Last January we had the absolute pleasure working with Maria Bell at our London event with Houzz. As a long time admirer of Maria’s photography, we were so excited that she wanted to shoot our event. The images were of course, incredible. Our founder, Lou Archell, chatted with Maria recently about her work and inspirations...
PLEASE CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU, YOUR WORK AND WHERE YOU LIVE.
My work is probably best summed up as telling stories of people, place and plate; whether that’s a maker in their studio, a producer in the field or a night’s feasting. At the moment I’m living in Brixton, where I’ve been on and off for about five years and spend most of my time in Brockwell park, which I absolutely love but really I still like to tell myself that I live on the Isle of Wight (where I grew up). I try to split my time between the two as I go a bit mad if I’m without the countryside for too long and my family still lives down there so it’s lovely to go back regularly.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND, HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN A PHOTOGRAPHER?
I actually did AS level photography with a dark room you had to drag me out of but then was advised to go down a more ‘academic’ route so ended up with the degree everyone has when they’re not quite sure what to do, aka English Literature. So I started out in journalism and only picked photography back up just over two years ago after hating my job and deciding to go in a different direction and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made – not that I haven’t had major doubts about it along the way!
HAVE YOU DEVELOPED A STYLE OVER THE YEARS?
I’m a pretty indecisive person so I struggle with this daily to be honest.
WHAT CAMERA DO YOU SHOOT WITH? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS ON PICKING A CAMERA
I have a fairly shoddy second-hand Canon 5d mark ii I got from eBay and my grandfather’s old Canon A1 when I shoot film, which I don’t do enough! I get asked about cameras a lot and panic every time because I’m really not an expert nor do I particularly care about ‘the best’ kit at all so don’t know if I’m the best person to ask ha! What I’ve picked up along the way is not to get too bogged down obsessing over your kit (aka don’t waste your money) you really don’t need to to get a good photo. Invest in lenses if you want to invest, which is what I’ve done, and try a few bodies out before you buy if you can, everyone is different and works differently with each camera.
WHAT IS IN YOUR KIT BAG?
A fair few batteries, charger, spare SD cards, usually a 50mm 1.4 prime lens, my 24-70mm 2.8 and body then some cleaning equipment, a reflector and that’s pretty much it.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING PEOPLE SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN PHOTOGRAPHING AN EVENT?
I’m not sure I can whittle it down to one thing with an event, that’s kind of the beauty of them, there’s so much going on. I suppose it’s to try to capture things as you see them and not get too distracted by a plan (though make sure you get what your client’s asked for!) or by things not looking ‘perfect’, react to what’s in front of you and you’ll get the shot.
WHAT ARE PRIORITIES WHEN TAKING AN IMAGE? IS IT TECHNICAL OR ARE YOU LOOKING AT TELLING A STORY OR EVOKING AN EMOTION?
It depends how rushed I am! Though to be fair I try not to get too caught up in technicality. I mean, there’s a certain level of competency you need to have but I always think that if I see an image that is technically really impressive or ‘perfect’ or however you think to say it but has nothing more to it, then that’s probably where my interaction with it ends. Whereas if there’s something to emotionally connect to then it’s so much more powerful so I try to go for that – whether that works or not is another thing!
WHO’S PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Oh god where do I begin, there’s so many. I absolutely adore Elena Heatherwick‘s work, there’s just so much emotion in every photo she takes and the way she uses light is always so effortlessly beautiful. Then I’ve also come across Emli Bendixen‘s work recently and I can’t get enough. Then an old favourite of mine is Andrew Montgomery; he’s done a lot of work with Gill Meller and his style is so timeless. Also Sophie Davidson and her series Women Cook For Me is an utter joy.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOUR MOST RECENT WORK?
Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and the founder of Sisterhood Camp.
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and can be found over on her blog Littlegreenshed, where she shares her life, loves and inspiration. Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.