Capturing Inspiring Women & Finding Your Creative Path with Photographer Yasmin Qureshi

Wednesday 11 January 2017

I'm so excited to be getting back into posting my 'Cup of Creative With' interviews! When I relaunched my blog last September I came out all guns blazing with these interviews - posting one a week, but quickly ran out of steam! This year I'll be posting on a much more sensible schedule of one a month!

Today's interview is one I did with Yasmin Qureshi an amazing photographer and blogger I met through a twitter chat a few months back! From the moment we got tweeting I was really interested in how Yasmin approaches her photography as a method of telling people's stories. We chatted about how difficult it can be knowing you're a creative but not knowing which path to take, how a picture can tell a thousand words, and the importance of listening to your gut feeling, and having confidence in your decisions.

I hope you enjoy this, all the photo's in this post are by Yasmin, and I will link to her site, and social media at the end of the interview!

Hi Yasmin, thanks so much for agreeing to be part of my interview series! The first question is the same I've been asking everyone and that is, what does 'creativity' mean to you?

For me its about having that freedom to express myself in the way I want, and it also means that my creativity and style can change over time which is something I love. I'm the type of person who loves change and trying something new because I can get bored so easily! I wish I wouldn't but I guess it's just who I am. I've tried many different types of creativity since I was a child, but I'm so glad to have settled with pursuing photography

I love that! I've always been living in my own imagination and obsessed with writing and acting as my main creative outlet but before blogging I used to be a bit of a serial hobby up taker! My poor sewing machine is so underused!

I think finding that one type of creative outlet that you want to pursue as a career can be so freeing! It's like "wow I've finally found my purpose in life!". It great that you're creative outlet is writing and acting :) as with me it's about writing and photography now :D

So which creative outlets nearly stuck before you found photography?

Well I've tried many things in the past, including making and selling jewellery, I've tried writing a book when I was in high school (I have no idea where that is now!) but one that nearly stuck was fashion designing. In 2010 I started university for the first time to study fashion design but unfortunately I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped.

But at least you know for certain you can cross it off the list!

Definitely! I suppose everything happens for a reason, and it's a good job I realised I didn't want to become a designer after all, because I'm loving photography so much more! Plus myself and sewing machines just don't get along!

Plus photography, if you wanted it to, could lead you back into fashion

That's absolutely true, fashion photography was actually my main focus in my first two years at uni.

But at the moment you focus on shooting and showcasing inspiring women. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

This summer I've been focusing on shooting with women who are inspiring particularly women who are career driven. One day, while I was shooting with some designers and makers in their studio, I became a lot more interested in shooting with women who are chasing their dream careers and writing about them. I realised how inspiring I found women who were actually making their dream a reality and from then on I've wanted to meet more women like this to share their story on my blog. Recently I've done a shoot with a singer/song writing called Erin Louise, and the blogger and author Frances B

I think I'm interested in sharing stories of these women because I love that they are making their dreams a reality, whereas I've struggled with finding a purpose in my life, up until I was 24 which was when I started university. Before that age I felt I was a failure in so many things

That's so interesting! Less about composing a story, like I imagine fashion photography can be, and more about capturing a real one?

Yes! I really want to capture these women in their element. The shoot i did with the makers and designers was done in their studio and I was able to see them actually making their pieces using all their tools etc. It was such an interesting and insightful day.

I think there's something really special about  being able to see people in action. Like I find it much easier to just show people what I do the explain it- and of course a picture captures a thousand words is a saying for a reason!

Oh yes, absolutely! I'm so happy to have found this direction! I hope that those who read my blog will find my photography just as interesting to look at

I definitely do! I really love your photo's, the women in them always looks so natural and comfortable

That's the thing that I want to bring out the most! I want to be able to give my audience an insight into the real world as well, and I hope my photography will be able to do that.

I imagine quite a lot of preparation and research goes into a shoot before you start taking the photos? How do you get ready for something like that? Do you have locations in mind first or sketches of things you want to try?

I think that if the women can just be comfortable during the shoot they'll be able to be themselves which is so important for me. I want my shoots to be all about those women, rather than me over-directing them. I wouldn't want them to feel out of their comfort zone

I firstly like to find out as much about the women on their websites/blogs because this often gives me plenty of ideas to brain storm for the shoot. A lot of the time I'm going to be travelling to the women to do the shoot with them, and as I'm not familiar with so many locations I like to ask them where they would like to shoot, but I also do some of my own research into locations too. I like the idea of shooting with the women in places that they are familiar with if its out on location, but something else that I want to do more of is shoot in their actual work spaces too, be that at home or in the office, because I feel this will make the photos more insightful.

I do take the lead with my shoots, but I also let them fire any ideas they may have at me too I feel that makes the photos more insightful and personal :)

I guess a lot of people would be grateful for you taking the lead, as if they don't have to worry too much about that it lets them relax more in front of the camera? I know that's how I'd feel!

Yes absolutely! I want them to relax as much as they can in front of the camera to make the most of the shoot for me and for them and ultimately for the audience who read my blog too! I want them to love seeing the shoot on my blog too.

