This month I got a chance to speak to Emma Benyon, a wildlife photographer – how neat is that? So after a few emails we really get into the interview mood! First question to be asked? Well it needed to be fairly obvious…
How did you become a professional nature photographer?
EB: Well I began photographing properly from about the age of sixteen, when I was given my first digital camera and I began an A level in Digital Photography. My love for medium grew and grew and I decided that a degree in Wildlife and Environmental Photography would be a fantastic next step bringing together both my love for photography and my love for nature and the natural world. I graduated from my photography degree last year and have since been promoting my work through my website, blog, social media and through people like yourself promoting my work too.
NM: Congratulations on graduating last year! The first year out of university happens to go extremely fast – where mine’s gone is beyond me. As you state you predominantly work in digital photography, have you taken that step into film?
EB: Thank you! It has gone very fast but I’ve had some amazing opportunities this year to do with my work which has really help me promote it successfully. I also graduated from a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education at the beginning of July so this year has been immensely busy!
Well I haven’t actually shot much digital since the second year of my Wildlife and Environmental Photography Degree. I got really interested in Lomography and used a Holga 120N to shoot a couple of projects, I then moved on to a Holga 135BC which is the camera I have used to shoot my project ‘Captive’ on. ‘Fading Light’ which was my final degree project was shot on digital but since then apart from a couple of projects everything has been film, and mostly shot in black and white.
NM: You really have been busy! At a time now where you can look back upon your study, a question that arises now is to study, or not to study? The fees for university have hit the roof recently, but do you think this should prevent people from pursuing an educational option and take the work route instead?
EB: I think it depends on what is right for you. If you want to study then you should go for it, if not there are plenty of other valuable options. For me it was the right path and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. If I had not have done my degree I wouldn’t be where I am now.
NM: Good advice! There are always plenty of other options out there. What advice would you give to beginners of wildlife and environmental photography?
EB: Advice – well I’d say to make sure you do lots of reading before you begin photographing. Make sure you research locations and species before going out shooting, especially the terrain of the location. If you understand what you are photographing, ultimately you are going to be able to take more successful images.
NM: Have you ever had anything crazy happen to you whilst photography animals in the wild? I’d imagine it would be the kind of work where something would go a little crazy even with you taking caution…
EB: To be honest I can’t really think of anything that has happened to me particularly, I’d love to have some funny story to tell. But I think that comes with the sort of locations I have chosen to photograph in; for example, the zoo animals don’t pose much of a threat.
NM: You’ve recently exhibited in Blackpool on a solo exhibition, well done! How did setting up and planning the exhibition come along? What would you consider the ideal environment or platform for showing your photography?
EB: Thank you! The exhibition was in partnership with three great showcasing businesses who helped with every step! Setting up the exhibition was fairly straight forward and although I went with a plan of where I wanted each of the images, things changed and it resulted in what I feel was the strongest images shown in a simple yet effective way. Planning an exhibition is always very time consuming but I think what really helped is that I had the support of these three great businesses which have expertise and experience in this area.
There are a lot of great showcasing platforms, from social media, exhibitions to businesses who help promote your work, such as yourselves. I think a mixture is always important and just sending your work to everyone who could help you promote your work. I think social media is such a great platform though, as information can be shared with hundreds of people in just one click and this can really help to promote your work, after all the whole purpose of creating art is to get it seen!!
NM: Definitely hear that! I love how social media really does go as far as offering jobs now, who knows what it’ll do in the next 5 years…
If I were an amateur photographer, how would I get my first photograph published/ seen?
EB: Well I started by setting up a blog, which showcased my work, and then I began using Twitter and Facebook to showcase it and promote the blog to a wider audience. I sent my work to so many online places, entered competitions and eventually someone gets back to you. It just takes time and involves sending out your work to lots of places that you think might be interested.
Social media makes this so much easier though as twitter and Facebook give you access to lots of places that showcase work, like Soapbox Press! Eventually people, like you did for The Profile Book, will contact you and ask you if you’d like them to showcase your work rather than the other way around. You just have to send out your work to everyone and it will happen eventually!
NM: Nice bit of advice there Emma! It’s always worth pushing through those emails as tedious as it may seem at times, there will be a doorway at the end of it wide open for you – it’s just a case of getting yourself there.
As a final question I’m going to ask you to describe your working style as a three course meal and why. I’d be a plate full of assorted biscuits because, first of all nothing else beats them, but secondly because I like to do a variety of things all in one.
EB: Tough question! I think I would have to be plate of a variety of slices of cakes from the Victoria sponge to the red velvet cake because my work incorporates the traditional and digital, along with individuality and I like cake!
It’s been lovely to really get to know you and your practice! I’d highly recommend that you jump across to Emma’s website now and have a good browse through her wildlife photography.
I hope that this interview has given you a good insight into following and pursuing your dreams too – take the advice from Emma and make it happen!
Contact and network like there’s no tomorrow.