This week I interviewed one of my closest friends, Amber Roberts. She is a photographer based in Kensington, and can be found shooting in the surrounding areas of Notting Hill and Holland Park with her partner, Philip. She has a calm, tranquil style full of warm, dreamy tones. We talked about how she began her photography business, shooting with her partner, her love of nature and her aim to encourage female empowerment through her work.
Tell us what inspired you to start photography?
This is the first year I’ve pushed myself to pursue photography as my full-time passion rather than a side hustle. As a child it enabled me to escape the reality around me and be anyone I wanted. My mother didn’t have a lot of money so 35mm film was hard to come by. I loved the chances that I had to use the film camera and show what was happening around me at that moment in time. I kept it very real, and rather than removing the bad bits I recorded as much as I possibly could. When digital cameras became more accessible I would “steal” my best friend’s camera and take as many photographs as possible. This inspired me to study photography during my A-Levels where I developed my love for film photography, there’s just something so magical about the dark room.
How has your style developed over time?
Before my A-Levels I didn’t really know how to take a picture. I was also afraid of working with real humans and so I focused on nature and still life – something I don’t regret. When I went to university I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Now that I am pursuing this full-time I want to capture beautiful moments for my clients to cherish. My main goal is to enable my clients to feel beautiful, special and to find themselves during our shoot. I love to direct the models through each pose to help them to find confidence. One thing I really want to do is to help those who have been through something bad – like losing a job, a relationship break-up or a trauma – and help them to feel amazing at the end of the photo shoot experience. I want to create a special day for them, where they can come and have their make-up done, choose their outfits, have time shooting and then wind-down. My main goal is to make my clients feel happy and confident in their own body.
What are your main influences?
My main influence is nature. Throughout my creative career and childhood I have always been found reading books, drawing, painting, photographing the world around me and playing in the dirt or climbing trees. There’s something so magical about nature that helps me to reconnect with myself again. I want to create artistic portraits of the human body that aren’t sexualised by the male gaze or society’s standards. I would love to do a shoot about the female and male body, showing different angles with random objects involved – I haven’t thought much about it though! One photographer I love is Francesca Woodman. She was an American photographer who photographed herself and many females merging with their surroundings. Another photographer who I adore is Bleeblu, his feminine portraits are beautiful and very artistic.
You’re very open about your experience with depression, and encourage others to talk about their own struggles, something I’ve always admired about you. How does mental health affect your creative work, and what advice would you give to others with similar experiences?
Being creative allows me to stay atop of my mental health. During the depths it can even be a battle to leave bed in the morning, but photography and drawing helps to keep me in check. I’ve been fighting with depression since I was 14, and last year, when I turned 23, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The advice that I would give to others with similar experiences is to remember that you deserve happiness, you deserve to be here and to be yourself, and someone else’s opinion of you doesn’t define you. Alongside therapy I have been working over forty-five hours a week and studying fourteen hours a week, whilst running my photography business with my partner. I’ve barely had time for myself but once you find something that you love doing it is all worthwhile.
What are some of the creative struggles that you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
Creative block, artistic block, and my mental health taking a turn for the worse are the things that I dread. I like to take each day as it comes. Starting a business is hard work, and so one thing I would say is that you need a lot of self-belief, or else your business won’t go far. You need to be one-hundred percent sure that this is what you want and the rest will follow. Marketing is a hard thing to do, there are so many avenues and funnels to go down. Take some courses, do an internship in marketing, expose yourself to as much as possible before you market your product to help you avoid the simple mistakes businesses make in the beginning – but everyone has to start somewhere, right?
Has the process changed since you started shooting with your partner?
Doing this with my partner, Philip, has been one of the best things I have ever done. He gives me so much love, hope and strength to pursue my passions and seeing how happy he gets when I am happy makes it all worth it. He surprised me with a Fuji x-t2 at the end of last year and I haven’t looked back since! Having his help and bringing him to shoots brings us so much closer together and I feel that working alongside each other and joining forces makes us so much stronger!
Your work has a really calm, beautiful nature. How do you achieve this look?
I like to keep a feeling of calm and tranquility throughout my work; London is hectic as hell, and I like to counterbalance it through my work. I like to involve as much greenery or nature as possible and I’m happiest when I’m shooting outside. On a side note, my flat in Notting Hill is full of wonderful greenery, and I like to always have cactuses, succulents, and plants that purify the air.
What are some of your favourite locations to shoot?
Notting Hill, Holland Park, and Regents Park are some of my favourite London locations to shoot. The Barbican Conservatory, though only open on Sundays, is my all-time favourite place in London. From the depths of the ground to the tops of the glass you are surrounded by plants, trees, cacti and even turtles! I also love Brighton, there’s something so special and magical about the Laines, the seafront and the Sussex Downs. I can never get enough of it.
What are some of your favourite things about being a freelance photographer?
Being a freelance photographer enables me to push myself through boundaries I never thought I would. I am meeting new people all the time, capturing intimate moments, and photographing sensitively and compassionately. I love working on new projects all the time and seeing who I will meet next and where the project will take me.
Can you name your favourite shoot that you have worked on?
I’ve worked on so many shoots this year – it’s hard to decide which was my favourite. I’ve worked with up and coming male and female models, mums to be, new borns, mummies and their toddlers, events, products, fashion and bridal. My favourite image from a recent shoot was with Italian model Sarah Delau, who I was lucky enough to work with. She knew exactly what she was doing throughout the shoot. She is so beautiful and has an amazing personality to match. I also worked with a good friend of mine called Ellie who is a makeup artist! She is a magician!
What are you working on at the moment? And what’s next?
I am working on many exciting things, many of which I can’t talk about but some are photography based and some are illustration based! Keep your eyes open and new work will be coming soon!
You can find Amber’s work on Instagram at @bluebirdandthorn.
All images copyright of Amber Roberts and Philip Amour.