Fashion Photography Series: Interview with Claire Pepper

Ella
12th September 2018

Fashion Photography has long been an esteemed art form. Showcasing both the model as well as the apparel and accessories, it is safe to say there are always two subjects in such photographs. We love fashion as an expression of identity, beauty and creativity and with Fashion Week all around the world, we wanted to highlight the fashion photographers who are truly redefining the genre of this ever evolving industry. High fashion is fast becoming a much more open and diverse playing field with different cultures and messages being front and centre, and we’re thrilled to be speaking to the champions of this new generation.

Can you talk a little bit about your background and how you got into fashion photography?

I did an art foundation course after I finished school, and then a degree in photography at Brighton University. Whilst I was there I tried to contact local photographers and asked them if I could assist. I managed to get a bit of experience, and also picked up some work second-shooting for weddings, and photographing some local events. So when I graduated I was able to go freelance straight away and build on this. For the first few years I was mostly assisting, but I spent a lot of time doing test shoots and building my portfolio, and gradually made the transition to being a photographer. I was fortunate to win a couple of competitons that gave me some prize money which I could invest into buying kit.

What camera do you use? If you had to choose one lens which would it be?

I have a Canon 5D III and my favourite lens is the very lovely 85mm f1.2

Would you say your style has emerged or was it always very distinct, how has your work changed over the years?

My style has definitely emerged over time. It’s something that I have conciously worked on, it’s very important to find your voice, and your visual style is a big part of that. It’s not a case of forcing something that doesn’t come naturally, more tuning in to what you really like and what feels right for you, and it can take some time.

Can you tell us the story of a photograph of yours that stands out?

This image was shot in Mallorca. Of course the client decided to shoot there because they thought we would have great weather, but in fact there were very heavy thunderstorms and torrential rain for most of the two days we were meant to be shooting. This was shot at about 7am – we wanted to catch the sunrise but when we got up to start doing hair and make up at 5am it was dark and raining. It was still dark and raining as we drove to the beach. Just as we pulled up, the rain stopped, and the most amazing light started bursting over the horizon. We had about 45 minutes to shoot before it started to rain again, but we made the most of the time and got some great shots!

What is your creative process like, do you have any notable routines?

I’ll put together mood boards for the client and team, which show the general mood of the shoot but also specific aspects like make up or set design. Recently I have tried to do more research and go deeper with the concept and narrative, rather than just the visuals.

Where do you draw inspiration from? What do you think your message is?

I obviously look at lots of other photographers' work, but also films, books, non-fashion magazines, set design at events or in shops, nature, and travel! I think it’s important to try and get away from social media when looking for inspiration, otherwise the algorithm just starts to dictate all your ideas.

In what ways is this particular field different to other areas of photography? How do you feel about the fashion industry as a whole?

The reason I wanted to shoot fashion initally was because of the creative freedom you have – you are creating on a blank canvas and weaving together lots of different elements to create a story. I also grew to love the collaborative nature of it, as lots of photographers find their job quite isolating, but with fashion I don’t find this to be the case. However I do find some areas of the fashion industry problematic; the promotion of very narrow beauty ideals for example. We also have a huge problem with waste, and the fact that we are encouraging consumerism. This is partly why I have moved more towards sports fashion and activewear in the last few years. That said, I think the industry has definitely moved towards a wider acceptance of different body types, races and ages over the last few years and things are improving.

What did you want to do as a child?

I think I wanted to be a photographer! I remember taking a camera to show-and-tell when I was about 9 years old...

What would you say to an aspiring fashion photographer? What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt? What would tell your younger self?

Firstly, you don’t have to go to University. I went down that route, but it was only £1000 a year tuition fees when I went. Go if you really want to and you can afford it, but it’s not the only route.

What you do have to learn to do however, is think critically about images. Learn to recognise what makes a sucessful image and what makes a terrible image. Train your eye!

Secondly, shoot shoot and shoot. Just practice as much as you can. The saying about practicing something for 10,000 hours before you become good at it is definitely true!

Thirdly, be a nice person, have confidence in your ideas and ability, but don’t be too cocky.

Who inspires you? These can be personal or professional.

I get my best ideas riding around on my bike. It’s like I’m able to switch my brain into a different kind of state and mull things over.

Can you tell us how people can find out more about your work? Anything particularly exciting coming up this year or next?

You can see my work at www.clairepepper.com or you can follow me on instagram @clairepeppep

I really excited about doing more art directing this year. I’m hoping to collaborate with some DOP’s to make some film work, and also get stuck into some personal projects. Over the winter I’m planning to travel abroad to make some new work in sunnier climes!

 

All images © Claire Pepper 2018