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Earlier this year, Edge® Shave Gel teamed up with Sports Illustrated to offer one lucky photographer the ultimate edge in achieving the chance of a lifetime: assisting on a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot. After weeks of campaigning online and honing his impressive portfolio, Ft. Lauderdale native Joey Wright got the call. An aspiring swimsuit photographer, Wright turned to Edge to help achieve his professional aspirations, and was able to live out his dream job on a shoot in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 2015 SI Swimsuit issue. In an interview, he recounted his experiences.
How did you become a photographer?
I pretty much grew up on the beaches here in South Florida. My dad was a hobbyist photographer, and that’s how I got my first taste of it—borrowing his cameras for my little skate sessions with my buddies. A few years ago, I was doing a lot of wakeboarding and decided to do some photography of that, just like when I was a kid. I picked up a camera and that was the spark. I was working full time as a graphic artist, Monday through Friday, then shooting on the weekends and editing photos all night. Eventually it got to the point where I was sleeping under my desk at work during my lunch break [laughs]. About two years ago, I quit my day job, and now my only job is photography.
Why swimsuit photography?
If you’re going to be into shooting something, you have to really love it. I don’t know much about fashion, but with swimwear I understand it and can be particular about space and colors. The beach becomes my studio for the day. I shoot at the nicest locations, at the prettiest time of day, and getting to shoot swimwear models is not horrible either. I realized that this was the ultimate; this was the dream job. Someone asked me recently what I do besides photography, and I froze. “You mean, there’s something else besides this?” [Laughs] I eat, breath, sleep photography.
How did you manage to win this contest?
I’ve been telling people for years now: I’m going to shoot for Sports Illustrated. That’s the end goal for sure. When this contest came up, it just seemed like the ultimate foot in the door. A buddy of mine was like, “Dude, you have to do this contest. This is your thing.” For six weeks, I was just going nonstop with posts online, getting everyone to back me up, relying on friends and followers to click on my links and support me. I had to campaign for it. When I got the call that I won, that was just the coolest. This trip was everything I could have hoped for, and then some.
What did you expect going into the shoot?
What excited me the most was getting to introduce myself to the SI family. My friends were all like, “Which models are you going to meet?!” And I was like, “I don’t know, but I will get to have dinner with the creative director, and hang around the editor on set.” That’s all I really cared about. I wouldn’t even know how to do that on my own.
How was the shoot?
Everything was very shrouded in secrecy. They couldn’t really tell me the location or the models. I knew where I was landing, the airport, but nothing else. I got out to St. Thomas, and it was just lush green island, perfect blue water. I got on a ferry that took us to Caneel Bay on St. John. It was this awesome resort, with donkeys roaming around. The first night, I hung out with the creative team and had dinner, and got to show them some of my work and pick their brains. They were all great, asking me questions about my background and my work.
The next morning, we all met at 7 a.m. at Turtle Bay. The whole photography crew was there, and once I got on set they were like, “Hey, do you mind holding this reflective for us?” I tried to make myself ready to help, and they took me in right away. Once we finished with the morning session, I had the chance to chat with the crew and the digital tech, we start making friends and adding each other on Instagram. They got to see some of my work there, and I felt like I’d proved myself a little bit. Everyone was really inclusive and super cool.
What kinds of technical things did you learn on set?
I was hoping I wouldn’t show up like, “Oh no, I’ve been doing things wrong!” [Laughs] It made me feel good that I am doing things right, because it looked like my set, the sets I create for my bigger clients. We used a lot of the same gear. But I definitely picked up a few cool things—the way the photographer interacted with the models taught me a lot. The tools are not that complex, like they were using a little battery powered leaf blower to put wind through the hair, and I was like, “That’s genius!” I usually have someone flopping a reflector around like a big fan. I was taking pictures of all their gear so I could go home and order it for myself.