The 3 L's

Why ‘Meet-Ups’ Will Never Be My Thing

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This evening, with a rare moment of time of my hands, I decided to spend it well, strolling through Green Park, here in lovely London, reading Richard Branson’s Like a Virgin (which I highly recommend to anyone with a business.. or a future business.. or any job at all for that matter.. or no job at all.. so anyone, really!) I was happily minding my own business, absorbed in my book, and then quite possibly the only thing that could have dragged me out of my meditative read-and-walk state in that moment was the click of a shutter – or rather – the continuous click-click-click of about two hundred shutters.

I had stumbled across a Brooke Shaden ‘meet up’ group, here in London. For those of you who are unaware, Brooke Shaden is something of a Flickr celebrity, whose portfolio can be seen here. While her editing skills and her constant steam of ideas are both equally impressive, I must admit, I find her work too gloomy and ominous for my taste. I’m personally more of a lens-flare/light-and-airy style girl. Nevertheless, I can see why she has such a large fan following, and the figures certainly show just how popular she is: 382K likes on her Facebook page, 12.3K Twitter followers, each photo of her Flickr account is littered with hundreds of likes, favourites and comments. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that she can so easily convince a couple of hundred Londoners to gather in Green Park one cloudy evening for a ‘totally free’ meet up with ‘lots of hugs, models to photograph and the love of the craft’, with a single Facebook post as an invitation.

I lingered for a while, curious. I had my camera with me after all. Who doesn’t enjoy a spontaneous photo shoot, after all? What I saw, however, did not strike me as the polished, well organised workshops that I imagine when I see behind the scenes images from the various Facebook fan pages of the photographers I admire, complete with agency signed models, rails full of beautiful garments, and an amazing set that no one but the workshop-running photographer would ever otherwise be able to afford.

Instead, I can only describe the scene as being reminiscent of vultures picking at the same rotting corpse for hours on end. That is the big problem with meet ups and workshops – there is no privacy. In the short time that I lingered, watching from a park bench, I saw the same scene on loop: one photographer would tentatively approach one of the volunteer models, distinctive only from their wearing one of Brooke’s trademark vintage dresses. They would briefly discuss an idea, wander off to find a patch of grass to call a studio, and approximately five clicks of the shutter later, the vultures would flock.

Next thing you know, that one photographer’s idea has been photographed a thousand times by fifty other people from every possible angle. Those images will undoubtedly pop up on Flickr in a day or two – if some of them have not already – each edited with varying degrees of skill, yet all undoubtedly almost identical. Originality… obliterated.

That is why ‘creative meet ups’ will never be for me, she whose idea-sharing skills are fairly limited to my introvert evenings alone with my thoughts, or bouncing ideas around a room with a creative team of stylists, makeup artists, designers, etc etc etc. She who will tackle anyone who dares to photograph my idea over my shoulder. At meet ups, there is not idea bouncing, no collaboration. Instead it’s a silent, mutual agreement of, ‘whatever happens here, is ours for the taking’. One person will shout out instructions to the model, and everyone will begin to capture the same shot in a strange, almost zombie-like trance.

They’re not entirely negative experiences though; I can see the value of these meet ups to others; they can be a great place to network, make new friends, gain inspiration. Everyone looked to be having a wonderful time. But personally, I think it’s surely better to network over ‘portfolio sharing’ events rather than ‘photograph mimicking’ events’.

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Wanderer

The Pains of Restless Soul Syndrome

yup      and currently my spirit has been home too long for the liking…

Hello, my name is Emma and I have R.S.S. As in, Restless Soul Syndrome – yes, with capitals, because I think it should be recognised as an official condition. It drives me crazy. What’s that saying about… you can have it all, but not at the same time? Or something like that. That is my life. There’s two sides of me; the crazy, spontaneous-trip taking, digitally nomadic, wandering hobo creative travel nut, and the somewhat sensible, but equally ambitious, city-loving Fashion photographer. Part of me wants to spend the rest of my days (or the next several years, at least) seeing every inch, documenting every moment, building up this blog and making a freelance, online living, on the road. The other side of me wants a cute little apartment in London, or Paris, or somewhere in Italy, and to build up an amazing wardrobe and focus on getting my portfolio into the big fashion magazines.

