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In Conversation With
Interviewed by Fleur Adderley
Transcribed by Rida Akhtar
WHERE DID YOUR CAREER BEGIN?
I studied fashion communication, so publications, photography, styling and creative direction was all a part of it. It was there that I first picked up a camera. I then went to London and did an internship at Boys By Girls magazine, during those months I was really in the world of fashion photography publications. I bought my first little point and shoot around then, and it was that summer I got into taking pictures. I was hanging out with friends in London, going to events through the magazine, and just started building up a network of people I knew. Then I went back to university, did my final year and it was in my final major project was when I got immersed in what my style of photography was. Since I left uni I have cemented it further.
WHERE DID YOUR EXPERIENCE OF STYLING COME ABOUT?
It definitely came later. It was always photography to start with and I was doing a lot of self-shooting. When I was doing this, it was important I had all the components filled so I would start styling my own shoots as well as doing the creative direction. When I left uni I worked at Liam Hodges for a year and again you are immersed in this fashion brand, so styling becomes something quite natural to you. I was always in it from an early age, always interested in fashion from as long as I can remember. It has come more into a career path in the past year or two.
HAS EXPERIENCE IN ONE HELPED YOUR APPROACH IN ANOTHER?
They definitely take different skills and feel completely different. When you’re working on a project doing one, it is a very different experience. Styling is so much more time consuming, much more goes into the pre-planning of styling something as opposed to shooting. I always take my hat off to those who style consistently, it is definitely a draining job. There is never as much gratitude but they are the ones that build a narrative and image. So much goes into it … it does feel different.
'It’s really important to do stuff you believe in and you are able to carry your authentic style into. That would be my advice to someone, stay true to who you are and where you wanna go. Always have goals to work towards, as little or as big as they are.'
I SEE ON YOUR WEBSITE, YOU’VE WORKED WITH LARGE BRANDS LIKE NIKE, CONVERSE AND STONE ISLAND. HOW DO U BRING YOUR OWN CREATIVE IDENTITY TO SUCH DISTINCT BRANDS?
I’ve been lucky with it. When I started out, I always had such a specific style of my work that I wanted to do, with a kind of documentary feel behind it. I aimed for my works to be a very raw and character focused outlet. I’m lucky these bigger brands have gone on that wave. For streetwear and sportwear brands it has always been that way as oppose to high end fashion brands. Growing up I always remember campaigns being glossy and stuff that seemed underrepresented and unachievable, so luckily there has been a shift towards that in recent years. Even these kinds of brands are so much more into that style of work now, where they want it to be accessible and relatable. When they book me, they are keen for me to bring my style into it. On the day I say to the people I am shooting ‘act like I’m not there, just be yourself. I’m here to shoot and get your true character out instead of you posing.’
YOUR PHOTOS ARE VERY DOWN-TO-EARTH. IS THIS CONSCIOUS OR DID IT COME FROM WHEN YOU WERE FIGURING OUT PHOTOGRAPHY?
It definitely came in a natural way. I never learnt how to do photography. On my course we were expected to be able to do magazine editorials but we were never taught photography modules. I never came from a background of knowing how to use a DSLR. I fell into film photography through shooting stuff in the moment and it went hand in hand with what I was interested in. I have always been interested in sociology - I find people, documenting people and street photography really fascinating. This was always a driving force when I started doing work, I’m not sure if it conscious.
MUST BE HARD WHEN YOU WANT TO CAPTURE THE SPONTANEITY IN A SET UP SITUATION WITH BIG BRANDS WANTING THE JOB DONE… DO U GET CREATIVE BLOCKS?
Yes! I have had this so many times on big shoots You have the brand team, creative directors, producers, everyone over your shoulder - ‘we need to make sure we have these assets, these products, we have this and that’. I do feel overwhelming pressure in my head especially because I know it will be a better image shooting the people whilst they are dancing to the music on set.
There have been a few times when I’ve been shooting when I shouldn’t be shooting and its always those images the brands will choose in the end. People gravitate towards images that are real and authentic. It is always important when I leave a job to know I have fulfilled that as well.
WITH THESE SHOOTS, DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO CREATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH U AND THE SUBJECTS OR IS IT HARD WHEN LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE INVOLVED?
At times very hard, sometimes I’m not even given time to build up a rapport. As soon as I meet them, I try to speak to them on a level. They might be feeling pressure, I might be, but it’s all about building that connection. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but it is important to have a common vision.
