Margaret Yescombe is a freelance Creative Director, Photographer & Retoucher who is currently based in London, working from her photographic studio in Clapton, Hackney. At Urbanity Chic we’ve been an admirer of Margaret’s photography for some time, following her shoots and work from afar with interest. We were delighted when Margaret agreed to be interviewed by Urbanity Chic so that we could share everything with you. Read the entire in-depth interview below where Margaret discusses, her creative workflow, how she became interested in photography initially and what she she’s does to relax when not working.
Q: How did you get into professional photography?
It took me a while to realise that Photography was my calling. With the luxury of hindsight I see it was always there, from a very young age I used to give my mum makeovers and photograph her. But, that’s hindsight I didn’t have at the time, so I took the round about route to becoming a Photographer…
I left school at 17yrs, completed a Pitman’s secretarial course and began working as a Secretary. Aged 18yrs I traveled alone to Sydney and lived there for a year, which is when I remember buying my first Photography textbook and starting serious self-study.
Returning back to London I put myself through several photographic & retouching courses including a 2 year photography evening course, while continuing to work full time as a secretary/PA in Architectural Offices. After the Photography NC course finished, I found an advert looking for a jogging partner, placed by a Photographer. I did not know what type of Photographer, but I figured we’d have something in common to chat about as we jogged, so I took a leap of faith. I’m so glad I did as, by the end of the first job, I had been offered a Photographer’s Assistant job with what turned out to be an established Fashion Photographer. Serendipity! I assisted him for a year and a half, which gave me a much clearer understanding of the industry. I decided to embrace the freelance world full-time in January 2007.
In June 2009 I purchased a photographic Studio / Location in Upper Clapton, Hackney, East London. I shoot in the Studio / Location myself and also hire it to other creatives. Location Hire clients include Marks & Spencer’s, Living Etc. Magazine, FHM Magazine and more. In December 2011 I expanded into a larger 1,636sqft Studio/Location just next door (www.studioandlocationhire.com).
Q: What do you enjoy most photographing?
I most enjoy shooting fashion Designer’s collections, fashion editorials & celebrities. I love carefully selecting the team for the project depending on their strengths and what we are looking to achieve, bringing together a creative team together to translate a vision of the collection into a reality for all to see.
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
Great. This year I’ve really enjoyed working on providing all the photography for an encyclopedic book, as well as working with magazine publishers, including shooting for Hello! Magazine.
I’ve been plugging away at my photographic work for years and it feels like this year it’s finally getting displayed and noticed in the way that I’ve hoped. 🙂
On a personal note, it has been difficult. This year marked 5yrs since my mum passed away from cancer, but I feel like this last quarter of the year things have turned a corner and I’m super positive about the future.
This year I’ve shied away from partying and instead focused on knowledge and self awareness: asking myself exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing with my life (I spent months looking at moving to various countries abroad). I’ve been self-studying more photographic and business ideas, becoming more open and interested in world affairs and looking at what it is to be alive and renewed -- what is important to me and how I want to direct my life. I won’t say it’s all been rosy, but I feel this year’s given me clarity for the future. I see my path; I just need to keep walking it. Already I feel it’s had a massively positive difference in my work and I’m now getting far more attention than before and am gaining ground on working with more of the clients that I’ve been focusing my attentions towards working with: more Designers, Magazines, Retailers, PR’s and loving it!
Q: Who inspires you?
I take inspiration out of my everyday life (TV, magazines, browsing the net, dreams and conversations, colours/shapes/materials – anything that catches my eye in life really). I have a folder marked ‘Ideas’ on my desktop, which I add to almost every day, as well as tearing pages out of magazines to keep -- if an element of the image inspires me (the lighting/pose/composition/angle/postproduction).
Q: Which modern day fashion designers or fashion icons do you look up to?
I have great respect for anyone who makes a successful business utilizing and honing their creative gift and entrepreneurial skills.
There isn’t a particular Fashion Designer or Icon that I look up to. I’ve never been one to chase labels. To me it is more about style, colour, shape, feel, and finish.
I respect the longevity and scale of Kate Moss’s modeling career (I wonder if it would have been this long if Photoshop didn’t exist?). Also, Kylie Minogue and Madonna’s careers -- not that I really listen to their music, more the way they change with the times to stay relevant and look forward – that’s what I want for my life & photographic work, to keep moving forward. As Bob Dylan says ‘an artist is always in a state of becoming’, which resonates with my core believes.
Vogue Magazine has always been a distant star that I have been slowly pushing my way towards. For some reason, I guess I’ll feel like I’ve truly ‘made it’ when I get an editorial fashion/celebrity spread in Vogue. J But I’m sure by then I’ll have my eye’s on another prize – perhaps my own magazine, or becoming a DOP, or still shooting but shooting for someone/thing else then.
