Over four years ago I became vegan and shortly after I decided that my ethics had to flow entirely into my photography and business. I made a commitment to stop promoting products and practices that harm, abuse or violate the lives and liberties of animals, thus identifying as a vegan photographer/stylist and makeup artist and announcing that my business was a vegan and cruelty-free operation. It has sometimes meant that I have lost jobs because of it as well as limiting my scope for possible collaborations, but overall it has opened many doors, sparked thought-provoking conversations and created a way of doing business that sits well with my heart.
Although some vegan photographers may use the term in a different way i.e. documentary activism, I feel it is just as valid to claim the label and promote awareness around such things within my industry, specifically fashion and portrait photography. But is there really any difference between my work and that of a non-vegan photographer. Perhaps not so much from the outside looking in, but from where I sit, there are fundamental differences and I feel I need to start sharing these in the hope that I will bring more understanding to veganism and the way in which it affects all facets of one’s life as well as inspire others to pursue a life with more heart.
One of the best things that happened was it gave me the motivation to start doing makeup professionally. Initially, between I struggled to find other vegan creatives that inspired me and that I could work with. As an artist, I felt quite confident and comfortable learning new skills and adding them to my repertoire. So, I slowly but surely started building a vegan makeup kit and now thoroughly enjoy expressing my creativity in this way. As a lover of colour, makeup is a great way to bring this element into a shoot. I have also been told that I love to pay attention to the details and makeup fits into this way of thinking perfectly. Doing makeup and hair during photo shoots also makes the entire process and experience even richer. I love getting to know each and everyone I photograph and doing makeup and hair in the styling preparation stage of a shoot is the most amazing way to do so. It allows me to think about the concept and make any changes on the fly depending on the wishes of my clients as well as how we are both feeling that day. It becomes a truly live and flowing collaborative process. I’m so passionate about this!
Being a creative portrait photographer, who loves the whole process, means that styling the shoot is also affected by my vegan stance. I no longer use fur, feathers or leather in my sourcing or constructing of outfits, costumes and accessories.
Creative constraints actually fuel creativity! Faced with adversity, I definitely think outside the box a lot more. I have been forced to find new ways of making something or styling a shoot.
I also feel that my connection to nature and the seasons has been strengthened in the process. I have an affinity with flowers and they play a major role in my themes and inspiration.
So what happens when you book me and you aren’t vegan? I regularly work with both vegans and non-vegans and let me tell you straight off the bat, I will never start any kind of nasty debate with you about why you aren’t vegan or how vegan you are compared to me. I believe that you must come to these decisions entirely on your own.
The process will be exactly the same except for a few things. I will ask that you leave certain items at home. These items include feather boas, real fur, leather coats, leather bondage items and anything that is obviously made from an animal. Once you arrive I will offer you a drink, if it’s tea or coffee, just don’t expect me to have dairy milk. We will chat about the concept and what to expect and then get started on hair and makeup. Many of the most exciting makeup brands and products on the market today are in fact vegan and cruelty-free. As I said before I love colours, so quality pigmented foundations, eyeshadows and lip colours are essential to me and the looks I want to achieve, specifically high fashion, alternative, pinup and vintage glamour styles.
A few other things that would set me apart from other photographers might include knocking back work which included animal circuses, rodeos or zoos as locations. In the past would not have flinched at the thought of such a shoot, but as a vegan, I can’t promote such activities and would simply not want to include them in my art even as a backdrop. Some may say this is quite a hard line approach, but as artists, our job is to shape reality and inevitably create a better future, so whether we are photographing the atrocities of the world or leaving them out of our art our impact can be just as powerful – it just draws on different emotions. As a portrait photographer I aim to show beauty to the world, I create fantastical, cinematic realities that empower and inspire and I aim to do so without the harm and exploitation of our fellow earthlings.
I hope this shines a little light on what being a vegan photographer means to me. I also hope that it inspires you in some way to live a life that is more in line with your heart/truth each day. Don’t forget that small steps are still steps in the right direction.
Love and light,