I’ll let you into a secret. I wasn’t always a photographer. In fact, in my previous career I was the one on show, performing night after night in theatres in front of a live audience, thousands of miles from home and I was in China when the pandemic began...
January 2020 - 2 months before the pandemic began, performing my solo Headliner show in Asia.
Before Covid-19 struck, I was a professional singer, traveling the world. It was my absolute dream job, combining my love of music with discovering new places. I studied musical theatre in London, where I was lucky enough to work with Elaine Paige and Michael Ball. Pretty exciting as an 18 year old! After graduating, I focussed on singing and built up a classical repertoire – similar to that of Kathryn Jenkins.
My professional gigs took me all over the world, singing in theatres, hotels and on cruise ships. I became hooked on travel. I wrote my own show and on my last tour in 2019/20, I planned to spend six weeks in China and fly on to the Philippines, Australia and Singapore. But then the pandemic hit. All my gigs were cancelled and last March I was forced to fly home from China and move in with my mum and dad in St Albans. That’s when my life took a real turn.
Living in China and Asia before the pandemic, performing shows in Mandarin and English.
I’m lucky to have such supportive parents and for the first couple of months I enjoyed the break being back at home. We all thought theatres and travel would reopen again soon. But that wasn’t the case. By June 2020, whilst my friends began working from home and regaining some normality in their lives, I realised that my normal was not coming back. I had nothing to offer. All I’d ever done was perform which meant I had no experience to work anywhere else. I was the unhappiest I’d ever been. I was thirty, with no career. I’d split up with my boyfriend who lived in Australia, and I was living with my parents. All I could think was, what do I do now?
My Plan B came to me during that summer of 2020. I’d always loved photography and being out of work, the one thing that made me happy was filling my days taking photographs. I took some of St Albans cathedral and had note cards made. I thought the cathedral gift shop might be interested in stocking them and so I went in to ask.
That one move saw me get my first ever order as a photographer. The cathedral wanted me to produce a calendar for them. Hearing them say they liked my photography gave me a huge confidence boost. But I also felt completely out of my depth – I didn’t know anything about running a business! In the end, I just went with it. I took some more photographs, found a company who made calendars and showed the cathedral a proof. They ordered 120 calendars and 100 packs of 6 notecards. It felt amazing! I was earning money again, which I was incredibly grateful for because, like most performers, I wasn’t receiving any government support or funding.
After that, I thought, I’m just going to run with this – I’m not sure what else I’m going to do. I signed up for a couple of online courses and learnt how to use editing software, then started asking friends if I could take their photographs. I was thrilled at their reaction. They genuinely loved the photos and were posting them on Instagram or using them on their Whatsapp profiles. The first woman I photographed was a friend who had gone through a horrible break up and her self-confidence was at rock bottom. She was so surprised at how gorgeous her images were, she cried down the phone to me. Her photos helped her believe in herself again.
My photography business developed from there. I’ll always want to sing but through photography I’ve found something else I’m passionate about. I love the human contact and being able to boost someone else’s self-confidence. That’s where I get my buzz from and why I’ve stuck with it. I now have two strands to the business: Personal Branding – for women looking to promote themselves and make an impact, whether it’s for business or simply to boost their online presence; and Studio Elegance, which allows women to come to me to discuss whatever kind of photoshoot makes them feel good at that moment and to have as much fun as possible in front of the camera.
As women, we can be critical of ourselves and our appearance and often doubt what we’re capable of achieving. I also know from personal experience that imposter syndrome is a very real thing. Through my photography, I aim to empower women to see their true selves: strong, capable and beautiful. It’s an absolute privilege to do what I do and I know that I’ll continued to inspired by every single one of you.
If you’d like to know more or book in a chat with me about a photoshoot, please click here.
This blog post has been beautifully written by Kirsten Lester on my behalf to tell my story. Thank you Kirsten, for putting into words, what I can only ramble. xxx