Last week I had the fab Prue Aja in the house. Literally. Well actually in our condo, but that doesn’t sound quite as good, does it?
Prue has emerged as one of Australia's prominent portrait and lifestyle photographers. She built her career as a Fashion Stylist but with a niggling voice urging her to take her career in a different direction, she enrolled in photography school and eventually started her own business. Recently she got to shoot Nicole Kidman in Melbourne for Business Chicks! Squeal!
Prue was here in Singapore doing some personal branding shoots (including for me!) and it was a great opportunity to sit down with Prue (I had her captive) and hear about her career capturing beautiful images that reflect the spirit and brand of her clients.
Prue, you started your career in fashion styling working in Australia and overseas. After years of hard work and living in London, what made you give it all up to become a photographer?
I had just moved back to Australia (Byron Bay) from the UK and met my daughters father. While surfing at Lennox heads I broke my toe on the rocks. I had a casual job and my boss, who was very spiritual person said to me that breaking your toe on your right foot means you are about to step forward in your life. She told me to take some time out and think about what I am doing.
I took a couple weeks off and questioned what I really wanted to do. I have always wanted to be a photographer so I researched to find the best photography school in Australia. I applied to RMIT and then I didn’t know if I would get in or not! I packed up the house, sold everything and went to Indonesia for a month for a holiday. While there I found out I had been selected for an interview (at RMIT), the day after I returned from Indonesia. Also while in Indonesia also found out I was pregnant! I was moving interstate, starting a new career, I was homeless and didn’t know anyone in Victoria, and I’m going to have a baby!!
I flew to Melbourne for the interview with nothing prepared and just charmed them really! I got in! So, the turning point was breaking my toe!
How do you balance the business versus creative side of your business?
I have always been creative in making things but I wouldn’t say I’m a philosophical artist. I’m not so dreamy, I’m more of logical designer. When I finished school, I was going to study industrial design because I loved technical drawing. I love having a finished product with a purpose, not just creating art for art’s sake. I’m all about purpose.
I always loved maths and am very structured, and I love business. I think that’s why my creativeness connected with women in business just works. I have an understanding of what their goals are and where they are going and what their business is about and designing a shoot to suit that. Bringing all the different elements together is what I do.
When I studied fashion design, instead of just designing something out of nowhere I would be more inspired by the fabric and what can I make out of the fabric. When I was studying photography one of my teachers made us talk about what type of photographer we are. Some people talked about how they wanted to build a set from nothing to create an image, whereas I like to be given something and create an image from that something. I like being challenged by something already in existence, and show my perspective on it. I like to think what can I make out of this? That’s why I love photography. It’s always challenging me. I’m never thinking that this is easy.
I like the challenge of working with real women, bringing out their strengths and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera. I like building a connection with them. That’s really important.
Over the week, I learnt you have some very specific goals for 2017. Do you set an intention each year for what you want to achieve both in your business and your personal life?
I don’t do enough in my personal life because my business is most of my life!
I did this thing with a business coach a few years ago which I found very powerful and since then I have listened to a podcast by Tim Ferriss. The coach worked with me to design what a day in my life would look like 10 years from now. So I know very clearly and specifically what a day in my life looks like when I’m 40. But instead of working towards that day, you step in and be that person right now. You think about how you look, how you feel, what you are wearing, how you stand, how you talk, present yourself, and instead of waiting to be that person, you step into that role right now so the universe knows nothing else but to bring that. That was really powerful when I did that.
It makes little decisions easier. When you are presented with something it’s easy to work out if it’s part of my journey. And if not, then it’s not worth my time. It allows me to be more selective because time is so precious.
So do you set goals every year? Do you get to January and work out your goals for the year?
Definitely. The week between Christmas and New Year is such an important week to make sure you just stop and do nothing and reflect on your year and make sure you check off what you have done and reward yourself for your achievements. Everyone forgets to stop and do that. We just keep on going and forget to remember what we just did! I work out what I want from the next year. Keep it simple though. Just 3 goals max.
What is the best part of doing personal branding shoots? What do you love?
I love people. I just love being thrown in the deep end and meeting anyone and hearing their stories. I have been described as having an intuitive nature. I find I connect with people quickly and easily and then translate that into a photoshoot.
A lot of photographers have their set style and they shoot exactly the same set up for every person and I don’t feel like that works. I feel like each person deserves their unique shoot. When I was studying there were people who had folios that all looked the same and I worried that mine looked too disjointed. I questioned whether I looked like I got creativeness from all these other places, but when I laid out all my folio there is a certain theme. I think there is a richness and a boldness and strength in each of my images, so they all look different but they check off a few things they have to check off. They are not too sexy or too cute or not real.
I really want to work with some business magazines and have the opportunity to photograph and add a unique style to business magazines. Make them a bit cooler with their photography, not just all corporate. I want them to be a bit more stylised. That’s a big goal of mine and I need to carve out some time to put together a folio for this.
I want to keep travelling and build my network and build my own personal brand by being known for what I do. Connecting with like-minded people and supporting and uplifting each other and creating work is important.