When I’m travelling, I feel guilty for not devoting 100% of my time to work, even though I still am working (you know, about 50% of the time), so then I come home, as I did at Christmas, to focus primarily on work, sneaking away only for a few days here and there, and yet I find myself still feeling guilty. Guilty for confining myself to one place, to one office, one home, when there is so much of the world that I have not yet seen and so many things that I have not yet done! R.S.S is a contrary bastard.

I think it’s obvious that my ‘cure’ will be found in balancing out my needs out better. I’m still trying to become truly ‘digitally nomadic’ in my business. Too much of my work is still UK-based, and while popping to London frequently is great, and I adore it, I need to spread things further afield. I’ll live in London one day. That much is obvious to me. And Paris, and at least one Italian city. I’m just constantly torn between my impatience to move there now and my impatience to see every single country in the world. Yes, I’m only twenty-two. There’s plenty of time to do everything I want to do, but damn it, I wish it were possible to choose one thing that I want and temporarily switch every other desire off until I’ve finished with the first one.

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The 3 L's

The Big Crop.

For anyone who has seen my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pages lately, you’ll have noticed that I recently went pixie. And for those of you who have known me for a few years, you’ll know just how drastically different my hair is looking now days. I’ve gone from Rapunzel to Peter Pan! It’s taken two years of consideration, gradually cutting my hair shorter with each trip to the salon. I’m fortunate enough that I seem to suit every length from belly button to pixie (though I did deliberately avoid the curt, chin-length bob… I think that would be a no-no).

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ImageI don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous over something as unimportant as a haircut as I was yesterday. I was literally wringing my hands as she lopped off the vast majority of my hair in one swoop, and then my heart started pounding as I realised ‘ok, there’s not really much else she can do with this now – no going back’. It’s funny. It’s only hair. I know that. And my hair grows fast enough that I really have nothing to worry about when it comes to bad haircuts – it will have grown to something nicer within a week or two. Three at most. I could wear a hat. Maybe it’s my ‘girls have long hair’ upbringing and past relationships drilled into me. It’s probably something to do with those dreaded wonderings of ‘will I look like a boy?’ and ‘will it make my cheeks look fat?’

Apparently not.

There’s definitely a learning curve in styling a pixie crop compared to my old tried-and-tested ‘natural bed head’ look of the old days. I think I spent about forty-five minutes this morning arranging my funny little fringe. Luckily, the dreaded cow-licks of my temples seem to be well and truly snipped into submission *touch wood*. I’ll have to keep a close eye. Also, the nape of my neck feels strange, like my skin is protesting to being so exposed to the elements. Minor things.

Generally, my confidence has shot up skywards… funny how a haircut can do that. And somehow, I feel much girlier with short hair. I’ve discovered this morning that a pixie looks amazing with cat-flick eyeliner and red lips. I mean, I knew it looked great on other women – more specifically, celebrities, who we all know, are the exception to make fashion and beauty rules – but to think that I can feel great with a head rather lacking in hair with red lips and cat-flick eyeliner? Surprise, surprise. I feel great… until I take off my makeup, at least, and then those ‘do I look like a boy’ thoughts come back slightly. I doubt it, as I generally keep my makeup minimal anyway (today’s red lips clearly being an exception), but you know… I think it’s just something I’ll have to get used to as well.

Half-asleep me definitely needs to remember that the bedtime ponytail has gone. I didn’t realise until this morning that I have a habit of running my fingers through my ponytail just as I’m waking up. That was a shock to find it gone. I admit, I screamed a little bit. Half-asleep me has a terribly memory.

Maybe I’ll end up regretting it, once I know just how often I need to nip back for a trim, or once I start travelling for months on end once more and dealing with foreign hair stylists. Always a bit of a challenge. I bet growing it out will be a nightmare (again, the dreaded bob).

Still, right now, I am completely in love with my hair. And yes, I am going to be showing off about via Facebook – sorry FB friends of mine, but it has to be done.

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The 3 L's

Photography Graduation

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A quick announcement… my graduation! Yes, I’m finally out of the education system after… wow, seventeen years! Even longer if we’re counting nursery. The vast majority of my life has been spent as a student, and now finally, I’m free. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.

