Milly Colley is a fashion photographer who finds visual inspiration in couture fashion, fine art and femininity. She works with an assortment of both digital and film cameras including a Holga, Minolta and her beloved 62-year-old Leica IIIf. She seeks to capture feelings and emotion in her work and takes great interest in the emotional response elicited by imagery, more so than the technical details of an image. Her work has featured in numerous print and online publications worldwide. Her clients and press list included beloved brands like Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Gucci Group, Gaucho Productions, The Mail on Sunday, Photography Monthly and Professional Photographer magazines. We had a catch up about her latest work, career highlights and what she’s currently working on…
Milly, what’s your story? How did you get to where you are today? I’ve always been interested in photography but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started experimenting with it more. I became really fascinated by it, perhaps a little too obsessed and I used to stay up working all night. I started by shooting for music and fashion blogs, did an internship with a photographer and worked for a national newspaper before branching out on my own.
Which is your favourite portrait that you’ve photographed to date? That’s a tricky question. Probably an accidental double exposure I took with my Leica IIIf a year or so ago. I’d been to an exhibition at the Natural History Museum with my friend Lauren and I took a black and white portrait of her outside. When I developed the film I noticed that two exposures had been combined and it looked as though Lauren was standing in a field with a horse grazing over her shoulder. It has a really surreal and dream-like quality to it.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? I wanted to be a horse whisperer. Like lots of little girls I was completely mad about horses and ponies.
Which University did you go to and what did you study? I went to Sussex and studied Psychology. I really enjoyed living in Brighton and being by the sea.
What’s the proudest moment of your career to date? I’ve been honoured to photograph some fantastic festivals. One of my favourites was Bestival in 2011 where I shot The Maccabees, Paloma Faith, Pendulum, PJ Harvey and The Cure. The arts performances were also incredible. The English National Ballet did an incredible show on the main stage one morning. I enjoy photographing the ordinary festival-goers’ quirky fashions as much as the rock stars though.
Which photo commission has been your career highlight? London Fashion Week is always fantastic. It’s such an inspiring atmosphere to be in and fuels my creativity no end. The first time I photographed a show at Somerset House was in 2012 when I was launching an online fashion magazine with a friend, but I’ve since been commissioned by designers and magazines. I enjoy shooting behind-the-scenes as much as the shows because it’s where you see everyone’s personalities shine through and really get to know people.
How do you promote yourself? Networking, print media, websites and social media. I haven’t had an exhibition so far this year so would love to do another one sometime soon as they are a great way to meet people and show your work.
Do you love or loathe social media? Social media is really great for networking and sharing. I don’t spend too much time on social media now though as it’s far too easy to waste time.
Which lighting tools and tricks do you use to create your whimsical photo finish? The light. I usually just work with natural light. After five years I’m still learning how to work with it to my advantage and realise its full potential. It is about seeing the world differently. I absorbed information for years before my mind started to see things differently and I developed a sort of fluency with images.
Where do you find inspiration when so much of London is captured day to day via smartphones et al? I find inspiration in everyday encounters I have with friends, family or even folk I walk past in the street. Also exhibitions, magazines and other art forms are great for a browse.
What’s your favourite music to work to? All sorts really but I prefer quite chilled music when I’m working so mainly acoustic, blues, jazz, light rock or pop. I like most music from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Florence and the Machine and Lana Del Ray.
Do you prefer a Pub or a club? Pub. I haven’t been to a club for years.
Favourite pair of shoes? My Chelsea boots are timeless and so comfortable. I love heels too but can never wear them for long.
Which magazine do you read religiously? Vogue
What do you spread on your toast in the morning? I love toasted bagels. I usually have them with butter or some homemade jam from family and friends if I’ve been given any recently.
Urban Outfitters PhotoSet: