Hello Catherine, thanks for submitting your work to Women in Photography. Can you tell our readers a little bit about you and how you got into photography?
I’m a photographer and director, originally from The Isle of Axholme, UK but now based in London. I studied photography from the age of 16 at John Leggett College and after I graduated from Nottingham Trent University I moved down here to assist professional photographers. I’ve been shooting my own work exclusively for about 5 years now. I shoot personal projects, editorials, advertising and TV ads. They are usually based in still life.
You are a still life photographer - what fascinates you about this genre?
To be honest, I first got into still life photography because I preferred the pace of it. I was assisting a lot of fashion and music photographers. The shoots were always really hectic and involved huge crews. For my personal projects, I much preferred working with a small team and using objects and sets to portray themes and ideas.
Your work is very colourful with a unique style … How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I like things looking clean and graphic. My boyfriend has a theory it’s because I grew up in the Lincolnshire fens where the landscape is extremely flat and linear! I get a lot of satisfaction out of planning and shooting interesting colour combinations. It’s always the colours that catch my eye when looking at other people’s artwork.
You have worked for Vogue, Lacoste, Moma, just a few to mention… There are many people involved in a photo shoot like this. Can you tell us a bit about your workflow?
Magazines, advertising agencies or sometimes even clients directly, get in touch with myself or my agent. They generally have a specific project in mind and I go away and I create a treatment in response to their brief. In the meantime, my agent puts together a team and a budget. For commercial work it is normally a 3-way bid, meaning I’m one of 3 photographers or directors up for the job. If the costs and my vision for approaching their project all add up then they will present me to the client or brand. If we’re lucky enough to win the bid, we go into production. A producer is assigned to the job by my agency and we put everything in place; set designers, assistants or DOPs, technical teams, equipment, studios, post production or retouchers, food stylists, fashion stylists and cast any people that might feature. The whole time we’ll be feeding back to the clients on the progress and decisions we’re making. The shoot is almost the smallest part of a big commercial job!
Do you have enough artistic freedom on a shoot for brands?
It changes from project to project. Some get in touch and want me to just run with an idea and create images in my own style. But some people have a very specific list of requirements and deliverables, even down to the colours we include and the crops of the images down to the nearest pixel.
Many photographers don’t have any idea how long the process of a commercial photo shoot is. Can you tell us more about it?
It varies hugely. Sometimes I have 2 days notice for an editorial. I make a quick mood board for the Art Director and then it’s just me and an assistant shooting in my studio, the photos go straight to a retoucher and then onto the magazine in a matter of hours. With larger projects, the time between an initial meeting with an ad agency though to the work being published can be up to 18 months and involve lots of people sometimes up to around 50 on large ad campaigns. Both ends of the spectrum are exciting in their own way.
What advice would you give female photographers who want to get into commercial photography?
Assist! It’s really hard to comprehend the work that goes on behind the scenes without being involved or seeing it for yourself. It is the best way to build up contacts, most of the people I collaborate with today used to assist the set designers and stylists that worked with the photographers I worked for. Also if someone tries to pigeonhole you because you’re a woman, don’t feel like you have to prove them wrong or prove yourself above and beyond a role, that person is a dinosaur that won’t change, there’s no time for them and you’ll be better off working with someone else. Opportunities are definitely getting better for women in photography, you don’t have to put up with people being sexist dicks anymore.
Besides photography, you work as a filmmaker. What was the key trigger for this?
I’m signed to Blink Art, who are a branch of Blink Productions who have a massive reputation for fun TV ads and music videos. A lot of commercial jobs now aren’t just photographs, they want gifs, animations or films for social media and video billboards. I’m lucky enough that with Blink it just feels like a natural part of my photography practice.
Last question! Do you have a dream project or brand you wanna shoot?
Lots and lots! But first I definitely want to get some more personal projects off my chest after such a busy couple of years of commercial work. My recent commission from MoMA for their ‘Is Fashion Modern?’ show was an absolute dream job that I could never have dreamt up! I think sometimes the best projects find you.