Secrets of Success returns with Vanessa Hollander and Wilson Phillippe, a young couple who together forms Wiissa, a film and photography duo from Miami. Only in college, their work has already been featured in Nylon Magazine and Oyster Magazine, among others. The pair takes photographs that will make you nostalgic for a time you may have never lived, or a place you’ve never visited. We fell in love with the world that Wiissa creates, one of sun-soaked cheer uniforms and poolside lounging, so we caught up with them in LA to ask a few questions.
How did you two first meet?
Vanessa: We both lived on a pretty small island right off of Miami, where basically everyone knew each other so we met through mutual friends when we were 14 and 15 years old. We just met one day and started hanging out.
Wilson: I was born in in France and raised there until I was 7 or 8 and then I moved to Miami.
When did you first pick up photography?
Vanessa: When we were younger we were playing with our cameras, kind of stupid photography, and I was doing stupid little videos on Photobooth with my friends.
Wilson: We loved taking pictures when we first met and then we just got more and more serious about it. We got a Flickr account.
Vanessa: For my 16th birthday Wilson got me a film camera and that’s when started taking even more photos.
At what point did you think it was something that you could pursue professionally?
Wilson: Probably when we moved to New York.
Vanessa: Not until recently in college. Even last year I didn’t think it could happen, but now it’s becoming a reality, which is great.
Did you pursue the commercial aspect of it, or did someone approach you?
Vanessa: For the most part it’s us pursuing it, being active all the time online and trying to go after it, but sometimes people come to us. We had a record label come to us recently and that was exciting.
You work only in film, right?
Wilson: Yeah, sometimes we do video in digital, but for photos it’s all film.
What’s the benefit of using film?
Vanessa: We like the imperfections, the grain.
Wilson: It’s easier to control. It’s much more fun.
Vanessa: Now it’s getting harder with scanning and getting everything developed.
When did you start doing video?
Wilson: Same time as we got into photography.
Vanessa: We would make little videos for ourselves, put them on Vimeo, and then they started to get some views.
Your work seems to take cues from 1970s aesthetically; how did that style develop?
Vanessa: I think our main inspiration has been music, and we listen to a lot of music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, so I think that is where it all comes from. We also look to old advertisements we find online.
What are you listening to right now?
Vanessa: William Onyeabor.
Many people wouldn’t be able to work with their significant other, but you two seem to pull it off quite well. How is that?
Vanessa: I think our personalities are really compatible in a lot of ways. We’re together 24/7. Also, we each have separate roles. Wilson’s more on the technical side with cameras and I like doing more directing. The fact that we’re not interested in the exact same aspects of photography helps us be able to work together well.
Wilson, how did you get into the technical side of things?
Wilson: I studied at SVA for my first year of college in photography and was had to learn the technical side of photography, but I have always been interested in how things work.
Now that you’re doing more commercial work, how would you say that it differs from your personal work? Do you prefer doing one to the other?
Vanessa: We’ve been pretty lucky that the commercial work that we get is in line with our aesthetic. For the most part I think we’d rather do personal work.
Wilson: Some commercial feels like personal work.
I have to ask, what is your secret to success?
Wilson: Social media.
Vanessa: I really think that being active online has been a really big thing for us. Almost every commercial work we’ve gotten has been through social media, specifically Instagram.