Originally from Belgium but currently living and working in London, fashion photographer and videographer Sarah Tahon has collaborated with the likes of Topman x Vision, Flanelle, and F***ing Young magazine. A true editorial talent — with an unwavering adoration for analogue — it was a real treat for us to interview her.
Hi Sarah! Tell us a bit about your photography background. What’s your story?
Thank you for featuring my work in Lomography Magazine. I am 25 years old, I was born in Brussels, and I moved to London six years ago to study film and TV production. I then started working freelance as a duo in film, while developing a strong interest in photography. I enjoyed the spontaneity of photography in contrast to videography.
I bought my first film camera — a Nikon FE2 — and started shooting my friends who, after a while, encouraged me to contact modelling agencies to take test shots of their new faces. I did, and since then I've switched my main “focus” to photography.
A lot of your images are styled in urban settings, how do you scout out your locations?
I somehow feel nostalgic when I pass by an old hairdresser, café or even an old corner shop (which are unfortunately becoming very rare in London), so these kind of venues are quite prominent in my photos. I also look for estates or buildings with a lot of character.
As soon as I have some free time to discover a new neighbourhood I spend hours looking for visually interesting places, and when I come across one I take a photo of it, write down the address and keep it on my list in case it fits upcoming projects.
You’ve taken some gorgeous portraits of the Hoeper twins. How do you choose the people you want to shoot, and what's your casting process like?
It is interesting that you mention the Hoeper twins because they are more “conventional” beauties in contrast to the people I usually choose to work with. The first thing that got me interested in shooting the twins was their connection that appears even in photographs, but I also wanted to challenge the mood in which they had been shot previously. My casting process varies, but I mainly look for interesting profiles with personality. I sometimes find them on Instagram, which is a great tool for casting, or straight from agencies’ websites.
You’ve worked with some great magazines like Flanelle and F***ing Young, as well as big brands like Topman. What’s the collaboration process like?
My work has been more editorial than commercial so far. Usually when photographers are picked for editorial gigs they have more freedom to put their trademark. For example, the editorial I shot with Wonderland for Topman x Vision was a lot of fun because they gave me most of the creative freedom. The whole team met in a neighbourhood, and each time we found an interesting-looking place that matched the outfits, we would shoot and hop onto the next one for the entire day. I am, however, starting to get more commercial demands for which I guess I will have to adapt!
In an undeniably digital age, why do you choose film?
I find film cameras so exciting to shoot with. Whether it is choosing and discovering new films, or the process of shooting, you have to focus much more on what you are doing than you do when shooting digital — with which you can hit the trigger an infinite amount of times. It goes without saying that it is extremely exciting once the photos are developed, and you discover them (even though it is quite dangerous sometimes). I also love the grain and the soul film brings to a photograph.
If you had to bring one camera and one roll of film with you for the rest of your photo career, what would it be and why?
I couldn’t live without my Nikon FE2! Film-wise, I would pick Portra 400. Being mostly into portrait photography, whether it is in a studio or on location, in darker or brighter environments, various skin shades, the end result has always turned out great!
Do you have any advice for wannabe fashion photographers and up and coming portrait photographers?
Hmm, I will share what I would have loved to read when I was starting which is: Do not plan your shoots from A to Z, leave space for on set spontaneity and creativity, and most of all HAVE FUN. If you have hesitations, ask the team you are working with (make-up artists, the model, hair stylists, stylists, lighting team) — they may have amazing ideas you may have not thought of and that is so valuable. I usually don’t give too many directions to the models I work with because it can easily look staged. I let them move and position themselves first.
Finally, I think the most important advice I would give to any aspiring photographers is to be patient and believe in your work. Sometimes, freelance photography may seem like an impossible task; having to balance making a living while working full time on building your portfolio and sending hundreds of emails a week to set up shooting opportunities. But if you persist, the work will pay off (and pay)!
Finally, what’s coming up for Sarah Tahon — are you working on any interesting projects?
A magazine I have always dreamed of shooting with contacted me recently to start a collaboration which I am looking forward to. I am also travelling to Stockholm often, and I'm going back soon to shoot some personal projects. But what I am the most excited about are the two short videos I will direct, film and edit for two fashion brands. I can’t wait to get back to videography!