Our Staff: Fashion Photography by Laura Coughlan
Cass Art is proud to boast some of the most talented emerging artists within our staff, and sales assistant at our Islington flagship store, Laura Coughlan is no different. From illustration and collage to photography and film, Laura is a diverse and extremely skilled image maker. In the spirit of London Fashion Week, we chat about her fashion photography works for further insight.
You identify yourself as an ‘image maker’ can you tell us about your different methods of working?
I have recently graduated from Ba (Hons) Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. Throughout my third year my visual language gravitated toward photography. I do not really consider myself as a photographer as such; I see photography as a tool, a way of recording my imagination and forming it into an image. I have found that art direction is probably the thing I enjoy the most about photography. It is not the actual act of capturing the shot, more the creative control, everything else that goes on in order for the image to be captured. From creating the concept, to sourcing stylists, makeup artists, models, to the editing process. Having studied Illustration for 3 years I feel there will always be an element of storytelling in my photography, especially with my editorial work and so I find it really hard to define myself as just one thing. Essentially I make images, and no matter which directions my work goes in that will always remain.
How was it that you found your passion for photography in particular?
Towards the end of my second year at Camberwell I became really tired with sourcing imagery for my collages. Collaging had once been a very natural and impulsive thing for me, but being required to make so much work in such a short amount of time I found it harder and harder to make meaningful work. The most logical thing for me to do seemed to be to take my own imagery and collage with those instead. Luckily for me a close model friend of mine invited me to assist on a test shoot she was involved in. Armed with a cheap Lomography camera and an open mind, one roll of film later I was completely hooked. When I got the film developed and saw the images for the first time something just clicked. It was a complete light bulb moment, a moment I had been waiting for, for the whole of my first two years at Camberwell.
Can you tell us about your favourite materials to use?
Definitely the Moleskin Squared Notebook and the Staedtler Pigment Liners set of 6. I constantly find myself jotting down notes and ideas when I am out and about and it is a place to keep inspiring images that I have sourced. Without them my life would be far less organized. I also use a Diana Mini from the Lomography range, which isn’t available at Cass Art online but is in the Islington store where I am.
How was it that you developed and refined your style?
My style definitely feels more refined now that I almost always shoot on 35mm film. I had a bit of an experimental phase with digital and it just did not feel right for me. As soon as I stopped forcing myself to use it my work really progressed; it was so more organic and much more enjoyable to produce. I am very much a ‘happy accident’ kind of person. Even with my years of collaging, I always used images that kind of stumbled my way, I never tried too hard to find them because then the work lost its spontaneity. With 35mm film you never know for sure how the images are going to look until you get them developed. Sometimes it is the imperfections or things that you didn’t even notice at the time that really add to the image and it’s that element of chance that really makes it exciting for me. I don’t feel like my style is completely developed yet, and probably won’t ever be. My tutor on my foundation course at Chelsea College of Art told me that the minute your work bored you, you know it is time to evolve it. I feel like I should be constantly improving and striving to produce better images than the images I previously shot.
What advice would you give to budding fashion photographers?
Do not take rejection personally! Like most creative mediums, fashion photography is subjective; not all magazines, designers, modeling agencies etc are going to like your work. It is really important to stay true to your own visual language and not feel like you should change yourself to fit in. Instead, know your market, know where your work sits and let rejection be a huge motivation. Furthermore you should always be nice! Teamwork is an enormous part of fashion photography. From the makeup artists to the stylists to the models, to the designers, it is a collective effort to creative this imagery. No matter how talented you are as a photographer, nobody is going to want to work with you if you are a nightmare on set.