I was so ready to leave last summer, when I was completing my exhibition, As I’ve mentioned before, I broke my foot in the lead up to my final deadline – on a photo shoot. Terrible, terrible timing on my part to break my first (and hopefully only – *touch wood*) bone. It left me feeling frustrated, bringing a grinding halt to my planned photo shoots. I made a few wobbly attempts, balancing on one leg, crutches stuffed under my armpits, camera firmly on a tripod, but it proved a nightmare. Luckily, I am not a last minute person when it comes to deadlines, and so I was organised, I had already shot several shoots for my final project, giving me a lot to choose from. I can’t imagine what would have happened had I broken my foot before having taken a single final-exhibition photograph.

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But, as I have also mentioned before, proudly, everything went well, and I came out of my three years as a student of Commercial Photography with a first. Yes, I am proud of myself for that. For once, that perfectionist streak is calmed. There is nothing more I can do to please her. In this matter, anyway.

Looking back, I do wish, however, that I had not cut down the number of images that I planned to display at the exhibition to just one, for practicality. Maybe I’m wrong to regret it, maybe it would have proven impossible, as I remember the difficulty I had in trying to squeeze my single A1/A0 (I can no longer recall quite how large it was) print into my friend’s tiny Smart Car. Correction. That suggests that it was me doing the squeezing… I remember watching, balanced on my crutches, on the pavement, while my friend tried single-handed to squeeze the huge, framed and well-wrapped image into her tiny car. It just about squeezed in, with some persuasion. I’m not sure that she, or any of my friends, would have agreed to a further two trips back and forth to the framing shop for the other two, had I gone ahead with my original three-image plan.

Ah, c’est la vie.1536726_10153718395340291_331009447_n

None of that matters though. My change in opinion over the last year of my time at university is what matters. I left feeling, like most of us at graduation, I think, a little deflated, wondering whether it was worth the money that I would soon have to start paying back, or whether it’s a waste of time studying photography as a degree. I wondered if I’d chosen the wrong University, and wondered how different my life would be had I studied elsewhere. I’m a terrible ‘what if’ person.

Now, however, I look back and I don’t feel that way anymore. To any fellow photography students/graduates who ever feels that way, I suggest that you do the math, and calculate just how much money you would have spent on hired lighting, studio space, camera equipment for the various shoots and experiments of the past three years. Add to that an estimated cost for a photography workshop with your lecturer, rather than the ‘free’ (until we all reach that dreaded debt threshold) lessons they gave us. Because those are the equivalents to learning the trade sans degree. Personally, I may now be in debt, but I’ve saved a few thousand.

Yes, you could argue that most of my photo shoots would not have taken place were I not at university, surrounded by the exact inspiration and people and the opportunity to use free equipment and free studio space, because spending money can be stifling for the imagination when a poor, starving artist. Then again, how bare would my portfolio look without the free access to studios and equipment?

What if, what if, what if…

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The 3 L's

My Thoughts on Bucket Lists

*Firstly, scroll down to the bottom of this page and hit play. Read on*

I’ve just had an interesting conversation with a friend. She has just revealed to me that she hates bucket lists. And not just the term ‘bucket list’, but the whole concept of making a list of everything that you want to do in life and working your way through it.

Her argument is that if you make a list for your life, there are only two ways that it will turn out:

1) You’ll write your bucket list, usually when you’re still at school (I myself wrote my first bucket list when I was about fourteen), and then you’ll lock it safely away in a drawer, waiting until you finish school, at which point you can finally start living. And then after that you’ll wait through college… university… your first job (you apparently usually need a bit of financial security before you can start on the list)… your second job… then you get married and have kids and suddenly… you’re too old. You’re retired, and suddenly your OAP heart is striking a big black ‘x’ through half the list: skydiving, surfing, taking part in 4 deserts, etc. As for the other things on your list (and I’m just going by the 50 most common aims to appear on people’s lists), you never became a millionaire, never won the lottery, there’s still big chunks of the world that you never saw, nor have you seen most (if not all) of the seven wonders of the world. Basically, according to my friend (who I’d like to point out, is not as negative and moody as this is making out – she’s apparently only negative and moody when it comes to the ‘dreaded list’ 😉 ), you just end up angry and disappointed that life got in the way, and you didn’t complete what 15 year old you swore you would by the time you were 30/40/50. And then you forget to realise what you did achieve; you married, you had kids, grand-kids, you paid off your mortgage. ‘Normal’ achievements in life.

