Featured Image: Lucy Watson
The current issue of coronavirus may have brought many challenges upon its arrival. However, some creatives are seizing this period as an opportunity to expand their growing portfolios, and have risen to the challenge. A quintessential example of this is Lucy Watson. She is a Manchester-based photographer and has already worked with the likes of alt-indie powerhouse Nasty Cherry, and electro-pop outfit Fickle Friends. Perhaps more impressively is how she has even conducted these shoots from the comfort of her home.
We caught up with Lucy Watson over email, to discuss orchestrating these shoots during quarantine, creating artwork for a single and her tips for others hoping to branch out into photography.
How did your interest in the music industry begin?
“Music has always been a huge part of my life. I come from a musical family and there have always been instruments lying around in our house. One day I picked up the guitar and the rest was history. Now I spend about 96% of my day on Spotify discovering new music. I follow so many band photographers on social media that I thought, why not give this a go? And I’ve been trying to put myself out there ever since.”
How did you start your venture into photography?
“I’ve been taking photos since I was about fourteen when my mum bought the family digital camera, and at the same time, I was making videos with my sister in our front room. Photography is my favourite art form and always has been. Filmmaking too. There’s something very special about capturing reality in a way that no-body has before. No two photographs will ever be the same, even by the same artist.”
“Toby Harvard is a film-maker and photographer based in London, and he has an incredible eye for cinematography. I’d been following his work for a while when he was talking to one of my friends. She showed him my recent work and all he said was: ‘bang tidy’. This guy makes proper films and I really respect his vision… so of course it had to go in the bio!”
How did you create the single artwork for Jack Danesh’s upcoming track ‘Thieves’ ?
“Jack is a really good friend of mine and a very talented musician and producer. We’ve always talked about a creative partnership and it finally happened. He asked me to come up with some ideas for the artwork for his new single ‘Thieves’ and I went through some of my photos from my New York City trip in 2018. I love playing around with bright colours and altering hues in my edits. I think it really works well for the theme of the song.”
You‘ve recently been doing shoots of artists during quarantine. What inspired you to start doing these?
“I saw that the London based photographer THOMPSON had taken some portraits of L Devine on a video chat and it made me think about how that could work as a medium. I talked to Georgia, of Nasty Cherry, about the idea and she was excited to experiment with me. It’s such an exciting way to work and I love that something so positive has grown from such a negative situation as a global pandemic. Artists are finding new ways of working and it’s truly inspirational to see and be a part of.”
You‘ve photographed artists such as Georgia from Nasty Cherry, Natti from Fickle Friends, and Tally. How did you reach out to them?
“I saw Nasty Cherry live in Manchester and asked them if I could take some instant portraits for my social media. Afterwards, Georgia and I started messaging and she really championed my work. She kind of became my Covid-19 quarantine pen pal for a while. We’d talk about art and music, and how we were staying creative during lockdown. I asked her if she wanted to do a virtual photoshoot with me – over Skype – and she said yes. The images came out better than I expected and I can’t thank Georgia enough. I reached out to several other artists I really admired via Instagram DM, like Natti from Fickle Friends, and Tally Spear, and showed them my shoot with Georgia. They loved the idea, and then people started getting in touch with me! I couldn’t believe it. There are some awful things happening in the world at the moment, but I think this is a really good time to be creative. Suddenly, we have the time to create what we want to create, and experiment with new ideas. Everyone is in the same boat, so I think we’re all eager to try new things.”
How did you find experimenting with Skype on the TV, an Instax screen and adapting to the unusual setup overall?
“The virtual photo shoot set up has its challenges for sure. Each time you’re either dealing with a dodgy connection, or the sound cutting out, or too much light reflecting on the screen. I usually start a video chat with whoever I’m shooting, either Skype or Zoom, and then cast that to my TV. It’s a bigger screen and there’s less light reflection that way so the images are much better quality. But it has its challenges. I’ve learned to not expect too much from them and work with what I’ve got!”
What would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?
“Photographing Natti from Fickle Friends is a highlight. I have loved Fickle Friends since 2016 when I first heard their single ‘Say No More’. That song is still on my favourites playlist four years later and has never left. Their music really lifts my mood, and I’m a big fan of Jack Wilson and his production on their tracks. In fact, Jack following me on Instagram was a bit of a highlight. So that shoot with Natti was special. Fun fact for the readers…I met you at a Fickle Friends gig! Also, everything I’ve done with Georgia Somary as well. She really championed my work when she didn’t have to. I owe her a lot and I’m so thankful I can call her a friend. Well, sort of. An internet friend.”
Have there been any challenges along the way, and how have you overcome these?
“Reaching out to people and getting noticed has been the most difficult part of this whole journey. I understand how busy musicians must be, even during lockdown, and they probably receives hundreds of private messages on a daily basis. So I really appreciate the ones who take the time to respond. It really makes a difference to people like me who are just trying to make a name for themselves in this hectic industry! I’d recommend reaching out to a few and see who responds. Musicians will usually repost your work and they’re always looking for fresh content. From there, you’ll get noticed by more and more people. You can use those reposts as reference points for starting new conversations with other artists you admire, and build it from there.”
Which social media platforms have you found to be the most beneficial for your creative projects?
“Instagram, all the way. Regrettably I don’t really use other social media platforms professionally, although I probably should. But since my work is so visual, it kind of makes sense for Instagram to be my go-to platform. I save Twitter for my midnight binge of hilarious cat videos and I recently deleted Facebook because I didn’t really use it anymore. Instagram gives me access to everything you need for beginning your photography career. There are hundreds of opportunities to connect with like-minded creatives, and people who are interested in your work. I follow so many incredible photographers and artists on Instagram whose pages are like mini galleries.”
Where would you like to be in 5 years?
“Hopefully working as a photographer in some sort of professional manner. I love writing too. I’ve always loved writing scripts in my own time. But for now, I want to see where this journey of music and photography takes me. Photographing the queen Charli XCX would be the ultimate dream. As long as I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”
What would you recommend as a great starting kit for a budding photographer?
“I’ve always been on a budget and I’ve never really been able to afford any of the expensive kit. And for a while I always used that as an excuse as to why I wasn’t seriously pursuing photography. But I realised it’s not always about the kit, it’s about your creative eye. If you want to be a photographer but you don’t have a grand to drop on a camera, use your phone. Use a second-hand 35mm camera from eBay. Use a £10 disposable camera from Boots. Use whatever you can get your hands on and start taking pictures. I think people often overlook the process of editing photos because that’s often a skill in itself. Experiment with different apps and get your photos out there for people to see. The truth is, I don’t own a digital camera. I’ve been using my phone, my Instax and my 35mm Olympus Trip. You adapt and learn to work with what you’ve got (and can afford!).”
Finally, which female artist inspires you the most?
“I’m inspired daily by women. There are too many to name just one. Marina is a massive creative influence. I really admire Charli XCX for her work ethic. I’m a big fan of the creative visions of Annie Leibovitz and Greta Gerwig. The genius of Carrie Fisher. My friends, male and female. And I need to mention Andy Warhol. I know he’s a dude but his work inspires me daily.”