The 3 L's

Idol of the Week: Emma Watson

Surely you’ve seen it? Everyone’s talking about it – the internet is going crazy over it. Twitter is pinging with supportive tweets and snaps. Celebrities are clamouring over each other to try and associate themselves with it. I’m talking about Emma Watson’s amazing UN Speech, which can be viewed here.

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I’m a big believer in having idols. I think having people to admire and even envy (within reason) is healthy – without losing sight of ourselves, of course – as it inspires us all to embark on a path of self improvement, and so when those who we admire involve themselves in greater causes, such as charities, it inspires those who look up to them to become involved, and to step back and think ‘how can I help? Is there something about my lifestyle that contradicts this amazing cause? Is there something that I can do?’

I’ve heard some people say things such as ‘why is this little actress getting involved with this stuff? What difference can she make – she’s an actress’. Please. As a member of the Harry Potter generation, its fairly obvious to me just how influential Emma Watson is. The series may be over (for now… who knows, after all), but the Harry Potter generation is ongoing, and therefore whatever ‘Hermione Granger’ has to say, this age group sits up and listens.

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It’s so great that she is obviously fully aware of this fact and is therefore using her voice wisely.

So yes, she is someone who I admire, in the mush that is the often-ugly world of Hollywood; a world of twerking, ‘accidental’ wardrobe malfunctions, sex tapes and… Jesus.. the Kardashians I think I’d cry if either of my younger sisters turned around and said that they want to be just like one of the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus when they grow up, to be quite frank.

So this is a little shout out post to someone who actually speaks sense.. simply because I like people who speak sense, but they are such a rare find!

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I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.

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All I can do is follow my instincts, because I’ll never please everyone.

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But it’s a journey and the sad thing is you only learn from experience, so as much as someone can tell you things, you have to go out there and make your own mistakes in order to learn.

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I don’t want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about.

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There’s nothing wrong with being afraid. It’s not the absence of fear, it’s overcoming it. Sometimes you’ve got to blast through and have faith.

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I have felt for the last 10 years I have had this battle; I’ve been fighting so hard to have an education. It’s been this uphill struggle. I was Warner Bros’ pain in the butt. I was their scheduling conflict. I was the one who made life difficult.

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I don’t have perfect teeth, I’m not stick thin. I want to be the person who feels great in her body and can say that she loves it and doesn’t want to change anything.

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The saddest thing for a girl to do is to dumb herself down for a guy.

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I feel that young girls are told that they have to be a princess and fragile. It’s bullshit. I identify much more with being a warrior – a fighter. If I was going to be a princess, I’d be a warrior princess, definitely.

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Don’t feel stupid if you don’t like what everyone else pretends to love.

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As much as someone can tell you things, you have to go out there and make your own mistakes in order to learn.

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London

Another London Stroll…

Once again, me and my camera went on one of our London ramblings… oh dear, I’m already running out of post titles for these walks…

There are also one or two thrown in from last week that have since grown on me.

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London

Evening in London

So once again I thought I’d set out to explore London, just me, my camera, pen and paper. I made the most of the late night museum openings, spending hours sat in near-deserted galleries, for once able to really look at the art on display without having to peer through crowds of tourists.

Lately I’ve fallen in love with street photography and I’m having a lot of fun with experimenting with it and with finding my own style. It’s completely out of my ‘comfort zone’, not just for that reasons that I spoke about here, but also because for the past seven or eight years, I have focused primarily on fashion photography, an area in which I don’t have to worry about capturing an candid, spontaneous instant before it’s gone, but instead the model and I can spend as long as necessary perfecting their pose, their expression, explaining the story behind each image to bring character to each shot. With street photography, I get frustrated every time I miss a great shot, and I still tend to duck my head and rush off if ever someone catches me taking their photograph, but I’m missing less shots with each ‘camera walk’ and so far no one has done more than look at me curiously if they see my camera to my eye. I’m a lot more alert, constantly poised with my camera against my chin, my senses seem to have sharpened quickly to what is going on around me, and in the busy, bustling streets of central London, I never quite know where to look, aware that for each great shot that I do see, there could well be – and probably is – another one just over my shoulder. Does anyone remember that kids TV show that was on in the late 90s, about a pocket watch that could stop time? I think it was called Bernard’s Watch. If I had that pocket watch, I’d use to it to make sure that I never miss a shot again. But I guess that would be all too easy… not to mention, exhausting.

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London

Art and Afternoon Walks

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No matter how busy my schedule, I always find the time to take a long walk around London, see an exhibition or two, perhaps visit the theatre, anything that can get me out and about, drinking in as much culture and inspiration as possible, and of course, my camera has to come along with me (but for theatre trips). I’m always trying to make sure that I avoid a creative rut, and before moving to London, I did feel like my whole life was in a rut, a routine, even if, by travelling, it wasn’t a typical one. One of the promises that I made myself when I made my move here, was to get back into the habit of regularly stepping out of my comfort zone.

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For me, street photography is definitely out of my comfort zone. Oh, I can’t and have been known to snap away as I make my way around an unfamiliar place – abroad. It’s a much easier thing to do when there are language barriers, and I’m so clearly not a local. But here, in London, where people can potentially confront me over what I’m doing, knowing that I’d probably not be a good enough actress to pull of pretending to be a tourist.. its a scary thought to an introvert like myself. However, I was determined, and as you can see… I didn’t come away empty handed.