2) Or, you become so obsessed with your bucket list that you do the exact opposite; life revolves around doing the ‘out there’ stuff; again, skydiving, learning to surf, crazy endurance races, etc, and instead, you never find time for the other side of life: work, friendships, relationships, and so you never marry, never have kids, never settle down, and you’re still a ‘renter’ when you turn 50 because you’ve never stopped fixating on the ‘amazing list’ long enough to think about growing some roots. So then instead, you end up lonely, with no property to call your own, and nothing but memories, photographs, and souvenirs – with no one to show them to.

She paints a pretty grim picture, wouldn’t you say?

And now for my opinion on the matter.

I love bucket lists. In fact, not just bucket lists – I love lists. As someone who was born without an ‘off switch’, they keep me organised, they help me to remember every single one of my crazy thoughts and ideas when my mind is working like a runaway train and I can’t physically start and complete every single idea before the next one comes along. And, best part, when I do need to take some time off and find myself distracted, list-making is the best sort of procrastination, because think about it, when I finally reach a point when my mind body is screaming enough! I can grab a pen/laptop and scribble out a to-do list, and then suddenly, that list turns from procrastination to motivation and boom, I’m off! And as I already have a list there ready, all I have to do is get to work!

But I’m getting off track slightly. Bucket lists.

I probably fit into a much more cheery option 2). I’m 21 years old, and I’ve already completed my first bucket list, and written out a whole new one. Granted, list two may well take longer than seven years to complete, but I’m just proud with myself to have already completed one 58-point list by my twenty-first birthday. My bucket lists (and my day-to-day to-do lists) keep me motivated, they keep me busy, and it gives me something to aim at each day. Recently, I’ve realised that I’ve spent most of this year simply existing – not meaning to sound really cheesy. I’ve thrown myself into work, pushed too many creative projects to the back-burner, and I pretty much forgot how to have fun and to enjoy life. And I ended up completely miserable. I hid my new bucket list away and I dread to think how many days of this year have been wasted.

And then as recently ago as mid-July, it all hit me while I was in Portugal. I spent one day wallowing and convinced that I’d completely forgotten how to genuinely laugh and relax and have fun, two days figuring out what it is that I want in life so that I can set a goal and start working towards it, and two weeks now dragging myself upwards out of that depressing little hole of a life. And now, I feel so upbeat, and so happy, and so positive, motivated, energetic, and excited for the future.

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How I’m feeling today.

I’ve written a ‘second half of 2013’ bucket list. Yes, maybe I focus on my bucket lists a little too much, but I think I’ve re-balanced my life and I’ve started living life spontaneously and equally ticking things off the list again. The way I see it, it’s good to have goals, and to aim to tick something off the list on a regular basis, but equally if something comes up, a spontaneous opportunity, I say yes. Something that I stopped doing for a long, long time.

And then if I think ‘oh, this crazy, spontaneous opportunity that has just arisen, this is a bucket list-worthy event… I add it to my ‘completed’ bucket list.

That’s my list secret. I always keep two; a ‘to do’ list, and a ‘completed’ list. Otherwise you end up sitting there, staring at the list that you’ve just written, be it a to do list, or a bucket list, and it all just looks so overwhelming. There’s so much to do, or so much that you want to do, that it suddenly doesn’t seem possible. There’s suddenly not enough time.

Buttt, if I have two lists, and I can see that I’m already part way there.. brilliant.

Of course, shopping lists are the exception.

As for my friend’s belief that by focusing so much on the things on my list: I mention it again, skydiving (done it) and visiting China (haven’t done it) and everything else I want to do in life – most of which is travel related – I’ll end up alone in a rented apartment full of photographs and souvenirs with no one to show them to. That doesn’t worry me. ‘Get married’ and ‘have kids’ are definitely not on my bucket list, and I’m not about to add them to it just to guarantee that someone is going to be there when I’m 70+.

bucket list inspiration2 bucket list inspiration bucket list inspiration3

PS. R, you’re such a miserable git today 😉

Here.

