Melissa Cumberland and Jordanna Andrews are two talented upcoming photographers that have recently joined forces to establish Pandora’s Thoughts. Despite being extremely busy working from their commercial studio in London, we were delighted when they agreed to complete a Spotlight Interview for Urbanity Chic. Read the full in-depth interview below to discover what they most enjoy about photography, who inspires them and what they do to relax when not working.
Q: How did you get into professional photography?
Melissa: I started photographing live music in 2005. I was still going down that road when I met Jordanna in London a couple of years later. We did a shoot when she was applying to LCF and when she got in we entered a photography competition & won. Everything kind of snowballed after that, we worked really well together, so we formed Pandora’s Thoughts in 2009 & have been going since.
Jordanna: Completely by accident. I have loved photography since I was a child and have carried a camera with me since I was 9. Mel and I met in a VERY uncreative environment where we were both looking for that “something” and we found it!
Q: What do you enjoy most photographing?
Melissa: I really enjoy being able to capture a moment, a feeling; to encase it in the kind of image in which you can feel the atmosphere.
Jordanna: Emotion… To capture what someone is like on the inside. Movement has always intrigued me. We have a shoot coming up based on inertia, which should be amazing!
Q: How was 2010 for you?
BOTH: 2010 was a big year for Pandora’s Thoughts (hopefully 2011 will be even bigger). We really got up and running, honing in on where our focus was in moving away from music and fully into fashion. We got our first website going, were invited to our very first Fashion Week show (Jasper Garvida), and started shooting independently. Later in the year we put on our first exhibition of our work, and then attended a few more shows at fashion week in September. So it was a year with a few milestones for us!
Q: Who inspires you?
Melissa: EVERYONE! Sometimes it’s someone really close to me in my life, other times it could be a stranger on the tube. I’m a bit of a voyeur when it comes to watching a scene between other people unfold.
Jordanna: People who are fiercely brave and dedicated whilst somehow managing to remain kind.
Q: Which modern day fashion designers or fashion icons do you look up to?
Melissa: Chanel for being inspirational as a designer, as a woman and a French woman at that! Karl Lagerfield for literally dreaming his catwalk shows, and at the moment you can’t get more insanely gutsy than Gaga!
Jordanna: Yohji Yamamoto is my absolute ultimate favorite for his quiet brilliance. Hussein Chalayan’s show titled From Fashion and Back is my unrivaled fashion favourite.
Q: What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
BOTH: A lot has to come together to make a good photograph and therefore a photographer must have many attributes. Respect for everyone else involved in creating the image, not forgetting that “it takes a village”. Never being afraid to try something and always pushing yourself create your vision. On a creative note, photographers with the ability to bring out the personality in their model are the true greats.
Q: Do you prefer using film cameras or digital?
Melissa: We are currently shooting digital, but film will always have that certain irreplaceable something. It’s fragile and textured and you have that element of surprise. I had a bathroom converted into a dark room for about a year when I first moved to London, so that’s something I really miss and love about film, actually developing. We both love playing around with old cameras and the crazy effects of lomography too.
Jordanna: I find manipulating images by hand after they have been printed or during the development process a really exciting aspect to the process. That a moment you captured can be changed and you can alter the end result. It is almost like changing the past.
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on location or in the studio?
BOTH: We prefer to shoot on location, because we want to tell a story with our images, so to accompany the tale with a real backdrop makes for a better experience and a better result. On location you have more opportunities to try things that you may not have put into your pre-planning and this may be just the shot you need. Whereas with studio you only have the props and models you brought on the day. Plus, there is the aspect of being at the mercy of the conditions, with both lighting and weather and that’s always a really fun challenge.
Q: Do you have any interesting stories about a particular photo shoot you’d like to share?
BOTH: An unforgettable shoot last summer was on location at the fountains by the O2 Arena in Greenwich. A great friend of ours from Venezuela was kindly modelling for us and we were trying to use the unexpected timing of the water shooting up to get some interesting shots. There were a few funny moments, including several people walking past wondering what celebrity the paparazzi were snapping away at in the middle of a fountain at 3pm!!
Q: Do you have a specific style of photography that makes you unique?
BOTH: Having a signature style is something invaluable to a photographer, and is something we’re still developing right now. The more we work, the more we are letting our style naturally emerge, which we hope will give the viewer a glimpse of the world as we see it, one that we hope to become more recognizable in the months and years to come.
Q: Do you have a favourite photograph?
Melissa: Of ours – for me this changes on almost a daily basis, depending on my mood! Today I like one taken at last LFW at Jena.Theo’s show (blonde profile). Of another photographer’s… there are a few portraiture shots on a Jan Saudek calendar I have that are inspiring me at the moment.
Jordanna: Of ours it’s two models holding hands by a pond in Hampstead Heath, I really like their emotion and the light. Three ducks were swimming by at the perfect moment and in such unison.
Of someone else’s The Deep Devotion of Veronika by Jan Saudek. It is beautiful and implies a great deal.
Q: Who is your favourite photographer?
Melissa: Again, this changes over time, but I’ve been head over heels for Paolo Roversi’s work for quite a while now, he has a romantic feel to his photos that you can almost touch.
Jordanna: I definitely agree with Mel about Paulo Roversi. I think Rankin is great at what he does and a friend just put me on to a Swedish photographer named Jessica Silversaga. I really like her style a lot.
Q: Is there anybody you would like to work with (either behind or in front of the camera)?
Melissa: I’m a huge fan of Make-up artist Alex Box. To have the opportunity to work with her would be amazing. Her project with Rankin was one of my first “I want to do THAT!” fashion photography moments.
