Since I’ve graduated and moved to London, I’ve been looking for jobs, trying to break into the photography industry and it’s not been easy at all.
While studying I had no idea of the amount of technical knowledge needed to be a professional freelance assistant in London!
My university was a lovely place to experiment and learn about fine art/documentary photography, but, being based in the North East of England, I was so far away from London, where apparently everything of a certain relevance happens, that when I came here I didn’t have a clue about it works in the “professional world”.
I assisted some photographers back in Italy and it was completely different. I worked with Angelo Cricchi, a photographer that I deeply admire, but he works mainly on film and with continuos lighting, so it was not so challenging to assist him while still at uni.
I knew that I needed to work as an assistant to gain first hand experience on professional/commercial photography.
At first I tried to propose myself as a freelance assistant to a huge number of high end photographers and I landed a couple of jobs before realising that I was missing too much technical knowledge to work in that position.
I was second assistant on an Italian beauty editorial shoot with Phil Poynter and I loved it, but I was also glad to be only the second assistant because if I was first I think that I would have messed up the whole thing!
For my second job I was the first assistant of another photographer and I totally screwed it up!
At that point I’ve being kindly suggested to try my luck as a studio assistant first to learn about all the equipment and get enough experience and contacts to become a photographer’s assistant.
I didn’t even know of the existence of the studio assistant job, but thanks to some chats with photographers and assistants I got the contacts of some of the main studios in London.
I started (and I’m still) working shifts at Big Sky and Sunbeam Studios and I booked an intensive assistant one day course at Direct Lighting, the rental company that supplies equipment to most of the studios and photographers in London.
It may seem stupid to have to do a course just to be an assistant, but I was puzzled by the strange names of some of the things used on shootings (big bens, jumpers, turtles, spiders…how am I supposed to know what a turtle is when someone asks me for one?!?) and it was incredibly useful to be able to have everything explained, including complicated lighting devices like the Briese.
I then felt confident enough to start to “harass” photographers again and I worked a couple of times with an amazing artist who doesn’t normally use assistants, Peter Ashworth.
I truly enjoyed working with Peter, he is so good with lighting and I learned a lot from him. He is also a respected portrait photographer and it was fascinating to see him working with a famous musician, putting him totally at his ease and directing him at his best to get killer images.
The last job I did for him was assisting (even if I’ve been a bit mischievous and I took some pictures inbetween, sorry Peter!) while he was shooting the new collection of Orschel-Read.
Stefan Orschel-Read is an incredible designer and, even if I’m not that into fashion, I was stunned by his work, it’s breathtaking.
Heather B did hair and make up and here there are some behind the scenes pictures.