As the daughter of an art photographer, it never occurred to Skye Parrott to take up photography as a career herself. Though she grew up around cameras, Parrott thought she was going to major in political science. "I thought I was going to law school."
Instead, Parrott went to Paris. After a few internships and a stint as managing editor at Self Service magazine, her outlook changed and she began working as Nan Goldin's Paris studio manager. The legendary chronicler of New York subculture acted as both an artistic and a business mentor to Parrott. After two years of running her studio in Paris, Parrott moved back to the United States and managed Goldin's New York studio while launching her own career.
"Having the chance to work with someone that influential was amazing," Parrott says. "It changed my work a lot, and helped me find my own voice." Following the advice of an ex who encouraged her to work through her own influences to get "what's yours," she explains that how she "really needed to just do my version of Nan Goldin again and again until I got to the other side."
The other side happens to be an astoundingly successful artistic and commercial career back in Parrott's hometown of New York—"the center of everything,” as she says. In addition to campaigns for the likes of A.P.C., Nike and Pamela Love, she's shot editorial work for almost every edition of Vogue as well as for Lula and other European publications.
Her photo exhibition "First Love, Last Rites" opened last year to widespread acclaim. A documentation of the year that she spent struggling with two damaged love affairs—one with a boy, one with heroin—the wistful series deals with misplaced yearning and the subjectivity of memory.
Parrot reflects that one of the best aspects about First Love was that it mixed her personal and commercial work styles. "I like pictures that are found, rather than made, and that have an emotion. Even if it's a staged moment, it's a true moment. Even though I work with digital cameras, I don't like digital to look digital. There's definitely a nostalgia to my aesthetic."
One of Parrott's most exciting ongoing projects is the bi-annual arts, fashion and culture magazine Dossier, which she founded with a childhood friend. "We thought we were going to a 'zine. But once we started putting out the call for contributions, we started getting this amazing content. There was no way we could put it out in newsprint with 500 printed copies," Parrott said.
Some of that content included Zac Posen's first-ever styled story—Posen is an old schoolmate of Dossier's co-founder and editor Katherine Krause—and an unpublished portfolio by the photographer David Armstrong, whom Parrott met while she was working for Goldin. "We grew up in New York, which helped," she says. "We reached out to anyone amazing that we knew for the first issue, because we didn't know if there would ever be a second one." They funded the magazine with contributions from friends and family, and set it loose. "A lot of people were very generous when we hadn't done anything. They had faith that whatever we were going to make would be cool."
Now on its seventh issue, Dossier—which means "file" in French—gives its widely varied contributors a space in which to exercise absolute creative freedom. In order to keep that freedom, the magazine's small staff keeps their day jobs and work for free out of Parrott's house. And in the fall, they'll work around the magazine's newest, and smallest, staff member. "I'm not as busy as I used to be. I was excited to finish up 'First Love, Last Rites' and get to work on another creative project, but then I got pregnant," Parrott explains. "That's totally the definition of a personal project."