We are thrilled to feature Diana Levine in our “I Was a Creative Intern” series. Diana is a freelance photographer who began her career interning at magazines. Her clients include Aol, Converse, MTV, Rolling Stone, and multiple record labels, ad agencies and magazines. She has photographed an impressive number of celebrities (yes, including Kim Kardashian) for someone so young and still makes time to donate her talents to events like RecordSetter’s benefit for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
How many internships have you had, and where?
Before becoming a photographer, I interned for Jane Magazine at Conde Nast, in the photography department, under Jennifer Miller and Ashley Macknica, and prior to becoming the Designer at Boston Magazine, I had interned under Lena Watts and Bob Parsons in the Art Department.
What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a result of an internship?
One cool thing that happened through my internship at Boston Magazine was that it turned into a fulltime job immediately after college, when they hired me as the Designer and staff photographer. I learned so much during my time on staff at the magazine, both in terms of design and photography. Being a staff photographer is a really nice transition between school and becoming a freelance photographer fulltime, because it gives you a period where you’re only thinking about the photography itself, and not about the business end. It’s kind of like boot camp for photography, because you’re constantly shooting different assignments, in different situations. Plus, because I was designing and art directing, I learned firsthand what exactly an art director or designer needs in photography.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that you did/happened to you during an internship?
The only reason I’m having a hard time answering this question is because there are so many stories to choose from! Probably the silliest is that when I was doing an interview for one of my internships, I was asked what my favorite magazine was. Let’s rewind a little – I’ve always been obsessed with magazines. I’ve collected them from all around the world, and even had my favorite issues alphabetized in my shelf at home. I had notebooks filled with layouts and photos I loved from different magazines. I would spend hours upon hours, looking through every magazine I could get my hands on at Barnes and Noble. I even started two magazines in college! Back to the interview – I had prepared for it so much, that I almost had my answers memorized, about why I would be a good candidate, about my experience. But, when she asked what my favorite magazine was, for some reason I wasn’t expecting that question, and I totally blanked. I could not think of one magazine title, EVER! It was pretty hilarious, because if I wasn’t so nervous, I could have talked about it for hours. But, my nerves got me, and I think I stalled for about two minutes trying to think of my answer! Luckily, I got the internship, and I doubt the person interviewing me even noticed!
Did you ever do anything over the top to get an internship?
I wanted to intern for Jane Magazine so badly!! I applied through Conde Nast, but never heard back. Instead of being bummed, I pretty much talked to anyone who would listen about it, and I eventually told one of my professors at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Mark Jenkinson, how much I wanted to intern there, and he was able to put me in touch with Ashley Macknica at Jane, and the rest is history! I tell people in college this story a lot, because it’s one of many examples that show that if you really want something, don’t give up after one try!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure this counts as advice I’ve “received” but I’ve never forgotten a quote I heard on the show Nip/Tuck once. Yes, Nip/Tuck! Vanessa Redgrave’s character was talking to her grandson and told him “That’s what’s great about being young – there are no mistakes. There’s only research.” Maybe it’s silly to take inspiration from a soap opera, but hearing that really affected my life. It’s totally okay to try an internship, a job, or a shoot that you’re not 100% certain is what you want to do – it’s even okay to try it and not like it! That’s good information to have – now that you know what you don’t like, you can move on and towards something that you do. Mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing – they can be a huge learning experience.
What’s your favorite part of your current job?
I left my job at the magazine over 3 years ago, moved to New York City, and became a fulltime photographer, and absolutely love it. My favorite part of my job is that it changes every day, and that I’m constantly meeting new people. I love that my life is somewhat of a mystery – I’m always so excited to see what the next week or month is going to bring. What I loved most about working at the magazine was the camaraderie of working so closely with a group of people on a common project – now that I’m a freelancer, I feel like I have that, but with lots of different groups of people. Whether I’m shooting for a record label, a magazine, a brand, an agency, or a media outlet, we’re all working together to create something amazing.
It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. What are you doing?
3pm on a Tuesday… I could be on location or in studio at a photo shoot. I could be glued to my computer processing files to get to a client. I could be in a pre-production meeting with a client, planning out the details of an upcoming shoot. I could be scouting locations for a shoot. I could be at B&H Camera or Adorama picking up new equipment. It all depends on the day.
If you could intern anywhere now, where would you intern?
Good question! I’m not sure if I’d want to intern anywhere, but it sure would be fun to be a fly on the wall at a shoot of one of my favorite photographers, like Peggy Sirota or Annie Leibovitz.
What would you put in an Intern Survival Kit?
I’m sure it’s different in every industry, but in a photography intern’s survival kit, I would put: An iphone with Google Maps, at least two alarm clocks (to avoid oversleeping or lateness!), a pen and paper (to keep a diary of your experiences, and to take notes on everything you’re learning), and a camera! Not just for doing shoots, but for documenting this part of your life. It may seem stressful, not knowing exactly where life is going to take you, but it’s also an amazing time of your life, and you’ll want to look back at it some day! I have photos from when I was interning, and I love looking at all of our pictures, and saying “Wow, she’s now an editor of a magazine! And this girl is now running a super influential non-profit! And look at her, she’s in a really cool band now!”
Knowing what you know now, what is one thing you would have done differently as an intern?
I look back so fondly at my experiences as an intern. If I could change anything, I would probably thank my internship coordinators more! I was extremely lucky to work so closely with Ashley Macknica at Jane Magazine, and Lena Watts at Boston Magazine. Both women were so patient, such incredible teachers, and I honestly believe my life would be very different today, without their guidance during college. Since then, I’ve had interns both at the magazine, and as a photographer, and I always wish I could give them as much as my internship coordinators gave to me.
Do you have any questions for Diana? Ask them in the comments or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.