Interview with photographer and model, Megan Farmer (Part One)
In part one of our conversation with Megan Farmer, we’re focusing on Megan’s work behind the camera along with details of the pivotal moments that led her to pursue this photography career. We find out why Megan wants to work with people who can’t seem to love or appreciate themselves, and we also hear details of how self-portraits have aided her own body confidence along the way.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Megan! Thank you for joining us, and we’re really looking forward to hearing about your recent experiences both behind and in front of the camera! Before we get into that, can we please start by asking for some of your thoughts on the body positivity movement, and your perspectives on how important body confidence and self-love is to people’s well-being?
Megan: I think that body confidence is something that has only recently started to be spoken about, and it’s something that needs to be addressed far more often and spoken about in normal conversation. It’s the foundings of how we feel about ourselves, how we treat other people, and how we present ourselves in real life and social media – but people don’t tend to know how to treat themselves properly.
People don’t look after themselves and it’s much more than just, ‘Oh, I like how I look’. It’s about eating right and being active. Even if it’s not working out in a gym or going for a marathon run, it’s about getting yourself moving by dancing, doing a bit of yoga or going for a walk. It’s all about doing small little bits at a time. It’s knowing your body and knowing what you feel is right.
I really struggle with the whole ‘affirmations’ thing. For me personally, I can’t quite seem to get it to work, but I know that it works for a lot of people and can completely change their way of thinking – and that’s fantastic. People really need to take the time to just stop working and stressing, and to take a day or even a few hours just to really focus on something that they love and that they enjoy; and soon enough, they’ll start to love themselves a little bit.
Britain Uncovered: During a recent Instagram Live, you mentioned that there were times in the past where you’ve looked in the mirror and ‘hated’ how you looked – and you decided to make a photo diary to help overcome this mindset. Could you explain a little about what the concept entailed and how helpful it’s been in improving your body confidence and overall confidence in general?
Megan: I did used to hate looking in a mirror, and sometimes I still do. I’m not going to lie about that. Sometimes I can’t look in a mirror, and there are times when I look in a mirror and cry. Sometimes I hate what I see and can be really hard on myself, and those are really tough days.
But doing the self-portraits as a photographer saved me, and I learned to appreciate myself how I do the people I photograph on a normal basis. So when I work with someone, I look at all of the things I think are beautiful, and all of the things that they don’t necessarily like. I look at the lighting, their face, their eyes… I look at all of the things they call ‘imperfections’ and see them as something beautiful. And I learned to start doing that with myself. Kind of the same way someone ends up looking in the mirror, and they’re told to pick something they don’t like about themselves and say, “I really like my eyes today”, or, “I really like how my hair looks today”. It’s the same kind of thing – except that I don’t like talking to myself in the mirror!
Instead, I will photograph myself, and get my feelings out about myself in these self-portraits, and I will slowly move through the process in my own way. It’s been amazing. I think anyone who either is a photographer, or even just likes taking pictures really, should do it. Absolutely look into doing self-portraits, even if you don’t like having your picture taken. It completely transforms how you look at yourself and it gives you a better understanding of how you look and how other people see you than a mirror does. And that’s probably the most important thing. Mirrors lie! Cameras can too, but you get a better idea if it’s done right – and that’s really important for me.
Britain Uncovered: Turning to your work as a photographer, what is it about this art form that you enjoy so greatly, and can you recall a specific moment that first kindled your interest in photography?
Megan: It was nature that first kindled my interest in photography. My mum is a gardener, and my parents used to have animals, vegetables and flowers all over the place (it was quite a big garden!) and it was an amazing place to grow up. When she was done gardening, she would take pictures, including before and after photos of the flowers and everything else she had done that day.
I used to take her camera (which was a tiny tourist camera which you could just shove in your pocket) and go into the garden and take pictures of everything! I loved taking pictures of the flowers, the chickens, my brother, the cats and dogs, my parents… everything!
After a while, I started experimenting with angles and shadows without even realising what I was doing. I was just having fun. I ended up wanting the photos to be better quality, so I would beg my parents for a new camera; and about 10-12 years later they saved up and they got me a proper camera – a Canon PowerShot G16 – and I cried my eyes out. I was so happy.
