Felicity McCabe is a London based photographer working on both still and moving image projects. She is shortlisted in the Professional Natural World category of the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards with her series ‘Colour and Vision’.
Named as “One to Watch” by D&AD and receiving awards and acknowledgment from the Lucie Foundation’s International Photography Awards, Graphis, and the Renaissance Photography Prize amongst others, her clients so far have included The New York Times Magazine, Guardian Weekend, The FT, Apple, Volkswagen and Save the Children, who recently sent her to Somaliland to create a story in response to the current drought situation.
McCabe’s work has been exhibited in London and the USA and she is currently working on her first book.
Hi Felicity, thanks for chatting with us. Tell us how you got started in photography
I started out trying to be a painter, but my tutors gently let me know that the reference photographs I took were better than my actual paintings. So, I switched over to concentrate on photography for my studies, and then after that I worked for some fantastic, established photographers for a few years while I got my head around how the industry works and also while I worked out what my own taste in photography was. When I started up as a professional photographer in my own right I trawled around loads of the magazines and agencies in London with my portfolio and luckily some of the great people that I went to see gave me a chance and it built up from there.
Your style is quite graphic and aesthetic - are you aware of this when shooting?
Yes, my preference for my own work is always to present things in a structured and clear way. I tend to try and find the cleanest composition and create the light to help communicate my message.
I like to construct the whole image, from background and subject all the way through to lighting. Even when I’m making pictures outside I try to work as though the landscape is my studio, finding graphic backgrounds and adding to the natural light with my own elements to make sure that it really feels like I’ve had a strong hand in making the image.
How do you approach each new project?
If it’s a personal project, I usually have a spark of an idea, sometimes just from a word that I hear, or perhaps from a shoot that I’m working on at the time. I’ll mull over the idea for a little while to let it form and then I’ll just start making the work and that work will most often tell me where to go next.
If it’s a commissioned project, I’ll usually start by thinking about how I can approach the subject in my own personal way. I think about all of the work that I’ve made in the past which helps me to know where to go with it and sometimes more importantly, where not to go! I always take the time to keep trying out my ideas. Sometimes those tests and trials aren’t quite right for the assignment I’m working on right at that very moment, but they’ll always come in useful in the future.
Tell us about your most memorable shoot
I really enjoyed working on this series that was shortlisted, as it gave me the opportunity to go and nose around behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum in London for a few days, which was my absolute favourite place as a child. It was a commission from the FT and was the second time I’d been able to go in there and set up my studio so I felt really excited to be asked to go back. But I think my most memorable shoot has to be the time I spent in Somaliland making a series of work with Save the Children to highlight the devastating effects of climate change on the pastoral people there. We slept in the villages each night under the brightest stars I’ve ever seen and met so many amazing people on the way. You can see the series on my website, it’s called Dryland.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I suppose it’s to try and make every single piece of work with the same integrity that I would if it was the biggest photographic moment of my life. And to listen to your intuition. I believe our instinctive reactions tell us all we need to know about whether we’re going in the right direction or not.
What’s next for you?
Aside from juggling my commissioned work which I love, I’ve got a couple of personal projects ticking along at the moment. One of them won’t be published until 2018 and involves some exciting travelling, and the other series is much more introverted and happens in my own studio, so there’s always something for me to keep chipping away at.