Olivia Rae James. A name that has been constantly on my stalking radar since first being introduced to the creative talent of this country just over a year ago. It was this time last year at the Charleston Kinfolk Dinner that I first got to meet Olivia and be completely swallowed up by her work. Her photographs were hanging on the verandah of the house where the dinner was being held and I remember standing there, for probably far too long, jumping into each one of her images and breathing them in, as though they were the finest breath of fresh air I had felt in a long time. I had just made the decision to become a photographer and I must admit that Olivia’s photographs made me all the more inspired. To take photos like that. Well, I could only dream. Her images provoke a sense of freshness and calm, full of natural colour explosion, playfulness and light. Olivia has the ability to capture seemingly ephemeral moments, preserving them in such a way to show effortless, timeless and real.
We met South of Broad in downtown Charleston on an early weekday evening. I followed as Olivia and her adorable little pup, Frankie, led the way. I am always in a dreamlike state as I wander the streets of Charleston. If there was one place that I could spend all of my time, it would be there. As I walked with Olivia through the cobble stone streets and out to the Battery, I felt so happy to be in Olivia’s company. Like her work, Olivia is inspired and light. We enjoyed the view by the water, the grand homes lit by afternoon sun and then, hurried back before the storm. We parked up in one of Olivia’s favourite wine bars, Bin 152, enjoying the cozy atmosphere and the sprinkling of rain outside. We spent time chatting over bubbles and rosé, eating stinky cheese and laughing with Olivia’s main man, Blake. It was a special afternoon. One that I feel so lucky to have had. Olivia, you are lovely. And I’m not at all embarrassed to say, that you will be staying, quite unwaveringly, quite rightfully, on the top of my stalking radar.
What projects are you currently working on?
Lots of weddings this time of year and a couple personal projects.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Light, shadows, food, flowers, people, places. Everything!
Why a Photographer?
I love observing and documenting. Preserving moments feels satisfying and important to me.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, would you be so kind to share some of your favourite artists?
I either listen to music, podcasts, or embarrassing TV while I edit photos (hellooo Married at First Sight). My go-to's for music are movie soundtracks (Beginners, Amelie, Marie Antoinette) and oldies (Roy Orbison, Everly Brothers, Beach Boys). I also love both Grace Bonney and Julia Turshen's podcasts and of course This American Life. Although today I'm listening to Jay-Z.
Do you have a morning ritual?
I go to spin class a few mornings a week, so on those days I wake up and immediately head out the door half asleep. If it's a non-spin morning, my boyfriend and I usually take our pup Frankie for a walk and end up at a coffee shop. When he goes to work at nine is when I start editing photos and answering emails.
What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?
A homemade meal and a glass of wine in a clean candlelit house. Maybe some Netflix catch-up while snuggling Frankie. That or a long, drawn-out dinner with friends.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Always Paris! Greece in the summertime. And somewhere I've never been -- Bali.
Best piece of advice you've ever given or been given?
Trust your gut and don't take yourself too seriously.
What's for dinner?
Take out from Dellz Uptown! We are obsessed and look forward to it every week (because we have to limit ourselves to once a week). Their Mexican pizza is the BEST.
The best part about being a creative?
Freedom and flexibility. I hate being tied down.
The worst part?
There's not really a worst part. I'm so happy to be able to do this as "work." Although staying organized and on top of emails/accounting is a constant struggle for me.
Day or night? Sunrise and sunset
Old or new? Old with new
City or Country? Coast
Coffee or Tea? Iced coffee with cream
What do you enjoy most about living in Charleston, SC?
Being surrounded by water, living three blocks from my sister, walking and biking everywhere, amazing food, wonderful people.
Thoughts for the future:
I’m not much of a planner, I usually just go with the flow and trust that things will work out. But I hope my future includes more of the same -- travels, QT with friends and family, long dinners, maybe a house with a garden and ultimately, health, balance, contentment, and the ability to find joy in the daily grind.