Laura McCluskey In Focus

04.03.2016 | Culture , Fashion | BY:

Kent-born photographer Laura McCluskey, 29, has been living and working in and around Hackney for the past seven years, enjoying playing with the “feeling of creative freedom it brings.” Her work – which she describes as “honest and relaxed” – is a mixture of conceptual fashion imagery, documentary and pared-back freshness, with a focus on character and personality as opposed to a highly stylised ‘set’.

“I walk a lot and find the clash of cultures inspiring,” she says. “As a visual person, I think it helps to really engage in my surroundings and often ideas are sparked by people and scenarios I see on the street or stories I hear on the bus. I often do street castings for different projects and enjoy shooting portraits of people I find interesting. I enjoy the sense of community, the busy feeling often ignites my imagination.”

Here we asked Laura to chronicle some of her favourite projects to date, and explain how and why they came about.

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Bronte

I photographed Bronte at Next models for a story for Pylot magazine. I found a pop­up restaurant with an Abigail’s Party ’70s themed event, I contacted set designer Alice Hodge who had created the scene. I was working with my stylist friend Issie Gibbons on this and we shot the story within part of the set and surrounding rooms within the community centre it was being held. I loved shooting this story as I am a big fan of finding beauty within the everyday and the location really worked well. Bronte had a really great energy and a real timeless feel that worked so nicely for this story.

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Meilyr Jones

I recently shot musician Meilyr Jones. We met at the V&A and took some photos inside on the marble steps. The light was really great that day and we chatted and took some photos. I like these portraits because they feel quite peaceful.

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Dreamy Days

A few years ago I was shooting a series of new faces for The Ones 2 Watch. Harry and Leomie were outside in the hallway and I found out they were a couple at the time. We shot some simple portraits of them together and it just worked.

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Liam Hodges

I’ve worked with menswear designer Liam Hodges for a couple of seasons. Most recently for his AW15 campaign for his collection ‘Totally Safe Classics’ which explored the everyday reimagined, taking inspiration from the market stall traders in Walthamstow near Liam’s studio. I did a street casting for this and found Jyrrel in Shoreditch. We worked with stylist Harry Lambert and built a set within the studio with tarps and sandwich boards from the show.

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Forever my Dreamland: ­Troy and Chaos

I’ve been shooting a series ‘Forever my Dreamland’ since 2009 in the places I grew up around Kent. I was in Margate shooting some stuff and was just heading back to the train when I walked past this guy and stopped to asked to shoot his portrait. He was walking his dog and just had a really happy face. I found out he was called Troy and his dog was called Chaos. Pretty amazing names. They had such a great connection between them and as I started shooting the dog jumped up for his portrait.

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Teeth magazine: ­Nothing Fits

This story was a collaboration with my stylist friend Helen McGuckin. We’ve worked together on a few projects and we wanted to shoot a story that explored androgyny, shape and form. I think the starting point for this series was seeing Dilara Findikoglu’s graduate collection, we loved the carpet look. We shot Aggy at Next, she really brought a great spirit to the shoot and definitely conveyed the right feeling.

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My favourite picture in the whole world

So many artists inspire me, but if I had to pick one of my photographs, then it’d be from from a series I have been working on for the past few years: My sister Grace. I started out taking some photos whenever I visited my mum and youngest sister Grace at home in Kent. After a while I kept looking at my contact sheets and could see her changing and growing up and the series just came together. I took some portraits of her last year on her 13th birthday. This is one of my most favourite and treasured photos, it says so much about her personality and of growing up.

See more of Laura’s work at lauramccluskey.com

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Frances | Jenna Foxton | Communion

Meet Frances: heiress to the vocal powerhouse throne

12.11.2015 | Blog , Music | BY:

She’s got a voice and she knows how to use it.

That’s 21-year-old newcomer Frances, the British vocal-powerhouse who could sing you out of the room in karaoke (watch out Adele), and who could also give Florence Welch a run for her money in the wonderfully wild red mane stakes.

Hailing from Newbury, she’s got a set of lungs that sound like they’ve been soaked in 90% proof emotion, serving up a high intensity of feelings to comfort you, before hitting you round the head with a massive chorus that stirs you. She’s already supported Sam Smith live, performed for Radio 1’s Live Lounge and sold out her first three UK London tour dates.

The new soulstress on the block you should know about, we caught up with Frances to talk love and fears, nostalgic moments and the best woah-oh-oh ever.

What’s your earliest memory of music?
Dancing around the house with my mum to ‘Poetry In Motion’ by Jonny Tillotson.

And when did you start performing?
I had my first performance when I was three, but I’m not sure if that counts. I’ve always performed in some way since I was a toddler – it just felt so natural.