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Kudos have to go to my old college professor (hi Steve), who had a habit of shooting candid street photography discreetly from waist/chest height. At the time, I thought he was crazy he is, of course, completely crazy, but I found it to be such a great way for me to break through that shell of shyness, the paranoid part of me that was too busy fretting about whether people would notice if I take a shot of them, whether they’d confront me, but equally, being too shy to approach people and ask for their photograph (after all, yesterday it took me five minutes to pluck up the courage to ask to the wonderfully dressed woman on Brick Lane, hurried only by noticing that she was about to leave, only to be told, frankly, to bugger off).

So that’s how I began, with a few tentative clicks of the shutter from waist-height, timed to match a noisy rush of traffic. No one noticed. I came to a quiet street, with no noise to cover Canon’s irritably loud shutter. Second photo, and again, no one batted an eye lid. And that was it, boom, fear obliterated. I spent the rest of the afternoon brazenly hopping about, camera pressed to my eye, photographing anyone and anything that caught my eye. It now seems like such a stupid thing to have begun my afternoon worrying about, as after all, I have been carrying around a camera for as long as I can remember, and if ever I leave the country, I have no qualms about photographing whatever takes my fancy, so why does that suddenly change in London?

Well, not anymore.

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Everything I love about London is here for all to see; the madness, the vast, eccentric mix of culture, the mass of public art and entertainment for us all to enjoy, the laughter and how easy it is for everyone to enjoy the city together, but equally the unspoken rules of London: no eye contact, do not speak with strangers, especially on the tube. Big no, no, which as a person who enjoys a good book when travelling by tube, is more than happy with this arrangement. There’s this energy about London and I feel like I’m absorbing it whenever I leave my home; I return each evening smiling, inspired, motivated to knuckle down and work, network, create. Not that I specifically need London for any of that, but to be in a city that amplifies my creative energies tenfold, is such a wonderful, incredible feeling.

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I walked about a dozen miles… from Islington to St Paul’s Cathedral, walking south to Tate Modern (I then stepped inside for a browse, as it’s been far too long since my last visit!), along Southbank, past Big Ben, through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, followed by what must have been 1000 miles walking around the mega Waterstones alone (I can never resist), back along Fleet Street, and back towards Angel, back home.

Yes, I guess you could say that my feet now hurt, as do my legs and shoulders. Of course, I could have been sensible, I could have taken the tube, or the bus, but then I would never have found half of these photographs if I had done that. The aches and pains are worth it… and tomorrow morning when it’s even worse, I’ll read this back and look back through these photographs and remind myself of that fact. No, that won’t be necessary. I’ll still be buzzing from my day.

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Workaholic

Sleeping Maidens: A New Project

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Up until now, my photo shoots have always been one-off ideas, rather than ongoing projects, but lately, rather than having 1000 individual ideas bouncing around in my head, I’ve had 1000 intertwined ideas filling my head, and stories to accompany them.

This is where my ‘Sleeping Maidens’ project comes in. Over the next several months, I’ll be creating a series of images with a whimsical, romantic, Sleeping Beauty-esque feel to them, inspired by Ophelia, to the Romanticism movement, to fairy tales and folklore. I’m so excited to put my these ideas into motion, and to see what I create at the end of these next months – perhaps a book?

Of course, every step of the project will be documented on this project, including behind the scenes images – perhaps even a video or two.

If you’re a model, makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist, fashion, jewellery or accessories designer, if you’re a retoucher, a videographer who’s happy to step in and film some BTS footage for us, or a photography assistant, or anyone who feels that that have something to offer and wishes to collaborate with me, please, feel free to get in touch at:

emmastylesphotography@gmail.com

There is a moodboard available on my Pinterest account for anyone who is interested, and I shall be updating it frequently.

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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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The 3 L's

Relocating to London

While I had for a few months been contemplating the possibility that perhaps the constant nomadic wandering was not quite as healthy as I’d originally believed, something I spoke about briefly here, the actual decision to move to London was a spontaneous one; a few hours of packing a single suitcase, and off I went!

_MG_0537-edit  In fact, even once I was here, it took a further two days before I finally, 100% decided that yes, this was not just a whim, and I was not to continue along the railway tracks as far as Paris or beyond. I wanted to stay in London. It was obvious to me from the instant I stepped off the train, but it took a few days before I accepted that I’m not quite the nomad that I thought. London is my home, it’s where I feel I have to be right now, and while the passport is still going to be used regularly, to silence that niggling feeling of wanderlust that has a tendency to well up inside me, for a few months, at least, I’ll leave it to one side to gather dust, and savor every inch of London.

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It’s as if I have been looking for somewhere where I fit in, and I’ve been searching all over Europe. (Update* I’ve spoken about my feelings on the matter here.) I felt inspired, but lost, happy, but as if it was just a quick remedy. Here in London, everything has clicked into place, and I feel as if it’s been calling me across the continent. So many friends have spent the past years while I was travelling Europe telling me that I would end up in London. Some even predicted that I would move here ‘in the summer of 2014’… perhaps they subconsciously planted the decision in my mind one year ago when they first made their predictions last year, during my university exhibition, but either way, it’s nice to know just how well they all know me.

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I’m a North London girl through-and-through, and I have been making the most of my first week here with long walks across Hampstead Heath, people watching in cafes and networking with as many fresh-faced models, stylists with amazing wardrobes and talented hair/makeup stylists as I can track down. I have so many shoots planned for the upcoming weeks, and I am so excited to get a chance to share those with you, as well as tales of my London adventures.

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