Claire Seville is a Birmingham based photographer who specialises in boudoir, pinup and alternative fashion photography. She runs her own one woman business whose strapline is “photography for bad girls”. Claire is also an ex-model, cabaret dancer and DJ so is, I reckon, fair game for one of my muse as artist interviews. Claire recently celebrated four years as a full-time professional pinup photographer by hosting a Burlesque night at The Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham.
Below are a few of Claire’s images. All used with permission and copyright Claire Seville.
I first met you when you had your own studio in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, 2010 I think. You’d not long had your daughter and moved full time into photography. Tell me about your career path since then and where “photography for bad girls” came from?
Like you said I had the studio in Birmingham and was mostly doing family portraits and weddings, with a little pinup on the side. As much as I loved the studio, the family portraits became very methodical to me and I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would, the fact I had the studio really tied me down and I was having to work most Saturdays and missing out on valuable family time. My love for photography sat within the pinup and alternative genres, this is what excited me and where I could really get my ideas flowing, so four years ago I took the plunge into doing it full time and gave up the studio. I’ve not looked back since, I feel very lucky to be doing what I do, every shoot is different, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
I know you’ve taken a qualification in photography. What are your thoughts on formal education versus experience for the professional photographer?
I think you need both if I’m honest. I was self taught to begin with and decided to go back to college to grow my skill set. I gained a lot of valuable knowledge whilst on my courses and some invaluable confidence, to have the critic of a tutor really helped me. You can never stop learning with photography, it is forever evolving and you can continue to grow and improve. Experience is also important, the more time you spend shooting different people the more you will learn about how to get the best out of them, which in the end will give you that great shot!
You don’t just photograph professional models. Why do you think “ordinary women” like to use your services so much (oh yes, and do you photograph men)?
I’ve had the odd guy and a few bands, I’ll also be doing a few couples shoots, but I love shooting women more. As for ordinary ladies, it’s all about the feel good experience, come and get pampered, have a giggle with the girls, build your confidence whilst having a wonderful shoot and some pictures to show off at the end of it.
What’s the favourite aspect of your job?
The playing dress up part, it’s like having my own life size barbie dolls, I love getting the ladies ready to shoot and a look coming together.
Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you come up with the ideas for how to pose your models and create sets etc?
TV, films, history, other photographers such as Ellen Von Unwerth and Helmut Newton. the posing comes natural as I used to model, so I go with the flow of the shoot and see what works. Once I’ve got an idea I want to do I’ll get on eBay and look from props or go down the rage market and look for fabrics.
I’m always interested in how photographers and models keep their creative juices flowing? What do you do to maintain your creativity?
Again this is from the inspiration around me, TV, film, books etc, there’s always something that inspires me and gets me thinking about the next project.
You are well published both online and in print. What advice would you give to photographers and aspiring photographers to get their work published?
Ask for it, it’s really that simple, as they saying goes ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Also when you’re shooting, think about the magazine that you’re shooting for and what they would want to publish.
A couple of techie questions now, what equipment do you use for your photography?
Canon 5D MKII, I use a couple of lenses 50mm prime and a zoom lens, Elinchrom flash heads with a number of accessories depending on the shoot.
How much post-processing do you do on your images and what software do you use?
A bit, I don’t like to alter images too much, just make them clean, just a better version. I use both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.
Who are your role models (on both sides of the camera)?
Ellen Von Unwerth, Viva Van Story, Helmut Newton, David LaChapelle for photographers. Models like Masuimi Max, Ulorin Vex I really admire, they’re so hard work and absolute professionals.
What advice would you give to models that might be looking to have more of a creative input to the shoots they do?
Talk about it, speak to the photographer you’re working with, they might love your ideas and you will create something fabulous if you both enjoy it.
What plans do you have for the future? Do you have any particular projects in the pipeline?
Hoping to do a proper exhibition at the end of the year, loads of ideas I want to shoot, so will be busy working away.
Thank you Claire.
For other interviews in this series see here.
Thank you for this introduction. She is a lovely person and I like her subject matter a great deal.