Having completed an MA at 23 in Dublin, Fashion photographer Holly McGlynn decided to move to Berlin. It is here that she discovered her love of photography and decided to make it her career and life’s work. Since then, McGlynn’s client list boasts a number of well recognised labels, brands and organisations including Faberge, Mulberry and The Gallery of Photography, Dublin. For McGlynn, fashion represents escapism and fantasy; a creative tool that has the capacity to produce stories. It is through colour and flash that McGlynn has built up her signature and well recognised style. As this months Mover & Shaker, McGlynn speaks to Marguerite about why it is important to be ruthless as female photographer, how she manages to switch off from the job and her thoughts on Vogue, now that Edward Enninful is Editor in Chief.
When did you first pick up the camera/realise photography was the area you wanted to explore as a career?
When I was 23, after I had graduated from an MA in Dublin and moved to Berlin on a whim. I so clearly remember getting frustrated several times a day because I would encounter scenes I wanted to photograph but didn’t have the tools with which to do it with (this was before iPhones. I know…I know…I don’t look old enough!). Breaking point came at a gig one night when I had no way to photograph the silhouette of a violinist whose strings kept snapping so the next morning I went out and bought myself a little, compact digital camera. I took it everywhere and photographed everything. Something really changed the moment I got that camera, I instantly knew I wanted to make it my life’s work.
What has been your favourite shoot to work on so far this year?
That’s a really tough one…maybe the Easter campaign I shot for Fabergé. The shoot is out now and it’s really fun and colourful but also quite surreal. It’s a bit different from what I normally do so it was challenging and rewarding too.
If you could work with any fashion designer (dead or alive) who would it be?
The list is too long! Marc Jacobs, Gucci, YSL, Valentino, Burberry, Moschino, Stuart Weitzman…we could be a while here…
You work with colour and texture by creating escapist narratives – can you tell me more about this technique and why it has become so integral to your practice?
For me, fashion is escapism and fantasy. Something Justine Picardie, Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, said at a recent Marguerite event really resonated with me: ‘when a woman sees a dress online or in a shop, she images how she would look in that dress. But when she sees a dress in a fashion editorial, she imagines the life she could have in that dress’. Wanting to create these stories through fashion photography as well as my use of colour and flash have all become integral to my signature style. Colour is so important to me, I just feel hungry when I look at black and white photography!
What would you say are the biggest pros and cons to your role?
The biggest pro is probably the job satisfaction. It’s enormously gratifying being a fashion photographer because of the pace of the industry. You’re constantly creating new work and you get to see it published (in print, in store, online, social media) relatively quickly. I worked as a fine art photographer for a couple of years after graduating, before I moved into fashion photography. One of my biggest frustrations with that was never knowing if my work would see the light of day.
The biggest con is probably the same for every self employed person the world over - chasing invoices!
What would your most important piece of advice be to a young female photographer?
Be relentless! The odds are very much stacked against female photographers. Although 80% of photography graduates are female, they make up only 15% of professional photographers. 8 out of 9 photography competition winners are male and approximately 90% of agency represented photographers are male. The only way we’re going to change these depressing figures is to keep charging forwards, pick ourselves up after every rejection (and there are many), keep pitching, keep networking, keep improving our skills, keep lifting each other up. I think we should all be holding brands and magazines accountable too, challenging why so many of their covers and campaigns are shot by men, when their content is of women and consumed by women.
How do you find a balance between work and socialising? Do you find it easy to switch off?
I do now that I have a toddler! He’s so engaging (and requires a lot of supervision!) that I have to be wholly present when I’m with him, which in turn has made it easier for me to switch off at other times too. I used to never switch off. I worked 7 days a week, and if I wasn’t working I was talking about work and if I wasn’t talking about work, I was thinking about work. I loved it, but I burned out regularly. Even when my son was a baby, I was working constantly, replying to emails while breastfeeding, going off to express when I was on a shoot and editing photos while he slept. I actually replied to emails when I was in labour! I put far too much pressure on myself. I had a moment a few months ago where I realised I can’t parent effectively if I’m trying to work at the same time and I can’t work properly if I’m trying to parent at the same time. So, I’m getting better at compartmentalising. Family time is family time, work is work. I don’t have time to do everything that I used to, but I do the important things as well as I can. I even put an Out of Office on for the first time in my life when we went on holidays last summer - big progress!
Why fashion photography?
Like I mentioned, I worked in fine art photography for a couple of years at the start of my career and I found that enormously frustrating. Although I enjoyed the work I was creating, I found it lonely and precarious. I could spend months producing a series of photos but by the end I could have no gallery to exhibit it, no magazine to publish it and no customer to buy it. I like working in teams, I respond well to deadlines, I enjoy producing a lot of work, I really enjoy making money, and I’ve always loved fashion so I made the side step into fashion photography about 8 years ago. It was the best thing I did for my career, fashion photography makes absolute sense for me. The industry isn’t perfect, abuse, exploitation, pollution, and a lack of diversity only begin to scratch the surface of issues fashion is accountable for but it’s changing and I’m so excited to be a part of it.
Your client list boats a number of impressive and well-respected names, such as Chanel, Mulberry and The Gallery of Photography, Dublin. Are there any clients you enjoy working with most and why?
Don’t make me choose! I started working with Stylist Magazine last year and I really love them, I had wanted to shoot for them for about 7 years so that was a real coup. I really want to shoot for British Vogue this year, I love what Edward Enninful has done for the magazine. It feels so fresh and modern and is leading the charge for change in the industry.
How did you find out about Marguerite?
I was on a shoot with Emma Gannon a year ago at Mortimer House and we bumped into a woman there who said Marguerite had hosted an event there the evening previously. I asked what Marguerite was and when I heard, I knew I had to get involved! I was lucky enough to win an Instagram competition for the Marguerite II membership, which I still can’t believe actually!
What has been your favourite Marguerite event since becoming a member?
The Future of Fashion Editorial at Chiltern Firehouse. It’s like the event was designed with me in mind! A constant supply of coffee and croissants, and a discussion on what the future holds for fashion editorial is pretty much my ideal situation.