photography advice

WANTED: Creative Headspace for Photographer

This blogpost was going to be called 'Keeping Inspired as a Photographer', then I realised, I have no problem keeping inspired, but I have a huge problem finding time to execute my ideas, and even worse, to really get 'involved' with them; to take them to the next level.

Life is a busy place; if you live in a city, even more so. Being a London Photographer means I am constantly given inspiration via all of my senses, whether that's from walking the streets, talking to the myriad people one meets or by participating in any number of cultural delights, be it eating great food, watching a live band or visiting an art gallery. 

Discovered Fenton House and Garden, a little gem hidden on the backstreets of Hampstead recently.

Discovered Fenton House and Garden, a little gem hidden on the backstreets of Hampstead recently.

Some years ago I had a conversation with a Psychotherapist I met at a business-networking event and she helped me write out a weekly timetable that factored in time to do 'fun' things like visiting galleries or taking some exercise. As far as I'm concerned, this stuff is essential to keeping an open-mind and triggering creative ideas. It may seem luxurious to visit a gallery on a Tuesday afternoon, but really it's a research and reconnaissance mission!

I still have access to that weekly timetable, which I print off when I want to focus on a few key targets in a given week. Beneath the tabled agenda are these words from Nicole, the Psychotherapist:

"Keep this flexible! Always keep in mind long-term goals, but work clearly and patiently.

Let the pressures and the 'shoulds' go. Do one thing at a time. Go slow - stops crashes!"

Since I've been attempting to live in a less-agitated state (must do, got to do, rush, rush, rush) I have found way more equilibrium and allowance for myself not to achieve everything I intended to do in a day. There really is a limit, in time, energy and efficiency when it comes to living an agreeable life in the twenty-first century.

I had a particularly wild summer this year in terms of external events and inward emotions. It was great, but I recognised the wisdom needed to kick in, and that something had to give. I don't want that something to be my sanity, so I eased my foot off the pedal and have been attempting to filter in more downtime. Of course there's still been lots of fun, and plenty of late nights, but that's been my bag for years, so I'm cool with that!

My favourite inspirational quote right now is Do Less Better. I remind myself of this quote regularly, as for me, it sings. I cannot accept every invitation, I cannot do all the things I would like if there were two of me, so I have to choose wisely what I agree to doing both inside and outside of my work. 

As we are in an age of the pursuit of self-discovery, another practice I have been honing is to hang around with people that inspire me. So instead of getting annoyed that your parents don't 'get' what you do (guilty) spend as much time with the people who do. I'd be nowhere without my peers and friends that allow me to do what I do without judging me...

People that understand why you're staying up until 2am because you have something you just need to complete, like this blog for example! Traversing London from one side to the other because you have to secure an item to execute an idea that's in your head. A little masochism goes a long way in the life of an artist, entrepreneur or madman!

As I only managed two days official holiday this year thanks to bad planning, I scheduled five 'me days' into my diary last week. That somehow turned into two very long days of catching up with admin and prop-shopping for a new personal project (talking of inspiration!) before spending two and a half days shooting said project!

What I had planned though was a day-trip to what has become a preferred bolthole of mine: Leigh-on-sea in Essex. It had got to around 11am and I needed to be back in London by 5pm to get home and ready for a Private View at the Printspace. I almost talked myself out of making the trip, but I am so glad I stuck to the plan!

Arriving at Chalkwell

Arriving at Chalkwell

I now had about three hours to explore, which involved some picture- taking along the beach, stopping for a salmon bagel, buying some sweets for use in my upcoming project - kinda knew that every seaside town has a Sweet Shop, and my piece de resistance - visiting the little gem of the Francesca Maffeo Gallery

On show was Alexander Missen's Q & A, a fascinating collection of images following Missen's journey across America, 'providing an examination of cultural symbolism and how the motifs we associate with America have affected the reality of place and people.'

Runs until 28th October.

Alexander Missen's Q & A at Francesca Maffeo Gallery, Chalkwell, ends 28th October.

Alexander Missen's Q & A at Francesca Maffeo Gallery, Chalkwell, ends 28th October.

There was an added bonus for me at the gallery, as in conversation, Francesca told me that the good folk of London Independent Photography had paid a visit, and there on the counter was one of my pictures representing the group on a recent promotional flyer!

Ed, representing!

Ed, representing!

In Twenty-Eighteen I intend to get stuck into my next long-term project. That's a year behind schedule, but you can only do what you can do! I will spend some time over Christmas researching further and hope that I can be fully involved with no cutting corners, and pushing myself to new limits!

I am hardly the person to demonstrate high levels of efficiency with my powers of distraction , but I am aware of the things I can do to stay on track and keep reminding myself of where I am heading (there is no final destination by the way!)

