If you’re a designer maker, you may well already have come across photographer, Yeshen Venema. He is the go-to name for UK makers looking for top quality photographs of their work. I first fell in love with Yeshen’s simple, beautiful style when I came across the exquisite images he took for ceramicist Sue Pryke on location at The Welsh House. Do you know that feeling when you see an image so beautiful that you just have to find out who created it? It was exactly like that when I first clapped eyes on these images for Sue Pryke (below). I loved the simplicity, the modern rustic styling and the textural quality. I discovered that it was Yeshen who had taken the photographs, styled by Hilary Lowe. I decided that I really wanted to meet him and Hilary, so I made contact, and Yeshen invited me along to his next location shoot.
That’s how I found myself walking up the gravel drive of The Forge in Hampshire (below) one sunny morning in April. Yeshen and stylist Hilary Lowe were at the start of a three-day location shoot, photographing for a wide range of British designer makers. When I arrived, they were in the middle of shooting a beautiful chair against a slightly distressed bare plaster wall. Sunshine was streaming through the window creating beautiful shadows on the floor. Hillary added blossom she’d casually arranged in a vintage glass bottle.
I have spent a lot of time at shoots in all sorts and weird and wonderful places over the years. My time as editor of The M&S Magazine in particular meant many days on location overseeing food, fashion and homeware shoots.Shooting summer picnic ware at Camber Sands in driving sleet in February was a bit of a challenge. As was creating cosy, frosty twinkle, complete with full Christmas turkey roast and rosy-cheeked guests wearing nordic jumpers – in the middle of a heatwave in an airless loft in central London.
Most shoots are not quite so challenging and I learned that the key to coming away with really great images is to create the right atmosphere. A clear, realistic shot list for the day, alongside the calm space needed for creativity to flow. I could see straight off when I arrived at Yeshen’s shoot that he and Hillary work together exactly this way. They clearly have a depth of understanding, like shorthand, from working together a lot. Having both studied the latest image-in-progress on screen, Hillary will lean in, twist something a fraction to make better use of the light, add a glass jar of casually arranged blossom, or take a prop away until Yeshen is happy. They both know as soon as a shot is just right and then they move on.
We chatted, as they worked, and did chuckle about the collections of random, ‘I might need that one day’ things that stylists always have to hand. I love this shot (above) of the objects packed into Hillary’s boot for the shoot.
One of the makers they were photographing – Shoreline Pottery – is based in the Hebrides. Hilary told me how she’d searched her house the day before until she found a piece of rock she knew she’d picked up from a trip to the Hebrides many years ago. She thought the colour and texture might work well as a prop. I love that about really good stylists. They always manage to conjure up just the right object at the right time. And it’s usually something you could never actually buy if you tried. Here’s the image for Shoreline Pottery (below). Hilary’s stone looks great underneath the card don’t you think? If you’re planning to shoot your own lifestyle product images, it’s a great idea to pick up interesting bits and pieces as you come across them in junk shops, walks on the beach, anywhere really. You never know when that vintage cotton reel, old tin toy or pure white feather might come in handy…
I asked Yeshen to tell me a little bit about what he offers his clients. And why he so clearly loves what he does:
Yeshen’s studio is at Thornhill Square in London and he describes it as a ‘white, calm and relaxing space where my clients can switch off a little.’ He offers a range of creative services including photography, Squarespace website development and Film making. Contacts for Yeshen: