Which is why when I was 29 I sold all my worldly belongings and gave up my job as a newspaper reporter in a ski resort in Fernie, British Columbia to pursue bigger things. I only knew a couple of people in London but figured I would find my way to the dailies or a magazine in a big international city.
Quickly fate took me down a side street and I was offered a position as photographic manager in a marketing agency. Instead of writing features I was managing photographers.
Photography had been my other passion from youth but a career counsellor told me to get a job in a field that would pay and use photography as my hobby.
My new job taught me everything I would need to know about running a photography business and the photographers taught me about shooting. One photographer, who has gone on to become one of Getty’s top shooter’s, was a particularly good mentor to me. He said I needed to find what really inspired me visually in order to figure out what I wanted to specialise in.
I just couldn’t see it and as I flipped through one of my many foodie magazines, it dawned on me… Food photography. I love to travel, I love to cook, I love to look at pictures of food. I should be a food photographer.
After 4 years at the agency I decided to go it alone. It was a hard slog and digital was just coming into the forum. Everyone thought they could be a professional photographer if they had a digital camera and carving out a niche was difficult so I found myself going down the event photography route in order to pay the bills. It was fun and interesting but after a few years it became same old, same old. I didn’t have the time to crack the food photography industry.
In 2009, when I was losing the love for my business, my boyfriend at the time decided he wanted to jack it all in and buy a boat and learn to sail in the Caribbean. The timing was right for me and although I could barely tell the stern of a boat from the bow, my adventurous self said ‘go and be bold’. So once again, I sold up all my worldly belongings and joined him on his boat.
It was a challenge. To say the very least. The boat was in worse condition than we expected, the weather was the worst it had been in over a decade and detrimentally, my boyfriend and I didn’t work well under stress together.
As everyone predicted, after six months of living on a 42ft sailboat, the stresses of living on a boat together work got the better of us and we split up. It was his boat so I had to go.
I had given my business to a fellow photographer so had nowhere to go and nothing to go back to. So I figured, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m going to go and take beautiful pictures of food.
I travelled wherever the wind blew. I asked my mentor for some wise words which were ‘shoot and create a body of work that speaks for you’. I travelled Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Dubai and I even sailed across the Indian Ocean. And all the while I took photographs of food, the people who cook it and the places that inspire the flavours – all from the heart.
I was developing my creative vision. I listened to inspiring podcasts about photography and the business of photography and plotted my return to the UK and the photographic industry.
When I returned to England, with a hard drive full of photos, I set to work to put it all together. My colleague kindly returned my clients so I had a small income and for the past two years I have been working on building my business with a new focus, Culture of Food photography.
It was tough at the beginning but eventually people started to sit up and take notice of my work. I went to India with a TV chef to shoot a book to go along with his TV show on curries, I have landed many new clients and am now shooting for one of America’s top food magazines. And this year, I was a finalist in the Pink Lady Apples ‘Food Photographer of the Year’ awards.
It has been a challenging journey, but I in retrospect, I now realise that giving myself that break from what was stifling my creativity, I was able to think clearly and with a clean slate, I was able to find clarity.
It is not without it’s challenges of course. I am the only one who can motivate myself to make the cold calls to Art Buyers and Photo Editors and buoy myself up with constant rejection. During the quite times I have to be my own cheerleader, keeping my spirits up with personal projects.
I have found good people to help guide me along the way and good resources to help me manage and grow my business and work for some amazing clients on some fantastic campaigns and stories. Being a photographer isn’t just about taking great photos, it’s about being a savvy business person as well.