Workaholic

Meg’s Collection

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It’s that time of year, when students are struggling with repeated all-nighters to meet their big deadlines. No, we weren’t all like that, some of us spent the entire semester pulling all-nighters purely because we wanted our final work to be perfect. Meg, a University of Derby fashion student, is one of those students. Just look at the detail that has gone into these laser-cut designs… beautiful!

I was the lucky photographer who she selected to photograph her collection. It was a beautiful day for a photo shoot, and as we had chosen Wollaton Hall, a stately home in Nottinghamshire that is open to the public (and a spot where I have worked before with a University of Derby fashion student, as well as for one of my own personal shoots), we had quite an audience, members of the public lining the various benches that surrounded the greenhouse, watching us work, complimenting our gorgeous model sisters. The sun was shining, perhaps a little too harshly, but we made do. Thank god for reflectors.

Besides a small incident with a bee somehow getting trapped in our model’s trousers (all was well – none of us have ever laughed so much in our lives!), everything went without a hitch. A shout out has to go not only to my lovely assistant, Gem, but also to Meg’s boyfriend, her chauffeur who stepped in as a second assistant when we were experimenting with spontaneous ideas. It was such a great team to work with.

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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.

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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

University Exhibition

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It’s the end of an era, and we’re all feeling a little sentimental. I simultaneously feel ready to finally leave so many years of studying, ready to spread my wings and throw myself into the world of being an adult… which for me means choosing a rather unconventional, nomadic lifestyle. I’ll become a digital nomad, and I’ll travel, and be happy and free and it’s going to be wonderful. Perhaps one day I’ll come back to ‘the real world’ and commit myself to rent and bills and maybe even a mortgage, but for now, no thank you. It’s possible to earn a living without having a ‘base’ location, and I’ve spoken about this at length over at the other blog.

I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone does with their lives post-university; who will go ahead and become professional photographers, and who will venture instead into other careers – desk jobs, part time jobs, amazing-but-completely-irrelevant-to-photography jobs. We’ve all placed our bets as to who will marry first, who will have a baby first, who will buy a house first, who will move to which country and who will be the most/least successful of us all. From experience, I find that my bets are always wrong, and the person with the ‘firsts’ is always whoever I least suspect. Let’s see, maybe I’ll get a few right this time.

University, you were great… and even when you weren’t, you had a free studio/lighting store, so thanks for that. It really came in handy!

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Workaholic

Oddly Enough Lookbook

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As I’ve mentioned before, I have recently been working with fashion student Erica Godfrey on her final collection. We have already had two photo shoots together, which can be seen here and here, and today, the third and final (though hopefully not too final) photo shoot took place.

We were lucky enough to find a great studio locally with large windows, which allowed plenty of natural lighting. Hanging fabric to create our own custom background, we focused on a very typical English, slightly Cath Kidston feel. Working with chameleon haired Jess, who was also one of the models of our test shoot, we spent the afternoon experimenting with draping, crafting, altering and layering a suitcase full of accessories to create just the right look.

The main purpose of this photo ‘series’ was of course for Erica’s final university project before her graduation, but I’m hoping that I have also helped her to get learn to ropes of photo shoots. I certainly seemed to have achieved in that sense. One month ago, Erica freely admitted to me that she had never worked on a photo shoot, or had any of her work photographed, but for a small home studio with her own camera for her online shop, as is the case with most independent designers. Now, however, she has experienced three very different fashion shoots, and I have watched her confidence grow with each as she has styled our models with an expert eye for detail. It’s been lovely working together.

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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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