With winter well underway, the pandemic seems to be running a marathon and not a sprint meaning for many of us, especially the elderly, the very young and the immunocompromised will be remaining indoors.
Luckily many of us are able to remain connected online. Ashley St George knows all about the importance of creating connections through her work in photography.
Ashley studied a double degree at the ANU majoring in photography and art history that helped create the foundation to pursue a career in photography. When asked if there was anything particularly useful that she had learnt during her time at ANU Ashley highlighted one particular course at the School of Art called Professional Practices. "It was all about practical knowledge of how to do things like invoicing, going for funding and generally working commercially - things also not exclusive to being an artist or photographer but just basic practical skills in business." She notes that these practical skills are often expected to be pre-required knowledge in the business and says "I would have found it quite tricky without the small introduction I had through the course."
Currently Ashley works as a freelance photographer, "...with a few other creative add ons" as she puts it. "Photography is definitely 80% of my work, but I also do some videography (which is becoming more popular) and writing. The majority of my work revolves around hospitality and lifestyle, so I shoot for a number of restaurants and agencies managing the marketing for hospitality. Videography is more often coming into our regular shoots, to get little snippets of cooking or an egg oozing for example to add some diversity to the content."
The two clients Ashley writes most for are Allhomes, where she writes a monthly feature on architecture and design for their weekly magazine that comes out with the Canberra Times, and also Broadsheet, for who she photographs and writes about restaurants, cafes and bars in Canberra. If this wasn't enough Ashley also has her own business, Pew Pew Studio which she started in 2018 with her partner, Rohan Thomson, who is also a photographer.
When asked how she got to this stage Ashley reflects, "I feel very fortunate with how my career has developed - the right set of circumstances at the right time! When I finished university I was going to take a year off, work a little bit and travel a lot (a belated gap year!) but I saw an ad pop up for a freelance food photographer for Out in Canberra which snowballed over the course of the year into full time freelancing." She notes that Canberra is small when compared to Sydney and Melbourne, so word of mouth and building your networks are crucial. "This doesn't need to be a forced thing, just taking the time to chat to people when you get coffee or lunch or when you're at a shoot, even if it takes a bit longer. People value connection, so taking the time to connect with people leads to more recommendations."
Connection is something we all need and with the pandemic still at large Ashley adds that social media also plays a large role for those in the creative sector and notes how much it has evolved since she began her career just 5 years ago. "Social media and the way we consume imagery moves very quickly and I find myself adapting with it! Video has become necessary for me to learn as it useful to be able to offer it as well as photography. It keeps me on my toes thinking I can create interesting and novel imagery for my clients."
In a time where social media is over saturated and virtually unavoidable what advice does Ashley have for fellow creative content makers striving to stand out. "It's hard, but try not to compare your work to the work others are doing. Your best photos will come from finding something inspiring, or going with a style or subject matter that resonates with you. Look everywhere for inspiration and what people internationally are doing - there's no reason some of that can't be brought to Canberra or wherever you live!"
Despite Ashley's success as a photographer and businesswoman she too must combat the unconscious bias women face regularly. "As my partner is also a photographer it is interesting to note the differences in how we are sometimes treated. There have been times for example when we are both at a shoot and the organisers exclusively talk to him and I'm overlooked, assuming he is in charge. I'm not sure what the answer to fixing this is, except for women to keep doing a stellar job in whatever they do and continue being determined and confident."