I first heard of you when I came across the track ‘Fire May Save You’ (the Cesare Remix), and I remember sharing it on my Twitter account as I loved it, and you messaged me back to thank me. Are you officially the nicest person in pop?
Haha! I appreciate so much any support for my music, so I think it’s so important and only polite to say thank you!

But what about when you become too famous to even peel your own banana, what will your tour rider consist of?
Haha! Everyone should peel their own bananas, its part of the experience! Hmmm. Sparkling water, cereal bars for a quick energy boost in case I’m lagging, and some speakers for the tour tunes. That would do me fine.

Well as you’re so nice, I really want you to record a mellow stripped back piano version of Whitney’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and totally belt it out – can you do that especially for me on the next EP please?
That’s an amazing idea… I’m going to say YES!

Awesome, I’ll wait for it! And talking of vocal belters, you supported Sam Smith this past Summer for a live show – that must have been a pretty intense experience?
It was an amazing experience – he’s such a star and the nicest guy on the planet. I loved every minute.

Were you and Sam trying to outdo each other back stage with who could sing the highest note?
I’m pretty sure he’d win if we did!

What about other performers you admire…you might spontaneously combust if you found out you were sharing a stage with who?
Carole King. That would just be insane.

Wow, what a duo, you two would be musical ear porn! How would you describe your own sound?
Well it’s all about the song for me. So I want to sing songs that people can relate to and share with their loved ones. And in doing that I hope that my voice sings those songs in a way that people endear to, and feel they want to carry on listening.

And how have you evolved and grown with each release?
I think I’ve grown as a producer. So I’m finding new ways of delivering my songs and how I can use some different sounds on top of the piano and my voice to enforce meaning in the songs, lyrically and musically. But I’m also maintaining that actually keeping things simple is still a great approach for me for some songs, as nothing gets in the way then.

What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve learnt so far on your musical journey?
I’ve had to learn that other people do really care about my music and career. It can be hard to believe at first but once you work with the right people you learn that people have got your back!

You’re among the Next Gen of female singer / songwriters to make their mark on the industry – what other female performers keep you on your toes, for a bit of healthy competition and sisterly respect?
I’ve got so much respect for so many female performers. A few that stand out though are Aurora, I think she’s incredible, so haunting and beautiful. Rukhsana Merrise is amazing too, I love her song ‘So They Say’. And then there’s of course Alessia Cara, Adele, Florence, Maria Mena and more.. I could go on forever!

What about if we looked through your record collection, would we find any embarrassing moments?
I still have my Vengaboys CDs.. loved them. And I’ve probably still got my Aqua – Barbie Girl CD too, haha!

Ha! Well my Bucks Fizz Greatest Hits beats your Barbie Girl. What else makes you nostalgic?
My childhood. It was so fun, I had (and still have) a wild imagination and just lived in a world of my own most of the time.

Is that why you’re quite emotively explorative in your lyrics, you’re very deep and reflective for someone so young?
I’m very sensitive to emotion, both my own and others. I tend to over-think and analyse everything so that means I think about things at quite a deep level.. which can be good and bad I think!

Do you think it’s easier to love or be loved?
I always say you have to love yourself before you can love another.. but I also think you need to know that you’re loveable.. so that’s a tricky one! I guess they both become easier  if you have value for and love yourself.

Good answer. And are you fatalistic?
In some ways I am.. but then I also believe you can create your own luck and opportunities. But ultimately we’re all destined to do something, whatever that may be. We all have our own piece of the puzzle.

What’s your greatest fear?
Disappointing someone I love.

But you’re not ashamed to admit that you love…?
I don’t think we should be ashamed to love anything, but I guess my love for Christmas films is quite intense.

And where is your happy place?
Snuggled up with my dogs watching a great film. That’s just the best!

And when not snuggled up indoors, what’s your go-to feel good song before a night out?
‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire.

What about the best woah-oh-oh you’ve ever heard in a song?
It’s got to be ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce! Or for a more emotional ballad-y one, it would have to be the ‘Oh’ section in ‘Viva La Vida’ by Coldplay.

Ok, so you’re off to karaoke – which three singers would you take with you and what’s the song you’re going to sing?
I’d bring Sam Smith, George Ezra and JoJo and we’d sing ‘Lose My Breath’ by Destiny’s Child.

Ooh nice! So what’s coming next for you and what can we expect from your debut album?
I can’t wait to do my album. It’ll be here next year sometime. It will be in a similar vein to my EPs, but a bit more accomplished I hope, I want to show I’ve grown and developed as a songwriter and for people to really connect and relate to the music.

So taking inspiration from the title of your latest release ‘Let It Out’ – how can we all really let it out today Frances?
Dance in a shop. If a great song comes on it deserves to be danced to. You’ll brighten up your own day and someone else’s!

The ‘Let It Out’ EP is out now and you can see Frances live on her UK tour which kicks off in 2016. For more information head to francesmusic.com

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