Recently I watch the movie Invictus about Nelson Mandela, and watched an interview online with Richard Branson. Two wonderfully perceptive and inspiring icons that this world needs more of! Their positive refreshing attitudes, striving to achieve great positive change for the world (like protecting sea life), and striving to defuse tense political situations in combination with the other Elders, is wonderful.
What has Richard Branson got to do with fashion? Nothing that I know of, however he makes a point of donating to charities and supporting people worldwide – and that is something any person can and should do. We are seeing a lot more sustainable fashion flood into the British fashion scene; we need more of that too! Ask me again in a few years – perhaps I’ll just name a wonderful high-end sustainable fashion designer’s work as my Icon.
Although my work has been quite commercial of late, I do love the fantasy world of fashion sculptural Designers, like Gareth Pugh and Pam Hogg – visual splendors & break from the norm.
Q: What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
Tough question, I guess anyone can take a good photograph, but a good photographer has the skill, artistic eye, technical knowledge (of the right equipment to use for the specific shot brief circumstanced) to be able to consistently get the right shots needed in any situation.
As I’m a Photographer & Retoucher, to me image capture is one part of the process. From there I extrapolate and build upon that RAW image data, retouching the image. If you’d like to hear me waffle more on my thoughts/workflow for postproduction/retouching check out www.margaretyescombe.com/retouching 😉
What makes good Fashion photography? To me it is all about visual impact. Great fashion photography is all about pulling together the right creative team (be it small or large) to translate the vision you have in your head into a series of stunning, beautiful photographs.
Q: Do you prefer using film cameras or digital?
I originally learnt on film, and even had my own little darkroom set up in the garden shed (which I later found out had an asbestos roof – doh!) where I’d develop my own black and white photos, dodging and burning light in the photos (that’s something that I now do in digital).
When I went into digital I lapped up what could be done, instantly seeing photos and making adjustments then shooting more, which was a great way of working for me. I also lapped up what could be done in postproduction/retouching, and from then onwards was always a Photographer & Retoucher -- and one who would never release raw files.
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on location or in the studio?
I’m in the fortunate position to own a Studio/Location in Hackney, East London (www.studioandlocationhire.com), so most of my work is Studio based – that is great, as I don’t have to commute.
I also love shooting at interesting/luxury locations. This year I covered a fashion design presentation down at Saville Row, so it was great to see behind the scenes there and chat to the owner/head tailor and designers.
I’d love to work with clients that want their collections/advertising shots done on location a sunny beach somewhere, or in NYC, Paris, … -- hint hint 😉
Q: Do you have any interesting stories about a particular photo shoot you’d like to share?
I’ve had the pleasure to photograph both Michael Palin, and Terry Jones, and the art in their homes – I really enjoyed meeting them both. Terry Jones, has a ‘photo-face’ that he always pulls (like my brother), I took that shot, but I wanted more, I squatted down close to the floor to get him from a different angle – he asked me if I was taking a picture of his knees & we both laughed – I captured him with a natural happy face. I like the image so much at the time, that I printed/framed a copy for him and posted it to Terry Jones as a little present. Next think I knew, his PA got in contact asking if they could use it for his fan photo/PR – I was of course honored and happy to oblige!
Q: Do you have a specific style of photography that makes you unique?
I find it hard to describe my own work – I work better visually then with words.
If you pushed me, I’d prob just say something like ‘clean, crisp and well lit’ in a bid to get past this question and onto the next. 🙂
Q: Do you have a favourite photograph?
I have many favourite fashion photographs; some stay in my Inspiration Folder for years, some get deleted/replaced as my taste evolves, or if I’ve shot something and used up the inspiration from that image.
Actually the images that come to mind are of my family. As unfortunately they have become iconic. I gave my mum a studio photo-shoot for her 60th birthday, when she passed away 4 years later her favourite image from that shoot was used on the Order of Service at her funeral. I also had taken my studio kit out to give my grandparents a photo-shoot at their place. Later, again the images where used for each of their Order of Service’s. Those images I took captured my family members happy, full of life – I’m so glad I took the images. They may not be iconic to the world – but they are spoken of being iconic in our world.
Q: Who is your favourite photographer?
No one in particular at the mo, but I admire many in passing. I like the outspokenness of David Bailey, the self confidence of Terry Richardson, the multi career success of Peter Hurley – but I don’t necessarily spent much time looking at their photographic work, I’m more focused on doing my own thing.
Q: Is there anybody you would like to work with (either behind or in front of the camera)?
I’d love to photograph so many people. Basically I’d want to work with people that I want to meet/admire, have a chin wag & a cuppa with, and aim to put a smile on each of their faces as they say that ‘even though they’ve been photographed many, many times throughout their careers – these are their favourite images of themselves’. That’s a gift I’d love to give to them. Of the top of my head I’d start with Arun O’Connor, Kate Moss, Lilly Cole, Bob Dylan, Lenard Cohen, Richard Branson, Anna Wintour, Paul McCartney, (Elvis if he was still alive)…
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
Means an expression of self – we have amazing freedom of expression and so much to choose from.
