It’s no surprise to me that Vanessa has been asked to work on such exciting projects and with such well-known faces – as well as being technically brilliant she is amazingly creativity – when I’m nominated for MY Oscar I think I’ll commission Vanessa to take my portrait!
Vanessa has been a photographer for over 20 years, shooting the great and the good, Pavarotti, Adele, Badly Drawn Boy, Corrigans Mayfair, Royal Opera House, London Marathon and travels all over the world photographing communities and supporting international development and educational charities to help bring about change. She also runs a PR and communications agency here in the UK. Her network is wide and spans many industries and countries. Known as “Ness” to many in the industry, she is also a published translator, writer and illustrator. She takes commissions from actors, musicians, business people for portrait sessions in her studio in Tring, Hertfordshire (UK) and also from publishers and licensees for any of her stock images. She also has a TV production company based half here in the UK and half in Hong Kong offering a fabulous fixing service in Asia. “I’ve had so many fabulous people come and sit for me, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and see and meet some amazing communities from Africa to India, Europe to East Asia, so many exciting new projects on the horizon, do drop me a line to keep in touch or get involved.”
The top five things that inspire your photographic work?
- Cartier Bresson
- Magnum Photographers
- Don McCullin
- Seeing the extraordinary story in the everyday.
- Meeting some of the amazing people who I work with on a daily basis, the world changers, the passionate individuals who are making the world a better place through their business, their contacts and their vision and who have the “get-up-and-go” to actually make a difference rather than just sit and talk about it.
Your top five books?
I don’t suppose I can have any of mine!?! So…
- Vergil’s Aeneid (in Latin, I love the majesty of the poetry; my PhD is in Classics, and so every now and again I just pick up the Oxford Mynor’s edition of Vergil’s text and have a refresh! I also still translate Latin and French professionally too – life is busy)!
- Louis de Berniere’s Birds without Wings – this was given to me by a great inspirational friend before I went to stay for a while on the south coast of Turkey. I love history, which as Cicero said, “to not know what happened before we were born is to remain forever a child”. This book is a terrific read, a great fictional romp based on historical fact, very evocative of the place, and you really get a sense of time shifting, and communities moving. It is also a great love story and there’s a fabulous bit about a sumptuous garlic infused meal created by a concubine for her man! You really have to read the book to find it!
- Thoreau’s Walden – I’m inspired by simple living, I’m not very materialistic which is always reinforced when I come back from working with remote and the poorest communities in this horrendously consumer-led world of ours, makes you value what you have and treasure those around you.
- Don McCullin’s In England – I’m very inspired by Don’s work and the sensitive connection that he captures his subjects with, his background was tough but through his compassion and eye for telling the story he has changed opinions and inspired so many photographers and individuals involved in social, global and political change. To take good photographs, you need to connect to the people, the place, the moment.
- Tim Butcher’s Blood River – A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart. I went out to Uganda recently to cover some charity work and I’ve been hooked by the continent, it’s so varied and desperately needs business investment. I’d read Tim’s (who is now also a friend) book a couple of years ago, and it is amazingly evocative of the Congo, you have to read it!
Your top five take-away dinners?
- Champagne Picnic under the trees with friends or alone with a book or two!
- Kebab from a street vendor outside the Agora in Athens where I lived for a while when finishing my PhD.
- Indian curry from my favourite restaurant where I live here in Tring, Olive Limes, deliciously fresh and aromatic, or to chose another local offering, a bag of chips from our local Fish Shop smothered in vinegar and salt and a “wally”.
- A “sandwich” of two slices of two different freshly cooked Pizzas from the little shop on the corner close to the fabulous Da Vinci Museum in Rome.
- A box of Chinese from China Town, then go and eat it in Trafalgar Square and people watch.
Your top 5 dream photo locations?
I’ve been nearly all round the world, but there are still sooooo many places I’d love to shoot…
- Peru – the people, the music, the food, the rail, the trails, the traditional crafts…
- Brazil – my friends have just moved over there, so I have accommodation sorted, the country is so vast and varied, I’m looking forward to doing a bit of a documentary tour.
- New Orleans – to cover the jazz musicians there, again I have friends there who can show me the “unseen” New Orleans… must sort this one!
- Burma – I have a TV documentary company based half here in the UK and half in Hong Kong, we are due to cover Burma so that is a must on my list (plus China and north-east India).
- I want to walk and document the Camino in northern Spain, ending up at Santiago. I’ve never done any of mainland Spain randomly, and I was going to walk this famous pilgrimage for my 40th but it somehow slipped through the net, maybe I’ll do it this year!
Your top five photos you’ve taken?
Great question, nearly every image I’ve taken I can remember the conversation, the day, what I was thinking, so many of my shots conjure something special and unique for me, and deciding on which ones could be in my top five is hard to know what criteria to apply. While composition and technical merit should feature, for me, I think it’s a emotion I feel when I look back and revisit my work, so today these are my top five:
- Iceland – Blue Lagoon
- Running for lunch and school in one of the poorest Slums in Mumbai
- A still from a shoot of the engines I shot at Rolls Royce, Derby, I love industry and engineering, the shapes and textures are so beautiful and reflect so many years of research and development that the surprising abstracts I captured really allowed me to pay homage to all those engineers who have gone before.
- A portrait of Sophie Rae, actress – I shoot a lot of actors and musicians, and this shoot with Sophie was one of the first in my new studio in Tring, which was special for many reasons, not least because it was the first of working also with the amazing people at the high end bespoke print studio, Big Day Designs who I also shoot for.
- Selsey Beach, Sussex – I’d been invited the night before to an astronomy book launch and met Brian May and also Sir Patrick Moore again, it was a couple of months before he died, so the images I shot that day conjure the whole evening and I remember him sharing his memory of tracking down the meteor on a Norfolk farm one snowy Christmas when he was in his 20s, now he’s gone, I feel that that event in his life will now live on in my memory.