Photographer Mary Doggett has had to look at life through a lens differently this past year, particularly when it comes to wedding and travel photography. But with business picking up again, she has an eye on combining the two
I was brought up as an 80s girl where we had to aim for shoulder pads and engineering jobs and be as good as the boys! In a class where we outnumbered the boys at least three to one in our first year at secondary school, (being one of the first years to accept boys at Notre Dame), us girls already felt like anything was possible. This led to me graduating in Computing at Law at what was Leicester Polytechnic, which led me to work in the IT Team at a law firm, managing IT teams for solicitors, then ending up as a performance and information manager in the NHS.
Photography was always in the background since about the age of 13 when my mum taught me all about apertures, shutter speeds and composition using a manual SLR. Her cousin was Frank Roberts, employee at Coe’s, who captured post-war images of normal life in Norwich. Photographs you could hold, study and learn from were always part of our lives at home.
In my 30s I travelled anywhere my passport and credit card could take me and my camera, and I toddled off on my own to India after reading a Daily Mail article about how two female teachers used a tour company to travel all over the country! It was a life-changer and from that point on, taking travel portraits of strangers from all corners of the globe became a bit of an obsession. I dreamt of being the female version of Steve McCurry…some chance!
I started doing weddings about eight years ago, just to see if I could, and then finally went full time and set up my business in 2019 as ETT Photography.
I was on a total roll at the start of 2020! I had met some incredible business owners at networking events. My first BRIDE, The Wedding Show event happened at the showground in February, leading to about 15 weddings booked for the year. I was also providing headshots and commercial images for several clients – a lead-worker, a jewellery-maker, a window company and a local coffee company, being just a few examples. I was also finding time to collaborate with models and make-up artists – getting to know a fantastic network of new friends who were all so generous with their time and just enjoyed getting creative. Not specialising does not make life easy as a photographer, but I love the variety, (typical Gemini), and I would struggle to limit myself to just one niche area.
Setting up the Norwich Photography Photowalks & Workshops meetup group in 2019, was a real personal highlight for me. Thanks to a fabulous group of regulars, it was getting established by 2020. I organised 20s flapper shoots, baseball games, model shoots at Looses, bridal shoots at the wonderful Flint Room etc. It was really a case of: so what do you want to shoot next folks? I was so disappointed when I had to stop organising these events.
Initially, lockdown for me was a mixture of sadness for my wedding couples, but also great opportunity for me personally to network (thank you Zoom!), learn more, plan, etc. I would say the first six months and through the summer was a positive. The winter was challenging however, and being a bit of a hothouse flower, not seeing customers in the studio and not being outside, was undeniably tough. As it was for everyone, of course.
The studio was adapted with distance floor markers, social distancing signs, and a bit of a one-way system was developed. I was lucky as bi-fold doors also meant I could completely open one wall of the studio to the outside so there was always lots of fresh air in the summer. Plus of course I had all the usual PPE – the masks were infuriating though as they steamed up my viewfinder on the camera, so that was tricky!
I decided to offer photography lessons via Zoom, initially for children (to help parents a bit with providing something a bit different for home-schooling). Then I worked more with adults and offered five 30-minute lessons for £75, usually once a week or once a fortnight. I absolutely loved doing this! I had a real mixture of people sign up and already have three graduations, or what I like to call graduations anyway (three people who have gone out and bought a camera after using their mobile phone and start using manual settings! Some were into nature, some portraits, some more street photography and abstract. I customised each lesson individually to the person’s photography kit, skill level and interests. It felt quite strange giving ‘homework’, but everyone seemed to appreciate having a challenge to work on and I got some wonderfully touching feedback.
Other than the lessons, I have done some product shoots for various businesses and some doorstep portraits. I’ve also delved into the world of videography and hopefully will be able to offer that as a new service by ETT Photography later in the year. The partial lockdown weddings were a sheer joy to do so I still managed to photograph a few happy couples this last year.
I’m going to offer website bookings for portraits, headshots and passport photos. I’m also looking forward to collaborating with other local businesses to provide a makeover and portrait session. I will be continuing my lessons, but these will be face to face and one-to-one walkabouts around Norwich or other locations the customer chooses.
I’m looking to do my first Indian wedding (hopefully) and am getting in touch with some contacts I’ve made in Delhi. I have been invited to do some online networking with a large group of Indian businesses, including an events team based in Mumbai – but obviously it won’t be for a long time yet. It’s awful what’s happening there. I’m also going to start offering wedding photography for couples getting married abroad and I’m working alongside travel businesses to offer this; the idea being that I can properly get to know the couple before they head out to their chosen wedding destination, they can get used to me photographing them, and also so that they have an English-speaking and English-thinking (!) photographer supporting them on their big day.
I hope that couples find the value in having smaller more intimate weddings and have the courage to put their own personality/stamp on their big day to suit their passions and beliefs – and avoid gravitating to the more traditional style because they worry about what’s ‘expected’ of them. I’m looking forward to more outdoor weddings in the beautiful Norfolk countryside, farm-based weddings, coastal weddings, etc. I’d love to there to be a continued increase in vow renewals especially after the threat of Covid and with so many people losing loved ones. As a ‘devout’ practising party person myself, we need to think of lots of ways of how we can celebrate our lives and the people in them. I would also love to see other ceremonies celebrated in less traditional ways – christenings, funerals etc. I would love to photograph what people term ‘a living funeral’ where someone’s life (who has a terminal illness) is celebrated with friends and family.