I started photography when I was about six years old – just for the fun of it, to copy my mum and to appreciate the garden – and I’m still doing it and I love it just as much.
Britain Uncovered: What were some of the aspects of nature photography you enjoyed most, and what were some of the messages you were trying to convey via these types of images?
Megan: I started taking pictures of nature because I started seeing things the way other people didn’t – and I wanted to show people the way I saw the world.
As an example, walking down the street I would see a screwed up leaf that was dying and ripped, and everyone would walk past it and not appreciate it. But I wouldn’t see it as some dead leaf scattered on the ground; it had a journey and a story. Where had it been? Which tree had it come off, and how did it get ruined? And I just saw everything beautiful about the imperfections of it. Every mark, every rip – it was just beautiful to me, and I wanted to show other people that it’s beautiful. I just wanted to show people the magic I saw in the world.
I grew up with stories about fairies, dinosaurs, dragons, elves and pretty much anything you can think of, and it had brought a real magic into my life. I was always out on walks with my parents and I always wanted to be outside – and that love has continued to grow.
Britain Uncovered: At what point did you think your photography could become more than just a hobby, and what type of projects do you most enjoying shooting or working on?
Megan: I knew I wanted it be more than a hobby during my A-Levels. I was trying to work out what I wanted to do career-wise, and whether I wanted to be a primary school teacher or a photographer. Those two were forever in the mix, but I really had to make my decision into which direction I wanted to go, and I chose photography.
In terms of projects, I really love portraits. I never used to enjoy them and instead wanted to go down the nature route, but there was a defining moment when it came to portraits. Unexpectedly while at university, a girls’ school came in and we had to lead a tutorial for them. None of us were prepared for it and we had no idea what was going on – we just went in and were told to do it. And I loved it!
I was explaining everything and taking pictures of everyone, and all the girls jumped up wanting their picture taken; but there was one girl who was really upset. She really did not want to have her picture taken, she didn’t want to be up in front of the class, and she thought very, very little of herself. She was 13 or 14 and it broke my heart. She was really beautiful, but she couldn’t see that, and I knew that I needed to do something special for her.
I asked her to get out her phone and find a picture that she loved, and I said I would re-create it for her with her modelling. After I managed to get her to calm down, she found a picture that she loved, and it had the most stunning lighting – and I loved it. We took away all the gels we were using for everybody else and went for a really bold look (split shadow on one side of her face, bright on the other), and she sat down. I got her to sit sideways, face looking to the right.
After I took the picture, I showed her and her jaw dropped. She started crying and said, “I didn’t know I could look like that”, and you could see in that moment her perception of herself completely changed – and I knew that that was what I needed to do. I needed to show people what they couldn’t see in themselves, and because of that, I want to do boudoir and everyday portraits. I want to show people, men and women, everything that they can’t see in themselves. Because people are beautiful, their loved ones think that they’re beautiful and they just need to see it too. Give me a camera and a couple of hours and I will show them, even if they think of themselves that way for only a few seconds.
Another example is a friend I had who really hated herself. She struggled with depression for years, and really struggled looking in mirrors. I went and saw her a few years ago, and I asked her to help me with a university project where she was going to model for me. She took a lot of convincing, but she did it! And I took a picture of her, and she cried, and she said the exact same thing: “I didn’t know I could look like that. I look pretty, and I didn’t know I could be pretty.” And it just solidified it really.
And I always thought she was beautiful, but she could never see it. Drove me nuts! I was never allowed to publish the picture of the girl from the girls’ school because I don’t have permission to post it, but I have kept it because that was a very life-changing moment for me.
In part two of our conversation, we turn our attention to Megan’s experiences on the other side of the camera – and we discuss her transition into modelling, and how this has influenced not only the way she feels about herself, but what it’s taught her about photography also.
- To follow Megan over on Instagram, head to her dedicated photography and modelling accounts at @meganfarmer_photography and @meganfarmer_modelling respectively! You can also find Megan on Twitter at @Megan_Modelling.