MY NEW YORK: ESTHER FACIANE

MY NEW YORK: ESTHER FACIANE

v136

MY NEW YORK: ESTHER FACIANE

Our penultimate episode is here! Watch as Esther Faciane leads us through Bed-Stuy, the Lower East Side and back to Milk Makeup headquarters

Our penultimate episode is here! Watch as Esther Faciane leads us through Bed-Stuy, the Lower East Side and back to Milk Makeup headquarters

Photography: Nick Freeman

Text: Kala Herh

Five years ago, the Bed-Stuy-based creative, Esther Faciane was working at Urban Outfitters in the heart of SoHo. Proudly adoring Milk’s iconic tattoo stamp during her shifts, she became accustomed to people coming up to her and asking if it was a real tattoo. Flattered and charmed, she would laughingly reply that it was just makeup. 

“People would be like, ‘Is that a real tattoo?’ And I’m like ‘No, it’s Milk Makeup and they sell it right there,’” she said as she pointed to the Milk Makeup kiosk at the fashion chain.  

Back then, Faciane was hustling as a freelance photographer, just fresh out of college and working on impromptu shoots with her friends. She never thought she would work at the brand that sold the coveted makeup product and yet, fast forward a few years she’s not only working at the beauty brand but also, serving as the Lead Content Manager. 

Esther wears Milk Makeup, on eyes KUSH Liquid Eyeliner, KUSH Mascara and on eyebrows KUSH Clear Brow Gel, on skin Blur Matte Liquid Foundation, Highlighter, and Hydro Grip Set + Refresh Spray on lips Lip + Cheek

“It’s crazy that I’m here at Milk Makeup headquarters, just down the street from where I worked and sold their makeup,” she laughs. 

Since she’s been at Milk (coming on her second year anniversary!), the 28-year-old photographer has spearheaded dozens of campaigns for the clean beauty brand. To date, one of her favorites was the 2021 Fall Campaign, which was ultimately plastered on scaffolding and billboards around the city. The campaign featured this generation’s favorite personalities, which includes Tefi Pessoa. 

“It was my first big campaign shooting for Milk,” she shared. “I’ve done smaller ones but this was our first big one. In a lot of jobs, especially in the beauty space, you have to stick to this one specific thing. I feel like our higher-ups definitely give me a chance to be creative.”

Jacket Raf Simons and sweater Loewe (provided courtesy of The Webster)

So what is Esther’s driving force when it comes to shooting? It all comes down to intuition. During our chat with Esther, she shares that she leans into her own curiosities and interests. It’s a natural process and she lets her eye guide her and how she frames the photograph: “Whatever I’m feeling at the moment when I’m looking through the viewfinder is definitely what I want to capture,” she says. 

Esther’s modus operandi–sticking to your gut and relying on your own instincts–has definitely paid off. Since her career started, Esther has had a group show at the Foley Gallery, where the V family meets her. Here, she revisits the space where her work was exhibited for the first time. Nestled in the Lower East Side, she showcased her Unprotected series in 2017, a series of portraits looking at LGBTQ+ people of color in their most vulnerable state. And as you are surrounded by her intimate photographs, you can’t help but confront your own vulnerability. 

“It’s a series based on people of color who are queer, mostly black, and I showed them in the nude,” she shares. “It wasn’t provocative, it was beautifully shot in natural light on a pink background in my small-ass New York apartment in Brooklyn.”

Since moving from her hometown of New Orleans, Esther has settled in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. She’s built a community, including Michael Graham the owner of Savant Studios and in the process, found a place that “feels like home.” In the intervening years, she’s navigated new jobs and opportunities, and met new creatives and discovered places to eat, but one thing in this transition has stayed the same–her love for New York and its people. And she shares that she’s just as in love with the city and people since she first touched down at the airport.  

“I don’t think there’s one definition of a New Yorker. On any given day in a subway car, you could have an artist, a painter, a photographer, a financial banker who makes millions of dollars,” she laughs. “It’s literally truly a melting pot and I love that.”

Check out the seventh episode of V Magazine’s second season of  “My New York” created in collaboration with Milk Makeup.  

Stay tuned for new episodes launching every Friday here on Vmagazine.com, the series will spotlight NYC's movers-and-shakers as they guide us through the formative spots in the city that have inspired and cultivated their craft.

Read the exclusive interview with Esther Faciane below! 

V MAGAZINE: Hey Esther! Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us how you first got into photography? 

ESTHER FACIANE: I’ve always been into photography. My mom is a schoolteacher so she would always be taking photos. I’d be like ‘Mom! Can you please not take my photo today? I just want to go to the Children’s museum and have fun, I don’t need 100 photos of it.’ But I’m grateful for it because I would steal her cameras. I would take photos of random things like leaves, trees, the street, my Barbie dolls and stuff like that. So I’ve always been into photography, but I started taking it seriously in my junior year of college.

V: I feel that. My mother was always taking photos of me, too. So what do you like taking photos of the most? What really draws your eye?

EF: I love shooting people. I love seeing something on someone and being like, ‘Oh my gosh, their hair is really cool,’ or like, ‘They have a really cool sense of style.’ I hone in on those aspects when I’m making images. 

