Capturing the essence of stillness has been a lifelong quest for local photographer Sophie Carson.
Leaving the pursuit of moving targets to others, she has built her reputation through exquisite showcasing of food, interiors, gardens and business products.
“My tagline is: If it moves, I don’t shoot it,” Sophie told ECN. “When I started up, so many photographers were covering weddings, portraits, families and pets. Having found I loved shooting food, I developed my interest and expertise in still life.”
“I believe that small businesses should be able to afford great images of their produce, premises and products. Because I don’t have the overheads of a large studio or workforce, I can offer my services to smaller businesses who otherwise couldn’t afford it.”
Sophie has snapped the lot during her career, from Formula1 hospitality to double glazing samples. Now a seasoned professional, she loves the challenge and variety of adapting to different situations.
It’s a far cry from the days of being paid in cakes, when she started taking food photos for a friend’s catering company 10 years ago. With a background in magazine design, artwork and photographic processing, Sophie has continued to hone her craft, embarking on a freelance career in 2009.
“For me, the fascination of still life is all about light”, Sophie says. “Even something as ordinary as light coming through a window blind onto a glass of water (left) can have a special quality about it. For some photographers, it’s about the moment, the story or the action. For me, it’s the light and the subject, and how they come together.”
The Joy of the Cotswolds
A New Zealander by birth, Sophie loves the community life she and partner Graham have found in Chipping Norton.
“It’s a great spot, and I love that it’s still a ‘real’ town with proper shops where you can buy useful things like lightbulbs, DIY tools and sausages made from Trev’s hand-reared pigs. I hope we can keep the ‘shop local’ concept alive in Chippy.”
“I love going to all the food festivals and meeting new people who have a passion for local food, and produce the fantastic choice we have available in Oxfordshire. I grew up on a smallholding in New Zealand where we ate bread made from wheat grown by my dad, cheese and butter made from our own milk, and the freshest fruit and vegetables you could imagine. That has left me with a deep appreciation of quality food. I’m fortunate enough to be able to combine this love of food with my experience as a photographer.”
She networks widely throughout the Cotswolds, and has supported Chipping Norton artists through Oxfordshire Artweeks, as well as exhibiting a range of photos based on her own garden.
Then and Now
Sophie’s father introduced her to photography at an early age, for which she is hugely grateful.
“My dad used to print all his own black and white photos, and I remember sitting next to him as a very small child and watching the wonder of an image appear out of a tray of chemicals – truly magic at that age.”
“We used to have slideshows from his travelling days backpacking around the world, which we loved – it all seemed so far away, fantastic and exciting. Now those photos are priceless. There’s something so satisfying about looking through boxes of old photos, rather than flicking through them on your phone.”
Putting nostalgia aside, however, Sophie uses state-of-the-art digital equipment for her daily business use.
“Photography has changed immeasurably over a very short period of time. I can remember when the first Oxfordshire photographer bought a digital camera – we in the lab thought it would never catch on! The immediacy of digital photography is one of its real benefits. I can work with a client on a shot with my laptop, adjusting details as we go until its perfect.”
She enjoys adapting to the needs of local businesses, and catering for Ecommerce ventures which rely on quality images to promote online sales.
“Keeping costs down, I can shoot in my own home, where I have a great space I can use as a studio with kitchen for food preparation”, Sophie says. “I’m also happy to shoot on location – I have a fully portable studio, which I can set up in a suitable area.”
Sophie targets small to medium-sized businesses and start-ups around the region, including local food producers, holiday lets, cottages, B&Bs, and any companies with products which will benefit from top-notch photography.
“I love to be able to show people how fantastic their produce can look with a great image, and what a difference it can make to how potential customers see their business.”
Sophie is also a convert to Twitter and Facebook, having seen how interaction between the different social media platforms can help start conversations, show images and increase awareness of her work.
Shining a Light
Ultimately, though, it’s the pursuit of beauty which drives her.
“The quality of light is what makes the image”, she says. “When you shoot in colour, that is what you notice first. With black and white, it’s about the light and the shadows. The detail of still life is also crucial. The close-up photos I take in my garden contain detail you might not normally see – there are tiny drops on the hairs of the geranium flower (above right), which you wouldn’t see with the naked eye. The rain-soaked Allium (above left) has a tiny world reflected in every drop.”
The snowdrop image (below) is one of Sophie’s personal favourites, recalling her father who died three years ago.
“It was a spur of the moment shot – I had some in a little vase in my kitchen, catching the beautiful, diffused window light. I gave this one to Dad for his birthday one year, as it is in February – snowdrop time, and I always think of it as his.”