Back to Photography – Gemma Reynolds

Gemma Reynolds is a professional photographer who lives in London. Photography has been a part of her life from a very early age. We talked to her to discover more about her creative process…

When did you first get interested in photography? What sparked it, and when did you decide that it was what you were going to do?

My family were always taking pictures when I was a child and my Father took all our child hood images on his Nikkormat SLR which he still has. He used to teach me how to use it in the back garden. We would take photos on pieces of white paper writing down what our F Stop and Shutter speed were. We would have to wait for the film to be developed and then see our results from playing with light. School was not the best place to open that door for me as although it was offered, my teachers steered me away from what I wanted to do. It was when I was travelling in New Zealand that I stumbled upon a guy who filmed dolphins on boats in the Bay of Islands. He offered to teach me the video side of things while filming dolphins. Naturally I loved this and took to it like a fish to water. I then photographed the North and South Island for a travel company. Taking stills really brought home to me what I loved the most. I had owned many compact cameras, but this was when I bought my first SLR. It changed my life.

Olesya, portraiture session by Gemma Reynolds Photography
Rachel Howlett Enigma Louis Mariette by Gemma Reynolds

Were you educated in photography, or are you self taught?

After I had done a few jobs in still photography I realised that I wanted to properly learn my trade as it frustrated me that I didn’t know how to do certain things. So I studied at The Photo School with Mel Phillips in Raumati, New Zealand. His course was recommended to me by a friend. Not being one for years of study, the UK degrees didn’t interest me at all. This course was very hands on and motivated. Mel is to this day one of the most inspirational and influential people in my life. The course was no walk in the park. A three year degree crammed into a one year diploma. It was the most intense piece of study I’d ever taken on, and by choice! It meant so much to me to do well. I was awarded top portfolio for my year.

What camera do you use the majority of the time?

I love my Canon 5D MK2 It’s such a great camera for everything I do. I have done some filming with it too lately which I’ve enjoyed re visiting. A few interviews with my photoshoots and a Mod Culture ride out from London to Southend on the back of a Vespa! That was fun! Quadrophenia fever!

Do you mainly focus on Fashion photography? Or are there other genres you work in too?

To be honest with you, I am not assigned to one spectrum in photography. I live my life through my lens. This involves fashion, rock’n’roll, fine art… I’m fascinated by people, their lives, how they have achieved what they’ve done, what influenced them, what they create, drive. If I can see a creative angle on a job that someone proposes to me, then I will do it. As a result of my video filming days with dolphins and hump back whales I am hugely aware of the need for global unity and peace through mankind and ecological living. I try to bring this into my work as much as I can too. I am currently trying to save the world through art and rock’n’roll.

Which photo are you currently most proud of?

My latest fashion shoot with singers Jazzy & Ruby of “Blonde Electra”. Styled by Runars Couture. Beautiful head pieces by Louis Mariette. I think the natural beauty these girls have is remarkable. I love the glam rock power that fights with innocence. Such opposites to have in an image and I like that. The girls are sisters.

Comparing where you are now with where you are when you first started, what could you have done differently to get to where you are sooner?

Life is a journey. Everything happens for a reason and you cannot change the past, neither is it good to dwell on it. The most important thing is to learn from what you do, and always be ready for what is just around the corner. I suppose I would say to my younger self to never let other influences around you clip your wings. Without your wings, you cannot fly, and though it may not have seemed so at times, you are actually in charge of that.

You’ve clearly worked with a wide range of models, what tips can you recommend to people looking to expand their portfolio?

Discipline and self motivation is so important. If you have the drive and the inspiration, people will be attracted to that. If you find a make up artist you like to work with, and you are a good team, then that is a really positive step. Be loyal to those you work with. If you help them, they will help you.

Describe a typical shoot.

Usually the make-up artist, hair and fashion stylists are the first to arrive. If it’s a full day shoot then they often arrive around 8am. The model a similar time or sometimes half an hour later once they are set up. The model arrives with no make-up on so the artist have a natural base to begin their first look of the day. Once my equipment is set up, hair and make up usually take about 2 hours depending on how complex the first look is. There can be many changes in a day. I do my lighting test, we set the mood, and off we go. I always play music during my shoots as it’s important to me that the atmosphere is right. I respond to music, as do most people, and I like the models that I work with to feel at ease in their surroundings. It’s a very personal invasion of someones privacy to photograph them. When they let you in and remove any barriers, the images advance to a whole new level. I love it.

Different designers and assistants all arrive throughout the day to bring their wares in hope that something will be used in the pic that everyone wants to see. You can plan to a point, but really, no one knows exactly what will happen when the light hits the skin, the look, the expression, the accessories. That is when the sparks happen. It’s a matter of thinking on the spot and going with the right ‘feel’ for the moment. I always have strawberries on my shoots. They are a necessity! Coconut water too! It is important to have a clear mind and to feel good to let the inspirations flow.

Once the photoshoot is over and our creative energy has reached it’s ecstasy, we crank the music, pack up with elation and exhaustion as it’s both mentally and physically challenging. I then sit down, order a good crisp and crunchy vegetable Thai green curry. It’s my treat!

How much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos?

Good question! The photoshoot can be a day or a half day, but the initial edit and retouching can take days. It’s quite a process to go through all the images. There can be anything from a couple of hundred to a thousand images to get through. You have to think about everything from the expressions, the hands, how the clothes hang, hair, head pieces. The edit is crucial.

Favorite accessory?

My black fedora hat. I got it in Soho and it goes with everything. I love it!

Who would you like to work with most?

I’ve always said that one day I would like to photograph David Bowie. I don’t know how, or when, but…

Favourite photography book?

Oh that’s a tough call. There are so many I love. The one I’m loving at the moment is from the latest exhibition at the V&A on Alexander McQueen. I walked out of the exhibition and literally picked up the book and went straight to the counter without a second thought. I always followed his work as I was growing up.

To know more about this amazing photographer please visit: Gemma Reynolds

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