Q&A: Graham Oakley Takes Paris

We wanted to share the story of a member of The Hub, Graham Oakley. Graham is an amazing fashion photographer that has left his home of Orlando for the summer to live in Paris. While he is overseas he is shooting photos for major brands and agencies and essentially just living the photographer’s dream. Graham inspires us and we hope he can inspire you as well.

Q: Moving to Paris from Orlando is HUGE. How’d you decide to do it?
A: Moving to another country is never an easy decision, unless there’s someone you love already there; which makes the decision just a little easier. My girlfriend, and fellow photographer,
Charlotte Bergan, moved to France at the beginning of the year and has been working remotely at her IT position. Simultaneously, she has been kicking ass with her camera. Earlier this year, I found myself unhappy at my current job, and being away from Charlotte didn’t help. There were definitely some internal and external struggles when the decision came to move away from Orlando. Back home in Orlando, I have a great partnership with Jacob Shepherd. The two of us came together to build Silver Lace Wedding Co., our own wedding photography company.

Charlotte and I had talked about me moving and spending at least a year together abroad, on the contingency I was able to acquire a long stay visa, which I soon found out was a much tougher accomplishment than I had hoped. Fast forward a few months to last March, I had now gone down to Miami twice to the French consulate and was denied twice with insufficient information to acquire a long stay work visa. So at this point I took what I could get which was a three month tourist visa. I felt that this three months would be a great amount of time to spend and build a great relationship with this woman, as well as get a great taste of the European photography culture. In the end it wouldn’t have been a lot of time away from my Silver Lace responsibilities.

The time had come to pack up one big suitcase (basically all the clothes I owned) and my camera bag, and hop on a plane. It took a good nine hours to cross the big pond, there were two good movies watched and a nice ole nap taken, and when I woke up I found myself in Paris. Let’s fast forward one more time, now I’m in a new photography market where no one knows who I am. If it wasn’t for Charlotte already setting some grounds here in Paris, this would’ve been much harder. With her being here almost six months she had been making great connections at various modeling agencies around the city. When I got into town I hit the ground running, or in this case hit my keyboard hard and got to typing and shooting out emails to all these agents.

Q: How has the experience been so far?
A: It was a pretty exciting time to really come into a new market and show who I was as an artist to some of the biggest agencies in the world. At this point I have a nice set of test shoots in the bag with Metropolitan Management and MP Models. I was also honored to work with a great American fashion brand,
Tory Burch, and had free reigns in the store pulling from her new collection for a styled shoot. You can find a few of the shots from that shoot on their Instagram.

So now we find ourselves in October, I’m with the love of my life, in the City of Love. I’m doing everything in life I want to do, and just photographed Paris Fashion Week. If there’s one thing in life right now that I’ve learned it’s to take risk. To live a life of “what ifs” is not a life worth living.”

This year Graham released a photo book titled Trust.

“This project began with a simple shoot of a woman trying to break her self-conceived barriers. With little experience in front of the camera, she trusted Graham behind it to capture her in her most simple state. The outcome was beautiful. While she went on to live her dream as a successful model in New York City, the experience influenced me to continue the collection. I’m grateful to these women for their bravery, confidence, and Trust. 

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