Morgan Traa shares her thoughts from within the cool crowd of Winnipeg fashion on Instagram.
Reading time: 8 minutes
We met a few years back when I was still living in Canada, so it's been nice to catch up. Living in Asia gets the best of me sometimes, being 12 hours ahead and trying to balance keeping up with people here and North America. At the time, she was working for Lennard Taylor, who designed the leather holsters you've probably seen me wearing. Morgan's had an insider look at Winnipeg's fashion scene and how Instagram has affected independent brands.
01. How long have you been on Instagram?
According to my first Instagram post, July 6th 2012 almost exactly a month after graduating high school. That was weird to see, I didn’t realize I had been posting for so long.
02. Prior to that, how long have you been taking photographs?
Like most high school kids I didn’t care much for owning an expensive camera, I spent my time in the high school art room making life size acrylic paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. But creating an image has always been my hobby of choice. After highschool I studied video production at the Academy of Broadcasting.
03. We met when you were working with Lennard Taylor, can you tell me about your experience not only in running fashion events but how Instagram was integrated into that?
I started working for Lennard after we put on an indie unground show in Winnipeg. We scouted 30 local artists in multiple fields and put on a hell of a show, it’s called RAW Natural Born Artists and I’m still apart of the production team.
After that he called me and said “quit your job, I’ll pay you what your getting paid now and come work for me” So I did, I sent my my boss a text saying “Sorry I don’t wanna make sandwiches anymore”. I never got a reply, but I never went back.
As soon as I started working for Lennard Social Media became a huge part of my life for the first time. My ‘friends’ list was small and didn’t have many big names in it. So I quickly took control over Lennard’s Facebook page, Twitter account and Instagram. My first priority was to understand the lay of the land. I spent countless hours just going through famous designers accounts and seeing what got their audience to interact with them. It was clear that more personal you got, the better the response… as long as it looked cool of course.
Facebook was only good for events and twitter was more of a platform for individual personalities. I found branding was hard on twitter unless you had countless hours to dedicate to it, which I didn’t because I was also managing his first store.
Instagram is where his brand found a home. Instagram made it easy to taylor your image, from a glance you can see the last six posts from an artists. This was great; you can easily craft a branding image for yourself.
At that time (only like two years ago) moms hadn’t found Instagram yet. It was a place for anyone sick of Facebook and thoughts too big for twitter to find refuge. If you were looking for the next big designers, artists, photographers and cool kids on skateboards you would find it on Instagram.
So that’s where we put in our work. Slowly over time the pictures we posted became more personal to the brand and the audience started for respond.
04. After that you held a position with Jose & Markham, taking charge of their Instagram content. Can you go through your process for taking product photos?
Lennard decided to close shop and travel across Canada to promote his brand, so I was left without a job. He set up a meeting between Jose & Markham and myself, they were looking for a sales manager and I was looking for a paying job. I started a week later.
My first day on the job it was clear to me they had no clear branding or image for their store. The shoes are amazing, designed in Winnipeg and hand crafted in Mexico, they had maybe 500 followers on Instagram. I had finally gotten myself the camera I was dreaming of and quickly started to take pictures for their social media accounts. I decided to keep the photos clean, naturally lit and targeted the well-dressed man. This was the first time that the online branding was completely left up to me, I had so much fun running around the store pulling accessories and putting together product photos. I didn’t realize how much work I was doing for the brand until the pictures were published in Ciao, Where and Cellar Door Magazine.
05. Do you have any photographers you look up to?
At heart I am a cinamaphotgrapher. I studied video in school and have been making my own short films and productions for a few years. I like photography, especially product photos because of the staging. The entire time I have been taking photos I have been studying lighting and theatre staging. Much like how a theatre director will place their actors on stage I place my products in front of the camera. I look up to Hitchcock and his ability to trick you with a moving image, and Wes Anderson and his ability to take you anywhere he goes.
06. For your personal account, is Instagram more a place to showcase and promote your work or do you see it more as a community and social landscape?
It’s both. I’d love to say that Instagram is only a place where I express creativity. But unfortunately I work in a field that requires a reputation to move forward. But as I have grown with my own work I find my Instagram account is never far behind.
07. You're always busy with new projects it seems; it can be hard to keep up from the other side of the world. What's on your plate nowadays?
Winnipeg doesn’t seem to sleep; even in -50 there is always something to be apart of. Right now I am currently working on a series of short films based on weird and strange occurrences that happened when I was very poor. And of course a few projects I can’t talk about.
08. What's your take on Instagram's censorship policies and the #FreeTheNipple movement?
If you have a problem with seeing a nipple I feel deep empathy for you.
09. Has Instagram changed the way you think of photography at all?
Completely. I grew up with a lot of coffee table photography books. Big thick hard cover books, filled with thick printed pages. I was always under the impression that to been a photographer or a moviemaker or to have your work recognized you had to get into one of these books. Of course I was young and knew nothing about the business, but Instagram has given everyone with a still image the voice they have needed for so long.