My Photography Journey
Last year I wrote about the rise of the female photographer through history and so this year, for International Women's Day, I thought I'd talk about how and why I got into photography.
As a photographer, you are always looking. You see art in the most unusual places and sometimes, the best you can do is to take a mental image but I will always be grateful for the joy that photography brings in being able to see the world around you in a slightly different way.
I have had a passion for photography since I was a little girl but this became a personal quest to become proficient once I became a mother. I have always been a people watcher and find people fascinating and so it felt natural to specialise in Portrait Photography.
Coming from a bilingual accountancy background (my degree is in modern languages and I fell into accountancy but hated it with a passion), I retrained in photography and was awarded a double distinction which gave me the confidence to pursue photography. I was approached by Getty Images, Alamy and Saatchi who were keen to license some of my images and I finally had the courage to launch my first business in 2013, Emma Finch Photography which specialises predominantly in outdoors children and families. As my portfolio started primarily with images of my own two little girls, I attracted other families with similarly young children. Word of mouth brought me all my bookings (it still does, as I am terrible at marketing!)
With families, I prefer shooting with natural light and in natural settings, which allows for real emotions, real moments that create timeless, evocative images. I find it a privilege and a pleasure to photograph people knowing the images will become part of someone's history. I love the challenge of capturing great images of young children (it really is like sports photography, anticipating what they are going to do even before they do it!)
In 2016, I wanted to get to grips with studio lighting, having been a natural light photographer for a few years. I spent a year in the studio, teaching myself lighting, shooting models and building a portfolio. I had always been obsessed with lingerie (yes, some girls like shoes or bags, it was ALWAYS lingerie for me!) so it felt right that I should launch a Boudoir business too. The genre of boudoir will never sit comfortably with child photography so it had to be a completely separate entity and so Belle Privé Photography was born. And this seemed to come out of left field to many around me... let's just say it wasn't fully supported... 'smutty stuff', 'under the counter images'. Yes it upset me but I'm pretty determined once I decide to do something. And I am so glad I did - I absolutely love what I do, I love the effect it has on my clients and I'm proud that the photography industry is taking notice.
Being equally comfortable working from my central Manchester studio or on location, I now work both commercially and with private clients. I am influenced by feminine strength and elegance at all times. My images depict strong women and I turn work down if it doesn't fit my ethos. I shoot for women and it is the greatest compliment if another woman admires my work. (Of course, I get a lot of gentlemen followers too which is absolutely fine!) I love the glamour of Old Hollywood and so much of my work has a slight vintage edge, with of course a glamourous makeover is a pre-requisite! Boudoir has a bad reputation within the photographic world - too many torrid tales of the 'man with cam' and this is something I really would like to change. Boudoir is so much more than just images in lingerie... to some women it can almost be life changing. They see beauty in themselves that they haven't seen before - the boost to a woman's confidence can last a long time. For many, its a celebration of who they are or even a cathartic experience. Yes I've had women cry (in a good way) and I don't think people really understand the power of this sort of experience until you have seen the effects for yourself. I myself had a Boudoir photoshoot years ago (when my girls were very young and I was lost in a world of nappies and playgroups.) I felt invisible to the world, my only purpose was as a mother. After the shoot, I couldn't believe the difference... I felt myself again, not just a mother but a woman too.
The energy I derive from other people, models, clients, creatives is intoxicating. The lens allows me to connect with people on a deeper level and a photoshoot can be such an intimate experience.
I am proud to have had my work featured in numerous publications, including multiple international front covers, to have won awards and to have been twice a top 10 finalist in Portrait of the Year with the Guild of Photographers.
Around the same time as I launched Belle Privé Photography, along with Graham Currey, my now business partner, we launched Photography Session Days. We teach Portrait Photography and studio lighting from our studios and arrange photography events in unique locations around the UK, with the finest models and performers for photographers' portfolios. Six years ago when I started playing with studio lights and I thought they were a complete Dark Art, I never imagined that I would end up teaching it, with photographers coming from all over the country to attend but here we are, selling out over 30 workshops a year!
So it all keeps me out of mischief... Life is a constant juggle of work and family but I wouldn't have it any other way. My days are varied, I'm constantly learning and there are a million things I would still like to achieve. I am in love with my life and I feel honoured to have a career that I feel so passionately about.