In our first ever print issue, WE ARE WOMEN, we spoke to Paula Broome, a freelance and free-spirited photographer, heralding from Manchester but residing in London. She takes around five foreign trips a year, camera around her neck, and loves to immerse herself in other cultures, capturing memories and telling stories. Editor Annabelle Carvell got in touch to find out more about her photography, her motivations, and how her boudoir shoots with her fiancé came about.
Q: Paula, it’s always so interesting to find out whether people, especially creatives like yourself, have come across the neurological phenomenon ‘synaesthesia’. What is your understanding of it?
A: I see it as a confusion of the senses; tasting colours, seeing sounds. It’s not something I can directly relate to, or that I think I even have, but it sounds fun – especially when it comes to art.
Q: What is it about photographs that you love and sets them apart from other types of art?
A: I love that photos capture a split second in time, and not only that the moment is captured, but that it can be interpreted differently by whoever looks at it. I particularly admire vintage analogue photography. There was often just one take at a shot in early photography – digital kills that magic slightly. Digital of course has its benefits too – especially when it comes to wedding photography.
I particularly love street photography, especially featuring people. I love capturing someone and knowing nothing about who they are or their history. I like to make up a whole back story for them. The difficult part is to have the confidence to take a photo of someone when they might notice you – I’m still working on that.
Q: How did you discover photography? And what was your first camera?
A: I wish I could say that I used to toddle around as a kid with my mum’s camera or that it was a natural talent that I don’t ever remember not having. But the truth is, I was 29 and it was a conscious decision. I had always admired good photography and one day I just thought ‘right, I’m giving that a go!’ I bought a cheap bridge camera a week before I was going on a six-week trip to India. I didn’t have the patience to read the manual so I spent most of the trip willing it to do what I wanted, with limited success.
Q: What motivates you to take pictures?
A: My travels. I spend all my spare time and money on travelling as much as possible. I taught myself photography to document my adventures and I’m never happier than hanging out in a café somewhere, shooting locals. It’s clichéd, but I’m a big believer in collecting memories and experiences rather
than possessions, although that’s not to say I’m not sometimes seduced by Valentino heels.
Q: You often model for your partner, Alex, for boudoir shoots. For some women, the idea of having their partner photograph them in such an intimate setting could be quite daunting, but we are fascinated to learn more about how your relationship with boudoir photography started, and how this makes you feel as a woman.
A: Our first boudoir shoot wasn’t actually planned. We were in Belgium and had a really quirky AirBnB with a big neon sign and no windows. I had some nice lingerie with me as it was our first holiday together, so we decided to give it a go. It has since become a tradition to do a shoot every time we’re away and it feels like a very personal, special thing between us.
It’s not daunting at all; on the contrary, it’s incredibly bonding and empowering. I’m so proud that Alex has built a business around his work with me.
Q: If you could take a photo of any strong female influence/figure, who would you choose and why?
A: One of my favourite actresses of all time is Joan Crawford. I’m obsessed with her bone structure, her eyebrows. She was one of the first movie stars to have cosmetic surgery (she had her hairline altered) and rose to huge heights without being considered a conventional beauty.
I adore the old school sirens and how they were photographed – usually very back lit. There was no Photoshop back then of course, so everything had to be done with tricks of the camera: lights had to bleach out and smooth the skin and cast dramatic shadows in the right places. I focus a lot on brows and lashes in my work as a result, and my signature look is to shoot a portrait from above.
Q: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
A: How it would change my life. That it would lead me to my partner, Alex, and some of my best friends. That it would take me to Morocco and Italy and Oman, where I shot a Princess’ wedding. If I knew all that I’d have started much sooner!
Annabelle is co-founding editor of Synaesthesia Magazine.