Tag Archives: the inspirations

The Inspirations: David McNeil

Wedding photographer David McNeil and I have been friends for a long time, waaaay before I started my blog or he started shooting weddings. We worked together at the shopping channel and having someone, basically alongside me for the whole time I’ve run my business, has been pretty amazing. We’ve advised each other (David is notoriously brilliant at advice!) and seen each other grow into our businesses and make a success of our passions. It’s been pretty magical really.

We’ve shot together, we’ve traveled to Vegas together and we’ve learnt a serious amount of stuff about this crazy little industry of ours together. So, who better to interview this week than the man that I’ve seen start from diddly squat and grow into his business like a complete and utter pro?

Photography Credit: Devlin Photos

So David, can you tell us who you are and what you do? How did you get started as a wedding photographer and what stage of your business are you at now?

Hello Green Room readers!  First of all I’m so honoured you asked me to be part of The Inspirations series.  You’ve featured so many amazing people that it’s extremely exciting to be included amongst them.  First and foremost I’m a wedding photographer shooting weddings all over the UK (and some further afield!) but during the week, when I’m not editing or designing albums, I teach photography workshops with The Trained Eye.

At high school I loved art, and wanted to be an artist.  There was one problem though, I could not draw or paint to save myself.  My art teacher didn’t see that as too big a problem and encouraged me to pick up a camera, get in the dark room and see if photography was the outlet for me.  I spent many Friday afternoons processing my film and there my love of photography was born.  I studied photography at college for a year before embarking on a university degree in Film, TV, and Theatre Studies.  Slowly my camera began gathering dust…

Then, after my move to London to take up a job at shopping channel bid tv (I believe you are aware of that particular channel Kat!?) I stupidly left the front door of my house open and was burgled.  Amongst other things, my Pentax SLR was stolen so I replaced it with a dSLR, embraced digital, found flickr, learned Photoshop and eventually started taking portraits of colleagues who worked at bid tv.

Around the time I started wanting to take things further and start shooting weddings, a brown haired girl I worked with called Kat Williams was planning her wedding, and had one of those wedding blog thingys some brides document their progress with.  She became the perfect muse for me to start taking wedding orientated images and as she morphed into Rock n Roll Bride, so too my business started to take off at the same time.   Eventually I left my job and so, here we are today!

What inspires you as a photographer, a businessman and a person?

Gosh – where to begin..!  One of the reasons I chose wedding photography as my business is that I grew so bored of shooting inanimate objects.  I wanted to shoot people and I guess what inspires me is finding out about people and understanding them, and their relationship through the camera.  Shooting models is easy, but finding the true beauty inside someone who doesn’t have their image taken every day is really what motivates me.  The feeling I have when I find that perfect spot of light, and I am able to find real happiness in someone’s eyes is one of the most satisfying parts of our job.

Photography is about freezing time and I feel so privileged I turn up at a wedding with my camera and record one of the most significant days in someones life for them.  Knowing that my images will be looked at for years, and become a part of the family history is awe-inspiring when you think about it.

As a business, my main inspiration is to keep on being able to do a job that lets me keep control of my life.  I’m not here to make a fast-buck or churn out weddings like a conveyor belt.  I’m lucky that, after 4 years of working hard, I can start to see the real lifestyle benefits of being a self-employed wedding photographer.  I’m always looking at ways to use my time efficiently so I never let my business get me down or overwhelm me.

Equal in weight to being the best wedding photographer I can possibly be, is being in a position to travel and see all the world has to offer.  I’m now able to take months off in the winter and pursue that dream.   It’s something that wouldn’t have been possible in my old job, and something I am so grateful for and never take for granted.

Your images are very distinctive – fun, fresh and vibrant! I could imagine this isn’t something that ‘just happens’ when you meet a couple and put them in front of your camera…

Thank you!  I love working with couples who are all of those things which naturally helps my images to reflect that a lot.  One of the most difficult aspects when training new photographers is helping them understand that yes, it’s so important to have great technical knowledge of your camera but that often it’s that little spark that your personality brings to the image that turns it into something really special.

I think the most important way of bringing out the fun side of people is simply to be fun yourself.  I never try and hide behind the camera, and am constantly engaging with my couples.  I’m genuinely interested in them, and really, really want to capture how special their relationship is in the photographs.  If you’re not naturally interested in people I imagine it must be a horrendously difficult job to do.  Turning up at a shoot or a wedding, and being able to connect so quickly with people you have barely met requires confidence and empathy in equal measures.

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The Inspirations: Choccywoccydoodah’s Christine Taylor

Do you dream in chocolate? Then, surely you must be aware of the unequaled talented that is Choccywoccydoodah. Famous world-over for their creations in confection I am a huge fan, and even more-so now I’ve got to know the team behind the yummy personally.

