Dana Boulos’s creative endeavors remind me of a 1920s film reel that keeps exploring a juxtaposed, slightly blurry, and relentless image but a fascinating one at that. She is an inherent pursuer, creating what she envisions with heat and grit. From her photography to her personality, Boulos is a gold filigree. Having created artistic material for Mercedes Benz, Everybody. world, and Cypress the Label, Boulos is also an eminent figure in the film world. With her experience directing eclectic short films such as “Crimson Rose,” “Cam Girl” and a collection of music videos for Courtship, Boulos transformed into a woman with expansive sails.
I met Boulos at her studio in Chinatown, amidst the rain and grey warehouses, as the click of her blue boots foretold her
descent from the stairs. This was the version of Boulos I had dreamed up—the immaculate personality which I first encountered online as a high-school senior, then haphazardly at The Standard Hotel in Los Angeles, and now in the comfort of
her newly renovated studio. Boulos engineered her career by enlisting her entrepreneurial spirit to define her trajectory as a
multi-faceted artist. From her creative process to her whimsical advice on how to discern love from lust, Boulos is
an essential dreamer.
What would you like your photography to project?
Are there any recurring symbols or thematic agents
When I was a kid I always wanted my photographs to seem
like a painting or like an art piece that you would hang.
Nowadays, it’s kind of changed, where I still want them to
be ambiguous and get this “dreamy” look, which I love, yet
I do want it to feel imaginative and different.
It has a sense of the word “ambiguous”
Yeah! Very ambiguous, that was my favorite word as a
kid. But now, I feel like it is still imaginative, and I try to
push the box and make something different. In the realms
of fashion and art, it is hard to create something different. For now, I am really exploring realness. I do not edit
anything in my photographs, if anything enhance the light,
or if someone is freaking out over a pimple, sure, I’ll do it.
I don’t do any retouching— I just want it to be real and
reflective of the culture of America..
On Style... fashion and furniture is a sculptural aspect of
your creative work. Define your favorite articles.
As for furniture, I love space age—the 1960’s space age
type of look. It is so futuristic, almost feels like it should be
in a Star Trek set. As for articles of clothing, I love shoes.
My favorite shoes are Mary Janes. I’ve always had them.
I always like to get a shoe shot, no matter what project. I
think you can tell a lot from someone’s shoes—the type of
personality they are, it is so strange but it is very much so.
It is also the first shot in some movies when you establish an important
character, get their shoe, and then you see who they are.
The hardest thing is not when you work on your own and
create your own specific vision, but when you are hired for
a brand. Some people say, “Hey, we want to hire you, we
love your aesthetic we are such huge fans, can you shoot
this campaign or lookbook?” and then show you examples
of other people’s work... and they ask you to imitate it exactly. That is sometimes a struggle, and you have to be kind
of assertive that the desired project is not my kind of style.
If you want that type of photographer or director go ahead
and hire them because I won’t replicate someone else’s
work. I just think that when it comes to corporate worlds
they do want it to have a specific vibe.
A woman of many concentrations, Boulos asserts her style in a
multitude of media. It is this diversity that makes her a symbol of
the multi-talented creative conductor. She has constructed her life around the essence of complete artistic freedom. The boundaries of one
occupation (such as filmmaker or photographer) have no sharp edges in
You seem to balance several roles. How has your
modeling background informed your work behind the
First of all, I make every single model stretch before we
start. The only reason why is because I always tend to get
them in the weirdest angles that they’re like “oh, this looks
cool but my neck is going to explode!” So I make them
stretch and we go through poses together. I do like to give
someone a direction so I can get the desired visual from
their face. So if I’m like, “you are going to be a sad alien
today that just landed on earth, go!” and then they are like,
“oh, ok...” and suddenly, a tear just appears! I think you
just have to be comfortable to be weird. Because I have
done a lot of modeling and have always tried different
types of angles and postures that aren’t the standard, photographers have usually liked it... I know how the camera
will capture angles because I am behind and infront of it.
