She's made barely dressed (read: nude) women her art form, and the beach her office... We couldn't be more in awe of Emily Labouerie.
When you grow up on a paradise island like St Barths, the beach is your happy place. But Emily decided it would be her forever workplace. Inspired at a young age by the incredibly talented photographers shooting top models for top publications on the island in the 90's, she fell in love with photography.
What we love the most about Emily – besides the fact that her art form allows her to emphasize women's beauty in the most powerful way – is that she has found a way to combine her love of St Barths with her love of photography and turn it into a prolific career. Isn't that the dream? The island has become the backdrop for her art, and she's now taken it a step further by branching out into publishing with the launch of lifestyle magazine, ZION, where she gets to share her vision and tell stories through photography. The annual publication, distributed all over St Barths, aims to parallel luxury with relaxation and communicate the island’s new era.
Emily is not someone who waits for instructions, or asks for permission. She was one of our #goldeneditgirls before we coined the term! Read on for a sunny dose of inspiration.
You grew up in St Barths and also spent some time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as child. How did that shape you?
I grew up between St Barths, Santa Fe and France. Three very beautiful places with very different cultures, which I think really helped me understand from a young age that there are different ways of living and you don't have to run with the pack. Life in St Barths was very carefree and laid back, it truly felt like living in a little bubble of paradise. In Santa Fe, we lived in somewhat of a hippie community and were surrounded by a lot of artists. France was a bit more conventional. We lived in a small village and I went to a private catholic school which was much more strict than what I was used to, so there was definitely an adjustment period. I'm so glad I got to experience these three different cultures as a child. It made adapting and learning languages much easier.
How did you get started with photography?
I fell in love with photography as a kid in the late 90's living in St Barths. At that time, all the big photographers like Patrick Demarchelier, Marco Glaviano, Gilles Bensimon were regularly in St Barths shooting top models for top publications. I would watch these photoshoots happen on the beach and then see the images a few months later in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. I loved the elegant simplicity of those photos. They were usually nudes or simple swim shots taken on our most beautiful beaches like Gouverneur or Saline, in the natural late afternoon light. Those images made me want to become a photographer.
You've made shooting women in the sun your niche. Tell us how that happened
Growing up on an island, the beach was my happy place, and is still my favorite place to shoot. We have such beautiful ones in St Barths and the light is magical so you can never go wrong shooting on the beach. I love the easygoing, insouciant vibe we have going here and I try to capture that blissful energy in my photos.
What inspires you most?
Natural light! I'm obsessed with light. When the light is beautifully coming into a room, or onto someone, or onto a landscape, that is what I live for. It's the kind of beauty that makes me happy and inspires me.
You've just launched a beautiful print magazine, ZION. Congrats! Tell us about that project, and what it means to you
Yes! I just started a magazine in St Barths, called ZION (which means paradise, but here in St Barths we use that word to describe untouched nature). I started ZION to share my vision of St Barths, the island I grew up on and love. St Barths appears as a very luxurious and pretentious place to the rest of the world, but that's not the St Barths I live in. So I'm trying to show a different side of the island – the more laid back, relaxed and simple side. So my job with this magazine is to tell stories and take photos that hopefully will make you fall madly in love with St Barths. And I have total creative freedom to do so, that's the best part!
Bucket travel list – where are you dying to go to next?
I'm dying to go to so many places! But first on my list is North Africa. I've been dreaming of the desert. I also really want to go on a safari. Every time I see photos of safaris, I'm blown away by the light and the incredible red sunsets they have in East Africa. But actually, I think my next exotic trip will be to the Philippines. My brother is obsessed with it and wants to show me an island that he fell in love with there and wants to move to.
Lastly, your thoughts on constantly reinventing St Barths?
It's not difficult to reinvent St Barths. There is always so much happening here. So many people coming and going all year round. We used to have a low season in the summer, but it is not the case anymore. Summer is almost as busy as winter, but with a different crowd. This place attracts all kinds of very interesting people so there is really never a dull moment!