I recently wrote an article for ‘The Word’ magazine for the Maynard School in Exeter. It is all about how being a woman has shaped my career in photography. Please feel free to have a scoot through below…
I sit next to her watching the screen but deeply aware of the shy lady sat next to me. I sense it coming and she gingerly raises her hand and dabs away the big round tears that are rolling down her cheek. In that moment I know have fulfilled my brief.
I know what you’re thinking. What sort of job requires you to make people cry? Well, I’ll come back to that in just a moment. I should probably introduce myself. I am Jessica Farmer (nee Madge) and I run my own photography business, Perspectives Photography. I have built my business around my experience as a woman, as a mother and as a business owner. I am, like many women, camera shy but feel passionately that women should record their own journey in life. I have a very personal desire to help women record a bit of their own story regardless of how shy they are.
It’s funny that I should end up here as I was never really that arty when I was younger. Photography was something I picked up later in life when I decided a career change was in order. I am a firm believer that past work and life experience give you the transferable skills (you often don’t even realise you have) to set up and run a business. Today I am a photographer but I am also an accountant, marketeer, PR rep, administrator, co-ordinator, location spotter, IT expert (well actually it is outsourced to my lovely husband) and business planner. Phew! I love the challenge of learning new things so whilst it has been time consuming, I have loved this element of working for myself.
As a mum I am, like millions of other mums, keen to record the story of my children’s childhood for them. The problem is, in doing so I am oft en behind the camera. Somehow it felt vain to ask someone to take a picture of me with the children. Which is ridiculous. As I started to put together the children’s photo albums it became apparent to me that it looked like my husband had single-handedly brought up the children. I was hardly ever in the photographs! It was like I wasn’t even there. The more I spoke to women the more I realised that this was a very common problem. So this became my mission… to record these relationships for people, in particular women, through my children and families lifestyle sessions.
So going back to the client I spoke of in the opening paragraph, she was seeing herself in her photographs as a mummy. Seeing the emotional connection that she has with her children for the first time from the outside. This was not a triple chin, grinning selfie but rather a beautifully lit portrait observing a connection between mother and child. I can see for myself the value of this photograph to my client today. But I know that this value will increase over time when future generations will have them as a lasting memory. Call me soft but this is why I love my job… that warm feeling I get when I show people their imagery, when you can see how much your work means to someone.
Being a woman
Aside from being mum, I am also a woman in my own right (despite what the children might think!). As I mentioned, I am camera shy but wanted to have some images of me that I loved. I knew I didn’t want anything that looked too staged. I didn’t want a garage glamour style boudoir shoot. I just wanted something that was just me. Something simple, fine art and candid. Something I would be proud to show others. I wanted to get a sense of who I was. I wanted it to be personal and I wanted to offer this to other women, too.
Over the last few years I have been growing the women’s side of the business through bespoke sessions. They have taken many different forms from bridal portraits, fine art boudoir to casual, informal to glamour and reflecting personal interests from yoga and boxing to ballet. These sessions highlighted to me how everyone wants something different and personal to them. So now I build bespoke sessions for women creating really unique artwork by simply asking people ‘how would you like to be photographed?
So, how I feel as a woman has really shaped my business over the years. I am able to understand many of the issues facing women and cherish the opportunity to help people to create some beautiful memories. I feel I have found my niche and realise the importance of doing a job where you can make a difference to people today and for future generations. Call me soppy but I love the thought of people rummaging around in the attic and stumbling across the photographs that I have taken.
The one thing that you can’t learn as a photographer but need in abundance is a real passion for your craft . You have to have that drive, that fire in your belly which keeps you striving to be better, to give better service to your clients, to put in the hours.
Being self-employed has given me the challenges that I realise I need for job satisfaction whilst enabling me to be flexible around the family. Don’t get me wrong… It has been a steep and never ending learning curve. But this is the challenge that I love!
You can find out more about my work on my website: www.perspectivesphotography.co.uk.