Scenes of Ice and Fire

"Mirror Story," for the client Li & Fung.Silja Magg

Though she speaks quite elegantly, Silja Magg does not enjoy talking about herself. In fact, one of the first things she

says in our interview is “I’m terrible at this.” Luckily she has her photos, which speak with a unique mixture of high-fashion gloss and dreamy softness.

Her ability to merge editorial edginess with commercial polish has established the 29-year-old Parsons graduate as a rising talent in her adopted city of New York, where she’s quickly infiltrated the insular world of fashion photography.

Indeed, since wrapping up her BFA in 2010, Magg has built a client list that includes such high-end retailers as French Connection and Barneys New York, as well as cutting-edge industry publications like Jalouse and VS. Magg’s innovative work in video and stop-motion animation rounds off an accomplished practice at a time when most recent grads might be struggling to put a book together.

Then again, Magg is hardly an industry novice. “My father is a commercial photographer in Iceland, and so is my brother,” she says. “I initially became interested in styling, but my father had a studio and I had access to his equipment, which was very tempting. I sort of just knew I wanted to do everything myself—to create pictures. So I started working, and it just kind of grew.”

APHC212Silja Magg

After growing up outside Reykjav.k, Magg briefly rebelled against the family trade, enrolling in a business program at the Commercial College of Iceland before coming around to her calling, then striking out on her own for New York to immerse herself in school and develop her eye. It was an unexpected detour, especially for someone with a strong European client base that included Vodafone and Visa, but Magg went with her instincts. “In Iceland, I was always working for someone else,” she says. “But in New York and in school, you have all this time to yourself, you’re discovering yourself and figuring things out. You can really maximize this time and find all the inspiration you need. School

was like a therapy for me, and it was freedom.”

The gamble paid off, unleashing a new wave of creativity for Magg and honing her technical skills and the versatility needed in the fast-paced world of fashion. It also plugged her into a network of like-minded creatives. “Fashion photography involves a lot of people, including models, stylists, art directors,” she notes. “I work with a lot of the

same people all the time. You build intimacy and trust, and we all know what we’re capable of.”

Magg has meanwhile ventured into music videos and moving-image editorials, an increasingly important aspect of fashion work. “I got this old 8mm camera and I tested it out while on a shoot,” she says. “I was working for a London brand, and they asked me to make a short film. But I also enjoy films that are more personal, sort of just for me.”

Magg, who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in a loft that doubles as a studio, is clearly making her mark but remains modest, only mentioning projects offhand, like a recent trip to London to shoot a high-end handbag campaign for Moncrief.

“And there’s the book thing,” she says, referring to an upcoming collaboration with Parsons involving portraits of such high-profile graduates as Anna Sui and Proenza Schouler. When asked for advice to industry newcomers, Magg demurs, then offers a tip: “I’ve gotten more into Tumblr, especially as people keep following it. I try to put everything I do there, all my commercial editorials and other work. It’s a great way to find inspiration, and you can follow your favorite artists and start conversations.” She pauses and adds, “People’s images reveal a lot about them.”

APHC212Silja Magg