I began taking photographs of food, gardens and lifestyles when I bought my first flat probably. It was at that time that I started to become really interested in interiors, exteriors and food. Before that I had done mostly fashion and beauty photography.
When I first went to college I did a foundation art course, then a course in graphics followed by a photographic diploma and finally a higher diploma. I loved photography, and after my studies I got a job as an assistant in a photographic studio.
In the very beginning of my career it was all so very hard. I was a waitress at night, assisted in the day and ate tinned soup. It took a very long time indeed to make a decent living. I feel really lucky that I get the work that I do now.
Life can be a funny thing because you have certain landmark moments, I suppose. My father did not want to pay for me to study an art based course as he thought it would not lead me into a proper career, so I worked as a photographer while I was at college in South Africa and was very successful there. The hard part was breaking into the UK market.
For a while I assisted photographers on the Habitat Catalogue and one day someone was ill and they asked me to shoot small things, then gradually I got to shoot bigger products. I would say it was not an overnight process as I had to be very patient and very determined, but I never thought I could do anything else so it was easy sticking to it and being patient. I did later get an agent, although I prefer to not have one now.
I enjoy nearly all the shoots I do now, the only bad ones are when you work with grumpy or difficult people. I am constantly fascinated by the people I work with, the locations and all the small details. Every day is different with different start times and different end times. For example last week I had two days in Farringdon in London and the rest of the week in Scotland. I had to wake up to leave for Scotland at 4am and I did not get back home until 10pm on Friday night, so it is not always glamorous, I can assure you.
Next week I am in Norway all week and who knows where I might end up the week after, I may be making cakes at home with my daughter. I am not always away, thankfully, as it would be too difficult to be a good parent and not fair for my children.
I live in north west London with my 3 children, I am a single parent so it is often tricky and difficult leaving them and organising the right child care so they feel happy and well taken care of. My sons are 13 and 16 and they are used to it by now, they used to come with me on shoots sometimes when they were little and I was travelling, but now they are entrenched in schools. My daughter is only 7 and for her it’s more difficult when I am away. My mum lives nearby and comes to help us but she has been a bit ill recently. Last summer I had a job in New York and Los Angeles for 10 days and my older son came to help me which was lovely but generally it’s a lot of juggling and lots of communication through Skype.
I seem to be away more in the summer months but the majority of the time I am in a location house somewhere in London. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I get the chance to shoot in my own house.
I love doing the photography for books more than anything and I have a few people I would love to work with, but I am lucky enough that at the moment I work with a few stylists and authors who are so motivated, interesting and full of life and energy they make me feel very inspired. I am trying to launch a blog at the moment and an on line library of images, and both projects have been very time consuming.
I really love cooking and I live near Portobello Market so I try to go down and use the market for shopping, I love Goldbourne Road, there are stalls that cook fresh fish on a barbeque with salad and you can sit in the street and eat it. There is also the wonderful Lisboa Portuguese Cafe and bakery that makes the best cafe latte and custard tarts. There is also a lovely farmers’ market near me in Queens Park on a Sunday that has gorgeous fresh food plus some lovely local delis. I am trying to get my children to cook more and my older son is really enjoying that at the moment.
It is very hard to know where trends are going in food photography and styling, but I feel that people continually want things to be more simple, and they also want fewer things but better quality. I tend to follow the sorts of style trends that I like which are modern but simple, more homemade and interesting that sleek. I always like the idea of making something out of nothing, of re-using and re-working things, not always buying everything new.
If I had to give advice to young people starting their careers, I suppose I would tell them to choose what they are really passionate about. We all have such a long working life now you may as well do something you love doing. I have never sat round waiting for opportunities to come my way. Of course some opportunities have arrived through plain luck but generally I believe you have to create yourself new opportunities, be continually re-analysing the way you do things and try to be happy. After all, that is really the point of life
Debi Treloar’s website: www.debitreloar.com