There’s more to it than point-and-shoot. Mason Maengkom, photographer at KITH, is a prime example of how young professionals are now more than ever infiltrating all sectors of the fashion world.
Maengkom first came to the camera through a girl he was dating who happened to be a photography major. “She introduced me to the DSLR, and I found joy in negotiating with the camera; I took charge of seeing, and the camera took charge of recording,” Maengkom explained. Since then he began to expand his portfolio through freelance gigs and shooting his friends, before landing at KITH.
In recent years, the streetwear fashion genre has transitioned from its urban scene to high fashion. Work from notable designers such as Ye and Virgil Abdohl has helped officially catalyze this shift, not to mention internet opinions crying for more diversity and recognition in the couture limelight. Maengkom added to this notion by commenting on the small differences between photographing footwear/streetwear and high fashion. “At the end of the day, we are photographing a thing to communicate a message. I will say though, that the audiences differ. It’s important to know the audience as this informs teams what creative brief will resonate the best. As a photographer trying to merge art and commerce, you have to know what – for lack of a better term – looks cool. Certain poses and image treatments might not fly in a fast fashion store, but would be interesting to a capital F fashion house,” Maengkom said.
Maengkom’s day in the life as a Kith photographer starts with a boosted board ride into the Williamsburg flagship store. He artistically smokes a cigarette on the street and grabs his coffee before prepping for the rest of his workday, “I take inventory of what footwear needs to be photographed for editorials and special projects, and build small mood boards to communicate with the art director how and why I’d like to photograph something,” Makengkom shared.
However, an average day can vary depending on the ongoing multiple-day shoots and or new pressing collaborations. At Kith, their motto is “may the best idea win,” so when it comes to ideating new shoots for products, the creative team by default always has a go-getter drive. Maengkom put it this way, “Well the craziest shoot any photographer conceptualizes is always the one they haven’t done yet.”
“The craziest [shoot] I’ve done would probably be something I did with Footlocker. I remember having water being poured onto a shoe and having to figure out the technicalities of pulling that off,” Makengkom shared. His time at Kith has led him to collaborate with big names as well as some of his inspirations.
“I’ve already collaborated with this individual, but I’d like to more; Alvin Manalo, a set designer living here in NYC. He’s done some great set design for brands like Aime Leon Dore, Kith with myself, and other heavy hitters in the streetwear world.”
The simple components to make a great shoot session for Maengkom would be as pictured: a great producer and production assistant. And making sure everyone is fed. “You’ll have a hard time making great images when a model is hungry,” Makengkom said. After countless snaps and another smoke break and meeting, Makengkom often concludes his workday by getting drinks at a local Soho bar with his other very stylish friends.
As a true creative, Makengkom’s work doesn’t stop when he’s off the clock. Makengkom continually shoots on the street and pursues freelance work which gives him more power with his vision. Whereas “at Kith, my job is to stay within the bounds of a visual language and push it as far as I can,” Makengkom explained.
Further, Makengkom is looking to build a production agency. At the moment, it’s a great work in progress and Makengkom is taking bits and pieces of insightful fashion business knowledge from Kith to propel him. With the TikTokification and the imminent doom of fast fashion, brands are struggling to stay apposite. “A lot of big Fortune 500 companies found a lot of success with product stories, which definitely worked out when they were starting, but I feel like they fall flat trying to capture the younger audience who will soon be voting with their dollar,” Makengkom shared. Makengkom’s got big plans, plans that no doubt will end up on New York billboards and scaffolding. And he’s got what it takes to execute them. His photographs will capture you, taking you instantly out of time, and keeping him relevant.
Written by Anna Carlson from GLITCH Magazine