Tuesday, September 29, 2015


by Jamie Goodsell
All images © Emily Beaver 

When I discover an image that speaks to me on an emotional level, it makes me really happy. It's like hearing a record for the first time and becoming emotionally attached to it. Just like music, photography connects with people for different reasons. Part of why I connected to Emily Beavers' work was that it felt like it could have been taken fifty years ago. The images are recent, but you'll find yourself questioning it. There's a timeless quality to her work that reflects a genuine love for humanity and the power of the still image. She's a photographer that has an eye for those subtle moments in between and gives us the ability to experience them from her unique perspective. Emily was kind enough to share her story with me and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 


Where did you grow up, Emily? 
I'm from a place called Marlow Bottom in Buckinghamshire, which is a little village by the river Thames. It was a really safe and quiet place, but I think I got bored in my teenage years. London was just an hour away, so you were just wanting to get to it all the time. I definitely feel lucky I grew up in Marlow. It was quite an affluent area, although we weren't particularly affluent. We were able to live in this safe town which was very nice. 

Do you ever visit? 
I went back there recently and took my husband to show him where I came from. He finally got to see the town I grew up in and he really liked it. 

I just went home as well and got to take some pictures. I was drawn to certain things that I guess I don't see here every day in the city. Did you take pictures when you went back home? 
I didn't...but actually, I've been enjoying doing that here in Nashville. We've been going on walks around the neighborhood and taking pictures which is really nice. It's such a new environment for me. I'm kind of obsessed with all of the houses in my neighborhood because I never grew up with houses that looked like this. It looks like a film to me. If I showed these pictures of the houses to my friends in England, they'd think it was amazing...while anyone else in America would be like, "this is just a house." 

Where would you say your roots are with photography? 
Well, I was a music fan before I was a photography fan. When I was young I was introduced to a lot of music through my dad; there were always old albums around the house. He got me into quite a lot of older bands and also things like The Smiths, Morrissey, and stuff like that. I was reading the NME and Melody Maker as a young teenager, getting into music photography that way. I remember writing to one of the NME photographers when I was about thirteen. His name is Tom Sheehan and I don't remember what I asked him, but he wrote me a really nice handwritten letter back. I framed it and put it in my bedroom. 

What was one of your first inspirations in music photography? 
One of my first inspirations came from The Smiths cover for The World Won't Listen. It was taken in the '60s by a photographer named Jürgen Vollmer  (he was the guy that took photos of The Beatles in Hamburg). The image was of this gang and it was that kind of youthful rebellion that really drew me in. I felt like all of those old images were being used for something that is happening now, so I wanted to do a similar kind of thing.  

When did you start to learn about how to take photographs? 
In my teenage years, I discovered I was interested in photography and took that in college. I was kind of disinterested in the classes, though I liked using the darkroom. What I liked more was going to shows. So I started assisting this local photographer, Joe Bangay. I only heard of him through my mom meeting him in the town one day. So I started helping him on shoots and I really learned a lot from him. One of the last times I saw him, he took me to Ronnie Wood's house to do a shoot with his wife Jo. Ronnie wasn't there, but I loved every minute all the same of course! Jo Wood was lovely. 

What was the first show you remember shooting? 
The first show I remember taking photos at was a Status Quo show that I went to with Joe. After that, we went to a Motörhead show. Joe was a total character. He wore leather pants, a white scarf and had this shock of white hair. Everyone in the town would see him driving around in his convertible and stuff. He was a real character and had all these cool stories. I liked helping him out much more than I liked college. I think in my brain I thought that I would learn more through experience rather than going to class, which is probably a mistake. I didn't regret it, but now I feel like I'd love to go back and have all of that education. 

It sounds like you got a lot out of your experiences though, can you elaborate on that a bit?
I was working at a record store in London and started hanging out with a different group of friends that are featured quite heavily in all of my pictures. After working there, I started working at The 100 Club, which is really well known in the UK. It's gone through all of the different decades of music and is still going strong now. During that time, I did an internship at the Proud gallery which specializes in music photography. We were working on a Pattie Boyd exhibition at the time, so that was a really good experience. It was much more hands on than I thought it was going to be. I was actually framing all of the work and doing quite a lot of production on the exhibition - including hanging as well as deciding where everything should go. That gave me the motivation to propose to the 100 club that I redo their walls. I knew all of the stories and all of the people who've played there, but the walls weren't really showing their full potential. I thought maybe I could do an exhibition (though I didn't think of it as an exhibition), I was really just redoing their walls. They were into the idea and covered the expenses, so I started contacting photographers to find out all of the people that had ever played there. It took about two years to get that show together…but it's really nice and it still hangs in there today!

So how did you end up in the U.S.? 
After The 100 Club, I started working for Domino Records in London. After about four years I transferred to New York and started working in the Brooklyn office. 

How would you describe your experience taking photographs in the U.S. as opposed to the UK? 
It definitely felt different being in the U.S. and I think that was reflected in the work. London is all black and white and New York is this burst of color! I hadn't really experimented with color until I moved to New York. I think it might have something to do with it being so bright and sunny in America. The color photos in England look a bit drab, because the weather was so shitty. 

You're based out of Nashville now, what compelled you to make that move? 
My husband works in music and I have experience in music, so we thought it would be good to move down here. We'd been here on holiday and loved it and we wanted to slow our pace down, so it just made sense for us. This moment is quite interesting actually, because I haven't ever really focused solely on photography…especially when things were so hectic in New York or in London. It kind of gets pushed to the side a little bit because you're doing a full time job and you're commuting every day. Nashville feels like a nice sized city and things are happening, but not everybody is doing the same thing. It feels more accessible and that you wouldn't need as much money to do things. 

I'm envious you're in that moment, it's an amazing feeling to be able to just focus solely on what you care about. So what have you been doing with photography in Nashville so far? 
I've been reaching out to musicians that I like and I've been going to the Nashville Community Darkroom as well. I hadn't been in a darkroom since I was like seventeen. I also recently purchased a negative scanner and that's opened up a whole archive. A lot of the photographs I've never seen (except on contact sheets), but seeing them up close has been really fun. I'm thinking about doing something like a zine with the pictures. There's a photo publication I really like that comes out weekly in the UK by Café Royal Books. They do a really nice print job and I really love their series. I'd like to do something like that of my own because I want to do something with the older stuff. 

At times, your work feels like it's much older than it actually is, how would you describe the way that you take pictures? 
I don't like setting shots up. All of the photos have just happened naturally, so I'm not trying to make things look like they're in the '60s and dress people up in costumes and do stuff like that. I think it's just more about saving a moment that can live on for a long time. I take the kind of images that I'm personally attracted to when I look at other photographers work or what bands have done in the past. I think the photos that work best sometimes can be like a goofy look or something where somebody's messing around. I feel like my job is to record and that's what I contribute. If you could record it and make it look even better than it was in real life by giving it an air of mystery; you don't know who these people are but you're interested to find out what their story is. I think my influences, combined with the camera I use help create that look. 

Can you talk about the camera that you're using a little bit? 
For about the last ten years, I've been using a Lomo camera. So all of the pictures on my website are using the Lomo LC-A camera which is a fixed lens 35mm point and shoot. It's so small and compact that no one really notices it. I'm quite shy and I don't like sticking giant cameras in peoples faces, but with that said you do have to get physically close since it's fixed. You set everything manually and it has a limited array of options. It makes you work really hard to get the picture and after using it for so many years, it feels good being so comfortable with it. 

What do you look for when you edit your own work? 
Recently I've been enjoying the pictures that have loads of stuff going on in the frame. Where there's a lot in the frame and you can pick out what each person is doing. The general feeling I like to get from my work is a happy one. I want my photos to make me want to go out, meet people, see people smiling, or make people feel like they wish they could have been there. I guess the other feeling is nostalgia - I think that's a really powerful feeling as well. 

Give me three photography books to look up: 

Can you describe one of your favorite images that you've taken? 
I took this one for a friend's label in London on Regents Canal. She wanted some 1960's type Italian film stills to be the main image of her website. I think what I love about this picture is that it just draws you in. When it came out, I was really pleased with how the bridge and canal all came together. I'm proud of this image, it came out even better than I thought it would. I also have a tie to the person in it, because she's my close friend and I miss her because I live in a different country now. It keeps me close in a way because I can see her whenever at the click of a button. 

How'd you end up on a Billy Childish cover? 
When I was working at the record store in London in my mid-twenties, I met a guy there who was a fan of Billy Childish and had been into that scene for a long time. He told me about the Buff Medways and The Masonics as well, which is another band with Mickey Hampshire and Bruce Brand that are still going strong today. 

So I started going to the Buff Medways shows and I just loved it! I started going backwards and finding out about Thee Headcoats, Thee Mighty Caesars, Thee Milkshakes, etc. I was just really into it and would go to as many shows as I could. It was my favorite night out in London. I started taking pictures at those shows and I used to get prints made of my pictures. So I actually took the prints to a reading that Billy Childish was doing because they turned out really nicely and I thought, I'd just give them to him so he's got a copy as well. He really loved them and gave me his latest poetry book as like a swap. That encouraged me to do it more, because he was so sweet about it and receptive; he seemed to really like them. So anytime I got more prints made, I would just give them copies…not to try and become friends with them or anything, but just so they could see the latest set or whatever. From that he actually gave me a couple of books.

I remember one time I was at an exhibition at the Proud Gallery (where I was interning) and Billy and his wife Julie came to an opening. I knew they were coming, so I took some prints to give them and that time he pulled out this huge book of paintings from his bag. It was like a £40 book! I just really treasured that book afterwards. He obviously kept the prints and then decided to use them. The first time he used one was on that album Thatcher's Children and then he used them again for this new record Acorn Man, which was interesting.

I love this image, could you tell me more about it? 
Oh thanks! I like that one too. It was on the first roll I took in Nashville, back in June when the Rolling Stones played LP Field. This was inside the stadium before the show. I saw this Stones fan and loved her hair so much! I think the back showed off the hair so well and it looked very '70s. 

Top 5 bands from the past or present:
1. The Rolling Stones
2. The Smiths/Morrissey 
3. The Who
4. The Buff Medways
5. Smokey Robinson and The Miracles 

Top 3 records (recent):
1. Wild Billy Childish & CTMF - Acorn Man 

2. Death Valley Girls - Street Venom

3. Justin & The Cosmics - Home Boy EP

What's one of your favorite records to put on? 
My particular favorite that I have is by Garnet Mimms & Maurice Monk. The song in particular is called "Baby, Monkey With Me."

Check out more of Emily's wonderful photographs here: www.emilybeaver.com


  1. Her work is very cool, it really does look like it's from a different era.

  2. Emily, do you have your work in any Nashville galleries? It's so evocative...just wonderful.

    1. Hi Elaine! You can contact Emily directly here: http://www.emilybeaver.com/contact/

      Thank you for your comment and kind words, I'll pass them along!