For as long as she can remember, London-based Chloe Sheppard has been taking photos – first on her disposable camera, capturing candid shots of friends, and now as a fully-fledged artist. Her motto: “To create proper photos that my mates can look back on when they’re older and think, ‘hey, I was really beautiful’, rather than some hazy selfie taken on an iPhone.”
Since cutting her teeth into photography via Ione Gamble’s feminist zine Polyester, Chloe has lensed muses-turned-friends, such as Hailee Steinfeld (a dream), Joanna Kuchta (also a dream), and wait for it, Dylan Sprouse (urm, can’t any dreamier).
With a slew of high-profiles names and glossy editorials for Teen Vogue, Nylon Japan and i-D under her belt, Chloe also makes time for her own zine – which launched earlier this year – and her undergraduate course at UAL. It’s an easy assumption to say she’ll tick off world domination soon too.
Below, Chloe schools us on how – and why – she has put together a photography portfolio that is largely fuelled on girl power, and the importance of seeing beyond the perceptions of social media.
Get yourself a motley crew
“I have gone through many friendships, especially when I was younger. I would find myself drifting from group-to-group, trying to find people I can actually relate to, not just the people who looked ‘cool’. Now I’m older, I have realised that it’s not about who has the most friends, it’s about having friends who are really there for you, who understand you, and won’t ditch you when a better opportunity comes along.
“The friendships I have now are life-long. I can count my closest friends on one hand, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s important to find them and then surround yourself with them. Friendship is at the centre of all my photography. I don’t choose the people I shoot based on physical appearance, but because I really like something about them. Sylvie is my best friend, I take pictures of her all the time because I think she is wise, passionate and enlightening and I want the rest of the world to see how great she is.”
Accept that it’s okay to be alone
“With time, I’ve also realised that it is completely cool to spend time by yourself, and if you don’t always want to hang around with people – that’s also fine. As I have grown up, I’ve noticed I actually tend to keep myself to myself most of the time. In the media and most movies, being ‘alone’ is often talked about in relation to being ‘a loser’, but remember it’s the complete opposite.”
Work with people who buy into your belief system
“Recently I did some work with Charli XCX which was so much fun. I loved working with her because she is all about empowering girls and she is so open-minded. I enjoy working with people who are open to my ideas, or who appreciate my style and are willing to collaborate to make sure the vision is collective.
“With Dylan, it was more of a last minute shoot whilst I was in New York, but he was great. He was open to my styling ideas, and he came up with some interesting stuff too, which I think helped to make the photos strong. There’s still a delicacy to the images, which would have been lost if he wasn’t as open as he was.
“And again, with Sylvie, I love working with her because our belief system is in sync! We’re passionate about animal rights, feminism and Lana Del Rey, haha. When we shoot, it’s always comfortable because we just get along so well and we always have something to talk about, which I think is really special. She is my biggest muse.”
Recognise that when it comes to social media, perception is 9/10 of reality
“I have struggled with my appearance and body all my life. However, I do think that it’s a great time to be a teenager right now, because there are so many outlets aiming to challenge perceptions of beauty. Social media is tough. It’s easy to compare yourself to everyone and feel like you are falling short, because you’re not as pretty, and I know for me this totally eats away at my self worth sometimes.
‘But, you have to remember that everything uploaded on social media is just an edited version of reality, and we all possess individual things that make us great and worthy. There are so many artists who are representative and unapologetic, like Ashley Armitage, Megan Winstone and Polyester zine – their work has definitely helped me feel less pressured in this society. Maisie Cousins is also amazing, she once said these words in an interview and they stick with me: “’Our bodies are living, breathing, slimy entities… They’re not polite objects”. I love that.”
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