Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m 31 years old and grew up in South East London, which is where I have lived most of my life. I now live with my beloved partner and our lovely dog, Koji, in Essex. The things I love most in life are quite simply people, animals and nature. My spare time is spent walking in nature, cooking, reading, writing, taking photos, swimming, running and spending time with my friends and family. All of these things lift my mood like nothing else and support me in facing any challenges life brings.
It’s important for me to advocate for mental health and for more understanding of neurodivergence so I am proud to say that I was diagnosed with ADHD in January 2022 and am always happy to talk about this, to give people more of an understanding and help towards challenging any stereotypes and stigmas. Alongside this I advocate for people with mental health challenges, especially as I have PTSD and got great support from a charity which has enabled me to start living my life to the fullest. For the last two years I have been raising funds for Solace Women’s Aid, to help them continue to support people in the way that they supported me.
For almost 10 years I’ve been a photographer, shooting on film and mostly with vintage cameras. I love the process of forgetting what I’ve shot and not being able to see or judge an image until it’s been developed.
Alongside being a photographer, I have alway worked full time, at first in retail and now as a Social Media and Content manager for the wonderful Martine Rose. I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had and working for Martine has been a transformative experience, where I have been given space to learn and grow both as an individual and as an employee. This has only benefited my life and my photography practice and I am still finding new confidence and new joy in photography.
In the future I would love to use my photography to help others, by showing people they can get out there and find their own perspectives, or find things that may usually be mundane and make them beautiful. Photography helped me to find my voice, find space, be open to new experiences and discover new things about myself - I’d love to share that with people.
I believe that life is really about love and caring for others. There is such great value in community, friends and family and I feel very humbled by the people I am privileged to share life with.
What made you choose this career?
Photography was a hobby for me at first - a way of creating space for myself in the world and forcing myself to find new perspectives.
My favourite thing about photography as a practice is the way it can make it feel like the world stops around you - in a world that can feel so fast moving, I enjoy photography as a way of slowing the pace. Whatever is going on around me, I can create a still image to focus on what I’m seeing and what I want others to see. There is also always space for people to interpret your world differently, to see things you didn’t see yourself - that part always excites me. Wherever I am in life, photography is the thing I turn to - to capture happy moments, to acknowledge difficult times, to meet new people or to support me in solitude.
I chose film naturally from a dislike of the digital - I’d grown up without Iphones or digital cameras and preferred it - I love flicking through photo albums full of film photos that would have been such a joy to collect from the printers, and I think I had an unconscious desire to bring back the nostalgia of all that. As someone who struggles with mental health, I found myself taking my camera out on walks and using it as an excuse to get outside. It became a way for me to talk to strangers or visit friends. Eventually my partner asked if I could take some photos for a magazine he was being featured in, then my good friend Michal asked if I’d create a lookbook for his brand. After that, photography was something I started doing as a job.
Did you go through formal education? If not, please explain your journey
I’ve never had any formal education for photography, so I’d consider myself to be self taught. I actually studied Humanities at the University of Brighton and wanted to be a history or philosophy teacher. Once I’d finished my degree, I felt completely different about the world and felt a profound need to be more connected to people and to nature. Photography sparked a curiosity in me that also gave me a break from feeling down, anxious or lonely and it was something I felt passionate about pursuing. That’s when I started taking more photographs and searching for cheap cameras I could use to do it.
There’s something so great about anything creative where the act of just creating is the whole point - it is for me anyway. I think it would have been nice to have some training in things, but when I realised I wanted to take photos I didn’t have the time or money to study. Instead I looked at images online, I watched documentaries, I found photographers that I loved and I read books as much as I could. Encouragement from friends and family meant that I felt confident to keep trying new things and felt supported if I made mistakes along the way.
When I worked at a particular store, there were lots of creative people there who became my support network as well as clients. Friends with brands who needed a lookbook shot and were willing to give me free reign on direction, so that I could really explore what I wanted from photography. I also had a good friend who ran a textile studio and would get me involved in his projects, with brands like Nike. That was my education in photography - being given opportunities and flexibility and trust from people I admired.
Did that have a positive or negative impact on your chosen career?
Having no educational background or formal training, in an industry where people are flaunting their skills and their connections was really intimidating for me. That being said, I think that not having any formal training had no impact on my photography career. It really has been about who has been around me and the opportunities I’ve been given.
I am sure that you can study photography and make connections in that way, through being at a university and meeting people, but I’m happy with how things have gone for me and don’t feel anything negative towards my lack of education in the field. In some ways I am grateful I didn’t study photography as I feel less pressure around it, I think because I don’t have any expectations. I’m just so happy with what I can create, proud of myself for learning and proud of myself for pushing on even when I felt lost and like I didn’t know what I was doing.
