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Take Five with Zoe Whishaw

Zoe Whishaw is a Commercial Photography Consultant & Mentor who works one-to-one with photographers at all stages in their careers, across all genre, providing bespoke advice, strategic guidance and on-going mentoring support to help take their business to the next level. She has worked with and commissioned photographers for over 25 years analysing, developing and critiquing ideas and photography intended for commercial and editorial use across a broad spectrum of subject areas and genre.

Zoe comes from a family of artists and musicians enabling her to understand how creative minds cope and adapt to the trials and tribulations that are an inevitable part of their lives. She graduated as a scientist alongside developing a love for black and white photography and the magic of the darkroom. Her career then spanned 17 years at Getty Images from its earliest beginnings through to it becoming the global media content agency that it is today, before taking on senior creative positions at Image Source and Gallery Stock before concentrating on her work as a mentor to photographers.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I help people gain confidence about their work. Specifically, it is probably the ‘ah-ha’ moment I get during a consultation with a photographer (during which we explore in detail their work and practice) when the jigsaw falls into place and the delight I see in their face as they see clarity in expressing their motivations and ideas behind their work.

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

It would have to be my father, the painter Anthony Whishaw RA, who is so utterly dedicated to the difficult process of expressing his ideas and experiences through his paintings. His motivation, unswerving focus, independence, humility and need to understand himself through his work is an inspiration.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

After graduation, it would have been helpful to know that the quest to find my dream career would take many unexpected twists and turns with bumps and knocks along the way, but as a consequences I would become more robust and insightful… and ultimately more content.

I also wish I had not been so fearful of the term ‘networking’ and wished someone had just told me that being yourself and showing some vulnerability in a social situation was more important than any pretense at being someone you’re not.

If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Do something different: it might be the place you usually think up ideas – go somewhere completely different; a place you have no association with, and give yourself a tight timeframe to think. Indeed, consider doing something opposite to what you usually do to see what happens. Getting out of the creative doldrums can often come from unexpected maverick behaviours so allow yourself to be playful and less focused on what you expect the outcome to be.

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I’d be a wellington boot; durable, reliable, unpretentious, wonderfully practical and not afraid to get stuck in!


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