The action sports photographer on learning her trade by chance, shooting sharks by holding her breath and having big respect for feminine women who rip
I got my first Kodak instamatic camera for Christmas when I was 4 years old. My mum was constantly taking photos of us and my dad was a keen skateboarder so we had fun shooting on the skate ramp he made in our back yard. My mum would shoot photos and my dad, myself and my brother were her subjects. I don’t think I was that interested in shooting when I was really young but was so used to my parents constantly snapping that I developed the eye before the interest was really sparked.
We moved around a lot as a family, following the surf in Cornwall. I shot my first surf photo of my dad when I was 9 years old. He had just got a new board shaped and I had discovered getting pics developed myself with my pocket money. The first proper camera was my mum’s Nikon F1 which she gave me when I started showing a real interest at 11 years old.
After school, I studied art and in the evenings studied photography. In the summer I took off overseas for a break before applying to Central St. Martin’s the following year. But I discovered scuba diving and within no time at all had got myself a job as an underwater photographer in Cyprus and then Turkey and Egypt. After 4 years working at dive schools summer and winter, I decided to give skiing a go and ended up scuba diving (!) with a job taking people under the ice in the ski resort of Tignes, France.
In Tignes I got my first video camera and started following a more film orientated route. At 26 years old I finally decided to re-apply to university and study Film & Sport Science. I put down my stills camera for a few years while I was studying between London and Australia and did various filming and production jobs more of a doco style. After uni I got involved with Guido Perrini and Warren Smith in Verbier, Switzerland in making ski action films. Filming, editing and directing took over for several years. But I did continue shooting photos mainly of skiers. Now I shoot everything from skiing to surfing, free diving, travel, culture, weddings, portraits, you name it!
I have been sporty all my life, swimming competitively for years and as a child did gymnastics, ballet, and tap to a good level. I got into skateboarding and bmx for a while and then during my mid to late teens I got more into the gym and kick boxing. After school, I started scuba diving, skiing, surfing and paragliding. Now my main sports are skiing, free diving, down hill mountain biking and recently ice hockey, road biking and paddle boarding.
In regards to how I got into action sports and shooting combined, it was a mistake. I was doing my first PADI scuba course at a dive school in Cyprus when I was 19. I made a comment to the owner of the dive school about how he was loading his film in his underwater camera. He got pretty upset with me and told me if I thought I could do a better job than him then I should go and do it. He handed me the camera and walked away. There was a group of divers booked to go on a dive and they had all paid to get their photos taken underwater. So after a few quick tips from Gavin who worked at the school, I bit the bullet and got in the water with the camera. My photos were much better than those of the boss and he gave me a job! From there it was just meeting people and following ideas and interests and I slowly started to get more involved in the industry and build a name for myself.
I spent some time shooting with the Maldives Whaleshark Research Programme. This was such a great experience as I had done a freedive course prior to arriving. So once in the water I wasn’t laden with heavy scuba equipment and was confident to be underwater for minutes at a time whilst breath holding. I was able to spend as long as I like in the water and the sharks were not bothered by noisy bubbles and pipes everywhere. Skiing of course is always great and I have had some amazing trips in places like Japan and New Zealand with some of the deepest almost suffocating powder snow or exciting and new helicopter drops. Cambodia also stands out. I don’t know whether it was just my frame of mind at the time or whether it is really special, but I had the most incredible time shooting there. I was travelling alone and occasionally met a local who I would give some cash to and they would take me off the beaten track with my camera.
Some people would say there’s a big difference between shooting boys and girls but I don’t really find there is so much. I think the conversation is certainly different and sometimes I find myself laughing a lot more with girls than with boys. Some of the girls I shoot with are a million times better at the sports they are doing than your average man. I really love it when a girl is not trying to be a man, when she is confident, feminine, attractive, wears feminine clothing, but I look at them in awe when they start their sporting performance! This is a very attractive quality and I love to shoot girls who look good in a photo but can pull off some tough stunts. Girls tend to me a bit more patient too and can be quite analytical and safety conscious. But I don’t think this is a bad thing at all.