outs as well as how to develop her own film. She fell in love with the process.
After high school, she applied to the visual and creative arts program at Sheridan College. Two years in, knowing photography was her path, she switched programs. “It was another learning process, just taking the knowledge I had from other mediums and putting it into photography,” she says. “I never considered myself a great painter or sculptor. With photography, I could do all of the above just with taking a photo. I was like, ‘This is it for me.’ It filled what I wanted to do with just one medium.”
At Sheridan, Gerschon met fellow creatives – including makeup artists and fashion designers – when she shot assignments around campus. The graduating makeup artists needed portfolios; word of mouth spread quickly about her photography skills. She shot portfolios for artists who would go on to land jobs with makeup companies and major department stores, and corporate gigs with industry brands.
A hairstylist recruited her to participate in a major hair competition. They finished second in the global event. “It was a huge deal, which I had no idea about. I was just like, ‘Sure, I’ll shoot it,’” says Gerschon. “I was just so wired and so full of adrenaline to do anything and to meet people in the industry. When that happened, it opened up a whole new world of the beauty industry, which I had no idea about at the time.”
Gerschon assumed she would work in advertising. She loved publicity, especially conceptually thought-out campaigns that used humour and sarcasm to sell a product. “But being so wound up in this beauty world of hair, makeup and eventually fashion, I fell in love with that world, too,” she says. “I was being approached so much from the beauty industry that I was creating a path for myself in that direction.”
Her early jobs included working for salons in the Greater Toronto Area, shooting those photos of hairstyles that decorate the walls. Those relationships led to connections with industry brands, who hired her for internal corporate gigs. The steady pay allowed her to quit her serving and bartending job. In 2014, she became a full-time photographer. “It became almost like a calling,” she says. “It was very scary because I knew that I was depending on myself, and only myself, but I had to do it.”
“I’m able to create a little world of myself”
While Gerschon now works for herself, every shoot is an opportunity to collaborate with others. Fashion and beauty photography encourages originality and everyone to stretch their imaginations. “It’s so creative that I feel like I’m able to create a little world of myself,” says Gerschon. “My team is everything – it’s not always the same team, but it’s whoever can bring the best of themselves to the table, so we’re able to create something that could be beautiful, or it could be very deep conceptualized, or it could be straight up making art.”
Gerschon’s style is difficult to categorize. That’s deliberate. “In my eyes, it’s experimental because I do experimentation for myself,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of feeling involved, especially in my personal work. There’s intention and more soul.”
She says she’s been fortunate to work with clients who trust her vision and ask for her input. For her, it’s important to understand her clients beyond their latest campaign. She wants to know who they’re targeting and what they’re trying to do. That way, she can meet their needs and capture photos that are not only consistent with the brand’s image but also inject her unique style.
Unafraid of the unknown
After seven years of being a professional photographer, Gerschon knows no two shoots are ever the same; however, the best ones leave her with a singular feeling. “Whenever I feel there’s been a successful shoot is when I’m finally able to put what’s in my head in front of me. I’ve made it tangible,” she says. “That’s when it becomes special.”
Gerschon has never been afraid to try new things with her photography; there is a reason she describes her work as experimental. She doesn’t shy away from pushing boundaries and melding photography with other mediums. Taking chances can be risky, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
“It’s funny because sometimes I feel insecure about the work that I’m producing, and sometimes if you’re insecure then it becomes exciting, especially when you don’t know where it’s going. That’s the interesting part,” she says. “You have to push yourself where it’s unsafe, and that’s very exciting.”