Happy Headspace!

Amanda

 

Reflections on being a Portrait Photographer

My Name is Amanda Eatwell and I am a Portrait Photographer!

Photographing people has been a part of my practice for a long time. In my film-shooting days, I photographed many weddings and children's portraits, but it wasn't until the impact of the recession and general changes in the industry that led me to commit to specialising in Portrait Photography, both via commission and more conceptually within my own practice.

In 1998 whilst working as a freelance assistant there happened to be a large-scale makeover studio in the West End called Covershots International. I heard through the grapevine about other assistants who had taken jobs there, so signed up alongside my peers.

The company was a stone's throw from Oxford Circus and spanned at least four floors of a mansion-styled building. At its height we must have had up to ten photographers shooting images at any given time. There was a make-up artist for every photographer, and almost the same number of stylists on hand. It wasn't unusual to work ten to twelve hours to accommodate all the people wanting to be transformed into a model-version of themselves.

I cannot tell you how much I disliked this job at the time. Despite having some great clients it felt like a production line for shallow dreams; each shoot was followed up by a sales team, ready to offer you a finance solution to purchase your prints. The more cynical/realist side of my character made it hard to consistently exude enthusiasm, so I was in awe of those colleagues who treated each shoot like they were working for Vogue!

As with any situation there were perks: I got to meet one of my favourite people, shoot on a Mamiya RB67 and gain invaluable experience of photographing and posing people. I still hear myself using a few of the terms I picked up then, such as bring your chin down slightly and drop your shoulder!

Off - centre portrait of teenage girl with Lillies

Nowadays I take people's pictures for many reasons. It could be a commission for corporate portraits, or purely conceptual, where I utilise people to represent an idea of my own.

I regularly photograph business owners who need images for websites and social media. With this kind of client I would find out about their enterprise and discuss how they'd like to be perceived by their clients. This could translate photographically into a type of lighting, an appropriate clothing-style or a choice of location, such as setting them against a London Landmark to convey a geographic location.

My clients were setting up a new business, and holding meetings at The Shard. Such a prestigious location sets the tone to attract a certain type of customer.

My clients were setting up a new business, and holding meetings at The Shard. Such a prestigious location sets the tone to attract a certain type of customer.

I also have some clients with a large workforce, so can end up shooting forty plus people in a day. This becomes as much a logistical consideration as a photo-shoot, with employees continuing with their working-day: people are in meetings, on lunch, having a cigarette or working to their own deadlines. In this environment it is essential to be assertive and efficient. 

Quite understandably many of the people that are requested by their boss to have their portrait taken for the company website are not really that engaged with the process- I'd be a rich woman if I had a pound for every person who has told me 'I hate having my picture taken'. 

Black and White studio portrait of a business woman

When working on my own projects I consider my practice as a complete journey. It is as much to do with the process as the final image. I will start with an initial idea, often sketching out an outline of the final shot. Each project is different, so the amount of time I get with a subject varies from project to project. One of the most fun and challenging ventures was the Hanami Series shot in Japan. 

Working in a loud and chaotic environment surrounded by people who speak a different language to one's own was a good test of spirit!

Working in a loud and chaotic environment surrounded by people who speak a different language to one's own was a good test of spirit!

Regardless of the type of shoot (personal or commission), no amount of planning can prepare you fully for what will happen in the moment. People are people at the end of the day, bringing their own character, style, and level of confidence in front of the camera.

Portrait photography, possibly more than any other creative medium incorporates several contrasting elements. You need to think quickly to create a powerful composition, check the technical data (am I using the right settings to evoke a certain mood? Is the light complimentary or enough/too much?), and maintain a conversation that keeps the subject engaged and preferably relaxed. You also need to work fast to build rapport with the sitter. All of this whilst keeping an air of calm!

I photographed Jabo Ibehre at his home, whilst taking time out from his intense professional football practice. Despite the final image looking relaxed, there was a lot of patience required to get his precious feline to behave accordingly! Thankfully Jabo embraced the whole experience and kept me busy answering questions throughout!

I photographed Jabo Ibehre at his home, whilst taking time out from his intense professional football practice. Despite the final image looking relaxed, there was a lot of patience required to get his precious feline to behave accordingly! Thankfully Jabo embraced the whole experience and kept me busy answering questions throughout!

I find humans infinitely interesting, on an individual level and in the wider sense. Photography is a great medium for forming a conversation and learning more about a person than you may do otherwise.

Successful portrait photography is a two-way street. Portraiture for me is about the experience and opportunity to interact with people, learn something about them, and make them feel good, not necessarily about themselves, but by having an interesting, and maybe, even enjoyable time!