I often get asked how I got into styling and photography and how do I make a living. Those are very good questions! Nowadays we are all photographers to some extent. Daily shares on Instagram, capturing happy moments became much easier and doesn’t require professional equipment. Taking a photo is as simple as opening camera app on your smartphone and snapping. Working as a stylist and photographer however is more than that. It’s not only about capturing the scene, it’s about the concept, telling a story, creative direction and so much more!
How it started
I’ve had few cameras in my life. A film one at the age of 10, when I passionately continued to burning all the films, then few digital ones in my adult years. The first one I actually got by accident – funny story! One evening back at University, I found a camera in the bathroom of one of the campus disco clubs. Someone must have forgotten it (I guess they a good Party!). I checked the photos trying to understand who the owner is but sadly didn’t recognise anyone in the images. I brought it to the administration desk yet no-one claimed it after repeated emails sent to all the students. Few days later the uni decided I should keep it. I didn’t really need a camera but when life gives you lemon, we make a lemonade, right? So my photography adventure began. Digital snaps of friends and vacations.
Few years later
I graduated from the university with a degree in nothing-photography related – Psychology, then got a job in London in a multinational firm. It was a nice job, successful one too but I started feeling the desire to do something ‘creative’ in my life. A crazy paced world and career chasing wasn’t really ‘me’, it had its obvious advantages but I couldn’t picture doing it for all my life.
My (now) husband must have recognised the creative spark in me too. One day he surprised me with a cute gift – a few different ‘Beginner’s guides to drawing’ including instructions on how to draw animals, faces, people. I loved it but it didn’t stick for long. Few months later I bought canvas and easels – it wasn’t ‘that’ either. One day I will have to show you my doodles so you can understand why!
For my 26th Birthday I got DLSR Nikon with a kit lens. I was so excited I immediately picked up a camera and started experimenting. It quickly turned into a hobby – we would go on day trips so I could play with it learn how to use it, we would chase sunsets and countryside animals. Slowly, I started to see the world in a whole new way.
The thing is once you start to see it, you can’t unsee it.
I was fascinated by how light can affect things, how perspective and different angles matter, how photography is about your point of view rather than a gear that you hold. The process of taking photos and the possibility of telling my stories though images was very appealing but… I was missing a purpose. The more photos I took, the more I realised that photography is not just about ‘snapping’. It’s about the person behind it and their ‘eye’, what they want to communicate. That’s when things got interesting!
Finding a purpose
The act of finding a purpose was actually very unintentional for me. My second passion has always been the world of interiors. I always enjoyed touring homes of my friends, decorating my home, going through interior design books and magazines, visiting IKEA and walk through tiny, styled rooms.
Didn’t take long for me to start documenting my DIY ideas and decorations at home. There was this one particular project I loved. The butterflies on the wall inspired by Paul Villinski work (as seen in Gossip Girl, anyone know what I am talking about?) So, I recreated it in our bedroom. I was so proud of it, I needed not only to photograph it but also share it with the world. That’s when I started blogging, that’s when I created PASSIONSHAKE – a blend of two different passions, interiors and photography.
Have you noticed that when we dig through the archives of old work (that butterfly project!) it’s often hard to even look at it? The fact is, we all started somewhere so as much as we cringe looking at the past creations, they brought us to where we are today. When we look at work if people we admire, it’s easy to say “I will never get there” but we forget, they were standing in the same shoes when they started. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
When I was just beginning to find my voice and discover my passion for styling and photography, I would spend days and nights learning, reading, looking for inspiration. It became kind of obsession. I wanted to improve my skills, I wanted to create home stories, style, style, style and share. I realized that after many years of attempting to do something ‘creative’ in my life, I finally found my calling. This was it. I tried many different things in my life: theatre, all different sport disciplines, drawing, dancing, painting but was not enough into it to continue with dedication. Photography and styling was different. I devoted every free hour of my time to improve my skills. I learned how to style the scenes, shoot in different scenarios, I worked out perfect camera settings, I mastered Lightroom and more…
After spending hundreds of hours learning, blogging, comes the moment when your work starts being recognised. First we get compliments, then we might see our work published – in books and magazines, not long after come the job proposals and collaborations. All of that has brought me incredible joy and satisfaction. I always say it and will say it again – I am considering myself to be very lucky to call my passion also my work. It is a dream come true. Let’s remember though that every dream requires hard work and does not happen over one night. No-one is born being a star at what they do, every success story has a long path of making mistakes, learning from them, keep trying and not giving up. Every craft can be improved at any stage so it’s important to never stop and try new things each day.
My work keeps on expanding all the time and varies depending on the project and client. I work as interior stylist and photographer shooting products (mainly home, design, living, travel, beauty), interiors (real estate, I’m official Airbnb photographer, home tours), collaborating with brands on tailored made project, collaborating with agencies in Milan on styled shoots. I do small interior decoration projects. As a blogger I travel to visit design fairs and brands offices/factories creating photo stories. In addition to that I own a mockup shop offering real photographed scenes for displaying Art online. Recently I created an e-course on product styling and photography. Sometimes 24 hours are not enough but the secret is that I love what I do so it actually feels like I’m never ‘working’ if you know what I mean.
I truly enjoy all of this and can’t imagine my life without it. How do I know that? If someone offered me millions to do something different, I wouldn’t, I would still do what I do.
I wonder if you enjoy your job too? Are you doing anything related to your passion? I would love to hear your story!
If you are interested in learning more, or collaborating with me, get in touch. I am always happy to hear from you!
Photography: Agata Dimmich / Passionshake