One of the best things about running my retreats is connecting with the women who come along. Emma Murray is one of those women. She joined us in Byron Bay last year and while we were away, it was rare to see her without a camera in her hand. Before I had even seen her photos, I knew that her work would be beautiful.
There’s a special quality in a true artist. It’s a sensitivity, the gentle way that they move in the world and their ability to observe, mindfully. Emma is all of these things. As well, she exudes a calm, quiet energy and having engaged her as our photographer on the night of my book launch, I also discovered that when she’s working, she slips into the background so you’re not even aware that she’s taking photos.
I was lucky enough to interview her recently. I think you’ll love her answers (and her images). Make sure you read her book – it’s just beautiful. And please make sure you take her up on her offer of a headshot for her folio. You’ll be able to tell people she took your photo before she was famous.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
I provide a range of services under the guise of my business name, ELM Creative, which I started at the beginning of 2014 after leaving my marketing career. The majority of my work is through photography – either taking my own photos, or assisting other photographers on their shoots and processing their images. I’m still studying at the moment, so working with experienced photographers at this stage is invaluable.
What’s been the best thing you’ve done to grow your business?
Taking opportunities outside my comfort zone. I’m not a particularly brave person, and the reason I waited so long to run my own business is because I thought too much about what could go wrong, or that I didn’t have the skills, or I wouldn’t make enough money to pay my bills. However, in the past eighteen months the things that have grown ELM Creative the most are a result of attempting to do things I didn’t think I could do.
My first paid photography job is a good example of this. Before ELM Creative started I needed to build a folio, so I wrote a post on LinkedIn offering free head shots for the first ten people who replied. One of those people was a contact from my previous job who asked if I was available to do head shots for his entire office. My immediate reaction was to say no; at the time I didn’t think of myself as a photographer, and I was intimidated because the company is a very large, well-known brand. But I made myself say yes, so the next day I got an ABN, designed a logo, and figured out how to put an invoice together. I shot the portraits the following week, and the client was really happy.
How did coaching help you?
Coaching helped me clarify what I needed to work on right now to build ELM Creative. I had a lot of ideas and things on my to-do list, and I was overwhelmed trying to figure out what to tackle first. I came away from my first coaching session with five key actions that had an immediate impact on my business. These actions included simple things like making my website more professional, and assisting wedding photographers to build my confidence in pursuing my own wedding work. Simplifying to just five actions made the work manageable, and they were easy to complete.
An image from my documentary book ‘Rebuilding Jay Knight: Life after Guillain-Barré syndrome‘
Where do you go for inspiration?
Anywhere and everywhere! I enjoy going to galleries, museums, and other public spaces that show any kind of art. I like to read blogs – Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings and Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits are a couple of my favourites, and I spend a bit of time on the TED website. I also watch a lot of documentaries – my main interest in photography is social documentary – so I watch things like Louis Theroux and Australian Story.
I recently completed my first documentary book on a friend who’s recovering from Guillian-Barré syndrome, and watching documentaries was a great way for me to learn the art of storytelling (you can read an electronic version of my book here).
Where I draw most of my inspiration is my weekly photo walk, where I wander around Melbourne with my camera for a few hours and photograph life happening around me. Most of the time I’ll come away from the walk with a couple of images that I like, or a photo series I want to do. As one of my favourite photographers, Robert Doisneau, said “The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street”.
What are you reading at the moment?
Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Zen Master Seung Sahn. Seung Sahn is a Korean buddhist monk, and the book is a record of his dialogue with American Buddhism students. At the moment I’m trying to get a better understanding of Buddhism, and I’m enjoying the simplicity and humour of Seung Sahn’s explanations to his students.
What are you looking forward to?
Right now I’m looking forward to graduating at the end of the year! While I love studying, it’s been difficult juggling school and work. Over the next four months I’ll be producing a final folio of work to complete my diploma at RMIT. The work will be exhibited in an group exhibition with my class mates at the end of the year, which I’m really excited about. I can’t wait to see all our prints up on the wall.
What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone wanting to go into their own startup?
Just start! Take one little step (e.g. think of a business name, start a Facebook page, test your idea on a friend) and see how it feels. If it feels right, then take another step. Years ago I used to organise picnics in the park with my friends and their children so I could practice taking family portraits, I didn’t realise it at the time but these were my first little steps to starting ELM Creative. After that I just kept taking little steps, and then, without even realising, it I’d started a business!