I was seriously excited to speak to Creative Director Christine Taylor as part of this series, and when you read through our chat below I just know you’re going to fall in love with her too.

Hi Christine, So who are you and what do you do? Can you introduce yourself and your fabulous company?

My name is Christine Taylor (that’s me in the top middle of the photo above), I am the Creative Director of Choccywoccydoodah.

The company started 17 years ago in Brighton, born of a drunken night out, based on the desire to eat copious quantities of chocolate after consuming a bottle of gin with my co-director Christine Garratt. The reason we got drunk was we had found ourselves in possession of a shop we didn’t want. A very long story, to be shared when we are all drunk. It only makes sense then.

The name Choccywoccydoodah was also found at the bottom of the same bottle of gin. We also decided if chocolate didn’t work, we would sell diet stuff and call ourselves Chubbywubbydoodah. We still might. Reap what you sow!

There was no business plan then, there is no business plan now. The gurus of business we are not. What we are, however, is ambitious, hard working and obsessive. I believe proper earned success can only come about with complete 24 hour a day, 7 days a week obsession. And that is not for everyone.

Your cakes are out-of-this-world unique. What inspires you and where do the ideas come from?

The inspiration for what we do comes from everyday life, interspersed with extraordinary moments. My head is so full of projects yet to do, designs yet to make I feel I should have a head like Tim Burton’s Red Queen.

I employ artists and designers, the studio is full of creativity. Creative people just are, it’s a curse as well as a gift. If we didn’t work in chocolate we would still be doing this, maybe using dustbin lids instead.

You have a TV show on the Good Food Channel. Can you tell us about it?

Currently we are enjoying being on the telly, an approach out of the blue two years ago which has resulted in cameras tagging along in our lives on an almost daily basis recording what we do and who we are.

Sometimes it’s irritating, sometimes much worse than that, but mostly, we love it. Natural show offs with a TV camera – who’d have thought it?

Series 3 comes out on the Good Food channel on July 2nd.

What are you most proud of to date?

What I am most proud of is our team. Carefully chosen, all a little off-centre, some so far off-centre we have to tie them to the edge. There are about 40 of us now, all working together, enjoying what we do, making chocolate, creating cakes, selling chocolate, selling cakes and of course, we all eat chocolate and cake.

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The Inspirations: Tattooist Mike Harris

I always loved sleeve tattoos on women, so when I finally got up the courage to get one done myself I really did my research to get the very best artist I could. Mike, and the London studio he was working in at the time, was recommended to me by a heavily inked friend when I said I was looking for a cartoony, colourful and fun design – nothing to serious, just like me I guess!

After spending 18 hours together I got to know Mike pretty well. I was surprised to find out he was so young but this along made me respect him even more. He is incredibly talented, devoted to his career and seriously inspirational. The perfect candidate for this week’s Inspirations interview if you ask me!

Mike tattooing me. You can see more photos as well as my “yeah right this doesn’t hurt” face, here Photography Credit: Al Overdrive

Hi Mike, can you introduce yourself to my readers?

Hello my name is Michael Harris I am a 25 year old Tattooer, husband-to-be and father to one amazing daughter. I have been tattooing for coming up to 5 years and I work at Churchyard Tattoo Studio in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

How and why did you get into tattooing?

I’ve been very much surrounded heavily by tattooed people since I was young. I was skateboarding at around 13 and going to hardcore punk shows around the same age. Both seem to be full of tattooed people so I was inspired by them for a long time. I’ve also been drawing all my life. Tattooing seems to be the only art form I can relate to.

What is it about tattooing that you love so much?

Just being able to do my own art everyday is amazing. I’m one of the few lucky people that make money from art. I love art in general anyway so there are a lot of reasons I love it.

Is tattooing a difficult industry to get into and do you have any advice for anyone wanting to do the same?

Nowadays it is ridiculously hard to get into. More and more people are tattooing badly from home and more and more people are becoming tattooers. I believe the only real advice I’d have is to hone your drawing skills and be the best at it you can be. If you cant draw really really well then there’s no point trying. Also remember its not about money in this industry!

Who are your biggest inspirations – within the tattooing community as well as outside it?

Tattooers like Tim Hendricks, Kyle Walker and Chad Koeplinger. In terms of other inspiration I’ve always been a massive Francis Bacon fan. Also Picasso and Van Gogh. I get a lot of inspiration from my daughter Evie and my partner. They are the reason I live and I love them so much.

