This article appeared in CoverWest Magazine. The feature is “Behind the Lens”. It’s out now. The questions I answered contain a bit more detail & are below.
Questions for COVERwest’s ‘Life Behind the Lens’ feature
Full Name: Suzy McCanny
Photography business name: Suzy McCanny Photography & Fashion
From (Originally and/or currently): Sligo
Photography specialty(ies): I enjoys making people look their best & using creativity. I shoot Fashion, Commercial, Portraiture, & Weddings.
Please provide a little background info: (i.e growing up, education, interests etc)
I grew up in Sligo and attended university in Leeds where I got a BA in Fashion. The course was geared to prepare us to work as designers or with designers in other areas of the business. I studied photography as part of my course. I did a number of internships in design houses during and after my study (Julien Macdonald, Betty Jackson, London Fashion Week) Then I ventured further into fashion styling at London’s Central St. Martins. After London I went to the states where I initially worked on lots of shoots as a stylist and with a few magazines to gain experience. As part of the creative team we would discuss lighting and the photographic style we wanted to achieve. Gradually I began to do more including the post-production and assisting the photographers as well as styling. I was a sponge. Eventually after a year back in London the simple things in Irish life called me back and I now work from my studio in Sligo when I can and everywhere else in between. It’s certainly harder career-wise to be based in the west but there’s nowhere like it!
How and when did you get involved with photography – what made you want to become a photographer?
I had the opportunity to work on lots of fashion photoshoots as a stylist and fell in love with the ability to freeze a moment capturing the zeitgeist of the time. In themselves, photographs are often beautiful works of art but the greats often have an underlying depth. I feel lots of great fashion & portrait images say so much about the society they are created in at that exact moment. They are a reflection of trends, society’s ideals of beauty (see Alec Wek / the size 0 debate), political & cultural soapboxes (see Vivienne Westwood’s Ethical Fashion Programme/ Louis Vuitton’s Core Values Campaign) I was captivated by all of this and the creative ways in which it all comes together.
What areas/subjects do you enjoy photographing most?
Fashion, commercial and babies. Photographing babies is the polar opposite of all my other work. I love the fat cheeks and leg wrinkles, they aren’t in the least bit self conscious either. All their innocence and wonder at all the things we take for granted brings me lots of joy.
Who inspires you? (Professionally and personally)
All great photographs inspire me. The people at “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” a charity organization that I’m part of inspire me every day. We photograph babies that don’t make it out of the hospital. It’s remembrance photography for grieving families who don’t have years worth of pictures of the child that they are loosing. It is a truly humbling experience that puts life’s dilemmas into perspective. We badly need more volunteers. www.nilmdts.org
They say, “A picture is worth 1,000 words” – to what degree do you agree with this expression?
1000%. There are so many moments in history that we can’t begin to understand. We have visual minds and pictures help us imagine so that we can feel the empathy, outrage, shock or joy that the person witnessing the scene felt. It takes so much time to describe in words what a picture can express in a moment. (see Kevin Carter, Sebastian Salgado)
How important is the equipment and post-production?
The equipment doesn’t take the photograph. I’ve taken some great pictures on my iphone but great equipment, skilled post-production and knowledge get the best results every time. For reliability and high quality finished prints, it’s important. If a torch & and iphone would work as well as extremely expensive lights that flash “just so” and cameras that I can also use as dumbbells, I would own a lot more shoes.
Do you have a favourite photo(s)? If so, please provide if possible and tell us why:
I love lots of photo’s for different reasons. Some I really enjoyed creating, some because they worked out exactly as I wanted, some that make me smile . . .
What motivates you to do what you do?
It’s rewarding when someone really loves an image you’ve created. I’ve had some really touching letters and e-mails from clients. It means a lot.
Having witnessed many body image issues in the fashion world empowering a woman’s relationship with her body is something I strongly believe in.
I’ve supplied quite a few families with images of loved ones who have passed away after an event or portrait session I have done. Too often people let time pass without taking pictures. The time is now.
What is the best part of being a photographer?
When I make an image that I feel deserves to be called art. Something that’s more than ink on paper, when I slip inside peoples lives and dreams for a few moments and capture the essence of them or create something I find compelling and beautiful.
What has been your career highlight(s) to date?
I have opened my own studio in Sligo. I got a fantastic space and custom designed the place to incorporate all the best bits of all the studios I have worked in. It’s in an old building and has really high ceilings, a basement for some funkier shoots and outdoor space. It’s designed so I can use it as a gallery also. The same year I got my first diamond award from the Irish Professional Photographers Association and became a Certified Professional Photographer of America with the Professional Photographers of America which is helping me broaden my horizons.
What would be your dream subject to shoot? (i.e. place, person, event etc)
I love to travel and I always dream of the places I haven’t been to yet. There’s a long list but gradually it’s getting shorter. A dream job would be to have done a shoot for Alexander McQueen. I love everything he created.
And your hopes for the future?…
I love to collaborate with other artists, I’m going to be doing more of that in the future and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
How do you like to relax?
My life is my work and my people. If I’m not doing something work related then I’m spending time with my loved ones. My dog is sure she is a person too so this includes her. Walkies and playing with her is a great stress reliever.
Tip for budding photographers:
Find something you really want to take a photograph of and then figure out how to do it best. If you are trying to take pictures of indiscriminate objects you won’t have the motivation to go over it again & again trying to get it right. Give yourself small achievable goals. Never stop learning and moving forward.