JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
SUZI OVENS: As a child I was very much into acting and performing and aspired to be an actress. I was very shy, and acting helped me to come out of my shell. I was always sketching and drawing from a young age, and at the age of 8 I wanted to be a fashion designer, then later an artist. So a creative career was inevitable for me.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
SO: Music plays a large part when I’m seeking inspiration for work, I often create playlists when working on projects. I love its ability to create mood and atmosphere and invoke emotion - effects I want my work to achieve. I love all genre’s of music, anything that creates these effects, so my taste is quite wide ranging. Ask anyone who’s listened to my iTunes for 10 minutes! For the same reasons, film has also had a significant influence. I’ve recently discovered some incredible short films, which have given me the push to start planning my own. Art has always been a big source of inspiration for me, particularly the surrealist movement and a lot of modern art. I love anything that messes with the status quo, or goes against stereotypes and assumptions.
I also recently had the chance to work on a documentary, Above & Beyond, filming British Paralympians around the UK. Both the experience of filming and watching the athletes at home, going through physiotherapy and training, has inspired me in many ways. Their stories are incredibly inspiring, seeing what they’ve had to overcome and their achievements despite their obstacles has been possibly one of the biggest kicks up the arse to work hard towards my goals. It was wonderful to work alongside such a talented crew, it was an incredible learning experience and I’m really excited to see it shown to a wider audience.
JC: What are you up to right now?
SO: I have a few projects I’m currently working on, further work on Above & Beyond, a fine-art photo series, and I’m also writing my first short film.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
SO: I undertook a mentored project in 2011 with the Young Photographer’s Alliance. I was mentored by the photographer John Wright & Sharon O’Neil, a photo editor at the Sunday Times. It was an invaluable experience for me, as I’d only been interested in photography for under a year, I was self taught and didn’t have a photography degree. It taught me some important professional skills, and filled some of the gaps in knowledge I had from the lack of formal education. It really built up my confidence and solidified that photography was what I really wanted to do.
I haven’t really had any other mentors, but I think the great thing about the photography community is that so many photographers are open and willing to share their knowledge, and give advice. So I often find that photographers will mentor each other. A particular thank you should go to Rosie Hardy, who’s a fantastic photographer, incredibly open and encouraging of other photographers. She was a big influence on me when I first picked up photography.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
SO: I’m based in both London and Cambridge, though I travel around the UK frequently. I grew up in the Midlands, and would visit my older sisters studying & living in London regularly as a child, which really instilled my love for the city. I finally moved there two years ago, and I’m still just as excited by the city every day as I was when I was a child. It’s such a beautiful, fascinating city with so much history and character, it’s impossible not to be inspired by it. Each area has such a distinct personality and atmosphere. I love going for long walks, discovering new locations and places I’ve never found before.
I also spend a lot of time in Cambridge, which is a very different place to London. Whilst I love big cities, it’s refreshing to be in the countryside, but there I’m still close to history, art and beautiful architecture.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
SO: My advice to photography graduates is to never stop learning. The photographic industry is constantly changing and evolving, and just because you’re not in formal education anymore, it doesn’t mean you should stop developing (pun completely intended). Also, be nice. In an industry that relies on contacts and reputation, if you want people to work with you, they need to actually like you. There’s a lot of photographic talent out there, what will make you stand out is your personality and how you treat people.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
SO: There isn’t a plan B. And there isn’t really a Plan A. Plans often don’t work out the way we want them to, and failure is a part of life, you have to learn from mistakes, adapt, and persevere.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
SO: It’s incredibly important as it’s how I’ve learnt photography. I’ve had no formal training in photography, so everything I’ve learnt has been from other photographers and their willingness to talk about their work and techniques.
I’ve been featured on Mull It Over, a blog that interviews photographers! It’s my first ever interview so I’m rather chuffed!