Student chases photography dreams to Big Apple

Madeline Deabler

Former WSU student Jesse Skupa made his dreams of becoming a fashion photographer a reality when he got accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.

Skupa said the acceptance rate for FIT is only 43 percent, so when he found out he made the cut, he couldn’t believe the news.

“I applied and when I found out I got in, I was so thrilled, and only 1,000 or so apply every year,” he said. “Now I’m a sophomore and my class only has 75 students and now I live 5 minutes from Times Square.”

Skupa initially considered moving to another college to further his career as a fashion photographer. He said he joined FIT because it was considered one of the best fashion photography schools in the nation and it provided a real world environment.

“FIT is very much a networking school; this college is set in much more of a professional world, I mean, it’s in New York City,” Skupa said. “For instance, wearing sweats to class at WSU was okay, but at FIT, it’s unheard of, especially since you never know who you could meet. Like the other day I met a photographer who shoots for Adidas and Food Network, so you always have to be on your A-game and looking your best.”

 Looking back from when he first started, Skupa said his involvement in the online non-profit organization 4H was what got him started.

“I’ve probably shooting since I was 9. I would compete at county and state fairs and win awards,” he said. “4H was an outlet to help me understand photography.”

After his involvement in state and county competitions, Skupa decided to open his on photography business when he was just 14 years old.

 “I think I made a name for myself, I pushed it and I was always submitting my photos to places,” he said. “It was also people like my mom and friend that gave me support to believe in myself.”

After shooting photos for a while, Skupa said he didn’t find his love for fashion photography until he was scouted as a model himself.

“I originally got scouted by Models and Images, and after being in front of the camera for so long, I really got inspired by the photographers that were behind the camera. That’s when I started doing more fashion photography and portraits.”

When comparing his life back when he lived in Wichita and went to WSU to now when he lives hundreds of miles away, Skupa said the environments are completely different.

“Just like New York City, FIT is very fast-paced. I felt more freedom at WSU, in a more relaxed way. There are a lot of things I miss about Wichita though,” Skupa said. “Owning a car up here is unheard of. I had to sell my car for $3,000 to buy a $2,400 laptop I needed for school here.”

Though Skupa said he doesn’t know what will happen in his future, he is always looking for ways to get better.

“People always ask me if my dream was always to go to New York City. But for me it didn’t matter where I went as long as it was a good program,” he said. “In 5 to 10 years I could still be here or I may be back in Kansas. I just want to do a work that makes me happy and ideally I want to work ad campaigns and magazines.”

Though moving to New York City seemed scary at first, Skupa said it was one of the best decisions he ever made and encourages people to move to the places they dream of.

“I know so many people back in Kansas that have the talent and ability to do great things, but I have seen a lot of them settle,” he said. “I just want people to follow their dreams and go for what they want in life.”