EITHER AND: A Conversation with Jenna Saraco and Nicole Steriovski
Jenna Saraco and Nicole Steriovski are two power women behind Either And, a content creation studio with shop-able editorials. Their complementary creative eye and unique skill sets enable them to create holistic yet emotive works. In this conversation, Jenna and Nicole speak on the dream-like quality of their creative portrayals of the modern woman, the recurring dreams they have, and their dreams for the future.
What does Either And mean to you, Jenna and Nicole?
Nicole: When we picked the name we wanted it to sound strong, but not overpower the work we do. Either And felt soft and strong in tone both when reading quietly and speaking the words aloud. We thought “Either And” was also encompassing of the skill sets that we both have gathered working on this project. We have always had our hand in many aspects of both the business and creative. People mentioned it would be more beneficial to our careers if we pick one specific direction, and we had trouble with that. So we think Either And is kind of tongue-in-cheek in that “jenna is a photographer and a graphic designer” and “I am an art director and make moving images” either/and/in addition to the other roles we fill to keep the business moving forward. So I think literally that is what the words mean to us. More conceptually it’s a place for our creative ideas/visions to live and for us to engage with our audience through the mediums we work with.
Jenna: Yeah, I think Either And is a place for our creative ideas to live. I think what Nicole said is very true that it is a platform for all of our interests and skills to come to life. We can do a photography project or we can make moving image or sell beautiful clothing or feature another artist in our journal. It is a place where we have this creative freedom to showcase many aspects of our personal creative skill sets and be involved in a community.
Nicole: Either And has become its own little world now because we have such a specific visual language. The site has become a curated space that gives our work direction and lets us explore our interests without limitation.
What are both of your roles in this company?
Jenna: We both wear many hats. But I guess if we had to break it down, I do the photography and the design.
Nicole: While we are co-creative directors of the brand and projects we take on, I specifically do the day-of art direction as well as moving image production/editing. Jenna and I are learning to shoot at the same time to provide both still imagery and moving images because we think they compliment each other when presented together to get a more complete idea of our work. We both have a hand in production; Jenna has a better eye for location scouting and I really enjoy casting. If needed we both can collaborate on styling for clients as well.
Jenna: There’s just two of us so we’re really wearing all the hats and we’re really doing our best every day to sustain a creative agency and online store. And we are both buyers for the store, so that is also a fun hat to wear!
Do you soley photograph women? Do you think your body of work plays a role in the feminist movement?
Jenna: We do sort of solely photograph women, yes. We are very much inspired by the female figure and how a woman’s body moves and how clothes drape on a woman’s body. Much of our work has been female driven and female focused over the last five years. It just feels most natural to us. We really want to present women as strong. In casting, we always naturally gravitate towards women that identify with our brand. We are starting to recognize our ‘Either And' women - visually that is, models we can relate to on a personal level as well as a creative level. We like the nuances in each character we cast, and we really lean toward models that show a lot of personality when we are working together. The model is a very important part of the creative process for us.
Nicole: We are choosing a certain view of a modern woman to represent our brand and our vision. It’s very important to us that our models feel strong and feel comfortable in their own skin which is the same message we want to convey to our customer. She embodies what we feel is feminine, but also empowering and moving. The ‘Either And’ woman owns her femininity and it’s presented through a lens that she would want to be seen in, not how she thinks she is supposed to be seen. We are inspired by certain aspects of menswear and challenging these feminine and masculine aspects through styling, photography and casting. It’s always a balance of these two ideas in our work. In the end I think it was natural for us to choose women over men especially in direction of the store. Although, we do think our clothes can be fairly unisex, and they aren't specifically targeted towards women. I guess in the end we just enjoy shooting models identifying as woman at the moment but are not necessarily against incorporating male or gender fluid models in the future.
Jenna: I think with our presence on the internet and Instagram, it’s adding to this movement even if its not self proclaimed. It’s a feminist driven idea that we’ve come to be known for in portraying a strong sensual-ish woman.
In many of your works, the face is often hidden in some way whether that be in the tilt of the head or by a garment. Is this art direction a conscious choice?
