We Are MA: Emily Jane Morgan, MA Photography
Why did you choose to study MA Photography at NUA?
I had already been studying at NUA on the BA (Hons) Photography and felt I still had concepts and personal challenges in my work, which I felt continuing onto the MA Photography course would help me to resolve.
I was particularly drawn to the MA because of the community structure; the opportunity to work with and alongside creatives from different disciplines.
Can you tell me a bit about your practice and how it’s developed?
Out in the freelance world, I describe myself as a Fashion, Portrait, and Product Photographer, helping brands and independents to tell their story. “Story” has always been a key element of my practice, from my personal work to commercial work; listening to clients about their brand identity, their motivation, their values, and putting those values at the heart of the shoot.
My commercial work isn’t necessarily as narrative-driven as it is in my personal projects, but I’ve certainly developed my ability to concisely communicate identities and imagery which a client’s customer base can relate to.
Can you tell me about your journey from NUA to working as a freelance photographer?
Freelance was a happy accident! I was in a position at the time where my original plan to move to London to work wasn’t possible. That felt frustrating, but unavoidable in the circumstances.
I set up as freelance when an e-commerce company I had been working for was beginning to wind down. It was a gutsy, flippant, ‘now or never’ choice. I didn’t have the fear of losing a full-time wage, I only had the potential to earn with the skills I had.
I learnt very quickly the challenges of freelancing, and my biggest challenge more than the practicalities of running a business was identifying my self-worth and to charge what I was worth!
I ended up taking up a workbook recommendation from a fellow freelancer called ‘Overcoming Underearning’ by Barbara Stanny, and I recommend it to anybody who feels they struggle with money confidence. I am now part of a community full of freelancers and Indie Businesses in the UK, and having that community helps so much.
You’ve worked with some high-profile clients like Nintendo UK/Nintendo Europe- can you tell us about those projects?
Wow, working for NUK was one of the most fun projects I have had to date, because it shattered my preconceptions that client-led work can’t be fun, and it was the first big job after finishing my course.
At the time, 2015, Nintendo was still pushing sales of their handheld system Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo 2DS. Nintendo UK had specifically opened up an Instagram account to test the waters with aiming their systems towards girls and women between the ages of 14-25, an ‘influencer-inspired’ audience if you will.
Because I was already an active member of the Nintendo community, helping to run community events in Norwich, the Community Manager at Nintendo UK put my name forward to help with content creation. I did a test shoot for Nintendo in December 2015, and started working on retainer each month for the year of 2016.
I loved it because of my product knowledge, I was using my skills to create content for one of my favourite brands, and see it go out into the world. Sometimes it was challenging to shoot the high volume of content required, and to come up with 30+ unique image concepts each month (I used to describe it as a ‘Nintendo Headache’!), but the Product Management team were always communicative and provided me with a monthly plan. It was an enjoyable working relationship, I was incredibly fortunate.
"Creative people are brave, because they are not afraid to express themselves."
What advice would you give to someone looking to become a freelancer?
Don’t do what I did! I didn’t do my research, I didn’t put myself ‘out-there’ enough, I didn’t put myself first, I let fear sometimes take the steering wheel when I shouldn’t have done. When you go into freelance you need to be open to different opportunities, because ‘success’ doesn’t always appear in the form you expect it to.
Right now, I am enjoying shooting premium AirBnb’s for a client. I never imagined I would enjoy photographing interiors, but it has led to meeting some interesting people and places.
Also, know your audience, know your ‘why’; why do you want to be freelance? Why do you love your creative practice? Why do you do it? Money is the outcome, but it should not be the answer to why you do what you do.
Why should we value creative people?
I’m going to be cheeky here and quote something Louis Theroux said recently; “If you’re stifling creativity then you’re really only leading half a life. I think there’s nothing else that quite compares with it. We need food, we need air, we need companionship, but we also need the chance to express ourselves.”
Creative people are brave, because they are not afraid to express themselves. Self-expression is absolutely a fundamental need for everyone. People working in creative disciplines are therefore highly able to listen, create, and successfully communicate ideas of their own and of others.
What advice would you give to someone considering MA study?
You are going to have your creativity and creative thinking stretched and challenged. It is a rigorous, but rewarding experience. My research skills improved exponentially on this course, my shoots had deeper concepts and became more informed. Be open to trying something you wouldn’t normally try. Now is the time to step outside your comfort zone.