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Alfred Hitchcock. Undoubtedly one of my favourite directors, quavering on the top-spot with the equally amazing visual genius, Joe Wright. I feel its safe to say that Hitchcock bags the top spot for himself through reputation alone. If ever a Hitchcock appears on the TV schedule, you will find me, sat inches from the screen in a child-like awe, sucked into the colours, the shadows, the beautifully dense suspense that only he could master so well. My mind, you can guarantee, will be racing, nails digging into the carpet as I pick apart his use of each colour; the symbolism of the green light in Vertigo, the alternating red and green in Rope, the fireworks illuminating the darkened room in To Catch a Thief. I am aware of the general ‘Hitchcock colour theories’, but I can’t help but conjure up my own, as if its a code that only I can crack. I pick apart his lighting set ups, absorb every item that builds the carefully crafted sets, drool over the beautiful designs of Edith Head, envious of Grace Kelly or the various other Hitchcock blondes. Let’s face it, it’s generally Grace who ruffles my envious feathers more than anyone.

Frankly, if there’s a Hitchcock on TV, leave me be. (Rhyme not intended).

I am as enraptured as Hitchcock always intended for his audience to be, and before I know it, the notebook is in my lap, a pen in hand. Every creative needs a moleskine whenever they watch a Hitchcock, in my opinion. Regardless as to whether you’re a photographer, writer, graphic designer, stylist, artist… that man is gold, a portly ball of imagination-inducing energy. Caffeine is my usual go-to stimulant when I’m in my daily ‘idea development’ session, but Hitchcock is much more effective. Even if my ideas do need to at times wander a little further from the standard ‘blonde model’, ‘dramatic lighting’, ‘bold colours’ trio. Duly noted.

I’m not the only photographer who finds themselves constantly inspired by the great director, of course. I can spot a Hitchcock-esque editorial a mile away. They’re becoming something of a must-have for most young fashion photographers, a transition point between the mimicking and the inspired. However, just because Hitchcock’s lighting styles, dramatic shadows, bold colours and trademark locations (think motels, showers and trains), are so on-trend, doesn’t mean that I can’t have a go too, right?

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Model: Jessica Bailey

MUA & Hair: Emma Grant

Styling: Emma Styles

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Workaholic

Hitchcock Blonde

My mind, you can guarantee, will be racing, nails digging into the carpet as I pick apart his use of each colour; the symbolism of the green light in Vertigo, the alternating red and green in Rope, the fireworks illuminating the darkened room in To Catch a Thief. I am aware of the general 'Hitchcock colour theories', but I can't help but conjure up my own, as if its a code that only I can crack. I pick apart his lighting set ups, absorb every item that builds the carefully crafted sets, drool over the beautiful designs of Edith Head, envious of Grace Kelly or the various other Hitchcock blondes.

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Workaholic

Oddly Enough: Studio

People often think that the only people who ever get nervous before their first photo shoot is either the model or the photographer. No one seems to give any thought to how a new makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist or designer might be feeling before their first photo shoot. I was recently approached by University of Derby fashion student, Erica Godfrey, of Oddly Enough designs, to photograph her final collection.

Erica admitted that she had never had a photo shoot for any of her work, and that she – as were a few of our models – was a little nervous. This was out of her comfort zone. We decided that we should hold three photo shoots – a studio test with a short video as a ‘casting’ for our models, as Erica wanted to see who would be best in front of the camera for the look she wanted, a lookbook, and the grand, main photo shoot at Wollaton Hall, the images of the latter being the one that would be prominently displayed during her final exhibition.

I don’t like that we live in a world that seems to expect everyone to be an expert at whatever is thrown their way. A lack of confidence does not equal to a lack of skill, an introvert is no worse than an extrovert, and I think that, while I enjoy learning new skills as much as the next person, its important not to spread our abilities too thinly across too wide an area. I’ve always believed that nerves equal to passion. We would not feel nervous about something that we did not care about, and so nerves are just another powerful emotion that can be channeled into something wonderful, such as our creativity. After all, powerful emotions, be them negative or positive, are always the best stimulant for the imagination.

This shoot in particular consisted of a great team of people – anyone who felt a little nervous or unsure as to the process of a photo shoot, was welcomed with open arms and made to feel ‘at home’. Everything was organised meticulously, and we came away with a clear vision for the main shoot and lookbook in mind.

The video produced by Ben Bransbury-Hare can be seen here.

(Update* my other two photo shoots with Oddly Enough can be seen here and here.)

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Models: Jessie Jing & Jessica Bailey

Video: Ben Bransbury-Hare

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