By Clodagh Meaney
The EMPWRD Woman Series is a series of interviews with empowering women across a variety of professions. They discuss their work, as well as giving some words of wisdom for those who also aspire to be a professional in their field.
For the first in this series, we spoke to Vanessa Ifediora, an empowered woman, and a portrait photographer. You may also recall her from the week she spent as the dancing proprietor of the Ireland account on Twitter. She is hosting her first photography exhibition 'Zone In' from September 27th - 30th. Entry is free, but donations are welcome on the day for Dublin Rape Crisis centre. You can find out more about it on the event page.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm Vanessa, a 28-year-old Belfast native living in Dublin for the past year now after living in Japan since 2013. I've always been really into making things, knitting, baking, jewellery, painting (badly)...whatever it was I just want to make things. I'm also a big fan of dogs, anything rose gold, those wee converted van homes and horrific dancing.
(Above: Self Portrait)
How did you get into photography?
I got into photography nearly 2 years ago while I was in Japan. I was struggling pretty badly with my mental health around then and photography was a great way to force myself out of the house. It started purely for fun, I never expected to fall in love with it as much as I do. I love capturing peoples faces and trying to tell stories through portraits. I don't know if it ever comes across but here, I'm having fun anyway sure.
What is your favourite shoot that you've worked on & why?
This is going to be impossible to answer! The levitation shoot I did in January 2017 was great. I was up the mountain at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto at like 7am while it was snowing flailing about while all these wee grannies were on their morning walk past me wondering what on earth I was doing. Other than that maybe the one I did with twitter pals Raif and Sophie on Sophie's trampoline... there's no way you're not going to have fun if there's a trampoline involved. (Pic above by Vanessa Ifediora)
What struggles do you face as a photographer in Ireland today?
I've been very lucky here in terms of people being so willing to help out, whether its providing a shooting location or agreeing to be my model, or just showing their support for my work on social media. It's great to see so many people in support of local artists on that level. In terms of struggles...nobody's handed me a big ole cheque to shoot their magazine covers or their really fancy dogs yet so once I crack the whole "paying my bills" side of things I'll be flying but for now I'm really just doing it for arts sake. (Pic above by Vanessa Ifediora)
What is the best advice would you give to someone who would like to become a professional photographer?
Keep shooting. Shoot everything. It doesn't matter if you're not sure if it'll work or if it's cool enough or will bang on social media, you'll find out when you try it and then you have learning for next time. Another big one is don't be worrying about what the Instagram photographers are doing. Come up with your own ideas and concepts. Once one popular IG photographer posts a picture of a girl with fairy lights wrapped around an umbrella there'll be 100,000 identical pictures out soon after. And that's not to say that's bad to recreate an idea. It's great for practicing with composition and lighting and everything else. But who are you as a photographer? what do you have to say? Focus less on what everyone else is doing and create for yourself. I had to unfollow a whole load of portrait pages on IG because I was just seeing dozens of the same type of photo every day, just with a different (but same race and body-sized) model and maybe sometimes different colour grading. (Pic Above: Self Portrait)
Don't sweat it on the equipment just yet either, I had an entry-level DSLR until May this year. If you have a great eye for composition and story telling I'll be more excited to see what you shoot with a disposable from Boots over somebody shooting a generic IG photo with a popular preset slapped on it with 5 grand worth of equipment. Don't worry about gatekeepers telling you you need this, that and the other to be a real photographer. Photography like anything else should be accessible to anyone who wants to do it. Keep shooting, keep practising and stay inspired. When you learn how to make money from it please come back and tell me!
(Pic: Tebi Rex by Vanessa Ifediora)