It is better to have more direction than less direction is all I
have to say.
How do you go about the creation of music videos and
short films, as they are very different and yet you have
the same directorial role. Enlighten us on your process...
For music videos, I personally like to listen to the song
like a million times, I kid you not. I’ll probably just have
a vision, just right then and there with little elements. If it
is water, or scribbles, or whatever it could be and then I
begin to develop a plan on what the video is about. With an
artist, I just send it to them. When it gets to companies and
different references I send them a whole deck of what I am
thinking to do: the coloring, the type of cameras we are using, DP (Director of Photography) choices, and everything
we can think of is planned out ahead of time. Music videos
versus movies both have the same aesthetic in the sense that
everything is planned and thought out, even light. In music
videos, I like to do something dark. In film, I do have something dark as well, but you have to do something in order
to tell a story in a limited period of time. You have to be
quick with music videos. Again, it brings back the decision
making, if there’s an issue you have to solve it between
one to two minutes. There is no time because everything is
planned out and money is involved.
What you learned on your own...
A lot, it is ridiculous. I think believing in yourself, that is
number one. Just to keep pushing. I am the type of person that just does not give up. Even if a video or photo is not getting released by the other party I will find ways to
persuade them to get it released and I know it will look
amazing and people aren’t always as open to things. I
learned not to give up. I work really hard to the point that
I am usually in my studio from 7am to 10pm and I learned
to not schedule all things during the same day. I’ve learned
to take days off, or try to.
What others taught you...
Others have taught me that your opinion really matters. I
am assertive, but I’ve learned to be more assertive. To make
sure no one is really stepping on you. I learned a lot of
entrepreneurial terms. I have learned to never just say, “yes,
I will do everything for free.” No, everything has a price to
it. Clients think they can get a lot out of you for being so
young and for being a female.
What you may teach others...
Never, ever give up. I think that not alot of people are
ambitious in life and you just have to make it happen and
no one is going to do that for you. That is something that
is very important—and I always try to teach my interns
that no one is going to feed you. One will have to learn and
struggle on their own. The most important thing is just to
jump into it, get an internship or contact your mentors and
be like, “How did you do it? What do I have to do?” Just
make it happen. I’ve been drinking some mocha drinks, and
when I untwist the cap, a fortune appears. This one had a
specific slogan: “good things happen to those who hustle” and that
is something I bring up to clients and everyone... you have
to hustle to get what you want in life.
“Transitioning from more of the process to the personal, Dana illustrates
below matters more close to the heart.”
How to know if it is not a fling or not...
I can tell if someone is serious or just a casual thing. Usually, I was really casual just because I don’t have time to
deal with the bullshit, I have goals and I am a dreamer. In
a partner, even if it is casual, usually if it is someone I am
really interested in, they have to be a dreamer. They have
to be thinking of what they are doing, if they are a writer
or a producer, they really have to have a dream, a vision
of exactly what they want to get in life. They have to be a
What would you tell your nineteen year old self?
“Don’t worry, don’t stress. You will be doing exactly what
you want to do in life. At nineteen, I wanted to do photography but I was going up the corporate ladder in retail and
I was an audit for stores and I would say, “Dana do not
worry about retail, that is not you, you are not going to be
stuck there.” I learned how to manage people, I know in
five minutes as a hiring manager if someone was of quality
or if they were a bullshitter—never bullshit a bullshiter,
number one rule. I would tell myself don’t worry, focus on
directing. You should have been focusing on film and not
wasting your time at fashion school. You learn more when
you are working than when you are in school. Because I
juggle so many roles, primarily, what I want to focus on is
directing. Again, I go back to that line, “good things come
to those who hustle” so if I hustle a bit more, I can make
directing full time so I don’t have to juggle different jobs at
the same time.
Boulos taught me to pursue, relentlessly, that which the mind creates.
A sacred interior space, it is the visions of the mind that become materialized, and in Boulos’s case, the primary template to assert creative
control. Boulos’s collective work can be viewed at danaboulos.com