Jordanna: Contemporary dancer Akram Khan, to capture his movements or that of his dancers in one of his pieces. A musician like Adele or even Alison Mossheart with the emotion of their music and lyrics, a bit of fashion and hopefully a few good images!
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
Melissa: Fashion for me is expressing yourself, whether it be a mood or wanting to do something visually. People do so much with fashion without being aware of it sometimes and I find that really interesting. This way of how people want to present themselves to others by either trying to look a certain way, or give off a certain impression, or when they’re dressing for someone else.
Jordanna: It is often too fast…It can be both the most beautiful thing and the most hideous. That is what keeps it important and relevant.
Q: How would you define your personal style?
Melissa about Jordanna; one thing I love about Jordanna is her ability to continuously surprise me with her style. The extent of different outfits and versatile way she dresses feels to me like she is in a game with herself and choosing a character to play each time. I really admire that, especially as she can be as adventurous as she likes (accidently dressing like an ice skater) and still manage to pull it off! (I am far too lazy and usually end up dressed like a tree!)
Jordanna about Melissa: When I fist met Mel she was wearing a ripped sweater that was held together by 5 safety pins, trousers that were too short (strange given Mel is 5’2) and she claimed she refused to iron because she felt it damaged her soul. Bare in mind we were not working in a Shoreditch pub at the time but at an old school merchant bank! I loved her straight away for this! Seemingly influenced by the literature she loves so much she now dresses very romantically and loves florals, silks and ruffles. I am still amazed that she has kept her hair the same colour for over a year now!
Q: Where are you based?
Laahdann. The big smoke. We are based in London, between Bow (East) and West Hampstead (West), our studio is in East London.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Melissa: Being from not a small town (Swindon, Wiltshire), but from a town that might be considered as having a small town mindset, it really motivates me to be achieving everything that we are as Pandora’s Thoughts and glad not to have settled for anything less than what I wanted. I can only encourage other people to do it, and it makes me happy to hear about creative projects coming out of the wood work in Swindon. It makes me want to shout “Yes!!! All is not lost!!!”
Jordanna: It’s kind of funny! I often laugh to myself and think “How on earth did I end up here??” I love where I am from (Calgary, in Canada) I feel it has given me an appreciation for the nature of things and an ability to withstand cold conditions on location shoots!
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
BOTH: We are easily excited! So every time we get a new follower on Facebook or someone requests to work with us we pretty much throw a party! It is just great getting up on the day of a shoot or a planning day and know we are about to do something we love.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
BOTH: We’re working nonstop shooting over the next few months. There is always the goal of fashion editorial for print publications; we’re working for that all the time. To be published in one of the great names out there like Dazed & Confused, i-D, or Wonderland is really a big aim for us. We’re hoping at some point to dip a toe into the medium of fashion film too, so that’s up there. We’ll also hopefully be starting work on a larger photography book project, which will be ongoing for a while.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Melissa: We both joked with this question, that something I do all the time is make lists! It relaxes me a lot, and I do it all the time, as anyone who knows me will probably tell you they have seen me frantically scribbling. We go through phases where we are so busy “doing” that I like to feel I can check things off and that I’m still on track with where I’m headed.
Jordanna: Blast my ipod find a patch of green and sleep in various London parks -- preferably with a swig of wine from the bottle and a picnic of olives, mozzarella and tomatoes. And the healthy answer -- Bikram yoga relaxes my spirit and energises my body -- I wish I could afford to do it every day! And meet up with friends to LAUGH
Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?
Melissa: Emiliana Torrini – The Gun, Band of Horses – The General Specific, Adriano Celentano – Una Carezza In Un Pugno, Abel Korzenioski -- Stillness of The Mind and The Naked & Famous – Young Blood/The Sun.
Jordanna: When saints Go Machine -- Fail Forever, King Creosote and John Hopkins -- Running on Fumes, Adele -- Set Fire to the Rain, James Blake -- Limit to Your Love, Alex Turner -- Stuck on the Puzzle and Friday by Rebecca Black!!!
Q: Do you have interesting hobbies?
Melissa: When I have the time and money to do it, I love travelling. Also, devouring literature like there’s no tomorrow, I try to read every day without fail (you should see the length of my book list!).
Jordanna: I love making (really innocent!) prank phone calls. I am in a writing club and I love knitting while watching films.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for aspiring photographers what would it be?
BOTH: Always take the opportunities that arise! There have been times when we could have said no to certain things, but even in the times when a shoot might not have turned out as expected, you can still learn something from it and use the experience to move forward. The worst thing is regretting something you wish you had done!
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
BOTH: We’re always looking for “The one”. People wait out for years for that one other person they think will “get them”, and we kind of have a similar way of looking at photography. We’re always trying to create images that we can say “that’s us”.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
BOTH: Alongside our photography, we write a blog for anyone interested in what we’re doing, or fashion events etc. We’ve recently thought of a new concept for it, where we accompany each post with a song to compliment the words and photos. This gives us a fun outlet for our love of music. The blog has updates on all our projects and upcoming work.
Editor’s Note: Melissa and Jordanna both have a talent and flair for photography and their shared interests has helped to create a symbiotic and creative professional relationship which they draw upon to produce individual, stylish and commercial photographs.
If you’d like to learn more about Pandora’s Thoughts or contact Melissa or Jordanna, just follow the links below.
twitter link: http://www.twitter.com/pandorathoughts
facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/pandorasthoughts
web page link: http://www.pandorasthoughts.com