Lewisham resident, Shelley McPhee, has recently launched a women’s portrait photography company in New Cross Gate. Eastlondonlines got in touch with Shelley to find out more about her and her new venture.
“I feel really strongly about empowering women to see their own beauty and strengths, particularly helping women to feel comfortable and confident in front of a camera. Who doesn’t want a gorgeous image of themselves?”
McPhee smiled graciously when it was put to her that surely not many have formal portraits nowadays. She explained that good photographs are increasingly important for women and not just for those in the corporate and media sectors. Her shoots are aimed at both individuals as well as groups of female friends or family members.
She recognizes that not everyone relishes the thought of having their photograph taken.
“My shoots are about providing a relaxing and fun experience. I think that it is really hard work having your portrait taken, especially for people who are shy or feel really uncomfortable having any attention directed at them.”
For McPhee, the focus on a women’s only photography company goes even deeper. Unpacking some research on female bonding she explained it was not just about a “pretty picture” but that the experience of the shoot was important too. “I think that the female bonding experience is at the heart of what I think makes it fun.
“I think as individuals in western society many of us are quite isolated so when you actually spend quality time with other women, you are tapping into our hunter-gather ancestry and the need for women to build co-operation and trust with other females. I think there is something really familiar and comforting in that for many of us.”
Mcphee explained about her background, her Australian accent just about detectable, “Photography has always been a creative outlet for me since high school, and I have always dreamed of earning my living as a professional photographer.”
“But it’s hard to make that transition from a professional career that provides you with a good income each month to taking a risk on following your dream.”
As she set up for a shoot in her compact but comfortable studios in New Cross Gate, McPhee explained that during the recession a couple of years ago she volunteered for a Marine Conservation organisation in Greece, as an environmental photographer. “I got to merge my two passions, environmental conservation and photography.
It helped me to realise that photography was what I wanted to do and when I returned to London I set about working out what my photographic mission was and developing my portfolio.”
McPhee attended a School for Creative Start-ups course which she credits as being helpful in providing a community of creative entrepreneurs – both start-ups and mentors – to network, collaborate and learn from.
A network of creative businesses was important for Shelley and influenced her choice of studio location: “There’s a really strong creative culture in New Cross Gate, particularly with Goldsmith’s just across the road, it’s really vibrant.”
Shelley McPhee at the Make Good Festival 2014 McPhee, 39, moved to Lewisham from Northern New South Wales in Australia 11 years ago. She made the leap from environmental planner to photographer last month and she launched Shelley McPhee Photography at the Make Good festival in the Selfridges Hotel,in the West End. McPhee’s advice to those thinking about making the leap from a steady job to pursue a creative passion is to “stop procrastinating and just get on and do it.” She said: “It may take you a while, it may not transpire how you first imagined it to be, but the rewards of starting the journey are amazing!” For more information about Shelley McPhee see:http://shelleymcphee.com