In this interview, we chat with photographer Georgia Verrells about ditching the office cubicle and rediscovering your passions…
Hi Georgia, I understand that you quit a job at a finance firm to take up photography professionally; what prompted the change and did it require a leap of faith?
I was stuck in a rut of doing the same thing everyday and became deeply unhappy. I became used to routine and knew that something needed to change. Slowly, I started to adventure out in my one hour lunch break, catching a bus to a museum or just exploring. I would get lost and love it. I craved change and, when I broke up with my former partner, it was more of a push to find a break in the routine. It wasn’t really a leap of faith; I had basically got to a point in my life where things needed to change and so I saved up for half a year so that I could support myself on my three month trip around the States. I actually stumbled across Kevin Russ’ photography work and emailed him to get a bit of advice on traveling; it was his words and our friendship that initially inspired me to quit my job and travel around the States and which speed-balled my love of photography. I found this bit of writing that I wrote when I decided to leave my job and London:
“I remember when I first moved to London from this small town south of Sydney where my mum/dad lived. Every time I walked out and adventured around London my eyes couldn’t keep up with what I was seeing and experiencing. I spent so long just taking it all in.
But soon enough it all just became ‘routine’ it was totally normal to me.
I barely even noticed that I worked a 10 minute walk from Buckingham Palace. I didn’t realise that the national gallery was around the corner or that I could just walk to work instead of taking the daily tube to work where all you see is bored people going to work, the corporate life.
Along with the masses, it began to irritate me when I had to wait more than four minutes for a tube. I’d so quickly forgotten I came from a place where the only way to get out was by a train that ran every hour (if that) and sometimes it just didn’t show up or at the very least there was track work or the train was just late just because.
And that homeless guy a few streets from work I passed almost every day, it no longer made me upset like it used to, as I struggled to understand how he ended up there. How person after person would walk past him like he did not exist. He was just another part of my surroundings, a piece of the furniture in my life.
I got up. I went to work. I went home. I went to bed. And then the process started all over again. A continuous cycle of routine.
I was really comfortable. But I wasn’t happy.
But I’d also stopped seeing. Stopped hearing. Stopped feeling.
And now it feels as though I’ve come full circle. It’s as though I’m seeing London for the very first time. And it’s far from comfortable. I’ve started again. I take a different route to work almost every day. I actually leave my office in my lunch break. Yesterday I went to the national gallery and looked at amazing pieces of art. Last week I caught a tube to the Natural History Museum.
And it hits me that, as I start this trip, this is what’s ahead of me now. Months and months of constant new beginnings. Each time turning up in a new place and starting again. Finding my way. Making new friends. Constant discomfort.
And I wonder why I, or anyone, would want to put themselves through that when the comfort of life as we know it and our daily routine make everything so easy.
But it’s through the discomfort that your eyes begin to see again. That your ears begin to hear. That you start to take notice and really begin to feel. Each of your senses begin to reawaken and you’re deeply affected by everything around you. You rediscover your passions and the causes you know are worth fighting for.
It’s warmth lures you in. It wraps itself around you and pretends it only wants to protect you. Before you realise what’s happening, everything has become so comfortable that either you can’t remember what life was like before the comfort or you’re too scared to break free.
I’d challenge you to think about how comfortable your life is?
How much of the world around you do you notice?
How alive are your senses?
And what small thing could you change right now, to bring a little more discomfort and a little more life to your world?
Discomfort hurts. But comfort kills.”
Why do you photograph? What is it about this medium that appeals to you most?
I photograph because it’s my outlet, it engages me and lets me show the world how I see people or places. I want to share that with the world. I love that a camera can capture something in a raw medium, something that can become a tangible object and makes someone feel something. For someone that has battled with depression in the past, it was a way to get myself out of the house and push myself. I fell in love with taking photos and, in a huge way, it saved me.
How would you define your style?
I would say it’s more documentary style photography; nothing is really posed even in my wedding photography work.
What has been the high-point in your photography career to date?
The highlight? The people I have met through the places I have visited for sure. It’s made me the person I am today. If I could pick a high point in regards to paid work it would definitely be working with Levis/VSCO last year on their commuter campaign. It’s pushed me to experience and see places I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for my photography career.
I first saw your photography via your Instagram account; how important has social media been in establishing yourself as a professional photographer? Do you get a lot of inquiries for weddings and portraits through your social media accounts?
At first it was very important but my work style changed and now most of my paid work is through my wedding photography. The following I have on Instagram is mainly from my earlier days of photography which was all landscape photography. I feel I get most of my inquiries for weddings through word of mouth.
What is the most difficult part of shooting weddings and how do you handle it?
The most difficult part is the planning of the day and my workflow. When I shot my first wedding, I battled insomnia, nerves and a fear that I had to document two people’s biggest day of their lives. But I made it work and it was fine and the bride and groom were so happy with the photos that I began to relax. Most of the difficulties I face are alleviated when I understand my work flow for the day and before/after the wedding. It’s difficult planning with your clients how to time-line their day and most importantly getting them to understand how much time is needed during different parts of the wedding day for your photography. The most difficult part is creating a system that works for you as every wedding will vary from from one day to another. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed but, as long as you have a strong work flow from booking a client to delivering their wedding images, you’ll be fine.
Do you carry a lot of equipment when shooting weddings? Talk us through your standard wedding kit.
Not compared to a lot of photographers! I shoot on a Nikon D700. For lenses, I usually shoot with primes, my 50mm and 85mm are my favourites. Then I have my 70-200mm zoom lens and my 24-70mm lens.
What has been the best advice that you have been given that you are happy to share with other new photographers?
Absorb knowledge from everyone. I am self-taught and have learnt so much from the people I have met. It is the people we surround ourselves with that are our teachers; we grow as we spend time with them. Get out of your familiar, I can’t stress enough to get out of your city and get out in nature away from the hustle and bustle. Push yourself, try something different and go out in the night and take photos. Set yourself little homework missions; make your own brief.
What would be your dream job?
I learned a few years ago that I didn’t want to work in an office. After that experience, I knew what I didn’t want and that money isn’t the end all. Sure it helps but there are many many things that are more important to explore in life. I guess being able to 100% support myself with my photography and travel with it. Live to work not work to live.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
At the moment I’m pretty busy with wedding photography as it’s wedding season in Australia. I will be traveling to the States in January for five weeks and documenting my trip with some quite well-known photographers! I’m looking forward to that and to really pushing my photography!
For more of Georgia’s work, click on the following links:
All images copyright Georgia Verrells.