Oh definitely. I guess that when you see some one's photos, it's just as easy to tell whether or not they are natural and comfortable, as it is when you watch somebody on stage!

So to go back to before you found photography. Did you finish your fashion degree?

No I didn't. I actually left after four months of starting my first year. I'm so glad that I realised so early on that I wasn't enjoying the course as much as I'd hoped. If I'd completed my fashion degree then, I'm highly doubtful that I would be back at university today.

And what happened after you left your fashion degree to lead you to where you are now?

It took me a very long time to even get a job after I left. Within the first few months of leaving I tried to run my own handmade jewellery business, which did okay, but I became so fed up of being at home all the time that I decided to go back to college and I studied a legal secretary course! Quite the change from fashion design huh? I then ended up getting a job as a carer because I gave up applying for jobs in retail. For the next two years I worked in care but it made me so ill, and finally in 2014 I left that role behind and I started university!

In between myself leaving the fashion degree to staring my photography degree I'd taken up blogging as a creative outlet. I loved being able to write again and also taking up photography for the first time. But my interest in it grew so much which is the reason why I decided that going back to university to study photography was the right thing to do - and I was right!

That's amazing that blogging led you to that, but also that you kept your work ethic up, and chose yourself over money and what might be seen as more sensible paths!

Oh definitely! I haven't always had my mum's support in pursuing a creative career but I guess now she's given up telling me to get a sensible job and letting me to do whatever I want!

I think for parents it can be really hard to see their kids possibly set themselves up for another fall - I know that has definitely gone through my parents head more than once!

I think that my mum is supporting me more than she was when I was studying fashion. I think she can see that I'm doing better at photography now too.  I think that if we've got the drive to really go for our creative career aspirations we can prove people wrong and show that we can have a job we're happy with!

I think it's about a confidence and an attitude that comes through when you know something is right
I know with past projects that I've found it hard to convince other people around me that they were right because on some level I was still convincing myself

I understand what you're saying - I can't wait to find out more about your theatre work and seeing how far you've come too! (side note : I will hopefully be working with Yasmin for one of her shoots soon)

Thanks! In it's own way it is quite the tale!

Ok, moving on from both our pasts, what do you hope comes next?

I want to work on my blog as much as I can over the next year, shooting with loads more inspirational women, networking and making connections. I also have so many different ideas that I want to bring to life and I can't wait to start working on them and sharing them on my blog. Long term I'd like to work full time on my blog. It's a dream that I've started to make a reality and I'm just so excited to see where this leads

That's amazing! Does your blog work also tie in with your university course work?

Yep! Well the idea is that I want to make my blog my FMP (final major roject) in my third year. I've already been shooting with other bloggers for projects in previous years, but now I'm thinking more seriously about the future of my career and blogging is definitely part of my career plan. I think that I've felt like a failure for so long, and now I'm not willing to give up on the one thing that I'm enjoying so much and I feel I'm good at. What my lecturers think of my plan to work on my blog as part of my FMP is a different story though, I don't think they'll agree that it's a good idea

Oh really why's that?

I've been told by a particular lecturer that my writing isn't good enough and various other comments about my blog were made during that conversation. This is the reason why I don't think they'll be happy that I've chosen to do it as my FMP.

I imagine that was incredibly disheartening! I know I felt something similar after graduation. My theatre course was incredibly contemporary but the work I make is more accessible/storytelling I always felt a bit like my old lecturers didn't take me seriously, when other alumni making more contemporary work seemed to get so much more support and were featured on alumi facebook pages etc.

Sometimes you have to stick with what you know is right for you, and what doesn't always fit an academic marking criteria

It certainly was! I actually went back over my posts and deleted all text! When I asked for feedback for work I'd done over summer I didn't get a reply. It made me very nervous to go back to university and work on my blog but it's what I want to do so I'm going to stick with what I know is right for me. It can be tough to be on a course where lecturers don't understand your style of work! It can definitely make life difficult throughout university.

I think I've kept you long enough, even though I could talk about this type of thing all day!

But before you go, my final question, and it's one I'm asking everyone. What advice would you give to somebody who is struggling to embrace their creativity? Or specifically to some one who is in the position you were in a couple of years ago, where they know they are creative, but they haven't found their path yet?

I would say that you should continue to experience and explore different types of creativity. Anything that takes your fancy! I'm lucky to have found my passion for photography because of blogging. If I hadn't have started blogging would I have found my interest in photography? I don't think so. One thing can lead to another, and you might even be able to combine things together to find that perfect type of creativity, because after all creativity has no limits! I think that as long as you know in your heart that you're destined for something more than a sensible job, you'll be able to find that path that you know you belong on

I think its also great to find a community to be part of, who you can meet up with and talk about your creative passions. The thing that I struggled with is having that support and it made me doubt myself in may ways. Being part of a community that understands you can help so much with pursing your dreams

Thanks so much for chatting to me Yasmin this has been so inspiring! And really interesting to find out more about the woman behind the lens!

You can find Yasmin on instagram and twitter, or head over to her website to see more of her beautiful photography and interviews with truly inspiring women. Yasmin is also currently working on producing a magazine for creatives so look out for that in the future!

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