A relatively fresh face, Claire Bishara is amongst some of the fast-rising creative directors and photographers to sweep everyone off their feet through captivating photoshoots. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Claire’s portfolio delves into the more edgy and taboo side of things while simultaneously empowering women alike. During her time in school, Bishara got into painting and other artistic outlets before discovering her love for photography sometime later. Realizing that a camera could be a means of expressing her emotions and creativity, the promising artist knew then that photography was her calling.
In just a year, Claire has shot for clients including GUESS, Loren Gray, and Jeffrey Campbell to name a few. Undoubtedly, she’s a personality that lights up the room, putting an emphasis on comfort and good vibes. “I’ve never cared about finding professional models or women with a lot of Instagram followers,” she shares. “If I think you’re unique and I’m inspired by you, I will reach out and build an entire concept based on you.”
For Behind The Lens, Claire Bishara talks to us about empowering women, the female gaze, exciting moments in her career, and much more! Read below.
I read that growing up you were a bit of a rebel—piercing girls’ ears and cutting class—how is that expressed in your work as well as your personality?
I grew up in a Middle Eastern household going to a prestigious all-girls Catholic school where my parents and people around me were like “what a cute artsy hobby, Claire!” But I didn’t want this to be a hobby, I wanted to be something that I do. Self-expression and being creative alone was sometimes a rebellious act for me, things like getting a double piercing or dying my hair were seen that way. I think that all my creativity is kind of associated with rebellion in me and I kind of like that.
I think that’s why a lot of my work today is provocative, edgy, risqué, and pushing the boundaries a bit especially with women. You can see it in my work where I play with taboo things such as religion, nudity, and things that wouldn’t be naturally comfortable to look at.
Through ART BISH, you’re on a journey to empower creative women across all industries—tell me a bit more about that if you don’t mind?
I started ART BISH at the end of college, I was trying to get into this creative production program and I remember getting denied twice. It was such a big deal for me so I had to figure out a way to make creativity a big part of my work, so I started my own thing. I started doing art shows around LA and I was surrounded by so many successful artists who branded themselves and so I did the same.
My last name is Bishara and people were already calling me Bish so eventually people just started calling me Art Bish. ART BISH became this powerhouse for creative women to come together and the brand has just evolved with me as an artist ever since.
I know originally you spent some time painting female portraits before stepping into photography, how did that experience carry over?
When I first started painting as a kid, I would paint things like flowers and trees but then I started painting women and it came naturally to me and was so much more exciting. I think it was a no-brainer that when it came to photography, I was only going to shoot women.
I’ll still shoot men occasionally, but women are just what I naturally gravitate towards. That just became my niche and mostly women reach out to me anyways. I just think women are so fucking powerful and also being Middle Eastern, I find diversity so beautiful so I always try to bring that into my work.
What are some roadblocks you’ve had to overcome since starting your photography career?
When you’re an artist or your own boss, there’s no one there to pat you on the back and tell you when you do or make something great. You have to love your work yourself and trust that the decisions you make for your career are the right ones. It’s a constant risk but the rewards are incredible.
Another one was that I definitely didn’t always have 100% support from my family at first and I think that’s a common theme amongst creatives. That’s something I don’t want to shy away from because I know there are so many young entrepreneurs and creatives who live in households where their parents or family don’t understand their creativity.
What are your thoughts on the industry’s diversity efforts? What do you think needs to be in order for everyone to be equally whether that be as a photographer, stylist, or muse?
I think it’s a matter of making an effort to diversify your team and the people you’re shooting and working with. For me, it’s always been a pinnacle to focus on diversity because I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and college so I always felt the need to show diversity in my art. The photography game is already so whitewashed and male-dominated so it feels good to bring together sets filled with diverse women from all different backgrounds. Social media is also extremely sexist and racist, so what I would wish to be in order is that more art created by both women and people of color got more exposure.
What is it about the female gaze that you think allows you to create these unique, one-of-one portraits?
I think I have the ability to see a specific girl and come up with an entire concept and vision that I feel fits them. My phone is filled with girls’ photos that I find on Instagram and Twitter; I’ve never cared about finding professional models or women with a lot of Instagram followers. If I think you’re unique and I’m inspired by you, I will reach out and build an entire concept based on them. I love to take people and morph them into this kind of new character and when I shoot, I want it to look straight from out of a movie or a dream.
You’ve worked with everyone from Jeffrey Campbell to Loren Gray and many more, what’s been your most exciting moment in the field so far?
They’ve all been amazing! Jeffrey Campbell was a dream. I love the brand more so to the fact that they were like “here’s the collection, do what you want with it.” I think that’s what made the shoot work so well because I felt like I didn’t have any limitations and could go wherever. That’s like a dream for a creative, you get the best work when you trust the artist. We shot for GUESS the other day and that was a huge milestone for the team. We’ve been blessed with super dope projects lately!
Talk to me about your own personal style, what fashion trends are you into these days, and what are some of your go-to brands or clothing pieces?
I’m really into the 90’s and 2000’s street style, but 2000’s in the way that your mom and her cool friends would dress when you were 10. I love low-rise true religions, big hoops, and long nails. I also constantly blend in between masculine and feminine. I lived in South Africa a few years ago and I remember coming back and really finding my groove with fashion. I love simple outfits with a statement shirt that’s a little risqué and different. Of course, I also love oversized tees and oversized jeans. When I’m shooting, I’ll dress really comfy like sweats and air forces, but when I go out, I love very edgy minimal stuff.
Is there a side of film and photography that you want to venture in that you maybe haven’t yet?
Yes! I really want to venture more into video. I directed my first music video last June and I really fell in love with it. I have always had these visions of small films and art stories so directing more music videos has been a goal. As far as photography, I definitely want to do more abstract work versus doing objective work for brands. I just want to make art to make art for no reason other than it’s visually appealing.