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TGt Meets... Emma Lord - IWD Special

To celebrate International Women's Day, we spoke to local photographer, Emma Lord, about her career and why she thinks we should mark this day.

Name: Emma Lord

Location: Swindon

Occupation: Photographer

Which woman would you compare yourself to?

I prefer to think of myself as my own woman, as opposed to making direct comparisons. There are many inspirational women in my life though, from whom I draw inspiration.

What would you say is your most valuable skill and why?

I’d pick empathy as my most valuable skill. Having had a range of life experiences, I find I can relate to a wide variety of people. This is important when working with clients, and with other businesses. It isn’t about creating false personas depending on whom I’m dealing with - in life I try to be the authentic version of myself so that people get to know the 'real' me -  but it is about being able to understand other people’s perspectives and feelings.?

Why do you think it's important to have an International Women's Day?

It’s important to have an International Women’s Day to highlight some of the achievements of women around the world, particularly to children. Learning about successful women can be inspirational both for girls and boys, and also demonstrates to children that women can be high achievers in many different fields.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

It can be difficult to strike a balance, and I’m fortunate in that I thoroughly enjoy my job so it doesn’t always feel like work. Having burned the candle at both ends for far too long in a previous career though, I’m well aware of the dangers of not maintaining the balance. I have to be firm with myself and make sure I take time out from the day job. Whether I then photograph for pleasure, or pursue another hobby, I do something which takes me away from the work of business. 

Have you ever had to give up or miss out on anything in order to pursue your career?

Previously, yes. In my new career, health and family come first though so while I work hard, and deliver my best, my life priorities are balanced better than in the past.

Do you ever experience any discrimination in the workplace because of your gender?

I haven’t come across any in photography, but that might be because I work for myself. Again, in my previous career I faced situations where people made assumptions about me or my role, because I’m a woman. 

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to fellow females looking to get into your profession?

Learn as much as you can about business, as well as photography. You’ll find the photography takes a small percentage of your time, compared to actually running the business. HM Revenue and Customs run a number of online webinars which are designed to help small business owners learn more about their responsibilities as a business.

While it’s important to continue learning your craft, it’s also important to find your own style. Some people will like it, others might find it’s not to their taste. This is fine, but don’t be told that you must follow certain photography rules in order to succeed. The best way to success is to find your style, and shoot instinctively rather than as dictated by a text book.

A lot of work will come through word of mouth recommendations. Find opportunities to network, and make use of social media and other online services to promote your work.

If you could have dinner with 5 inspirational women dead or alive, who would they be?

I’d love to meet Jane Goodall and talk to her about her conservation and primatology work. I’d appreciate hearing her views on what more we can do to protect the planet and whether we can reverse any of the environmental damage which has already been done.

Ada Lovelace would also be on the list, as I’d be interested to hear directly from her about her advanced work in mathematics and technology.

One of my favourite authors, Ursula le Guin, died earlier this year. Probably best known for her science fiction writing, her observations on society and politics were observed with wit and intelligence. I imagine she would be a captivating dinner guest.

The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, was selected from over 400 applicants to pilot Vostok 6 in 1963. Her reflections on the (almost) three days she spent orbiting the Earth and life after space would be fascinating to hear.

Finally, as a massive Star Wars fan, Carrie Fisher completes my list. She will long be remembered fondly as the determined and independent Princess Leia. However, her honesty over her personal struggles with bipolar disorder raised awareness of the illness, and opened new discussions around mental health disorders. As a bipolar sufferer myself, talking about mental health illnesses, and working to reduce the stigma is something very close to my own heart. I would love to have had the chance to meet her and talk Star Wars and life generally.     

As a successful female, where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Keeping a small business running beyond the first couple of years or so is a significant achievement, and one of my goals is to keep the business running for the next 10 years and beyond. I also hope I will be exhibiting work regularly, teaching other photographers, and spending more time on my writing.

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