Holly Broomhall is a 20 year old, self-taught fashion photographer from New Zealand. After moving to London late last year, Holly has already had her work featured in a combination of print and online publications in both New Zealand and the UK. After working with her on our latest tropical-inspired fashion editorial, FUSSED catches up with Holly to discuss the pros and cons of being self-taught, her travel experiences and her distinct cinematic aesthetic.
When did you first realise you wanted to become a fashion photographer?
I’ve always been really into everything creative and arty, especially during high-school. I started out constantly drawing and getting really into oil landscape painting, but, when I was 16, I started my first year of photography at school, and I completely fell in love with it! I had discovered the wondrous world of deviantart.com around that time too, a huge online platform for artists of all kinds of media to share work and create galleries. There were a few photographers on there whose work was stunning, and it gave me an urge to create something as beautiful as theirs. I wanted to create images that would give other people the same feeling that those shots gave me, some sort of emotional connection. Something that takes you away to a whole new world, or brings fantasy to life.
As a kid I loved reading fairytales and fantasy books, and still love any kind of fantasy based films today. I wanted to bring this amazing world to life through images, and shooting fashion was a perfect platform for doing this. So I dragged my friends out on the weekends and made them model for me, which I knew they loved even if they acted like they didn’t! Everything just gained momentum from there and I knew there was no other career path for me other than fashion photography.
Are you still interested in any other forms of art?
Definitely! I still enjoy most forms of art; anything can spark inspiration from the feeling you get when seeing something interesting or beautiful. I’d say I’m more into realism than abstract though when it comes to traditional media like drawings and paintings etc. One artist in particular who’s work is incredible is John Constable, an early nineteenth-century landscape painter. I saw a huge exhibition of his several years back in New Zealand and it blew me away. His attention to detail was so amazing. I think his style of landscape painting inspires part of my own painterly style when I am shooting on location.
Why do you prefer photography as a creative outlet compared to these other artistic mediums?
The thing I love most about photography is that it’s the only creative medium which is 100% real. It’s an actual moment in time that has been frozen and captured. It’s not like a painting which could be amazingly detailed and look super-real, because even then you know it’s just an illusion of something. When I see some sort of amazing fashion image or just some sort of beautiful shot in general theres a strong emotional connection I make with it because I know that this amazingly beautiful picture is real, this moment in time really happened, even though it may be heavily fictionalised itself. It's like looking through a doorway to a fantasy world but from the perspective of our own, from reality.
How would you describe your photographic ‘style’?
There’s a quote by the amazing fantasy fashion photographer, Tim Walker, that I absolutely love: ‘A fashion photographer is a documentary photographer within a fantasy land’. This is exactly what I aim to achieve with my style. It is very story based, but also all about bringing that story alive with location shooting. Creating an atmosphere or cinematic feel by soaking in the richness of the environment I’m shooting in.
How do you want people to view your images and yourself?
I want people to look at my images and create some sort of emotional link with them, the way I did when I first discovered the amazing world of photography and fashion photography. See something in them that takes you away to a different place. Though I’d also be content if someone saw one of my shots, smiled, and simply said, “that’s pretty cool!”.
As for myself personally, I try to keep a fun relaxed environment when shooting, bringing my chilled out kiwi vibe to every situation! I hope that comes across as well as my passion for the creative industry in both myself and my images.
What would be the ‘ideal’ photograph?
Thats a tough one! There are so many different images over various styles that I enjoy equally in very different ways, but I’d say that the most ideal photograph that I could take would be something that every time you look at it you are hit with a new wave of inspiration, longing, and beauty. Something that combines my passion for nature and landscape with fashion and fairytales. Maybe a fashion editorial image shot somewhere deliciously other-worldly, like amongst some ruins in Egypt or Peru... one day!
Where would you most like to see your images?
