Felicity McCabe: On memory, time and the fragility of our environment

Felicity McCabe: On memory, time and the fragility of our environment

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Photographer Felicity McCabe talks about getting a foot in the door, her Somaliland project and how to market yourself in a pandemic

This article was originally published by Williamson Carson

Felicity McCabe is a London based photographer working on still and moving image projects. Initially wanting to be a painter, Felicity has been commissioned by Creative Review, Esquire, FT Weekend, The New York Times Magazine, Wallpaper* and Wired Magazine. Her work centres around the themes of memory, time and the fragility of our environment. We caught up with her to ask about her style, her Somaliland project and how she markets herself. 

Do you prefer to be called an artist or photographer? 

I’m happy with either. You could just shout “Oi!” at me and I’d respond.

How did you get into art/photography? 

I thought I was going to be a painter but my art teachers pointed out that my reference photography was working out more interesting than my painting skills so I took their advice and never looked back.

Looking at your work, it is striking and confident, has your style changed since you started out?  

Yes, for sure.  I think your tastes change wildly as you grow and mature and hopefully that’s impacted positively on my work.  I think I’ve got much braver too with age which always helps to keep your work interesting, there’s no prizes for playing it safe. 

What advice would you give to any photographers starting out now? 

I’d advise them to seek out the people making work that resonates with them and see if they can work with them as an assistant. That’s truly the best, and most fun, way to learn the ropes.

Can you tell us about a stand out job or project?

I was commissioned to travel through the rural regions of Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia, by Save the Children UK to respond to the current climate crisis happening over there. It was an awe inspiring trip that I’ll never forget. I came back with a new local name, Filsan, new friends, and a project that hopefully has helped inspire people to take more drastic action to combat climate change in their everyday life.

What do you find the most effective way to market yourself? 

Instagram is a must nowadays just to remind people that you exist and also to try out new work and gauge reactions, although it’s important not to get swept up in the likes circus as that can sometimes stifle creativity I think. And then there’s the old fashioned method of sending out email after email to people to see if you can get your foot in the door with them to show them your work. Pre-2020 that would have been in person, but the pandemic has put paid to most of that, with connecting virtually and keeping websites spick and span now becoming most important. I also have representation for commercial work with Wren Agency

How did you cope with the first lockdown? What lessons will you take to keep going during this second lockdown? 

I think I coped pretty well. For a half the time still life photographer, it’s no biggie staying indoors and alone for extended periods of time. For the second lock down I intend to carry on working on my sourdough techniques and using the extra time to focus on my current projects. I find that creating things, even if it’s just a cake or painting a wall, keeps me happy.

What’s next for you?

Aside from some upcoming commissions, I’m currently working on a couple of new projects which are taking up most of my time.  They’re both still life based projects but I’m itching to start a project with real life subjects again so perhaps I’ll start planning a lockdown appropriate portrait series. 

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