Her company, The Little Squares, is dedicated to her works as a photographer, writer and filmmaker. Her portfolio includes editorials for Italian Vogue, original images of DVF, Mary Kate Olsen and even George Lucas and so much more.
I had the opportunity to get to know Debra, learn what inspires her in every day life and the experiences that have come with such an incredible career.
Scroll down to check out our conversation.
DS: When I was little I lived in the town where Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, which explains my curiosity about inventors and inventing. But mostly I grew up in New York City. I do all sorts of editorial projects in a documentary style; writing, photographing, filming, casting, traveling…whatever it takes to get the story.
SIS: You’re a photographer, filmmaker and writer. What lead you to pursue such a creative career?
DS: I started doing summer internships at Conde Nast when I was in high school, so after college (Bates College) I went to work at American Vogue just when Anna Wintour had taken over. I almost left fashion all together to study architecture, but I had the opportunity to live in Europe and work with magazines in Milan and Paris, which exposed me to different aspects of making editorial. They have smaller staffs there, so everybody pitches in when you have to. I wrote my first story when Karl Lagerfeld did a 1920’s collection for Chloe. I was the only one who had read a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald, so they said, “ok, you write the story then!” Eventually my curiosity led me to think of all sorts of stories that I could do about fashion and also about other things that would influence fashion. The filmmaking was a direct response to seeing the development of the web though. I wanted to turn my magazine stories into what was then called “rich media”..now I think they just call them “videos.”
SIS: What is your favorite part about your job?
DS: I love to think of the ideas, concepts and then go and gather the information to tell the story. The best feeling is when I get to go somewhere not so open to the public and feel like Im “reporting back” to the world on what I got to see and show that it, too, could have meaning for other people to think about it. I guess thats what bloggers are doing everyday?
SIS: What inspires you everyday?
DS: Beautiful things, beautiful ideas arranged in a sort of compositional order.
SIS: You’ve shot for major magazines and worked with seriously talented actresses, models and designers. What was your favorite experience and why?
DS: Yes, there have been a lot of people, places and things. Anyone who knows me already know this answer…into the archive at Skywalker Ranch. Then lunch. Then spending the afternoon with George Lucas discussing the “tragedy of the Skywalker family” for L’Uomo Vogue. That was my Willy Wonka moment for sure. To have created this incredible mythology that still speaks to generation after generation of fans, to see the “evidence” the actual things that were used to create this fantasy and then discuss with the creator. The funniest part was that until the end I pretended to be very fashion and not care too much about Star Wars at all. That was me acting!
“As the web becomes too full of stuff moving at an even speedier frequency, let there be order and let it be elegant. Let there be squares.”
I love that that is why you’ve chosen to go with the name the Little Squares. Can you explain further what you’re trying to accomplish through your work and your website?
DS: The website keeps changing, evolving. One minute it's just my portfolio, the next week it becomes more like a blog. The Little Squares is kind of like an experiment that Im doing in public. Somethings work and a lot of things don’t. I always think that editorial projects, online or magazines, have to be a collaboration, so Im always open to see what can we do next and who can we do it with.
SIS: If you weren’t working in photography what would you be doing?
DS: I would be talking with friends somewhere about crazy things.
SIS: Where do you see yourself in five years?
DS: I always hope to just keep being able do good work.
SIS: Tell us your top three creative icons, the people you look up to and are most inspired by.
DS: I don’t really like the word “look up to” but if we are being historic, Gertrude Stein (inventor of having all of your friends wanting to pop by for an interesting chat), Alexey Brodovitch (inventor of the double page spread) and Anna Piaggi, who perfected the art of costume, taught me so much and was the most normal person I have ever known in the fashion business.