In a recent interview, I was asked what I find most interesting about working with people on their personal imagery. The first thing that came into my mind is that sometimes people say – please airbrush me! That is not what I am about. I find it fascinating to learn how people see themselves, what are their feelings in the moment, what is the purpose of the assignment - whether a portrait, new look or showcasing event - why are they coming to me now, how they are in relation to their sense of self-image. I always ask people about existing images and settings – not just of themselves – that they love, and also the images and settings that leave them cold.
The biggest challenge I find in my creative work is timescale. My clients are all very busy people, and for me an engagement is far more than arriving with a camera or party planner. Even the most successful clients have fears about how they look and expectations of how they would like to be seen. Here the challenge is to uncover what they themselves want in their image – not feeling that they have to play to a gallery of observers.
I work with clients across a very broad spectrum – including members of the Royal family, management gurus, artists, and successful entrepreneurs. Locations that I use range from the very glamorous to where people actually live and work. As I look ahead, I want to work with my clients over time, as the biggest joy for me in my profession is learning and capturing how people change and evolve.
My role is as a producer as well as artist. On a photo shoot, depending on the complexity I would bring with me a small team, perhaps including a lighting technician and an assistant. These days, cameras are so sophisticated, that the skill is in the production rather than the photography itself. After the shoot I tried to narrow down the choice of images based on my own judgement, as too often clients told me that they have been inundated with far too many images to choose from. But I will always bring the story and reasoning behind my choice.
I know that my client and I have succeeded when my client has enjoyed the whole process. Another sign that an engagement has really hit the mark is when my client wants to work with me afterwards, for example, with a deep conversation about how we will develop the images in postproduction. That is when I see my clients’ eyes lighting up - when they realise that they have stood out as they really are. My goal is to help people be even more like themselves.
Typically, my assignments come from word-of-mouth recommendations. For some time I have been a member of the Academicians Room at the Royal Academy, which is the perfect place to listen, often over tea, to what has brought a client to meet me, the purpose behind their need for a new image, how that might differ from previous looks, what locations or events will bring their look most vividly to life.