By Monica Morones
Palm Springs native Dre Naylor is a local and internationally published photographer with an impressive portfolio and a long list of clients. Her style is distinctive and she is clearly a natural when it comes to capturing emotions through the lens. From weddings, nightlife, portraits, food, to fine art, she does it all. She is a distinguished story teller through the lens of her camera.
MM: Where are you from?
DN: I was born at Desert Hospital. I lived here until 10th grade and then moved to Hemet with my family. My father bought a business from his brother and we moved up there to run it and be a little closer to family. Before then, I spent my entire young life here. I have been back in the valley since 1995 or 1996.
MM: How and when did you get into photography?
DN: I was always kind of fascinated with it, but at first I never got into it because I didn’t understand it. I got into it after I stopped working at the art gallery. Actually- that’s not exactly true- I was taking a lot of photos with my phone while I was working at the gallery- when I would do deliveries on Tuesdays. I would take photos of all kinds of stuff from the car- I called it #FreewayPhotography (laughing). All of the photos were taken from inside the vehicle, usually at speeds of 60mph or better. It made for some blurry, crappy photos sometimes, but there were some really good ones too. After I stopped working at the gallery, I started using some of the newly acquired free time to take more photos, this time of things around here. I just shot with a phone for the first year, an iPhone 4. I talked to some people about getting a camera that didn’t function as a telephone or mp3 player as well and everyone said the same thing, “I love your photos! You totally should!” So I did.
MM: What is your favorite camera to use?
DN: I would have to say I’m a Canon girl. I shoot on a 5D Mark III. I also have a little Olympus point and shoot that I love taking places because it has amazing optical zoom.
MM: How would you describe your style?
DN: Oh wow, that’s a good one. I don’t know. I hear people say that they feel a lot of different emotions when they look at my photos, whether it’s portraiture, landscape, still life or event. I think I could say that my style is emotional. I try to convey SOME type of feeling in my work. It might be “I want to be there” or maybe “I hate this”. It could be “I want to know this person” or maybe “I wish I had a photo of ME like this.” I just want the viewer to feel some type of way.
MM: What is your personal favorite to photograph?
DN: All of it. I don’t have a favorite, it doesn’t work that way. There are things I like about different types of shoots, but I don’t have a favorite. My favorite changes every day. I love seeing people really thrilled with their portraits. I think I get the most reaction from my portraiture. It used to be my goal to make the mother of the kid I photographed cry. Haha, I know it sounds mean, but I wanted them to be so happy, they cried. The first several did, too. It was very validating.
MM: Did you go to school or are you self-taught?
DN: I am self-taught. I know a few other pros whom I have asked a little advice from here and there, but it was basically me messing with the camera and just kind of saying “What does THIS button do?” for a good 6 months when I first got it. I took a lot of cool photos during that time, but I really had no clue how or why I was getting them. I still didn’t understand basic photography terms like aperture or F-stop until about 5 months after that. So, the first year, I was a total beginner. When my cousin showed me how to adjust my settings in manual, things REALLY started to make sense to me then…now I shoot mainly in manual. It’s just easier for me to get my images “just right”.
MM: What do you think about the art scene in the Coachella Valley?
DN: For about 5 1/2 years I ran an art gallery locally for a couple who had the largest gallery devoted to the low-brow genre. It was amazing. I met so many incredible people and had an absolute blast. Since not working there, my exposure to the local art scene has broadened. I think we have a great mix of genres out here. We even have some really great street art now, thanks to the owners of BAR, Donovan and Molly Funkey, and Angelina Christina and Fin Dac (the muralists), there is even some right on Palm Canyon.
MM: What do you think we can do as a community to improve it?
DN: I think we are already doing it. The downtown improvements in Palm Springs, the Coachella festival growing larger and better every year, the addition of newer festivals like Splash House and the opening of Hacienda Cantina (a swim club with a beach vibe that hosts some great names in music) where some of the more famous creative types can come and enjoy themselves. All these things create an atmosphere for creativity and expression that I think is really great. Sarah Scheideman at the Coachella Valley Art Scene in Cathedral City has really done a lot to keep a local art community alive as well. There are also new galleries in Palm Springs like Woodman Shimko where a fellow photographer, Terry Hastings has showed his fine art photography. I think our art scene is in good shape, and getting better.
MM: Where have you shown your work?
DN: I had a few pieces in Crystal Fantasy downtown in Palm Springs. Mainly the internet has seen my work. I have been published in a few print publications: a recent photo in Palm Springs Life, Variety, RadarOnline and a bunch of other sites that picked up a higher profile shoot I did early this year. It was just released, so I could finally talk about it and share the images.
MM: Who have you worked with in the valley?
DN: I work with Tamara Bolton of Sensorium Event Productions often, she does amazing party planning and event management. Her stuff is SO incredibly beautiful. I also work with Reggie Cameron doing various promotional photography and events. Reggie does a lot of things with the LGBT community and I get to go with him to some pretty fabulous parties and always for a great cause.
MM: You did a photo shoot with Kelly Osbourne! How rad was that?
DN: I DID! It was amazing. I went with Reggie out to LA to be on set one day for a video his friend, JB Ghuman Jr. was shooting for a music act called Double Duchess and Kelly was in the video! I did the behind the scenes photography for JB and Reggie. It was really cool. It was in a studio in LA, we hung out there all day and shot about 10 scenes. There were smoke bombs. I was in heaven (laughing). That was the shoot I had to sit on for MONTHS before I could share. It drove me crazy too, because here I was, this BRAND NEW photographer and I had already shot Kelly Osbourne and couldn’t even show anyone! It was torture! The video is out now, and it’s all over the Internet. It’s called “Good Girl Freak Out” by Double Duchess.
MM: What up and coming projects do we have to look forward to from you?
DN: I have several weddings the next few months and 5 booked for next year. I also just got hired to shoot Ink & Iron and Viva Las Vegas next year by a magazine *I can’t say which one yet*grr* (laughing) and I’ve been doing a lot more private parties and portraiture, which I love. I’m also the featured artist for Art|Bar in January.
MM: Where can people see your work?