Meet the Photographer Taking Pictures of All of L.A.'s Cool Kids
Daria Kobayashi Ritch opens up about how to make it as a professional fashion photographer in the Instagram age.
Daria Kobayashi Ritch is a mouthful of a name that you're about to hear a lot more often.
The 25-year-old photographer's uncanny ability to capture both the optimism and the angst of her favorite subject — artsy youth — has put on her on the radar of Nylon, i-D, GQ, Rolling Stone Germany and countless other indie mags, as well as brands like Garrett Leight, Calvin Klein and Pull & Bear. She was recently tapped by Marc Jacobs to capture the atmosphere of his Beverly Hills event for Daisy fragrance, and a week later, traveled to the Santa Monica mountains to photograph talent at Dior’s Cruise show.
Her casting sensibilities and knack for finding the coolest person in the room have landed her street style assignments for Vogue, and even her celebrity subjects all have an undeniable air of indie, quirky charm in common. Cole Sprouse, Haim, Jesse Jo Stark, Rowan Blanchard, Clementine Creevy, Amandla Stenberg and Sasha Lane — even Kim Gordon and her daughter, Coco Gordon Moore, are among the creative (and woke) subjects who have stepped in front of Ritch’s mostly film cameras. (She prefers the Contax G2 and Mamiya 645.)
Yet as extensive as it is, you might be surprised to learn that Ritch’s portfolio is only two years old. Her first big gig, a 10-page beauty spread for Nylon, was completed in 2015 while she was still finishing up her BFA in photography from Art Center College of Design, which she transferred to after two years at UCLA.
Her overnight rise, she says, is largely due to social media. “I’m really glad that Instagram exists because I don’t think that I’d be where I’m at without it,” Ritch notes over an iced latte and a burger on a cloudy Tuesday in Culver City. “Once a certain group of people began seeing my account, and I was tagged in photos — it just started propelling me forward. Almost every job I get they say, ‘Oh, I’ve been following you for a while.’”
However, as helpful as coming of age in the internet era has been, there are, of course, frustrations — and not just when a model reposts her work with a funky crop or an unnecessary extra filter. “It’s hard being taken seriously in a mass of really horrible work — everyone’s a photographer now,” she says, cringing. Ritch goes on to describe the embarrassment that comes with telling people what she does for a living. “Even when people tell me that they’re a photographer, I’m like ‘Oh, you’re that type.’ It’s horrible, but that’s automatically what I think, so I know other people go there too.”
But with her sun-drenched L.A. aesthetic, she’s managed to stand out, even as the competition multiplies. "For me, I want to feel like I can relate to the people in the photo," says Ritch of her "pretty low-tech," portrait-focused shooting style.
"I want to see a depth and authenticity in them,” she continues. “I try to find those in-between moments when you catch them off-guard. I like the imperfect. Everything is so manufactured and digital now, so it’s nice to find photos that are so real." She references the work of heroes like Alasdair McLellan, Cass Bird and her Art Center professor Paul Jasmine, as inspiration.
Ritch is often compared to fellow girl-gaze contemporaries like Petra Collins, who recently photographed a Gucci eyewear campaign and also starred in the brand’s new fragrance campaign alongside Hari Nef and Dakota Johnson. Unlike Collins, however, Ritch isn’t interested in becoming a brand herself.
When asked if she’d ever consider leveraging her almost 50,000 Instagram followers to become an influencer who steps in front of the camera on a regular basis, her answer is immediate and decisive: “No.”
“I really hate taking photos of myself,” she admits with a laugh. Though she'd prefer off-camera invisibility, for the sake of furthering her career, she recognizes that might not be an option.
"There’s a difference between celebrity photographers and other photographers — that’s what I’m trying to navigate through at the moment, because [these days] you kind of have to be someone,” she says of the industry’s expectation that fashion creatives share their lives on social media a la Eva Chen or any number of the Instagirl models. “[Followers] want to know who you are.” Surely, if she should change her mind, Ritch could easily build a following with her signature aesthetic: Short bangs, an affinity for ‘90s wire choker necklaces and winged eyeliner.
The pressure to become a brand is often coupled with the pressure to diversify, and more and more of Ritch's digital age-born peers continuously tack on titles — from influencer to videographer to stylist (and more often than not, DJ, to the chagrin of those with ears). Ritch, however, has found a happy compromise between the pressure to diversify and the pull to stay true to her artistry.
Over the past several months, she has worked with fellow L.A.-based creatives (stylist Sean Knight, cinematographer Marz Miller and essayist Chris Kidd) on a series of short films, which Ritch directed and cast. The independent projects are created with the hopes of receiving editorial coverage, as well as finished products to add to her portfolio.
“I’m not really sure what end I have with them — they’re kind of just fun,” she says. “But almost everyone I talk to in any meeting that I go to talks about the videos. I’m like, 'OK, I guess that’s something that I’m going to be working on.'”
With nearly every other major fashion house releasing short films — from Kenzo to Burberry to Gucci — the move is a smart one. “[Major fashion houses are] creating these very editorial and beautiful art pieces, and I really want to be a part of that,” she notes.
In the immediate future, Ritch has no plans to leave Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, though she’s in talks to gain representation outside the city.
"For now, I’m just taking things as they come."