Work in fashion: A day in the life of a freelance fashion photographer
Award winning photographic artist working with photography, moving image and exploring installation, Kerry Curl has exhibited two fashion portraits through British Journal of Photography portrait projects. With a focus on portraiture and fashion, Curl’s practice frequently draws on the influence of the past in today’s world to question the idea of nostalgia, sustainability and consumerism. Her current ongoing series This is Not Nostalgia? explores whether curating influences from the past necessarily means the images themselves are 'retro'. FashionUnited recently asked Curl to share what a day in her life is like as a freelance fashion photographer.
What does a workday look like for you?
How a day looks entirely depends on my diary, if I’m working backstage at fashion week for example then it might be an early start and a late finish followed by editing into the morning hours. Days can really vary and some weeks are more photoshoot focused than others. As freelancers we’re not just creatives who make images, we have to also think about marketing ourselves, looking for opportunities, building connections along with doing research and education activities.
Being freelance for me means having a lot of control over my time, but with that also comes a responsibility, so I try and get in to ‘working day mode’ over a cup of coffee and a catch up of the news. I’ll have an interactive session with Twitter, Instagram and check my emails. I find having a to do list to look at first thing in the morning helps me structure my day.
I work as a portrait and fashion photographic artist. My own interest in fashion is from a second hand, vintage and sustainable perspective which is the kind of fashion I like to work with. I ensure I always have time to work on my own personal projects so research time is really instilled as a must for me.
If I’m not photographing someone in the afternoon, then when possible I try and have an official lunch break followed by a walk. Then it’s back to go through emails and social media. I’ll also use my afternoons to edit images, plan mood boards, organise my ideas for shoots, contact people to make work with. Again it might be more research time which also includes things like finding set design pieces and items of clothing to pull ideas together.
For the type of work I like to make this can include all manner of things from 1970s carpets to 50 metres of fabric. I’m currently exploring some exhibition ideas for 2020, group shows and solo-which means there’s lots of work and activity going on that is photography related but goes beyond physically holding a camera. It can be quite solitary when you’re not out working with people so afternoons can be a good opportunity to catch up with a fellow creative and bounce some ideas around.
Sometimes I’ll do photoshoots in the evening. I like to try and be as flexible as possible but lots of models, other creatives are working around their jobs. Having had a more structured 9 to 5 job for many years myself, I appreciate how precious time off is, so if I can help someone avoid having to book time off work to update their portfolio or take part in a photoshoot, then I will.
I actually really enjoy working in the evening: spending a few hours editing images with some music or a podcast on is genuinely my idea of fun, this or again more research but might also involve watching music videos, a film or a documentary. Evenings are also a good time for meetings, again since many people I work with are fellow creatives so it’s a mutually good time to get together to chat ideas.
What was it like documenting London Fashion Week?
I think of myself as someone who documents style and fashion. My way of working walks the line of documentary photography, which takes me to making work from a backstage perspective at events like London Fashion Week; I’m pleased to see much more sustainability and conversations about how we consume fashion on the schedule as we move forward. There was certainly a lot of innovative work at Graduate Fashion Week in 2019. This showcase of graduate talent remains one of my favourite events to photograph and is another way I can support emerging creatives.
What are the challenges and benefits of working as a freelancer in fashion?
Independent creatives and brands don’t always have much budget, but the benefits of working with them is the efficiency of making things happen. Fashion is a massive machine, so many different creative disciplines all coalesce in the fashion space: design, visual art, photography, film, music, performance, craft skills. It’s easy to feel lost amongst it all but that variety also brings with it a wealth of opportunities and experiences.
What did you study?
I did a BA (Hons) Photography at Norwich University of the Arts, it was a general photography course with no specialist label. This meant we were all given the space and importantly the time to understand what interested us and question ourselves about what type of work we truly want to make.
In the years prior to university I’d studied a few City & Guilds courses in Photography, which weren’t fashion related, it was mainly landscape and a small amount of portraiture and still life. What those courses gave me were technical skills and also confidence-which allowed me to progress not just my photography but myself too.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to your younger self?
Make the work you want to make, even if no-one is commissioning you to make it, commission yourself. Whatever it is you’re wanting to make, don’t wait.
What are your must-have fashion items?
Dr. Martens because I wear them with everything and they go from day clothes to eveningwear. Secondly, a bumbag, mainly because they are so practical but I’m loving that fashion has fallen in love with them to the point they seem much more in ‘fashion’ than they did the first time around.
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- Creative Jobs in Fashion in the UK
Photos: courtesy of Kerry Curl