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MGC 1996 Leaver

Malvern Alumnae 100 Mel Bles

I left MGC knowing I wanted to be a fashion photographer. In fact, I knew I wanted to be a fashion photographer from the age of 12. It was just a combination of my mother’s Vogue magazines, a love of popular culture and an even deeper love of photography. However, it wasn’t until I was about 24 that I was actually brave enough to admit it to myself and other people. I mean, a ‘fashion photographer’, it just sounded way too flamboyant and a far off fantasy...

Luckily my Art teacher at MGC, Mrs Rowberry, started me on the best path possible. She pushed me to get into the top Art Foundation course out there, the year-long course all students must do after A-Levels and before any degree in Art and Design. And much like anything, aiming for the best you can be is a great start, wherever it leads you.

I decided on a degree in Graphic Design, at Central St Martins after that, which is where I started to specialise in taking pictures and realising my dream. When I graduated, I started working in photo studios, cleaning floors and making coffees until 3am, then as an assistant to other photographers, a classic way to break into the industry. It was so tough and I made very little money for a very long time, but I got to travel and be with the creatives and photographers I had always wanted to learn from.

Fashion photography is a collaboration. A conversation between stylists, art directors, models, make-up artists, hair stylists, set designers, location managers, the client................... But ultimately it is the vision of the photographer to bring these talents and creative minds together to create one great image. Each assignment is different, each client has different needs and requirements, it’s these challenges that I love. Communication, diplomacy, leadership, are all qualities that are needed on the job, other than your creativity. Clients to date include, Fendi, Stella McCartney, Nike, Pucci, Dior, Vogue, Cos and H&M.

A career in the arts can be extraordinary, international, intense, financially rewarding and highly fulfilling; something that is often surprising to those in other fields. But if you have a passion for the arts I implore you not to be afraid.

What is your best piece of advice?

Do what you love. If you love what you do you’ll work hard, and if you work hard you’ll find what you’re looking for...

What does success look like?