Posted 15 June 2021
Interview by Creative Lives in Progress
Introduction by Ayla Angelos

“The power that you hold as a creative is really important”: Meet photographer Shenell Kennedy

Proving that you don’t necessarily need a degree to pursue your passion, Shenell Kennedy, a London-based fashion and portrait photographer, learnt the ropes of her medium through YouTube. Watching videos on all-things cameras, lenses, lighting and editing, Shenell was able to hone her craft and kickstart her career at a young age. Today, aged nineteen, Shenell is the co-founder of online platform WMN, and shoots for magazine GUAP, where she also works as a social media manager. Here, we speak to the self-taught photographer about networking, the importance of collaboration and why you should always make time for personal projects.


Shenell Kennedy

Job Title

Co-Founder, WMN




Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do?
My name is Shenell Kennedy, and I am a London-based fashion and portrait photographer. At the moment, I work with a lot of musicians and capture artist portraits. But through my personal work, this year I’m trying to tap back into ideas and concepts for my fashion photography work.

If you could sum up your job in a meme, what would it be and why?
I would say this meme (below). I think in order to keep your sanity and maintain your love for the craft of photography, you have to find a good balance between client and personal work. Otherwise, it’s so easy to get lost in a bunch of projects that may pay well but suck the fun and creativity out of everything that you do.

What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
I’ve recently gotten into buying myself flowers. I got my first bunch last week and I got a new bunch of white lilies this week and I put them on my desk. So I’d say, right now, my favourite thing on my desk are my flowers – they really do make me happy!

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
I think my favourite project to work on was the recent GUAP cover that I creative directed and produced. I didn’t actually shoot it, but I got Joe Puxley – one of my friends who’s an amazing photographer – to shoot it and he did such a beautiful job. It was really fulfilling to make something out of nothing, and see the whole process from the initial treatment to the final cover.

GUAP magazine cover, photographed by Joe Puxley

How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
I wouldn’t say you need any professional training, as I don’t think it’s 100% necessary to go to school or university for photography. There are a lot of resources out there such as YouTube, Skillshare, or online courses that can teach you about cameras, lenses, the technicalities of a camera, retouching, how to use Photoshop and Lightroom. That’s how I learnt.

However, there are certain skills or characteristics that are important. I think you have to be open and willing to learn, experiment and try new things; that’s the only way you’ll really grow. You also need to be able to think on your feet, because there are many things that can go wrong – and do go wrong – on shoots. You just have to figure it out and work around that.

Being a nice and genuine person is such an important part of being a photographer, as you’ll cross paths with so many people. It’s important to be able to make people in front of your lens feel as comfortable as possible. Whether you play their favourite song, or have a conversation with them or get some snacks, I think it’s important to be as considerate as possible towards the person you’re photographing, as having your photo taken can be an awkward experience for a lot of people.

“Being a nice and genuine person is such an important part of being a photographer.”

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
I started out by taking photos of literally anyone and everything around me. My friends, my family, the flowers outside, random objects in my house; I just found it really fascinating and I enjoyed it a lot. I’d say it’s taken me up until now to really work out what it is I want to do, and honestly that could change tomorrow. It’s definitely a journey of shooting things you think you love, then realising that you don’t love them as much as you thought, and just continuously shooting and growing. I wouldn’t say I’ve found my feet yet, I think I’m still on that journey.

GUAP magazine cover, photographed by Joe Puxley

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Youtube. I’ve pretty much learnt everything I know from photography on Youtube and I still love watching photography videos. Some of my favourite channels are Sophia Carey, Ejatu Shaw, Willem Verbeeck, Darnell Temenu and Sean Tucker.

Collaboration. It’s honestly essential, especially in creativity. Working with others to build concepts and ideas is a beautiful thing and will elevate your work so much. If there’s something you’re not as strong in, find someone who is and can balance that out. Or don’t hesitate to ask for help. Stylists, MUA’s, hairstylists, fashion designers; reach out to people and work with them. Also, be there for others when they reach out to you, it’s mutual!

The New Black Vanguard by Antwuan Sargent. I got this book for Christmas around two years and, if I feel a little uninspired, I flick through it. It’s just a compilation of the most beautiful imagery from young Black photographers and it’s really all the motivation I need. These are the people I aspire to be like. All of the works featured are so creative yet thought-provoking, and still insanely beautiful – it’s amazing. It also has a section on the progression of Black representation within fashion and fashion photography, which is really insightful.

FLOHIO, photographed by Shenell
PrettyboyDO for GUAP, styled by El-Shaddai Nyagodzi
SUDXN, styled by Femi Ayo for GUAP
SUDXN, styled by Femi Ayo for GUAP

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
I think my biggest challenge so far has definitely been trying to find a balance between my personal work and other work. There was a whole year where I literally didn’t do any personal work whatsoever and I started to slightly fall out of love with photography because of it. I recognised that, and I am now trying to get back into executing a lot of my own ideas alongside the other things that I do, which I’m really excited about.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion have been to your career so far?
Social media has honestly been central to my journey. Most, if not all, of the people I’ve collaborated with I have found and messaged on Instagram. A lot of people find my work from my Instagram and connect with me from there. I also see call outs on social media and apply via that.

My main advice when it comes to social media is to publish work that you genuinely love, and that reflects you and the things you love to do. It’s easier said than done, but at this point I’ve just disregarded algorithms, likes and views. I just put my work out there because I love it. The number of people who see it doesn’t matter, as long as the right people see it.

“I just put my work out there because I love it. The number of people who see it doesn’t matter, as long as the right people see it.”

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I am definitely still learning! Money is such a difficult subject within photography and the creative industry in general. I feel like it’s not really talked about, and that can make it extremely difficult when you feel confused or lost about pricing and rates – so definitely try to reach out to people and ask questions.

Don’t underprice yourself or let people take advantage of you, but also know that you won’t make money from everything you do. Sometimes you can hop on projects just because you love them.

When finding projects that will make you money, your network is so important. These opportunities are often through word of mouth or recommendations, so collaborate with people, put your work out there, be friendly and open to learning and growing, and people will eventually recognise that.

In my opinion, there’s no cheat code to instantly being able to make money in photography. Everyone’s journey is different; you just need to make sure that you’re visible, so that when paid opportunities do arise your name is in the room.

Styled by Saffron McLeod-Nwobu
Styled by Saffron McLeod-Nwobu

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
This is hard because I’ve received some really good, thought-provoking advice from a lot of people. I recently had a conversation about leverage, which made me think. We all definitely have some sort of power or creative leverage that we may not even recognise, but other people see it and that’s why they want to work with you, learn from you, collaborate with you or even just admire your work. Understanding that and acknowledging the power that you hold as a creative is really important. We can literally make something out of nothing and that is worth so much.

“Understanding and acknowledging the power that you hold as a creative is really important.”

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role to you?
Apologies for the generic and probably extremely underwhelming advice but, honestly, I’d say just do it. Do what you want to do. If you want to shoot, then shoot. Know where you want to go, figure out the steps you need to take in order to get there and get going.

With photography, it’s definitely something you have to learn as you go. Your first shoot is probably not going to be the best thing in the world and that’s okay – take what you can from it, learn from it and go again, and again and again, until you get to where you want to be.

Don’t compare your first photograph to a Vogue cover, it’s a journey and a really fun one. Constantly comparing yourself and placing unrealistic expectations on yourself can suck the fun and creativity out of it.

Interview by Creative Lives in Progress
Introduction by Ayla Angelos
Mention Shenell Kennedy