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Welcome to the first of our Meet & Greet posts. Here we will introduce you to a smorgasbord of deliciously delightful people who we find inspiring. We’ll share what we’ve gleaned about their worlds and hopefully whet your appetite to return to Musings and meet someone new.
Our first Meet & Greet is with photographer Jessica Mahaffey. Jess shot all of The Middle Daughter’s AW19 launch images so it feels appropriate and timely that we kick off this series with turning the lens on her.
I first discovered Jess when I was looking for a particular style of photographer to shoot the no added sugar Look Books. We had worked with so many amazing kids photographers over the years but for something as ‘straightforward’ as a Look Book , which in essence is a tool for buyers, I wanted to come at it with a fresh eye. I purposely set out to find a fashion photographer.
I recall my first email to Jess; reassuring her that it really wasn’t necessary to have kids experience (as she had none), but patience and tolerance was!
I saw the images that she had shot for Alex Mullins (edgy mens & ladies wear brand that shows at London Fashion Week). I wanted that same modern eye.
Having shot for a wealth of high profile publications (Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Tank, Wonderland, Elle etc etc), and a regular shooter back stage at Mens Fashion Week (what a job!), I don’t think she saw us as her dream job (ha ha). Not having kids of her own and working exclusively with adults, I can easily relate to the prospect of working with 6 year olds as being on the To-Be-Avoided list. And yes, at first glance it may not appear to be so creatively expanding, but in typical Jess style she embraced the challenge and we’re chuffed she did.
Jess interned with Rankin. (I suspect that knack that she has of capturing a kids portrait in a cool way rubbed off from him). Officially a fashion and fine art photographer, Jess’s work has an editorial style about it. It possesses a vitality and modernity, and that’s what makes it so utterly appealing.
You live in London, share some of your favourite haunts?
The Prince George in Hackney is a favourite. It’s a cosy, Victorian pub with masses of charm. My neighbours, The Dumplings in Clapton is a firm favourite for food, also has great cocktails in the basement. Both are in the East as this is where I’ve been living for the last 10 years.
Being a photographer is creative and a lot of fun. I’m constantly gaining knowledge in different techniques, lighting and style. It’s very hands-on, fast paced and varies day to day - it never gets boring!
The photographer that inspires you the most, and why?
I'm inspired by so many photographers! My favourite fashion photographer would be Viviane Sassen, her work is really interesting. It's very graphic and colourful, and has more of an artful feel than most fashion photography. It’s pretty diverse and blurs the lines between documentary and fashion.
Who would you most love to shoot?
I'd actually like to go back in time to 70's New York and photograph people on the streets of that time. I have a fascination of New York in that era, it seems that it was an exciting time for new art and music.
Share a shoot secret/nightmare/triumph
It’s always a nightmare when I’m asked to do something that I know won’t look amazing, or goes beyond what was originally asked. I was asked to create a shot to look like the model was inside a nightclub when we’re shooting outside in bright sunshine!
If you weren’t the photographer, what other job would you like to do on a shoot and why?
The hair! This was an option when I left school at 16. It was either a hairdressing apprenticeship or Art college. I chose to study art but very nearly trained in hair!
Who or what has had the most influence on you artistically?
My friends have had the most influence on me. The people I surround myself with constantly inspire me in different ways. I have always shot the people that I hang out with, on nights out or away travelling. These seem to bring me the most joy. I use these captured moments and feed them back into my work.
What inspires you most?
Being in the city - the architecture and people, and also travel. I like to mix portraits, architecture and landscape into my work. All three inspire me to shoot more.
Most prized possession
My art book collection! I have a mix of books that I’ve collected; some found second hand, some new and some signed by the artist. I often look through them when searching for shoot references.
What’s the one art book that you’d save in a fire?
Magnum Magnum, edited by Brigitte Lardinois. My Gran bought this for me when I graduated from University. It’s a beautifully printed heavy coffee table book.
What work of art would you most like to own?
David Hockney - A Bigger Splash
Love Hockney's work I'd be happy to own any of his.
Current bedside reading?
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing.
Advice you’d give to your younger self
I wished I’d gone straight into assisting when I left college. I spent three years at university but learnt more technically and about the industry within two weeks of interning for Rankin.
What age would you most like to stay at forever and why?
Happy where I’m at!
Career advice for budding photographers
Assist, gain as much knowledge technically as you can and practise, practise, practise. Produce your own work and really hone your unique style.
*All images © Jessica Mahaffey