Born and raised in London, Imogen cut her teeth copywriting and art directing for clients including Magners, Carlsberg, Audible and Reebok- winning awards and pitches along the way. As soon as she bought a camera she became hooked. Her work quickly started gaining coverage and winning awards and before long she’d packed in her job to focus on photography full time.  Since then she’s worked with some of her favourite brands, charities and publications.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

I don’t think I really have any rules. I shoot instinctively, responding to the people and places around me. I try not to overthink it. 

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

I learnt to shoot on film which I think was really helpful. I was very aware that each shot cost me money and so really focussed on each frame rather than shooting rapid fire with less thought which I find there can be a tendency to do on digital. I found that focus really helped me to think about and recognise the best moment/ composition/ placement. Whether shooting film or digital I’d recommend taking less shots that are more considered. 

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.
I was largely self-taught until I got a Magnum Scholarship in Milan. It wasn’t technical at all but taught me how to interrogate the work, piece together narratives and edit work into a cohesive body. 

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I took a crowd scene once at Notting Hill Carnival and hadn’t realised someone in the frame was taking cocaine and he threatened to kill which wasn’t ideal. It was on film so I couldn’t delete the image but I promised he’d never put it anywhere and thankfully he didn’t follow through on his threat. 

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?
I aim to make work with an emotional punch and the only way I know how to do that is to look for moments that move me in the hope that they move others too. 

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

It’s not really a trick but I always have a camera with me everywhere I go. The world is constantly throwing up amazing moments and you can only capture them if you have a camera with you. 

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

For personal work I shoot on film. My favourites are Mamiya RZ67 for 120mm and Pentax K1000 for 35mm. Then for work I’ll often use a Sony A7RIV.

Are there any books you would recommend?

I love the work of Greg Girard, William Eggleston, Joel Meyerowitz and Saul Leiter so would recommend all of their books. I love Vivian Maier too- all of her books have been made without her involvement but I’d still recommend seeking them out to get to know her incredible work.  I’m also excited to get my hands on Ian Howorth, Maria Lax and Nadia Lee Cohen’s recent books.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I find being in new places so invigorating- I get so much inspiration from exploring new environments. I love responding to characters too so I’d have to add meeting new people to the list. I also love books, shows, films and the work of artists and other photographers. I think inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere to be honest, it’s just about exposing yourself to new things!

Imogen Forte