On the wall at my parents or sisters house is a good place to start. Seriously! I love my family like crazy, and those kind of things give me a feeling of accomplishment that I’ve done something they are proud of and want to show off. But on the more ambitious side of things, my ultimate magazine publications would be rich, romantic, story-based editorial publications like Vogue Italia, Harpers Bazaar and Vanity Fair.
Being self taught must have its pros and cons?
I learnt the basics of photography in a technical sense when I was at high school, though you could only take the subject for your last two years before you finished school. I thought about going to university afterwards and gaining more photography knowledge that way, but I didn’t like the idea of doing more theory work. I just really wanted to get into the industry, get amongst it, meet other photographers, agencies, start shooting as much as possible! I’ve always been really passionate and a bit ambitious, so after I finished school I moved away from home (my little NZ city of Wanganui) and headed up to Auckland, NZ’s biggest city and where the NZ fashion photography industry is based. It was a little scary at first as I didn’t know anyone at all there. I was in this massive, busy city, I had moved into a flat with people I had never met, and started from scratch with basically no experience at all. I contacted a studio and started working unpaid for a few months to gain experience and meet some industry faces, and on my other days I contacted modelling agencies and started test shooting. I also did a bit of assisting other photographers, but I never lost sight of why I was there and that was to start building my own portfolio and gaining contacts too.
The most positive side to doing it this way was that I was still young and fresh, and could dive straight into my passion and really enjoy what I was doing. Being of a slightly younger age was also a bit of a con though, as not everyone judges you on your skill or quality of work, they just see you as young and therefore as having no experience. If I had gone to uni sure I may have had a bit more technical knowledge but I would still have had to start at the bottom within the industry and make contacts, meet people and build relationships. It’s not the kind of industry where going to university is crucial, and I figured the sooner I build myself up the sooner I would be where I wanted to be!
By throwing yourself in at the deep-end, you learn faster and hands on experience through trial and error is one of the best ways to go.
What made you want to move to London? Was this hard at such a young age?
I’ve always wanted to travel the world, see everything! All the amazing places, architecture, history, nature and landscapes. After spending not even two years in Auckland I was already ready to branch out to a much bigger industry with more opportunity for my goals, and thats where London came in. New Zealand fashion can be a bit of a ‘safe’ industry - not quite as out there, edgy and risky as the style of other cities such as London, and that's why I decided to move.
I moved over here just before I turned 20, last year in late August 2011. This may seem young for someone to travel to the other side of the world alone, and I guess it is! But I’m quite independent, and am extremely passionate about what I do. Having such a supportive and amazing family made it easier too. My parents and sister are the best people in the world. Seriously. I think because I have already done something similar, moving to Auckland alone from my tiny hometown, it’s just the next step going from Auckland to London. A bigger step for sure, but the same sort of experience which I dived into with no problems.
What do you have in mind for the future?
Having a British passport makes life easier for me in terms of figuring out my career goals, and I don’t need to rush to get things done in time like I would if I were here on a visa. So I’m just going to keep building my book, testing and shooting editorial submissions, gaining some more exposure and see where it takes me. I’ll always have certain things to aim for, but I’m still learning and progressing as I go. I have huge dreams, and am determined to see them become a reality. I want to travel to New York eventually and taste the industry there. But I'd like to stay in London for a few more years at least, until I’m at a strong level of experience where I can go there and hit the ground running!
What advice would you give to other young creatives who are considering moving abroad to follow their dream?
Go for it! Always aim high, and put yourself out there. You never know if you don’t try something, and that goes for contacting people too. Networking is a huge part of this industry, and making connections before moving somewhere new can put you in a more confident place before getting there. What's the worst that can happen by reaching out, even if it’s to someone massive that you think would never reply to you? If they don't reply then so what! Move on to the next.
Having a strong support system really helps too especially moving abroad. But if you have the confidence and passion to go for it then do it. You wont regret it. And hey if you are one of these people, and it’s London you are aiming for, then come and find me!