DO YOU APPROACH IN SIMILAR WAY AS A STYLIST?
Yes sometimes, it is less when I’m styling which again is mad to me. When I did a recent styling job, the people I was styling didn’t even know what the vision for the video which was crazy. I do try to involve them, it gives them a level of comfort.
AT TIMES THESE BIG CREATIVE PROJECTS AREN’T AS COLLABORATIVE AS YOU WOULD THINK, LOTS OF PEOPLE AREN’T COMMUNICATING WITH EACH OTHER, BOXES ARE GETTING TICKED. DOES THIS FEEL LIKE IT IS A WEIGHT ON YOUR CREATIVITY? HAVE U FOUND A WAY TO PUSH PAST IT?
Yeah definitely. I think I’m getting there. Each one I do you take a lesson from, a lot of it is learning to not get too attached to each project. You’ll give it 150% and it will take over your life for a month, then it’s done. With styling I’ve had it that I’ve done so much work getting looks from around the world and then on the day the director might say he doesn’t want to do any of those themes. It is very frustrating, so you have to learn to accept that and be detached from it.
I NOTICED YOU’VE WORKED WITH A FEW FAMILIAR FACES… WHAT WAS WORKING WITH ALLAN MUSTAFA LIKE?
Absolutely great. The whole day he was making me laugh. So cool and down to earth. I remember we snuck into this part of the building that we weren’t supposed to go in, suddenly he was like ‘let’s try this here, let’s try this there’, like he was a creative director, I thought it was sick.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR MOST MEMORABLE PROJECT YOU’VE WORKED ON SO FAR IS?
Probably the first one I got booked with Nike, it was the women’s World Cup one. I had done lots of self-shoots for them, ones I had directed myself. Getting that email from the editorial team was such a moment where I was like ‘this is my goal and I’ve reached that goal’. Styling wise it would definitely be the Loyle Carner, Knucks video I did a couple months ago. One, it was a really big job for me to get but also the amount of work that went into it. It was my first taste of styling a big music video.
HOW DID IT DIFFER TO STYLING PHOTOSHOOTS?
With styling a photoshoot, you can pin something back and shoot whereas when everyone’s moving it’s more difficult. It is very different - some things didn’t fit, like the saxophone players measurements got messed up so on the day I put him in a suit and it just didn’t fit him, I was trying to pin it back and the director wanted to shoot a scene. So yeah it definitely changes that.
HOW WOULD YOU SAY AS A CREATIVE WORKING ON MUSIC VIDEOS, PHOTOSHOOTS, DO YOU DEAL WITH THE PRESSURE OF WHEN A SITUATION MIGHT GO WRONG?
Being aware it may go wrong and don’t panic. There’s always going to be a way you can resolve something. Touch wood it hasn’t happened to me yet but if I shot a whole campaign on film and for whatever reason the film exposed or something - it must be such a horrible thing to go through but I think it’s reminding yourself it’s not the biggest thing in the world and it can be redone. Mistakes definitely will happen, and things will change on the day but it’s about being focused whilst you’re there, if you allow yourself to have your stress head on you might lose focus on what you’re doing.
"Always have goals to work towards, as little or as big as they are."
IS THERE A PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CARRY WITH YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CREATIVE PRACTICES? OR SOMETHING YOU’VE HEARD THAT IS AT THE CORE OF YOUR CREATIVE PRACTICE?
Just stay true to yourself. I’m nowhere near where I want to be creatively in my career so I often get jobs I might not be passionate about; you think should I do it for experience or exposure. Obviously, that’s important to do at the start but it’s also important you stay true to yourself, as a creative you are your own brand. It’s really important to do stuff you believe in and you are able to carry your authentic style into. That would be my advice to someone, stay true to who you are and where you wanna go. Always have goals to work towards, as little or as big as they are.
IS THERE ANY PLACE YOU SEE YOURSELF HEADING?
It’s always been my dream to move to New York and work there. That’s been a dream for a few years, hopefully in the next five years that will be something that happens. In the next year I want to do bigger and better jobs, I want each job to be bigger than the last. And maybe branch out from just sportswear brands, I’d love to get my work into The Guardian or something like that. I’ve never had my work in an actual print publication so that would be sick. And just getting better at what I do, getting booked more.
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