by Angela Adams Published 01/08/2016
Most of us are aware of the big names in photography, but what about the jobbing photographer, one who isn't necessarily entering competitions and selling training, but simply working hard at their craft to earn an income. Has the industry become devalued in the digital era - with all camera owners deemed photographers by the general public? Are full-time professional photographers an endangered species? Or can they still be found working diligently in our towns and villages - not only providing their clients with great photographs, but earning a good living too? With this in mind I set out to discover a little more from those at grassroots level, those working hard to keep our industry alive, promoting good practice and providing a professional product.
Memorable Portraits, run by Azeem Jiwali and wife Melen, is based in Redbridge. Once part of the ancient parish of Barking in Essex, this bustling borough has been consumed by the expansion of London, and is now part of the London Borough of Redbridge, Greater London, estimated to have a population of around 293,100 as of 30 June 2014. Thus, Azeem has a large client pool on his doorstep. However, a rather large number of competing photographers, full- and parttime in the vicinity, do not make for an easily earned living. I applaud and thank Azeem for his integrity in sharing an honest and open account of his business journey with us over a series of emails.
What motivated you to start in the industry?
A love for photographing wildlife and architecture as a young child, plus my Uncle Adam who was the family photographer - his images resonate within our family, capturing a real slice of our social history. Uncle Adam's pictures have showed us how my uncles, aunts and cousins looked from a very young age growing up in Africa, where we all were born and raised. Previously, my chosen career path was in IT, but after 25 years I'd become jaded. My passion for learning about photography heralded the change, so I purchased a business to get me started.
What's your mindset when you get up in the mornings?
Forcing myself to focus on all the aspects of the business I like least: sorting the post, processing orders, contacting customers, and paying bills. Sorry if that sounds inappropriate - I wish it was more positive, but being self-employed can be a cruel and difficult life, in my experience. Don't get me wrong, there are many positives, but I have to get on with the things I like least first, then I can finish the day on a high.
Do you work alone or employ staff?
I'm lucky, I work with my wife, who administers to most of the office duties - working with Melen is great, as she's also a professional make-up artist. Melen uses her hair and make-up skills to create wonderful looks for our clients from our home-based studio. I outsource our post-production and employ part-time reception staff, at our Farringdon studio in central London, who manage my diary too. Melen oversees all our sales viewings from the Farringdon studio ... and - we've just branched out into another location at The Gore Hotel in Kensington.
There comes a point in a business where you cannot continue to grow without employing staff. You just have to let go and learn to delegate. Either that or you'll become too tired to function professionally - there simply aren't enough hours in the day.
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