Photographer and stylist Katie Bishop on balancing a 9-5 with being a multi-hyphenate
Having struck a balance between her day job as a retail manager and her photography and styling practices, Nottingham-based self-proclaimed “image-maker” Katie Bishop’s determination has seen her photograph musicians at Wireless Festival, alongside styling shoots for the likes of Sabat and Pap magazines. Drawn to spotlighting dystopian sci-fi, kitsch aesthetics and queer identity, here, Katie sheds light on the challenges of making a part-time creative practice work and how Instagram is a powerful tool for securing work as a creative based outside London.
Photographer, Stylist and Retail Manager
Issa Events, Riposte, SLXW
Sales Assistant, Next (2015-2018)
Place of Study
BA Fine Art, Nottingham Trent University (2015-2018)
What I do
How would you describe what you do?
I am an image-maker. This umbrella term allows me to fulfil two different roles: photographer and stylist. Fashion editorials and live events are what make up my online portfolio.
Can you tell us more about balancing employment with your freelance creative practice?
I work as a retail manager at [secondhand menswear store] White Rose four days a week. So, often, I’ll finish my shift and shoot an event in the evening. I am lucky to have flexibility in my current role, so I can organise days off for shoots and other projects. I use a calendar and have one day a week I dedicate to paid or personal work. This includes admin like updating my portfolio and sending emails. This year, I have learnt how important it is to schedule days off.
“I dedicate one day a week to paid or personal work. I’ve learnt how important it is to schedule days off!”
What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
The photographers that inspire me include Nadia Lee Cohen, Jack Bridgford and Tom Cunningham. In terms of style, I’m also influenced by dystopian sci-fi films, eccentric old women, being queer and anything tacky or kitsch.
Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
No specific training or university [education] is needed to be a photographer and stylist. Genuine passion, willingness to teach yourself, good communication and resilience are the most important things you need.
“Passion, willingness to learn, good communication and resilience are all you need to become a photographer and stylist.”
What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
Milli Vol. 1 (below) was my favourite outcome. The creative direction from [fashion designer] Milli Welch was sci-fi, theatrical and playful – I loved it!
Shooting Wireless Festival this year was also a highlight for me. I got to meet and work alongside so many lovely photographers – shoutout to Denise at Lensi Photography who took the time to show me the ropes. Getting to see the live acts and being amongst many creative industries – music, journalism and photography – was transformative and revealed to me another career path beyond fashion.
If you could sum up your job in a meme, what would it be and why?
The crying seal meme, for every rejection or project that has fallen through. It is really hard not to take these things personally, but detaching from that and finding strength in trying is something I am able to practise now. And I also work in customer service.
How I got here
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I found my feet relatively quickly. I was really lucky to know a talented MUA [make-up artist] Christos Gkenoudis and through them I met photographer Jazz Glenn, for whom I styled my second shoot. Having those, alongside some of the BTS [behind-the-scenes] images I took published was massively validating. The feedback from the editor was so positive; I felt as a team we really did a great job of tailoring our work for a publication.
The pandemic then happened and that gave me the time to consolidate and formulate a plan to keep up the momentum. During that time, I made my logo from Play-Doh and made work for my portfolio using my partner at the time to style and shoot, then organised it all on a website.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Believing in my talent and vision before I could visually demonstrate it has definitely been a challenge for me.
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Practising looking in the everyday, doing nothing and watching films.
How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Instagram has been the first point of contact for nearly all the jobs I’ve had so far. It is a first impression which allows me to connect with people I otherwise never would have had the opportunity to, especially being based outside of London.
Unum is an app I use to help me plan layouts and curation on Instagram, which helps me to post more consistently. I don’t put too much pressure on myself to create content; I focus on the quality and showcasing my best work.
“Instagram has allowed me to connect with people I otherwise never would have been able to, especially being outside of London.”
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
The creative freelance career I am trying to pursue takes time. For me, it has to be supplemented by another job and is the reality for most. Recently, I was on set with a MUA whose work I have admired for years, and was taken aback when they said they had only just quit their part-time job. Knowing that helped ease the pressure on myself and reminded me that Instagram is not reality!
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
To get a website!
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Follow Assisting Work on Instagram and turn on notifications; collaborate with as many people as you can to build your own network – and finally, keep all your work safe and put it online.
Interview by Frankie Faccion
Mention Katie Bishop