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The Inspirations: Abbey Warner of Sugalily

Abbey Warner is one of those incredibly giving and beautiful people. She is someone that I can always count on to dish the advice as well as have a dirty gossip with! I love her dearly and I’m totally chuffed to have her in The Green Room today. Women don’t come much more inspirational than my friend Abbey.

Hi Abbey! I’m so excited to have you as part of my Inspirations series. Can you tell us a little about yourself – Who you are, what you do etc?

Hello! I am Abbey, a little bit of the team that makes up the Sugalily design studio, which is based in Derby, right in the middle of England. I also spend at least one day a week in London town, meeting clients. Within the business my role is as Creative Director, doing {most of} the design and looking after our wedding clients.

So how did I get into the design and publishing game? I was already designing greetings cards that I was selling into local shops and creating wedding stationery for friends. I was really enjoying the creative and print processes and really wanted to get more involved. As I was commissioned for more and more projects, I decided that if I was going to do it properly that I needed to concentrate on it full time…so I left my old corporate life {enjoyable but increasingly unfulfilling, I was the Graduate Programme Manager within the Talent Management Team for a FTSE 100 Company} I resigned my role {telling my parents and boyfriend {at the time} I was on a 6 month sabbatical} and during my three month notice period planned the launch of the business…taking on a Web and Brand Designer, a PR Company and a Printer and launched at the Home and Gift Show at Harrogate in 2007, got my first trade clients and never looked back {although its not always been plain sailing!}

What is it about wedding stationery that you love?

I love the diversity of our clients and the vision of what they are wanting to create for themselves and their guests, and how we interpret it and make it come alive for them. Although the stationery is a really small part of the big day, I find the design process that we go through, from sketch booking and mood-boarding, can really help shape the design of the day, as we can often help make decisions that impact on colour schemes or a theme for example.

You still design and sell greetings cards. Can you tell us how the idea of remaining in the greetings card game came about? Why did you want to continue to do this as well as wedding stationery and how, if at all, does it enrich your wedding work?

I didn’t know how long it would take me to build up a really great reputation within the wedding or greetings worlds, so decided to launch Sugalily as a greetings card publishers AND wedding design studio. There were also whispers of a recession so I wanted to make sure that I had varied revenue streams, so really was a practical, business decision.

The inspiration for our greetings collection is mainly fashion inspired and you can see this research reflected in the wedding designs. I guess it is just a natural and the bold backgrounds, typography and florals and birds can be seen across many designs, although the greetings cards are more daring and playful.

You’ve just launched a new greetings card range alongside fellow designer Lucy Ledger. Can you tell us how this came about and what it’s like working with someone (who some might see) as a direct competitor?

Ahhh the lovely Lucy Ledger! Yes we have a little brand all of our very own, Lucy and Lily Studio and we have six stockists and have also just started distributing in Australia, which is really exciting as we only launched a capsule collection of 18 designs in January. We have big plans for our joint baby!

I find collaborations can be really inspirational for all involved and Lucy and I are actually friends. Although some may see us as competitors, we both offer very different services and our designs are really quite different. A lot of my designs are typography led or have very rich detailed backgrounds and Lucy’s very popular collage style of design compliment each other. So we just thought it would be a great experience to work together.

From the Lucy & Lilly capsule collection

I also hear you’re writing a book! Can you tell us anything about it yet?

I am! I am co-writing and illustrating an interiors book with the lovely, beautiful and inspirational Pearl Lowe, the book is called Pearl Lowe’s Vintage Home and is being published by HarperCollins. It is the largest project I have undertaken and it is so, so exciting, we are picking a photographer and stylist at the moment and next week begin writing up the DIY tutorials that will form the basis of the book. I can not tell you how exciting it is to be involved in something like this, every day has become an adventure and I am learning lots of new skills which is really interesting as well as energising.

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The Inspirations: Elizabeth Messina

When I say that I’m thrilled about today’s interview… well I really truly mean it. ‘Thrilled’ is just one tiny little word but it’s probably the only plausible way to describe how I felt when the email reply agreeing to this feature arrived.

Elizabeth Messina is a wedding and portrait photographer who shoots on film. No stranger to wedding blogs (or print magazines for that matter!) she’s had her incredible imagery featured on pretty much all of them. Her eye for love and emotion is like no other and she has just written her first book, due to be published on April 24th.

Elizabeth kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to me today.

Hi Elizabeth, It’s an honour to have to in The Green Room today! Can you quickly introduce yourself to my readers and tell us a little bit about your photographic journey so far?

