Originally published in Issue 02
Self portraits by Ester Keate
What’s your practice like?
I’ve just started a new studio share and it’s a great new space to work in—a lovely, white, bright space with big windows to let in lots of natural light. You can almost always find me in a boiler suit and trainers with my hair in a plait when I’m in the studio. There is always music playing and lots of snacks around to keep the team happy and upbeat! I love working with a tight team and will try to work with the same hair and make-up artists, stylists and set designers whenever I can as the understanding and chemistry we have help everyone jump straight back into the swing of it. That way, I can concentrate on the photography rather than having to oversee all other aspects of the shoot.
How often do you shoot? Do you work everyday?
It depends. Some months, I can shoot up to four days a week and sometimes I’ll go a few weeks without shooting at all. In those times, I find myself retouching and preparing for upcoming shoots.
Ideally, I would like to be shooting two days a week, enough to not get bored of it—but not too much that I have to rush through the production and end up feeling like I haven’t done my best or have so much work piled up that I don’t have enough rest.
What got you into portrait photography?
Boiler Suit: A.P.C. / Jewellery: Husk Jewellery / Shoes: Adidas
Both my parents are photographers. My dad works for artists doing reproduction images of their works. He also does still life images of 3D pieces or exhibition rooms—a very technical form of photography. My mum was a portrait photographer who worked a lot with natural light and shot on film using a Leica or Hasselblad.
As soon as I was old enough to carry a tripod, I began helping them out. Looking back, I must have picked up aspects of my dad’s technical lighting style and my mum’s free-flowing approach to photographing people.
What’s photography to you?
I think for some people it can be very personal. To me, it is more of a team effort. I tend to approach projects with fashion in mind and of course, such great works are born out of excellent teamwork. Photography is personal when I use it to put my perspectives out in the open. Of course, who you choose to photograph says something about you too.
I’m not someone who tries to impose my own personality on others—for example, by making serious people do crazy things, or asking an extrovert to sit quietly in front of the camera. I always try to work with who the person is and capture real emotions.
Casting a model with the right look and personality for a particular shoot is important to me. If a shoot were to involve climbing up buildings or sliding under cars, I’d find an easy-going, adventurous individual like I did for the garage shoot you saw earlier on with Eva Jurke.
This might be somewhat tricky—but what’s your least favourite thing about London?
I love London. I grew up here and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love the mix of people, cultures, food and energy.
However, there are problems with London too. The fact that majority of jobs in the UK (especially in the creative sector) are based in London means that the price of rent here is so high that I think it stifles creativity to some extent. People have to work full-time jobs just to earn enough to live, leaving hardly any time left to work on their own creative projects or portfolio.
It also creates a bit of a divide between the people who have family in London who they can stay with or who can support them financially until they find their feet, and those who cannot afford to do so.
As such, the creative sector can be seen as ‘middle class’ to some people—which further contributes to the social divide in the UK.