Interview: Sheila Udeagu

Sheila is a London-based freelance digital operator, lighting assistant and photographer – making photographer’s lives easier on shoots! Studio lighting, processing and professional workflows are something I have absolutely no experience of, so it was really interesting to hear from Sheila as to what attracts her to photography.

How did you get into photography? What was your first camera?

I was always interested in photography and cameras, always behind it and never in front. It was a hobby that I picked up and dropped along the way – it wasn’t ever something I was supposed to take seriously. When I got to university, I realised I was unhappy in the scientific path I was on and desperately wanted to switch to photography. The precise moment for me was when I was pouring over cookbooks and made the realisation that people were actually paid to shoot cookbooks, it was a legit job, it could be a career even. So I did my Masters in Biological Photography and inspired by a mentor/alumni, I took the foray into freelance photography. I don’t remember my first ever camera – to be honest, it wasn’t even mine but the first camera that I bought myself and owned was a Canon 450D that I saved up for.

Do you have any major photography influences?

No, I can’t currently say I do. I didn’t come from an art or photography background, I came from a science one so I don’t and can’t reel the list of names I should know. What I will say however is that I’m influenced by geometry and order. I have found that I’m increasingly attracted to and inspired by some still life work, which I believe undoubtedly stems from my science background and the incredible people I’ve been privy to work with in my career thus far.

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What themes do you follow in your photography, if any? What do you feel unites your work?

None, other than enjoyment at the moment and maybe a tendency towards contrast and moodier/dark aesthetics. I am at the stage of my career where I’m starting to think ahead and focus on building my portfolio – I am currently working on a few projects I’m incredibly excited about and can’t wait to unleash on to the world. However in the past when I’ve done beauty work, I’ve approached it from a portraiture perspective (which isn’t necessarily the most popular way). With my food, the most important aspect has always been to present it in the best way possible – sometimes, very simply. Perhaps the common unity with both my beauty and food work has been simplicity.

Which camera setup is your favourite, and why?

This depends on the job but I quite often work with and personally own Canon gear. For more demanding jobs, Phase One are my preferred medium format brand. But I don’t have a favourite set-up, I use whatever will work best for the required shot.

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Among your work, which is your favourite shot and why?

I’m quite bad at this as I find favouritism incredibly limiting. My proudest work to date was the food advertising campaign I shot for a company that delivered food from independent grocers to customers. That went live all across London and was incredibly exciting to see. My recent favourite piece of work was my last beauty shoot that whilst wasn’t technically perfect, gave me confidence that I had grown immensely since my first one.

Is there a technique or subject you’d like to explore, that you haven’t yet?

Food and still life. I seem to be approaching food more from a still life perspective which is/was a concept that felt very unfamiliar to me. My ideal career would be to merge beauty with food and create works of art. But I would happily settle for creating conceptual works of art with food.

What are your photography plans for 2017?

More personal development, personal shoots and consideration for my career. Exploring my interests, my new found fondness for still life and defining my work. If I shoot people (beauty), I want to do work that features predominantly people of colour and subverts gender norms and sexuality (queerness in all it’s variety). Potentially submitting my portfolio towards competitions, portfolio reviews and critiques!

Thanks very much Sheila! It’s really interesting to hear from someone who came to photography from a scientific background rather than an artistic or fashion angle – great to have a different perspective.

To see more of Sheila’s gorgeous food and portrait photography, have a look here:

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