My name is Elizabeth Messina…I am an artist…I seek to bring a little beauty & sweetness into our unpredictable & ever changing world…I love making photographs…I am a happily married mother of three. My journey with photography started when I was 12 years old & my mother gave me a camera. Throughout the trials & tribulations & joys of my life, photography has been the one constant. It has given me a voice, a perspective & sometimes a bit of protection. I long to share meaningful beauty…love & longing….light & nuance. My first book “The Luminous Portrait” written alongside the amazing Jacquline Tobin (executive editor of Rangefinder Magazine) officially comes out on April 24, 2012.

Your work is all about the romance and love but it appears as though there is an underlying thread of longing and I would even say sadness. Do you think this is true? If so, is this what drives you?

I think you are right…at first this happened without a lot of forethought but now I nurture my images & try and capture an in between moments. Many of my images have an intimate quality to them…i think love & longing are inexplicably intertwined…anyone who has ever been in love knows sadness as well as happiness.

I love to capture stillness…the moment just before a kiss…a women alone. I think there is beauty in all types of emotions. Sadness is rich & poignant, an emotion that demands your attention. I think that is is because of some of the sadness I’ve experienced in my life that I so treasure the happiness. I do enjoy sharing sweetness too…a newborn’s toes…smiles & laughter…

Your blog Kiss the Groom is a beautiful place to get lost in. What was the concept and your idea behind it? How do you feel it differs from other wedding photographer’s blogs and why you do choose to have this blog as well as your static website?

Kiss the Groom began simply as a place for me to share my perspective, unedited. I am, as I said earlier, in my heart, an artist and when you build your business around your art, you inevitably make compromises along the way. I’ve been blessed to travel around the world because of my photographs, and I’ve been featured in countless magazines (which still amazes me). I wanted to share the images (& thoughts) that were important to me and I also intended Kiss the Groom to literally be my voice…a woman who loves to kiss her groom.

I think it is a blend of a wedding blog & a photography blog…a mix of my love for images, poems & lyrics, and of course kisses. Because no one is editing me, the posts can vary a lot. I love feeling connected to the world through my blog. It is a dialog that helps me resonate with the world. I think my static site (www.elizabethmessina.com) is more of a virtual portfolio whereas, on Kiss the Groom people can get more of a feel for my personality.

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The Inspirations: Liene Stevens of The Splendid Collective

You’re probably all aware by now, that at the moment I’m loving teaching, learning and exploring the ideas behind running your own wedding business (hence The Green Room, my School of Rock workshops and my work with The Photography Farm!)

Very early on in my wedding blogging career I became aware of Liene Stevens and her blog Splendid Communications. I found it invaluable and full of amazing snippets of advice and guidance when I was navigating the murky waters of trying to be my own boss. When I launched The Inspirations, Liene was top of my list of people to interview. I hope you enjoy eavesdropping on our chat…

Photography Credit: Avery House

Hi Liene, can you give us a brief introduction on yourself and your company?

My name is Liene and I own a company called Splendid Communications. I am an expert on the intersection of business and social behavior and I specialize in how millennials (born 1979-2000), affluents and engaged couples buy. I’m obsessed with figuring out what makes people tick, and why they make the decisions they do. Basically, I’ve figured out a way to earn a living being a nerd (something I made my peace with a long time ago). I spend an insane amount of time doing things like studying scientific and academic journals, conducting qualitative research, and figuring out how to apply all of that to businesses within the wedding and lifestyle industries.

How did you come up with the idea for Splendid Communications and Think Splendid?

My educational background is in intercultural psychology and when I owned an event company, I realized that a lot of people in the industry were incredibly talented at their craft, but pretty clueless about the why behind client behavior. I knew that my interests and skills were better used in helping people improve their businesses behind the scenes so that they could remain innovators in their respective fields.

What about the other arms of your business?

The Splendid Collective is the umbrella company for Splendid Communications and focuses on providing initiatives that elevate the wedding community. There are currently two other brands underneath it: FindAWeddingJob.com and Live Splendid.

FindAWeddingJob.com is a job board (currently just for the United States, but hopefully will support international soon) where people can post job and internship openings. They cross post with LinkedIn and about a dozen other job boards so that you increase your chances of finding a qualified candidate.

Live Splendid is a non-profit initiative that explores the implications of weddings on social and economic justice. We have some things in the works for it for 2012 that I am really excited about.

Why do you focus on blogging about tips for wedding businesses as opposed to more general business tips?

To me, an expert is not just someone who has breadth of knowledge on a topic, but depth as well. I know weddings and I know social behavior and I know how to apply that to business. I have a professional background in events and I love that, at their core, weddings are about people. There is no better place to see human behavior on display than at any given wedding venue on any given Saturday night. Decades of family drama combined with an open bar combined with fancy clothes prove that even the best wedding professionals with the most meticulous of timelines can’t be prepared for exactly what will happen, because the human aspect is where it all goes off script. It’s fascinating to me.

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