There have definitely been times where I felt differently, but this was because I was comparing myself to others. I’d compare myself to people who had known they wanted to be photographers their whole lives, studied it, knew everything about photoshop and editing and could develop their own film and all of that. Once I stepped back and thought about what I really wanted from photography, I respected other people for what they could do and appreciated when I could do. I can offer something different and what I’m offering isn’t super technical and that’s absolutely fine - I’m offering my perspective and a type of photography that isn’t meant for retouching or heavy editing but instead is about capturing the feeling and being there for a specific moment that I feel is important to capture. Being different is a positive in my eyes.
Who inspires you?
Alec Mcleish. He’s a photographer who lives in South London and a dear friend. Alec’s photography is what I aspire to as a photographer - the feeling behind his personal work is something to behold. Alec has worked so hard to perfect his craft and is constantly working on little side projects, where he collects images from all the different places he’s been and usually finds a common thread that connects them. He continues his personal projects as part of his work and also works on paid shoots for brands and magazines, that still portray the essence of his personal work but always fit the brief he’s working to. He is such a humble person and is always happy to share his knowledge as well as to support other peoples’ work.
My mother, Sandra. She doesn’t work in the creative industry but I always think of her as a creative person and someone with an attitude towards life that reminds me you should enjoy life and that it’s a beautiful thing to be able to share knowledge with others. She inspires me to just keep going, to keep trying things, to celebrate your wins. There’s never been one particular path to lead and for her that’s something special. I see her as creative because she is always creating a new route and it’s always about experimenting and finding joy. Sandra is also such a caring person and loves to be able to share skills, knowledge or to just be there for people when they need it.
Whats the scariest thing about your job and how have you overcome it?
Calling myself a photographer, full stop.Just saying the words ‘I am a photographer’ terrified me. I don’t always work as a photographer and I struggled with it as an identity, as well as feeling legitimate and like I belonged in these spaces. A friend helped me to overcome it - she told me not to overthink it, to just say what I am and people will take it at face value. If a photographer is what you are, then that is what you tell people, no ifs or buts. Such simple advice but so effective and so affirming.
What do you want to change about your industry?
I’d love to see more working class people in the industry. I’d love to see more diversity in the creative industry in general. We need to keep pushing for paid internships, mentor schemes and access to resources - working class people can’t afford to work for free and are pushing themselves to find a way into an industry that sometimes feels impenetrable. When we do get there, we’re surrounded by people who fetishize working class lives or often don’t understand the struggles faced just to get to an unpaid internship. I am fortunate that I work for people who want to break those barriers, and it’s given me more confidence in my photography, but those amazing people are hard to find and few and far between.
There are definitely more opportunities arising and people are opening up to the idea that internships need to be paid, in order to make the creative industry more accessible to a diverse range of people. I just want to see more of it and I want to see big companies and big brands offering it up, as well as government initiatives, to make it possible for small businesses to do the same.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field
Just go for it. It sounds a little cheesy, but I spent so much time doubting myself and stopping and starting that I really learnt you just have to do something to gain confidence in it. Who you have around you is also key. If you’ve got supportive people around you then you can really be lifted up and find your flow.
Find your people, find people that value you and your work - they’re the ones to keep closeby and to learn from, work with and grow with. Being around people who believe in you and going to them when you have doubts will really help your confidence and self belief - it’s so important in an industry that can feel really up and down at times. It can be hard to get going with something when you feel like you lack the confidence - the confidence comes when you just start doing it. I wanted to practise more before I did professional shoots, but I found I just needed to dive in and accept that I might make some mistakes. Mistakes aren’t something to be feared, if you can learn from them and move forward then they’re something to cherish. Just remember you belong there, you deserve to be able to learn, to discover, to build your confidence, to make mistakes, and to find people who lift you up.
It’s not like this in all places but in the creative industry in general there are so many brands and companies who think that they can get something for free, just because someone is starting out. That doesn’t have to be the case - your work is valuable, whether you’re new to it or not, and you deserve something in exchange for it. Working for free can sometimes be a great way to forge relationships and long lasting partnerships, but I’d encourage everyone to get something in exchange for your work and to never put your own money into something, like film or developing, if it’s not going to be repaid by the person who you’re making the images for. Believe in the value of your work and others will too.
It’s also completely fine if you have to, or even want to, do another job on the side. If you’re fortunate enough to do something related to your industry, you might even find your support network there or learn some skills that are relevant. I work full time as a social media and content manager for a fashion label, which has actually helped me learn more about shoots and the process than I could have imagined. The job has also meant I could use my photography skills to take photos for the brand, who then wanted to put my work on instagram. You’ll be surprised where things can lead you. I love that having a full time job gives me flexibility to work on photography, outside of work, at my own pace. If that works for you then I really encourage it.