Many photographers are wary about stepping outside of their comfort zone, but Honey Salvadori isn’t one of them. By embracing change, Honey has enjoyed a long, varied and successful career. Honey explains why change is good - and why professional photography still is has a bright future.
If you wanted to sum up the philosophy of photographer Honey Salvadori, it is quite simple: “Adapt or die.” Be prepared to move on, change with the times, learn new skills - or get left behind. This approach has given Honey a rich and varied photographic career. She has photographed everything from boy bands to brothel workers; had her photojournalism published in numerous magazines, and taken publicity shots for broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4. Over the years, Honey has moved from music photography to features to portraits and people - several of her works are in the National Portrait Gallery collection. And then there’s her work as a photography educator, teaching students the art and craft of photojournalism.
“I think being a photographer is not that different from being an actor or a musician,” says Honey, “whilst you have your identity or persona, you’re fashionable for a while and then it’s time to do something else. You have to re-invent yourself – you can’t do the same thing for thirty years.” London-born Honey got into photography by accident. “When I was at art school in the 80s, photography was seen as a poor relation, so I wasn’t encouraged to take it up by my tutors. But my instincts told me it was the right track for me. Photography seemed more relevant, because it related to the real world I could see around me.
Honey began taking pictures of student life, before branching out to the local community and the performing arts. “I was involved in the theatre and did a lot of backstage photography with dancers and small theatre groups,” she recalls. At the time, the British Journal of Photography (BJP) was encouraging emerging photographers, and a BJP picture editor encouraged Honey to continue with her backstage photography. A year later, the BJP published a spread of Honey’s work and gave her the front cover.
After leaving art school, Honey did a number of jobs, including photographer for several press offices including the London Film Festival. The late 1980s marked the start of her five-year career as a music photographer. “I fell into the music press, rather than setting out to be a music photographer,” she recalls. A new music magazine Q, was launched, and its approach to photography caught Honey’s eye. “Magazines like The Face had a stylised approach, but Q had a more documentary approach. So, I just took a punt and called them. I showed them my portfolio, which they liked, and they took a chance and started giving me jobs.”
Honey’s brief was to take backstage shots, “A lot of them were jokey pictures, sort of Spinal Tap,” says Honey. The artists she photographed included the pop duo Bros (one of their pictures is in the National Portrait Gallery), singer Kirsty MacColl, Joe Strummer of The Clash and .Sharleen Spiteri of Texas. Honey worked for other music magazines during this period (such as Vox), but by the mid 1990s, it was time to move on. “Being a music photographer was hard work, but also a lot of fun. But after a while, the jokes were getting flat.”
By this time, Honey had joined a photo agency and this gave her the opportunity to develop new work. She started work a long documentary project on an all-female motor cycle club, Women in the Wind, spending about a year on the project. The work was published by Elle magazine, opening the door to a new and lucrative career in women’s photojournalism - Honey’s work was also published in magazines such as Company, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.
During this period, Honey embarked on a two-year project of the sex industry, documenting the lives of strippers and brothel workers. “I like unconventional people, so it really interested me,” she says. The brothel project was published by Marie Claire “I got a lot of commissions on the back of that, including television work.” This included taking publicity shots for TV series like BBC’s Airport and Jailbirds, and Channel Four’s Girlie Show and Cutting Edge. “I think I did my best work during this period,” says Honey, “because I think I managed to express a point of view about women that hadn’t been expressed before. I felt I said something that was worth saying.”
By the late 1990s, this type of work was fading away, but Honey was undaunted. “As a professional photographer, you have to remember that you’re running a business and businesses have to keep bringing out new products. Some photographers – like Bailey – can spend decades in one field, but this isn’t the case for the vast majority. You have to keep moving along with the market. I also have a low boredom threshold – I want to keep moving on.”
So, in the early 2000s, Honey branched out into portrait photography, “My documentary work was very people-focused and it slowly became just portraiture. It also reflected the work I was getting from clients like Channel 5, who wanted a lot of studio shots of artists – it pushed me down that pathway.” Two of Honey’s portraits - featuring comedy performers Adam and Joe, and author Kathy Lette - are also in the National Portrait Gallery.
In the mid-2000s, Honey decided that she wanted to teach photography. After taking a Masters degree at Goldsmiths College, she began teaching at various establishments. In 2011, Honey took up a lecturing post at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University), where she helped develop a new Photographic Journalism course.
“I wanted to apply my knowledge from working with magazines, and so there’s an emphasis on editorial photography, crafted in an academic framework,” says Honey, “it’s about understanding how to make narratives in both individual pictures and a set of pictures, and understanding the different types of photography, whether that’s reportage or portraiture or some other genre.”
But is there really a future in professional photography for today’s eighteen year-old photography student, when everyone now has a cameraphone? “The way I see it is that the pyramid has got wider at the bottom and narrower at the top,” says Honey, “I do think you need to be diversified, but you shouldn’t assume that it’s impossible to make a living. It’s just harder to stand out from the crowd and have a long career.”
Honey doesn’t see cameraphones as a threat to professional photographers, “I love Instagram and I love cameraphones. But citizen journalism is about being in the right place at the right time. Professional photography is about having the insight and analysis to know how to report a story and get beyond the superficial.” So, what skills do today’s budding professionals need? “I think you give students the core skills about journalism, and the core skills and technical skills about photojournalism, and you try and give them an understanding of how the business works.”
Honey says being multi-skilled is an asset, “It was good being a specialist when I started, but nowadays, I think it’s better to have multiple skills – a bit of journalism, photography, video and editing. You need to keep up with these skills, because the market moves so fast.”
Work experience can help young photographers get a foot in the door, and Honey is a supporter of initiatives like the Alamy 100% Student Project, which gives students the opportunity to upload their images and earn all of the money from any sales they make through Alamy. “It’s good, because it gives students a real-world experience, and they learn that you have to persevere and improve your work, and that stock is about building a body of work over time.”
Honey has recently finished working at Leeds and is about to embark on a new phase in her career. It’s that change word again. “I’ve got a few things in mind,” she says, “It’s time to move on. I don’t like repeating myself.”www.honeysalvadori.com