All The Way Up With MISSBISH Renell Medrano
Even before graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2014, photographer Renell Medrano had already won The New York Times Lens Blog Award, had her work shown in a group exhibition at a museum in St. Petersburg, and had snagged a coveted internship within Harpers Bazaar's photo department. Fast forward and 24-year-old Medrano is currently the creative on everyone's lips, as well as every street style photographer's dream. She's the official BFF of your favorite young illuminati and was also the photographer behind Kylie Jenner's Turks and Caicos birthday photos that pretty much broke the internet. But one of the most interesting things about Medrano's work is that in addition to catching the perfect candid of your favorite cool kid, she's also able to take photos of routine places and spaces (like an empty basketball court or the inside of an airplane) and make them look just as enticing.
Born and raised in NYC, Medrano loves how the city allows her to constantly be on her toes and keeps her inspired no matter which neighborhood she visits. She specifically has a love for her home, the Bronx. "If I can shoot more in the Bronx I would, I love the culture and the rawness about it," she says. "But I love how I can go anywhere in New York and make it my backdrop."
Medrano opted to take the freelance route after graduating from Parsons and says that everything has been a "domino effect ever since." She created some epic album artwork for artists like Justine Skye, A$AP FERG, and H.E.R., worked on set with Houston rapper Travis Scott, and started her own company called Ice Studios. Originally created just for fun, there was always the hope to eventually turn the company into a larger creative agency. Since its launch, the Ice Studios brand has continued to grow and with help from a limited run of merch, which has been seen on fashion tastemakers and friends like Aleali May, Adesuwa Waaighewi, and Kalysse Anthony (to name a few). This inaugural run of hoodies and tees sold out almost immediately, and comments posted to Medrano's Instagram continue to reflect a public thirst for another round.
"I will be releasing a lot more stuff very soon," she says. "I'm no fashion designer but I've always wanted to recreate all of the vintage pieces that my parents were wearing back in their days, so maybe I'll start there. Who knows what I'll do..."
So far Medrano has been a part of some pretty cool collaborations including good looks with Nike Sportswear, a portrait photo series in partnership with HBO's Insecure, and an editorial spread titled "Harlem Beat" for Elle Magazine Indonesia. Her favorite projects are usually her personal ones, though, where she can "create stuff but still be inspired by others." One specific project that centers directly on this outside influence is her "Untitled Youth" photography series.
"'Untitled Youth' was fun to shoot for the fact that I had creative freedom for this project and that's an artist's dream," she says. "I shot these four teenage girls who resided in the Bronx and who were best friends. I was infatuated with them because a piece of them reminded me of myself. I was raised in the Bronx, but never got the freedom to experience it the right way, so I pretty much lived vicariously through the girls. I was attached to them for two years documenting their lives: hanging out, parties, intimate moments, etc. I was going for a raw feel for this project. I wanted the audience to feel as if they were there with them, too."
“New York has allowed me to constantly be on my toes and keep me inspired wherever I go."
Medrano obviously has good taste and a good eye for talent, and with a preexisting penchant for shooting fashion brands that she grew up on, admits to having an obsession with nostalgia and natural old school "babes" from the 1970s-1990s eras. She lists nostalgia-infused Virgomood as one of her favorite Instagram feeds to follow, and understands the importance of this particular social channel when it comes to our media consumption habits today.
"We want everything fast. We want to be able to sum up a person by just scrolling through their Instagram, and it sucks," she said. "But it's the world we live in. I try to use my Instagram as a portfolio... and to me I like to look at my Instagram as a big mood board. Without the internet there would be no outlet."
Medrano also lists Tumblr as one of her "go-to" platforms and one that she still uses today as a constant stream of multimedia inspiration. When asked who of her personal inspirations she would love to shoot the most, she lists Nas, Aaliyah ("love how she inspired people and did it with style"), and Pharell as her go-tos.
"Those three have had an influential impact on me, even if it was from style aesthetic to being such an inspiring individual. They all have great character and that's what I love about shooting a subject."
So who should be on our radar this year? The photographer answered simply, "My friends. We're an interesting group, and this is the year we do the most."
If her Instagram channel is any indication of her circle - Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Kendall Jenner, Jordyn Woods, Justine Skye - there's no doubt that this will be a big year for the group. What to expect specifically from Medrano?
"More work, more collaborations, bigger things." We'll be looking out for it.
If you're based in NYC, make sure you check out her work at En Foco's "The Next Generation of Bronx Photographers" exhibit up for a full month beginning on February 24 (more info here).
Photos by: Carmen Chan