A few days ago, I asked on Instagram if anyone would be interested in seeing a "retrospective" on my work, and how far I've come since I began taking photographs. In hindsight, this may or may not have been the worst decision I've ever made, because some of these photos make me DIE of embarrassment. I'm not joking, I seriously considered abandoning this entire process because looking at some of these is so cringe! However, I also think that it's amazing to see how far I've come, and it's important for us to show that we were once all beginners... (clearly, I was).
I first picked up a camera in 2008. I was 15, going through the horrors of puberty, and desperate to be creative. After discovering Flickr.com, and realising that photography was a way I could try to express myself, I became obsessed. I created an account, and very quickly began to post images. Here was one of my first ones:
Looking at this now, I laugh at the amount of things wrong with it! Believe it or not, this was taken on a small Canon Powershot point and shoot (I hadn't found my parents' DSLR yet!), and it was taken in my bedroom. I can see everything thats wrong with it (hello yellow tones and awful crop), but it also makes me smile. I remember taking this! I remember thinking "Oh my goodness, that is such an amazing photo!" I remember feeling really proud of myself, excited, and how much I wanted to post it and share it on Flickr. I remember the exhilaration I felt when people commented and told me they liked it. It was probably one of the first photos I took which I really loved, and made me begin to think of photography as a career path.
I was always drawn to portraits and fashion photography, but far too scared to ask anyone to model for me (I didn't tell ANYONE about my photography work until about a year and a half in, and had an alias on Flickr for quite a long time - I was shy), so I used myself in many of my photographs. I had a tripod and a remote control (thanks Mama and Papa!), and I would play in our garden for hours upon hours, try out ideas. Looking back at some of these images now, I die. They're awful, but I'm also so thankful for them, because if I hadn't taken them, if I hadn't played the way I did, I would never have learnt or progressed. Let's all take a look:
To give you some context, the images above were taken probably over the course of a year and a half. Clearly I was learning, I was figuring out how my camera worked, but most importantly: I WAS HAVING FUN. I was posting these on the internet (cringe), and I was getting feedback, learning from my mistakes, and learning from doing. Had I not done these things, I never would have gotten to where I am today. Thankfully, once I left school and got to uni, things began to get noticeably better!
Now, this brings me to my three years of studying fashion photography. I loved my degree, and the friends I had during the three years I studied at Falmouth University. The first two years were where I really flourished, and my style developed into something which is still very present in the work I produce today. I began to see patterns of softness, depth, and a new love for studio (but a much moodier studio image than I currently produce!). I spent three years soaking up all the knowledge I could, but towards the end of my second year and the whole of my third, I became quite ill, my focus shifted to Atlas Magazine, and the desire to take images was gone for a little while. I've discussed the break I took in photography, and why it was the best thing I ever did for myself, but even though I took a break of almost three years, when I came back to my camera, the style I had developed and the skills that I learnt during my degree were still there.
And that brings us to today... well, to the past year. I picked a camera up again, and I felt inspired. I wanted to create, but I knew EXACTLY what I was drawn to: wedding dresses. Princess dresses. Romance, softness, dreams. These are the words I go back to every single time that I shoot. They're what inspire me above all else! What I shoot now is simply an accumulation of many years of playing, many years of experimentation, many years of looking at photography, and also many years of feeling inspired. It look me a very long time to pin point exactly what it was that I loved about photography, and maybe it's got something to do with getting a bit older and having a better understanding of myself, but looking through my body of work, it always comes back to those things. The only thing that has changed is that now I have a better understanding of how a camera works, I have more self confidence, I have more understanding of light, and I'm far less afraid of what people will think of the work I produce. I produce images that I LOVE. I don't worry about whether people around me do. As long as I love what I'm working on, and it speaks to me, that's all that matters. In ten years time (2027, omg) I'm sure that I'll look back and see another huge change. Maybe my style will look totally different... or maybe it won't. Whatever it looks like, as long as I'm producing work that makes me happy, I don't care.
If you take anything away from this as a photographer, be that you should be shooting what you love. Shoot what makes your heart sing. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks of it. Don't be afraid to start. Don't be afraid to share, and definitely, DEFINITELY keep playing.