New Talent: Lauren Maccabee on portraiture and working with Martin Parr

Law Holt for issue 33 of Oh Comely
Law Holt for issue 33 of Oh Comely

Lauren Maccabee graduated less than two years ago but has already built up an impressive CV. She has shot images for Oh Comely magazine, Astley Clarke, Puma and Le Coq Sportif and worked as an assistant at Martin Parr’s studio.

Most of Maccabee’s commissions to date have been for magazines and fashion brands. She shot some striking images of Mulberry’s latest collection for Interview magazine this month and has worked on a number of shoots for Oh Comely. Images of musician Law Holt (top) and models Alice and Lily Colfox (below) feature a lovely use of lighting and colour.

Maccabee hails from Manchester and studied photography at the University of Brighton. She has been taking pictures since she was in secondary school – “I think it mainly grew out of a frustration with wanting to go to art school, but never being able to get instant gratification from painting or drawing,” she says. “I borrowed a friend’s SLR camera and started to take a few pictures … and it grew from there.”

She landed a three-month internship with Martin Parr’s studio after graduating and was later offered a job assisting the photographer on shoots around the UK. “It was so lovely being there and I definitely learned a lot,” she says.

Vivienne Westwood for Oh Comely
Vivienne Westwood for Oh Comely

“Working for someone like Martin really loosened the way I shoot,” she continues. “I realised that I can just take a portrait where everything isn’t completely straight, or completely sharp. The way he works is capturing the weirdness of the everyday and seeing his images, you suddenly start to pick up on things he might shoot, which helped me shoot in a different way as well. I certainly don’t try to shoot like him but it was a helpful experience.”

She also learned about the business side of photography: “They taught me things like how to name images, how to back up your work and how to deal with clients … the kind of real world things you don’t get taught at uni.”

Maccabee experimented with fine art photography while at university. She also captures still lifes, landscapes and street scenes but says her favourite work is portraiture. “I really enjoy talking to people and engaging with people and making work through that…. Photography can be a lonely thing – especially fine art photography, where you have this idea in your head and you think research and develop it on your own. Unless you’re at university, and you have a crit group around who you can talk to about it, it can become quite isolating.”

Alice and Lily Colfox for Oh Comely magazine (styling by Rachel Caulfield)
Alice and Lily Colfox for Oh Comely magazine (styling by Rachel Caulfield)

There’s an intimacy to many of her portraits, suggesting a comfortable relationship between photographer and subject. “They’re the type of portraits I want to capture, where someone feels comfortable with you in the room,” she says. “That relationship between photographer and sitter is a massive thing for me … to be able to get someone to relax, and to photograph them in maybe a different way to how they’ve been photographed before, is quite a special thing.”

One of her biggest sources of inspiration to date has been her younger sister, Isabel. Maccabee has photographed her sister for eight years and her images document her growth from a 12-year-old girl into a young woman studying at university. It was this that sparked her interest in shooting portraits – “I think documenting that [growth] and seeing how she changes over time as she goes travelling and goes to uni made me realise why I love doing this.”

Isabel. From an ongoing personal series
From ongoing personal series, Isabel

She regularly posts new work on Instagram and many of her commissions now come through the site. She was recently commissioned by dn&co and Redbridge Council to photograph people living in Ilford and this year, plans to develop more personal projects in between working on commissions.

“Making time for projects like that [outside of freelancing] has always been really hard … especially somewhere like London, because it is really expensive. I have to do a lot of work to be able to live here,” says Maccabee.

“When I first started freelancing I would say yes to everything. I’d be shooting two to three times a week and then you need to factor in editing time – but you worry you might not have any work next month. Now I’m kind of booked up for the next two-ish months, I can be a bit more selective.”

Offering advice for emerging photographers on finding work, she says: “A lot of people think there’s this formula to getting work but the way its happened to me is just putting my work out there, being open to things and being friendly with people. You might be on a shoot that’s not that well paid or for a great company, but you might meet someone on the shoot and it can lead to something else.” It’s wise advice – and an approach that has paid off for the photographer so far.

Portrait of Eva Kaper
Portrait of Eva Kaper

New Talent is part of Inspire, a year-long partnership between Creative Review, Facebook and Instagram showcasing outstanding creative work across both platforms. More advice and inspiration for creatives using Facebook and Instagram is available at You can see more of Lauren Maccabee’s work on Instagram @laurenmaccabee

The post New Talent: Lauren Maccabee on portraiture and working with Martin Parr appeared first on Creative Review.

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