Fourth-year media production student Bianca Scarlato saw herself in front of the camera as an actor and singer before she fell into the online world of Instagram. The fourth-year RTA student had Broadway aspirations, but now she has become a sought-after Toronto photographer. She entered the realm of professional photography just over two years ago.
Her career reached another level this August when Scarlato, who used to stack boxes to take photos of herself on self-timer in her bedroom, was asked by P. Diddy’s tour photographer to shoot the American rapper’s Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour at the Air Canada Centre. She was given full access to the venue and took candid photos of P. Diddy backstage.
Her Instagram page serves as an ever-evolving portfolio that has caught the eye of over 11,000 followers. Social media has broken down the hierarchy in many creative industries. Many creatives now get hired through their accounts. “Instagram is actually my LinkedIn,” Scarlato said.
Her work is now in the spotlight because of the photo-sharing app. “Every job I’ve ever gotten is through Instagram. I don’t have a resume,” she said.
Fake it until you make it
An internship at MTV Fora in 2014 altered Scarlato’s career. While there, she met Dani Roche and Bianca Venerayan of Kastor & Pollux, a Toronto digital experiences agency. Scarlato found herself surrounded by people doing innovative work, which motivated her to do the same. “It changed my whole life, it was crazy,” she said.
Scarlato started dabbling with Instagram by exploring the city and taking photos on her iPhone. People started reaching out to her, commending her eye for photography and, eventually, she upgraded by borrowing her father’s Canon Rebel T5i.
She was able to book gigs with little knowledge of how to use her newly acquired camera. “I was shooting on auto on my camera for a very long time and no one knew,” she said. “I didn’t know what anything was, I didn’t know what ISO was for a very long time.” When it became apparent that photography was the direction her career was taking she decided to spend more time honing her craft.
During this period, Toronto label Peace Collective, known for their “Toronto vs. Everybody” T-shirts, reached out to her in their early days to become their brand ambassador. She’s now one of their main photographers.
Scarlato’s career took many strides throughout 2016. She was invited to cover the WayHome Music & Arts Festival, featured in a gallery series hosted by Red Bull and was one of the few people in Toronto to get early access to shoot Kanye West’s Life of Pablo fashion collection.
As a “photographer-brand influencer-model,” Scarlato is part of a growing number of young creators called multi-hyphenates.Everything she creates is rooted in photography and visual storytelling.
“I feel like I don’t necessarily have to define what I am,” she said.
She’s not alone in that sentiment. Having the freedom to flit between different industries is appealing to millennials in a rough job market.Not satisfied with pigeonholing themselves into one career, they choose to take on many.
Scarlato said that her work as a freelance photographer “feels good, but it’s hard because it’s so random. One month you’ll make a lot of money and the next month you won’t.”
She’s used to running around the city doing photo shoots while finishing her final year of university.
“It’s a very hard balance, especially because it’s social media,” she said.”It doesn’t stop.”