V: Yeah, the small details that make a person. And when you’re composing a frame what are you looking at? How do you go about composing an interesting picture? 

EF: I feel like it’s all about intuition. I know what I like in a photo but I feel like when I’m taking the photo, it’s all about what I’m feeling. 

V: Do you like film or digital? 

EF: Film is my baby. Film is my heart. Film is my first love when it comes to photography. I got my start on film cameras. My mom’s camera that I used to steal were all film cameras. And when I started taking photography seriously, I bought an old film camera on eBay and I got my first roll of film back and I was like, “Life really makes sense now.” Ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with film.

V: For sure! We also wanted to ask about your photography for Milk Makeup. What’s your role and what do you do? 

EF: I’m a lead content manager and photographer so I shoot all of our campaign imagery and beauty imagery. I also shoot product stills for Instagram. 

V: What’s your favorite project you’ve done so far? 

EF: One of my favorite projects was definitely our Fall 2021 campaign. It was my first big campaign shooting for Milk. I’ve done smaller ones but this was our first big one. In a lot of jobs, especially in the beauty space, you have to stick to this one specific thing. I feel like our higher-ups definitely give me a chance to be creative.

V: That sounds so exciting! And it’s also crazy that you’re working in SoHo. Can you take us back to when you were working and shooting here? 

EF: I used to work at Urban Outfitters, the one down the block. And that was at the time when we were selling Milk Makeup at Urban Outfitters so I would wear the Milk tattoo stamp every day for work. People would be like, ‘Is that a real tattoo?’ And I’m like ‘No, it’s Milk Makeup and they sell it right there.’ It’s crazy that I’m here at Milk Makeup headquarters, just down the street from where I worked and sold their makeup.

And on my lunch break or before work back then, I would ask my friends or hit up models in the DMs and be like, ‘Hey, do you want to shoot for 30 minutes? It won’t be long. Just wear your favorite top, your favorite shoes and a pair of denim,’ and we would just shoot! 

V: Sounds like a lot of fun. Your work and portfolio have really progressed since then. Back in 2017, you were showcased at the Foley Gallery. Can you tell me about that experience and being exhibited in a gallery?

EF: In 2017, I showed my series “Unprotected” at the Foley Gallery. It’s a series based on people of color who are queer, mostly black, and I showed them in the nude. It wasn’t provocative, it was beautifully shot in natural light on a pink background in my small-ass New York apartment in Brooklyn. It was really cool to get featured in that show. When the curator reached out to me, I was like, “Oh my gosh. Me? Are you serious?” It was really fun and I shot that series specifically for that show. It wasn’t already produced. 

V: And moving from the Lower East Side to Bed-Stuy. What is it about Bed-Stuy as a neighborhood that you enjoy? 

EF: I definitely feel a sense of community in Bed-Stuy. There are a lot of Black-owned businesses and I can walk down the street and see a Black-owned business. I see my friends’ Black-owned business and it’s super inspiring just walking around the neighborhood. There are also kids playing on the playground and old people sitting outside on their steps listening to 90s R&B. It honestly feels like home even though I’m not from New York.

V: That sounds so homey! And speaking of your friends’ Black-owned businesses, your friend Michael owns Savant Studios. Can you tell us about that business and how you met Michael? 

EF: Savant Studios is a studio based in Brooklyn. It’s a design studio and clothing store. Michael is a designer and the store’s owner. He’s amazing, truly a creative genius. I met him two years ago in the summer of 2020. I walked into the shop with my best friend—she knows him—and he was so welcoming. There were people there just drawing, making art, listening to music and talking. There’s a real sense of community in that one little shop and it’s really amazing to see.

V: Do you think New York has influenced your current style? How have you seen it transform over the years?

EF: Yeah, definitely. New York has influenced my style tremendously. I love people watching so I get inspiration from people walking down the street. Whenever I’m walking around here and I see someone with a really cool outfit, I’m looking at their outfit head to toe and I’m googling “Asymmetrical top with fringe sleeves” or whatever they may be wearing.

V: So now that you’ve been here for almost a decade, what does being a New Yorker mean to you? What is the essence of the quintessential New Yorker?

EF: I don’t think there’s one definition of a New Yorker. On any given day in a subway car, you could have an artist, a painter, a photographer, a financial banker who makes millions of dollars. It’s literally truly a melting pot and I love that. [A melting pot] filled with people who are all chasing their dreams. 

Credits:

SERIES CREATORS SAM TRACY & CZAR VAN GAAL

DIRECTOR NICK FREEMAN

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER KALA HERH

EDITOR NICK FREEMAN

SOUND DESIGNER CHRIS FRIEDMAN

ART DIRECTOR SONYA OLOMSKAYA

MAKEUP BAMIKE OGUNRINU

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT CARLOS CHINN

SPECIAL THANKS

FOLEY GALLERY

SAVANT STUDIOS

MILK MAKEUP

MILK STUDIOS

UP NEXT

Simihaze Beauty Launches New Collection Ahead of Festival Season
The brand's latest launch features a mini invisible balm and 'eye play' dance pack.