"Photography is my life", says Alexandra Cameron. The professional freelance photographer from Cambridge, England, specializes in fashion, beauty, event and portrait photography and has been featured in publications such as Marie Claire, The Independent, and The Economist. Today she tells us how she became a photographer and shares her thoughts on photography with us.
What did get you started on photography?
I was always drawn to art, all art, and worked my way through almost all artistic mediums before I found my perfect fit with photography. My dad was always taking photos of us growing up and had a keen interest in it before as well. He used a Canon A1 and made his own dark room to develop his work, so when it came time for college I decided to take a photography course. I was young however and didn’t have the patience for film photography back then, instead I turned to movies and completely fell in love with it.
I went on to study it at university and came out with a bachelors degree, but during my time there my ‘hobby’ of photography became more and more of an obsession and I decided to leap into it once I graduated. I’ve never looked back! I do love film still and have a production company with my best friend, but photography is, to me, a pure form of communicating what lies in the artist’s head. A moment captured, an emotion to pour out, a story to tell. Photography is my life.
For how long have you been into photography?
I guess it became more important to me during my final year at university, that’s when I started to plan shoots instead of just snap life. I would spend hours on the Internet trailing through images upon images on Flickr that inspired me, and I would look and just wish I could have taken them, so I tried! Of course it was nowhere close to the results that the other photographers got but it was important – important for me to want to try, to be inspired and to learn! I would ask my friends, do their make-up and hair, and get the shots I dreamed I could get! I have to thank all the friends that helped my relentless pursuit of trying to get those images early on… we’re talking hours of hair styling sometimes, but it was worth it for my journey.
What fascinates you about photography in general and what made you dive into fashion photography in particular?
So many things fascinate me about photography, every time I think I’ve pinned it down to one particular thing something else occurs and so more and more I fall in love with the format. I love life, and I mean I really love life! I celebrate it, every single beautiful painful amazing bit of it. I love the intricacies, the web of human interaction and the elation and pain you can feel every day. It’s all important, it’s all part of being human and living life!
So art, art is there to represent the individual artist, it’s a format that allows that person to explore it all, the rich tapestry of emotion a person can feel, the journey of simply being alive second to second. And photography? Well it allows you to see, really honestly see, with your eyes wide open. It stores a moment, one that could otherwise have been forgotten, it allows you to express, it helps you vent, it captures true beauty, and true hurt. Photography is raw and timeless and spectacular. It can really be anything YOU want it to be.
Fashion is one of the genres that I adore most about photography because it’s an opportunity to really create, to pluck an idea straight from your own brain and capture it as reality. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a full blown Photoshop attack, it could just be a time, or the light, or a feeling… anything can inspire a fashion story. And the clothes! And the make up! All elements come together bigger scale to fully realise what you had envisioned, or maybe to come up with something far more fabulous than you thought possible to imagine.
What is your gear?
I use a Canon 5D MK11 and own an 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8 and my favourite my 35mm 1.4. I do have a few zoom lenses but don’t really use them to be honest, even with weddings. My prime lenses are my family!
I shoot manual and although at this point I generally know the settings I would use in different light conditions, I also learn from trial and error. I will snap, and if it’s too bright I will adjust the settings to get the exposure I want (always favouring things to be slightly overexposed). I will probably always shoot like this.
I always shoot in RAW and have my settings to shoot in black and white in almost all circumstances, for me it allows me to see and measure the light better which I think is the most important thing. Of course as I’m shooting in RAW all the images are available in colour too.
When shooting my self-portraits I always have my remote with me, it allows for an instant shutter release or a 2 second delay. It has cost me about £2 from eBay and I have about 3 dotted around so there is always one at hand. They are also waterproof which comes in very handy :)
Are you using any equipment that you would call out of the norm, like any DIY or repurposed props?
Funny you mention props. I’m at the beginning of what hopefully becomes a long project building and using props. The first images I created are using an 8 foot wooden rocking horse. This was built by myself, my amazing boyfriend and some friends all on little or no budget and I will hopefully be shooting it in the coming weeks with a team all working for free in hopes of creating a stunning fashion image without the use of extensive Photoshop.
Now that we have shot this one, I am already brimming with ideas for the next images and what we can build. It’s tough work, but I am excited to really play around with the possibilities and stories I can create.
What is the best thing about Flickr? When did you first hear about the site and what made you make it the home for your photos?
Originally I started online using Deviant Art, it was a nice enough community there but a friend of mine kept mentioning Flickr… you know what it’s like when you’re used to one online home, but I joined and realised how wonderfully user-friendly it was, how quick the uploading process was and, soon enough, how amazing all the other artists were! I decided, after being a part of Flickr for a while and seeing the other journeys, to start a 365, and although I didn’t finish the project, the support from the community was amazing. I would never look back. The friends I’ve met on there, worked with, spoken with and learned from have changed my life! Really I wouldn’t have pursued photography if it weren’t for Flickr.
Which other Flickr members and/or Flickr groups influence you most?
So many, really so many…I have interviewed most of them on my blog. Some to highlight though…
Rosie Hardy: I know she is often mentioned, and there is a reason. Her work is flawless, and what she can achieve with her mind and her camera is kind of out of this world. She’s also a good friend, has talked me through some rough times, and I always have fun working with her.
Miss Aniela: Another one mentioned quite frequently. I have talked with her a bit and I’d like to think we’re online friends but she’s another one that really shows me what you can achieve when you just think outside the box.
Mirjan.: Her photography has inspired me since the beginning, the colours, the reality, the light. Her images could be considered simple, but to me the simplicity is where the beauty is. And I love her short hair :)
Greg Pths: Simply the most stunning and wonderful images.
Nirrimi: Nirrimi is everything. Her work inspires me above all.
Of course I could go on for pages but I’ll stop there.
What is your 1 favorite photo from your own photostream and why?
Well this is awkward. Just one? It’s not that I think that every photo is amazing or anything, but so many mean something to me! I’m going to have to pick two…
My Favourite fashion shot at the moment is The Virgin Suicides. It kind of represents the style I follow with my fashion photography, it was a shoot that meant a lot to me as it was inspired by the amazing Sophia Coppola and her film The Virgin Suicides and I guess I’m just proud of it.
This self portrait shows my emotion, simply put. It was a very hard time in my life, and I wanted to capture exactly how I was feeling, how lonely and fragile and broken and exposed I felt and this is what I got.
And what are your 3 favorite photos from other Flickr members and why?
Another hard one. The only way to go about it is just to share the photos that have permanently stuck in my mind since I started looking at photos, so…
Wild, youthful and wonderful.
I’ve just never been able to get this [moderate] photo from Benoit.P out of my head. I love everything about it.
I still don’t know how he does his double exposures but this one is pure magic.
If there was one secret to photography you could share with the Flickrverse, what would that be?
I don’t know if it’s a secret, but something that I marvel at when it comes to photography. What is captured with your camera can only be captured by you. You and your brain, you and your imagination. What’s in the frame is your vision, your heart, what inspired YOU. To me, photography is unique to the individual that presses the shutter and that means that each image that you take is completely unique.
That thought makes each photo I see, each piece of art shared, the colours, the light, the idea, the mood, it all represents that person. And isn’t that just wonderful.
Alexandra, thank you for sharing your Flickr story with us.