I went to a strict school where you had to wear the precise uniform right down to the three colours of hairbands you were allowed to wear (and detention if you tried to break free with your scrunchie colours!).
I’ve also traveled around Morocco and know that women must cover their shoulders/cover up more there.
I love the freedom and variety we have here.
How you dress effects how the world sees you. Put a person in a uniform & it takes away their personal freedom and makes them part of a recognizable group.
I remember getting sent home from Girl Guides for wearing a tie-died t-shirt instead of the uniform t-shirt. My point being that it didn’t matter what I wore, I was there to take part in the activities and the social interaction – not the uniform.
Q: How would you define your personal style?
Mostly I live in jeans or leggings, with layers of soft fabric and a scarf, and occasionally with statement jewellery, or pieces of jewellery that mean something to me. I mostly go for comfort & style over the latest trend.
My personal style isn’t necessarily reflected in what I choose to shoot. I want to create aspirational images – looks that wouldn’t necessarily look good on me.
I’ve been told I have a strong sense of fashion/colour and how something should sit to make it attractive and desirable.
Q: Where are you based?
Currently my Studio is in Clapton, Hackney, East London www.studioandlocationhire.com.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Great, thanks for asking. With so many terrible places you can be born into suffering in this world – I’m glad I was born in London. I love its multicultural diversity and forward-looking attitude. I love that our little island attracts creative people the world over -- a fashion capital of the world, all on my doorstep!
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
There have many highlights to me. Like making my first photographic sale all those years ago, the first time I got published in a magazine, the first time I photographed a celebrity, the first time top fashion model agencies agreed to give me models to test.
Last year I won Professional Photographer Magazine’s ‘Shoot the Catwalk’ competition. I got to meet the editor and representatives from Canon, and was given a VIP pass to shoot at London Fashion Week right at the end of the runway of the Jaeger show, which was great.
Most recently, the first time I’ve photographed for a Hello! Magazine editorial feature.
I guess I just enjoy each step forward on my path.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Success / happiness / balance
I’d like to continue to work with more fashion designers, fashion retailers, magazines, PRs, celebrities.
At some point I’d like to go do some fashion shoots in NYC for a while.
Q: What do you do to relax?
I’m a bit of a home bod. Being my own boss and working from home, I find a lot of my work relaxing, like when I’m retouching, I sometimes have the TV on in the background on Discovery Chanel watching documentaries (Gold Rush, Jungle Gold – in fact I’ve watched so many gold prospecting shows I might do it myself one day, ha ha). I also love comedy (30 rock, Seinfeld, Frasier, Curb your Enthusiasm) and action series (Oz, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones) and watching movies on iTunes – this is usually while co-working with my neighbour who is my closest friend.
Q: What songs are you listening to at the moment?
I love singing along to just about anything, including adverts. The Nikon and Sky advert are both currently using music by Radical Face ‘Welcome Home’ which I love. Something about it just strikes a deep soft soulful note, and beats with a primal cord with me (as with many others) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8a4iiOnzsc
Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies?
I don’t know if it’s interesting (?) but I’m pretty keen on baking my own bread using the breadmaker my brother gave me (that he bought but never really got into). My Dad has made his own bread every week for as long as I can remember, possibly longer. He only ever made the same one recipe which was unappealing, to me and the rest of the family, as it is hard as a brick, but that’s the way he likes it – so that didn’t really inspire me, ha ha. I love mixing different organic flours, experimenting with the recipes, fresh bread smell is divine! J
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for aspiring photographers what would it be?
Shoot what you love and shoot lots, but also learn the business side of things. Be supportive to others, and let them be support to you. Keep abreast of legal and political issues that are relevant to Photographers (e.g. copyright law) and technological advances that allow you to improve your workflow.
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
A deep question, or maybe it’s just that my motivation for this dream/drive comes from so deep within, I can’t even see where it stems from. It is a part of me that wants to be realized, and I know now, that if I weren’t to listen to it, I could not live a fulfilled life.
I set myself tasks and personal goals and keep To Do lists with me on my phone -- I try to knock at least one thing off the list a day (often while simultaneously adding to it). I get simple satisfaction crossing things off my list.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
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Editor’s Note: Margaret Yescombe has a sound technical understanding which allows her to adopt styles to suit a project’s creative needs. This partnered with undoubted levels of creative flair means that Margaret Yescombe is definitely one of Urbanity Chic’s ‘Ones to Watch’.
If you’d like to learn more about, get in touch with Margaret Yescombe, or just check out some more of her photography, just follow the links below: