The beauty of going into a creative profession such as photography is that you don’t have to go to four plus years of school or take several exams and spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to claim that title—you can start at any age. We spoke with three young, thriving photographers—some full-time and some part-time—who were lucky enough to find their passion and talent at a young age.
Rosie Hardy, 24
How did you get your start in photography?
It was always a hobby for me; a little vanity in wanting to have a nice profile picture, a little curiosity as to why the girls in the magazines looked so perfect and I didn’t. At 16 I just wanted to mess around with my face and my brother gave me his Linux computer complete with GIMP installed, and mess around I did!
When I graduated from sixth form, I didn’t want the other kids to think I was weird or odd, so I started offering to take pictures of other friends and students, both at events and out of school. Everyone was so supportive, and encouraged me to continue with my self-portraits, which were now in the “conceptual” realm of editing/manipulation. It all snowballed from there.
What do you shoot? Who are your main clients?
Portraits, essentially, but I dabble in everything. I’m not in the position to turn my nose up at any kind of work/type of photography. But my favourite work so far is my personal work—emotive conceptual portraits that tell a story.
I shoot all kinds of folk—from as far and wide as wedding portraits for friends free of charge to shooting the likes of Maroon 5, Geri Halliwell and Donny Osmond. I’ve been incredibly lucky to get some of the jobs I’ve had, and make a point of making sure I never forget that I’m just a mix of trial, error and luck. I don’t want to rely on contacts to help me improve and get my work exposure.
Is being a young photographer easy? What are the obstacles?
I’m very lucky to say I’ve been supporting myself for the last four years with photography alone. Being a young photographer is much easier than starting in the industry when you’re older. People are a lot more forgiving of your technical mistakes when you are young, they’re also willing to support you in your dreams and help you get there. You can also take advantage of living with your parents whilst you build up a client base. If you’re older, you have to quit your job to devote yourself entirely, and if you have rent/bills/children, that’s a scary prospect.
What inspires you?
The older I get, the more I’m inspired by my own feelings and thoughts, locations, music, film and art. I didn’t really have a point of view to convey when I was first creating art—I just knew I wanted to convey SOMETHING, and all I had was teenage angst. The more mature I get, the more I learn about the world, and the more my vision becomes clear and the easier it is to put a message to my photos.
Describe a typical day.
I’ll start at midnight. I reply to emails to Zenfolio at 00.24 a.m. The TV is in the background, and the cat is cute and sleepy. At 2 a.m. I’ll play some music, ponder life, find a good documentary to watch. At 4 a.m. I lie awake in bed with my mind bouncing all over the place like a tiny rubber ball trapped in a small box. Sleepily unfold the meaning of life, make lists on ways to change my life. At 5 a.m. I fall asleep. At 8 a.m. the cat slaps my face until I wake up and fill up his food bowl. Then I go back to sleep. At 10 a.m. I wake up, shower, do emails, check social media and get lunch. At 2 p.m. I start editing my workload for the day, upload a favourite shot to social media, and continue to 8 p.m. I feel unproductive with the day and swear to myself that I will get up earlier. I attempt to work more, realize I haven’t left the flat all day, and make lists on how to chance said routine. At 12 a.m., repeat.
I shoot maybe twice a week, three/four times in heavy periods of work. It’s very easy to let it all get on top of you. Working from home is great in terms of getting up when you please, but it’s very hard in other aspects—I’d love to leave my flat more often.
Eleanor Bennett, 18
How did you get your start?
I was very involved with learning and conserving the environment as a child. I was once making a nature notebook for a children’s competition and that involved taking photos or the choice of drawing what you see. Nothing much came about that small competition, but I enjoyed taking photos so much I decided to continue and began taking images of everything that interested me.
Who are your main clients?
Greatly it is in the publishing industry. When I was young I mainly sold interior art to magazines, and now my most regular clients are the publishing houses I work with doing book cover art. I’m in the process of looking to network with interior designers and gallerists.
Is it hard balancing school with a photo business? How do you do it all?
I’m actually thinking of spending more time on my education as of recent. Whilst I’m working, I’m considering doing a couple of home business courses. I assisted in running (mainly finding and researching) an Etsy shop for two years until November of this year. I handle everything by just taking as much as possible one day at a time so at least one important thing gets done a day to reach my next milestone.
Do you handle all aspects of your business?
When it comes to the shop I had a lot of parental help. I had my photography as a business model prior to that though, which means when I was 14 I had to manage my own invoices, royalties, contracts and what I allowed the people purchasing from me in regards to rights. At that time it was on such a small scale that the money was a help to me as a photographer but not something to survive on. I got a lot of hands-on experience in dealing with the publishing industry without the debt of university. It was really valuable to learn what I have done.
What is your best-selling product?
The self-portrait of me hiding under leaves has been used on everything from calendars to wall art in libraries. It is a simple but effective way of conveying the love of the wild that children hold close to their hearts.
What or who inspires you?
Everything. I like to make the weird into fine art and the dull into splendour. I like to change opinions and minds. The need to be fresh and eye-catching with the combination of wonder and confusion in my audience does wonders to keep me taking photos.
How did you get your start?
I first started photographing out of boredom. I was about 12 or so when I got a little point-and-shoot camera, and whenever I needed to be by myself, I would take it outside with me. I took pictures of flowers and leaves and tried to sell them online, but they weren’t very good—actually quite embarrassing. Then, during my sophomore year of high school, I found Flickr and realized that photographs could be art. Inspired, I attempted a 365 project and started getting my friends to model for me. From there, I just never stopped.
What inspires you?
This is always a difficult question for me because inspiration can come to me from everything or nothing at all. My daily life influences me a lot, as well as nature. I am drawn to places with history and like to create stories around them.
At the top of my long list of inspirational photographers are Tim Walker, Rodney Smith, Brooke Shaden, and Kristy Mitchell. Their work is fairly different from each other, but they make me want to create.
What is your best seller?
It’s called “Young and the Restless.” I took it in 2012 when I was first starting to take portraits, and it blew up on Flickr. It was featured on digital-photography-school.com and used on a poetry magazine cover.
Describe a typical day.
Lately my life has been: school, sleep, eat and repeat. In a few weeks though I get a nice long break from classes, and I am going to use it wisely.
Is it hard balancing school and photography?
The advantage of starting young is that you have time to really develop, learn and build up a portfolio. Also, people are often impressed with those who have experience and talent at a young age. On the other hand, the industry sometimes views young photographers as amateurs and do not take us seriously. This can make it harder to get paid fairly because clients do not want to pay as much money for young “novice” photographers. In the end, I think it’s an advantage because starting out young gives you more years.