With a love of fine art, travel and all things creative, Michelle Lindsell‘s flair for photography has a solid basis. But what makes the work of the creative photographer from London truly stand out is the personal connection she has with her subjects.
Whether she’s shooting urban landscapes in the city, intimate family portraits or weddings, Michelle prides herself on capturing the essence of the moment and turning it into a lasting piece of art.
It’s those same caring and passionate characteristics that see her spend her spare time involved in charity projects that further allow her creative side to shine.
Here, she tells us how she managed to turn her one-time hobby into a successful business and reveals her future goals…
How did you get into photography?
I studied Art and Design at college and photography was one of my modules. We learned everything from scratch with a non-digital SLR camera, developing the film in the dark room, and I fell in love with it. Before I discovered photography, I was very interested in painting and to begin with I’d use the shots to inform my pictures, but then I began to treasure it as an art form in its own right.
Have you always been a creative sort?
One of my earliest memories is when my mum bought me a little pad and I decided I wanted to draw a glass. I filled the entire pad trying to paint this object and getting it right. I’ve always loved observing things, people in particular, and capturing the essence of a moment. That’s what really makes me tick!
How did you turn your passion into a career?
After university I went into various different creative jobs. Photography was always more of a hobby and I was selling paintings as well, so that was mainly what people saw of me. But one day I got asked to photograph a wedding, which led to further bookings. Before I knew it, I found that I combined my two favourite things: photography and romance! I’m probably the biggest die-hard romantic you’ll ever meet and for me there’s nothing I love more than seeing people getting married and capturing that amazing, special moment for them.
Have you got a favourite moment when you photograph weddings?
There are so many! It varies because everyone’s love story and wedding are so different. For me, capturing the individuality of a couple is what I love the most. So it could be something like the bride’s anticipation when she’s travelling in the car to the ceremony or I might capture a teardrop rolling down her cheek, or how tightly she’s gripping her father’s hand.
We’re getting teary!
I know, I get emotional, too! I cry at people’s weddings all the time – my previous clients will vouch for me. I photographed one of my good friends’ wedding in India, which was such a beautiful experience for me. There was so much colour, stunning surroundings and lovely detailing that I was in my element. I loved every minute of it! It was my first Hindu wedding and it was a three-day ceremony. I cried so much there!
Is it challenging getting the timings of the day right?
You definitely need a good pair of shoes to run around in! I spend time with my couples before the wedding to get a feel for how the day’s going to go and the more experience you get, the better your instinct becomes. You’ve just got to be quick and know your camera really well to be able to whip it out at a moment’s notice. And there’s a lot of hiding in bushes as you capture the more natural, unposed shots where people don’t realise they are being photographed!
What inspires you?
I like finding beauty in unexpected places. For example, I went for a walk recently with my camera and found myself really captivated by dying flowers. There was a certain elegance and dignity in their browning petals, like an older woman carrying all her past experiences, the good and the bad, on her weathered face. I’m also really inspired by more intangible aspects of humanity, such as forgiveness and kindness. I feel like these two expressions of love are quite special.
Who are your icons?
Probably my favourite photographer is a guy called Nadav Kander and he is absolutely amazing. He does these beautifully haunting, very ethereal pictures. He photographed the Yangtze River in China and the very fast development on these ancient waters and the images are just beautiful.
How would you describe your own style?
I want my images to evoke what it felt like to be there in that moment and transport you back to the colours, the smells, the emotions… This involves being very sensitive to what is going on around me, particularly focussing on the bride and groom. It’s not all about the people, however, and equal weight is placed on documenting what might be considered quite unassuming details – such as a crack on the floor near to where the couple are sitting during the ceremony. These details are just as important in retelling the story.
Fine art and painters are also a huge influence and I’ve always loved the impressionists like Cézanne and Monet. I treat every photograph a bit like a painting, really – it’s a work of art in itself. So it’s not just about the technicality of using the camera and the lighting in the moment, I also spend a lot of time perfecting the images during the editing process afterwards.
What would be your dream assignment?
Oh my goodness! That’s a difficult question. I have two dream assignments. Firstly, I would love to shoot a wedding in the Valley of the Moon in Chile. I visited this when I was travelling and it’s very remote and unique landscape in the Atacama desert, right by the Andes mountain range. I’ve never photographed a desert wedding and I think that would be a beautiful thing to do.
Secondly, I’d also love to capture something that’s important for humanity. I would love to be a visual messenger of something important that otherwise would not generally be known or seen in day to day life.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I volunteer in the local community and there is a wonderful charity called Regenerate based in Roehampton, just round the corner from where I live in Putney. I’m currently helping run a weekly group for 13-18 year old girls, which is best described as a safe place for them to hang out, explore their potential and get some genuine support, mentoring and friendship. The girls are amazing and I have really enjoyed getting to know them.
You also started The Great Putney Clothes Sale. What’s that all about?
Regenerate Rise is the sister charity of Regenerate, who run a day center for the elderly and the isolated which helps people who might not be very mobile or don’t have many social contacts to get together. To support their very important work, I started an annual fund raising event where people can sell their unwanted clothes rather than throw them away..
Everyone can contribute as much as they feel they can and you can keep your profits – I started the sale when the recession was really quite bad, so I didn’t want there to be any pressure. But I found people have been incredibly generous with their donations. I’m looking at new ideas for making the sales even better – I would love to hold one outdoors in the summer for example with a tea party or a BBQ. Eventually I’d love to grow it to ‘The Great London Clothes Sale’.
What other projects have you got on the go?
I’ve recently started to renovate furniture. A good friend of mine is a real Car Boot Sale buff and he finds the most incredible pieces. He suggested we refresh them a bit and sell them on eBay. I’ve learnt lots about furniture restoration and distressing to create that ‘shabby chic’ look. The problem is I keep getting tempted to buy everything myself!
What are your goals for the future?
My brother was flying for the RAF cadets for a while and we always had this dream that he would fly a plane and I would take beautiful aerial photographs. I’d also love to do more fashion and fine art photography and I would love to bring out a book of my more personal work and also one of my pictures from wandering around London.
Have you got a favourite area?
I couldn’t possibly choose just one from so many! However, I can tell you that London is definitely my favourite city in the world so far. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else – there is so much art and culture and we have the most vibrant areas. London is perfect in my opinion; the people, the architecture, the diversity… It’s just amazing!
Michelle’s tips for starting out as a photographer:
1. Invest in a digital SLR camera. You don’t have to go all out. I started out on a Canon 550 D and it cost me about £250 at the time. I invested another £50 to get my first ever prime lense, a 50mm,which is important for the kind of photography I do. It takes beautiful pictures, is very versatile and not too clunky.
2. Contact other photographers that can give you advice and encourage you. The biggest influence for me was a leading photographer who helped me when I first started out and was very open about the techniques and equipment he used. It was really important to me to find both people who were also just starting out, as well as some that were further along on the journey than me.
3. Trust your instincts. In the beginning I was often trying to fit into what I thought I should be doing, but that only stifles your creativity. Go with your gut – if you think a shot is interesting, that’s because it is. Some of my best photos are of things where my head said, ‘That’s not going to be a good photo’, but my heart said, ‘That’s an amazing photo, don’t you dare not press the button’.
Credit: All images courtesy of Michelle Lindsell Photography