Anne & Spencer - London's South Bank & Covent Garden / Couples Session
I always try my best to put into words how a session felt for me, when I share the pictures I've taken of people, places or things. I see a lot of other photographers sharing images of their work with just something about how cute their couple or family were. But I always want to know more, because I know there is more. I'm the kind of person who feels things very deeply, with extreme emotions and an acutely tuned sense of how other people are feeling. I've learnt as I've got older that this is my strength, my super power, something that enables me to connect with people in the way that I do, and ultimately now that helps me in my work. It's not a weakness, not something I must fight against or wish to eradicate because "I'm too sensitive".
I tell you this, because this then you can understand why this session affected me so deeply.
I was shit scared before this session. So much so that a heap of my friends texted me good luck that morning because they knew how nervous I was. I don’t often shoot couples, and I also don’t often shoot in the city - preferring my comfort zone of the great outdoors than in a busy city amongst a lot of people. To add to that, Anne had a very finely tuned sense of what she wanted from the session. To capture not just a time and a place in their lives, but to really tell the story of everything that had come before and that had got them to this point. Of how much travel is a part of who they are, how close they had grown throughout recent years and something they could look back on as their lives would begin to change once they returned home. Oh, and they live in the US. So no do overs should I royally eff it up. No pressure…
Anne and Spencer are two people unlike any other that I have ever worked with. The care, thought and intention that they put into every aspect of their lives is so wildly inspiring. Their deep understanding of this one, precious life of ours being something that is a choice, to show up to daily and to create with our own bare hands into a work of art. Honestly it floored me, humbled me, and left me trembling in my boots as to how I was ever going to do them justice. Create the photos that captured them, when everything they had to bring to me was so much larger than any frame. I'm a wing it kinda girl, for better or worse I am impulsive, I go where the wind and my ideas take me. A chaos muppet*. It's my comfort zone, and requires no effort for me to live my life in that way. But where I struggle is to have a plan, a framework and a sense of where I am going before I start. Plans make me feel nervous, like I won't have space to express myself, to experiment or just to do what I do best which is to improvise, wing it. Anne is a Phd student, a deep thinker, and her brain works in ways I envy and marvel at. Her natural state is what I have to work so dang hard to even get a tiny piece of. It was such a gift to have her articulate everything she wanted from our time together, but it also made me nervous as hell because her expectations were so high I wondered if I could ever match them. I felt the weight of the responsibility of what I was being asked to do but yet making sure that in Anne’s mind she had given me enough space and trust to allow me to work in the way I work best. To wing it a little.
Emotionally, I think it took me about a month to recover from how much I invested and worried getting these photos right. It’s just so important to me to be able to meet the expectations of my clients, to take photographs of them that capture who they are, at a certain point in time. I want them to feel themselves through the photos, not just see a happy photo where they all look nice. I work so hard to create and capture connection, emotions and anything that is REAL. As a photographer, creating a visually pleasing image is often not that difficult. Once you know the rules, you understand light and have a grasp of the technicalities you can regularly and without too much struggle make something that looks good to the human eye. But creating something that feels pleasing, that makes you feel anything at all other than "oh that's a nice picture'...well, that's the tricky bit. It takes your whole heart, your brain and your soul. You have to think deeply, feel deeply and see everything deeply…and all at the same time in just a few short hours, often with people you have never met before. I’ve learnt so much since starting my business about how important the preparation is, to connect with your clients before you meet and photograph them. You need to ask questions, to walk them through the process and to fully manage their expectations. It’s a collaborative effort, well that’s when the magic happens anyway. You work together, talk, connect and if you plan it enough, and wing it enough, and get some golden light in a city that means so much to you all…well, you get something hopefully all of you can treasure forever.
I don’t make these images just for my clients, you see. I make them for myself. Because in every picture I take there is a little piece of me, and everyone I work with leaves a little piece of themselves with me too. In all the photos I take, I see how I felt and thought, and it always captures a time in my life as much as it does for the people I photograph. I am truly grateful for everyone I get to connect with through my work, it’s a privilege and one that adds so much colour and joy to my life. But every now and again, I get so damn lucky that I meet and work with people who humble me with how they see the world. And I feel honoured that they chose me to tell their story.
*my favourite term from an episode of Creative Pep Talks podcast. The Muppets are divided into two kinds - chaos muppets and order muppets, and the podcast is about how we balance those two sides of ourselves when one kind of muppet is dominant.