Nicole: Originally, it was a conscious choice. Originally, Jenna and I shot each other before we could afford or convince a model to shoot with us. So we pretty distinctively covered our faces because we liked the shapes that our hair and face tilts made in contrast of trying to make our mouth or eyes look more agreeable and relaxed. Eventually it just became ingrained in our work. We found it to be another interesting way to tell a story through shapes and the model as part of the environment.
Jenna: Yeah, I think the tilt of the head or the hair blocking the face is also what happens when you move and we use movement a lot in our direction of our work. Dance movement feels natural to photograph. I think the shapes of the body when moving are what are more interesting to us. So, we end up selecting images where the face is obscured because of that. It’s become sort of a hallmark.
What does simplicity mean to you both?
Jenna: Simplicity means, to me, the best solution creatively to whatever project you’re working on, although that’s pretty vague I guess.
Nicole: No, it makes a lot of sense. I have trouble answering this question. I think this past year I’ve been considering perspective quite often and I’ve been trying to see things differently than I might have on gut reaction. I’m really captivated by people who can live in a simple way and can understand the word ‘simplicity’. But, it’s always been a difficult term for me to grasp because I recognize all the decisions and thought behind a simple idea. An idea might appear simple or can live within the boundaries of simplicity but still can be more complicated than that word even offers. An apparently simple solution is the result of the same amount of decision making as a maximalist approach. So I’m still figuring out what simplicity means to me. I think Jenna has a better grasp on it and it’s kind of a guide for me.
Jenna: Yeah, I mean you can’t have one without the other. It’s not always the best solution or it’s not always what we are seeking.
Nicole: I was watching a movie the other night and it said “chaos and order are the same.” I believe chaos and order are often the same.
Jenna: I think the process of getting to both places is the same. It’s the process to get the most simplistic answers to the most complicated things.
The softness of the photos reminds me of a dream. What is a recurring dream you both have?
Nicole: We choose for the photos to feel soft because memory plays an important role for us in our body of work. We like to capture the moments in-between and where we are almost like the twice removed observer.
Nicole: I have a lot of dreams. I should start a dream journal. The most recurring one is water creeping up on me and washing over me or leaking into the places where I am sleeping or spending time. A lot of water dreams. Also, when I am around bodies of water it feels really connected to my dreams.
Jenna: I’ve always been interested in the idea of photograph versus a memory. Sometimes they are one and the same and sometimes they are not the same at all. You see a photograph and you know that the event happened because there’s a physical photograph, you think you remember but you actually could never have remembered it at all. There’s a psychological process when you feel you have certain memories. Yeah, I think we both play on nostalgia and that sense of voyeurism. That dream-like quality in our work.
Nicole: Do you have a dream that reoccurs?
Jenna: Not really any more. Maybe I just don't remember them anymore.
Nicole: You keep having baby dreams.
Jenna: Oh yeah, I always have baby dreams. I always have dreams that I have a baby in New York City and I leave it on the subway or I lose it or forget it somewhere. It’s super stressful. That’s the only one.
What are dreams you two have for the future?
Nicole: Ultimately, we want our content creation services to become recognized as a digital agency. We want the store to keep expanding into this visual creative platform for us and people we admire via collaborations.
Jenna: Yea, I think have the platform grow and become more like an online publication.
Nicole: Yea we would love to put together a presentation where the photography and the visual and the print and moving image and tactile pieces [inventory] can all merge and be in one space together. It would be a dream to have our audience or customer engage with it on a more complete level. We are really interested in creating the “Either And” world for people to live in with us temporarily or attract those who feel akin to it. That is a big goal we’ve been talking about for long time now.
Jenna: And continuing to create more projects and just create more.
Nicole: I think eventually we’d like Either And to stand on its own feet as a concept retail store. People are starting to get to know “Jenna Saraco” the photographer and “Nicole Steriovski” the art director, so Either And can be our baby. We’re the creators.
Jenna: I hope I don’t leave it on the train.
ALL PHOTOS VIA EITHER AND