Can you remember when you first held a camera?
My Grandfather was a keen photography hobbies, he even had a darkroom. When he passed away, his equipment was passed down to me. I remember getting a Kodak Brownie 127 and I still have it today.
What is a childhood image burnt into your mind?
Me sat at the family computer, looking through pages and pages of clipart, finding the selected clipart on discs and making collages for hours on end in paint and photoshop.
Can you tell me an iconic photographer whose work you got very fascinated by? — What did you feel when looking at their images?
It would have to be Irving Penn. His use of hands in portraits really influenced me. Your hands can be so emotive and create structure and shapes in beauty/portraiture. I also love his Flowers book.
Do you think the “male gaze" is a myth?
Photographers, male or female will always photographer their own ideas of “beauty” and I think it’s quite unique to the individual.
What was your first beauty shoot?
Can’t remember what my first ever shoot was. It would have been a test shoot for sure.
What do you love most about Beauty Photography?
Being a voice for women. Shooting lots of different and unique women. Coming together as a team and just creating…. and I love faces.
What do you most hate about Beauty Photography?
I don’t like the old fashioned style of beauty photography, with hard light and heavy retouching. This isn’t representative of what women really look like.
If you would start out now what would you be doing, how would you go about // who would you work with and where would you be aiming?
I think it’s really important to find your team to work with. Choice people for their talent alone, not from what cool magazines they’ve shot because this doesn’t always go hand in hand. You need a team that are as passionate as you are and who you get along with. As a photographers your biggest and best critic will be yourself. So just shoot as much as possible until YOU are happy with your style and vision.
Statistics show that only 1 in 10 of the big money jobs i.e. womenswear-, beauty- and perfume campaigns are shot by women. Is there just no qualified female photographers out there?
I feel like in the last year or two, the female photographers have been killing it. And the darkroom’s I use in London are quite equally balanced between male and female photographers now. You have Lea Colombo, Harley Weir, Coco Capitan, Lena C Emery, Alexandra Leese, Chloe Le Drezen, Laura Coulson, Nadine Ijewere, Ronan Mckenzie, Chieska Fortune Smith, Annie Lai, Charlotte Wales, Steph Wilson, Clara Balzary, Zoe Ghertner, Hanna Moon (just off the top of my head) all unbelievable talents. Yes there are more male photographers at the moment in the industry and a lot of that is down to the path that leads you to becoming a professional photographer…..which is being a photographers assistant. This can mean a lot of manual labour and lifting heavy equipment, and some photographers only want to use male assistants because of this.
One says it takes 10’000 hours to become a master of a craft, how long in hours/days/years did it take you to make a living?
I was a photo assistant and dig tech for 8 years. That’s how I learnt my trade. And then starting out as a photographer is a whole other ball game. Not many people realise that at the beginning a very small part of your work is taking photo’s. You are a producer, retouchers (as you can’t afford one at the beginning), you do all your own marketing, casting, hand printing if you're shooting film, and then finally doing some editorials when you can afford to. It’s a long hard graft but it gets easier once you have an agent and team supporting you.
Who is your female fashion image maker icon and who is your the one to watch?
All of the women I’ve mentioned above are super inspiring I wouldn’t be able to pick a single person. But my one to watch would be Nikki McClarron. I print next to her in Rapideye darkrooms sometimes and not only is she a lovely human but also very talented. Have a look at her series from Tibet. How she captures colour and the softness of her images is beautiful.
Who is your female fashion designer icon and who is your the one to watch?
Iris Van Herpen would have to be one of the most talented designers out there right now. And one to watch would be Supriya Lele, I love seeing different cultures mixed in design. Her pieces are inspired by both british and indian heritage.
What makes you feel comfortable on set?
I'm generally very chilled and don’t get stressed out on set now as I’ve done so many shoots. When I was starting out I was pretty nervous and that was just a self confidence issue and it was more “nerves anticipation”. My assistants will tell you that all I need on set is some good coffee and maybe some chocolate in the afternoon and I’ll be 100.
How important is your team?
As a beauty photographer the Hair stylist and Makeup Artist are so important. I love working with other female artists. Especially my best friend Anna Cofone, who is an amazing hair stylist. Hair in the industry is also very male dominated, and I love to find female hair stylists to support them as well. I have a lot of strong empowered women on set and we all support each other and love creating images together.
What do you say about the charge that all fashion photography is predominantly sexist?
There are photographers who shoot their “perfect” women. Overly sexualised, “perfect” bodies, “perfect” skin, able bodied, and can be very mono-ethic through their portfolios with a lot of retouching. But I feel these photographers are working less and less, as women are becoming more empowered to show inclusivity and more authentic women.
There is a big surge of feminism at the moment - do you think that will affect Fashion & Beauty Photography?
It already has massively. I’m often asked to shoot campaigns with Zero skin retouching now. We are embracing and celebrating are imperfections. The models I get to shoot are more diverse and unique. All shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, scars, birthmarks. It makes my job much more fulfilling to be a part of this shift in the industry.
When I look at your work, I really love your shoot of Veroniek for Harpers NL. What is yours?
Thank you :-) It changes all the time, normally it something I’ve just shot or recently published. I was celebrating Pride month in New York City and did a shoot for i_D. I shot a series of portraits which featured queer models who are “shaping fashion’s future”. Brooklyn had such an amazing atmosphere of love and expectance during this time that it inspired me to shoot this project.
What was your relation to design/fashion/beauty prior to working in this industry? Has it changed?
I started out really young in the industry, so job wise it’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve never had a “normal” job. I was hugely into graphic design software, photoshop, movie making and animation growing up. I spend hours and hours on the computer playing around. Bath were I grow up felt very creative with a big music scene and individuality was celebrated.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given and what advice would you have wished for earlier on in your career?
Most valuable piece of advice for me came from my photography teaching Mr Murphy at school. He told me I needed to go and be an assistant photographer in London. The advice I would have wished for is: You are going to hear “no” a lot at the beginning of your career. No only means no at that present point in time and isn’t indefinite. Just keep on going and never feel disheartened. It’s just one persons opinion which isn’t necessarily correct.