PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 February 2014
GEMMA CLAPP talks to Andrea Duncan about her journey from German schoolgirl to popular Somerset photographer
Photos by Andrea Duncan
Taunton-based photographer Andrea Duncan’s work is all about reflecting the personality of the people she photographs.
Whether it’s for a banner on their business’ website or a set of family photos, Andrea works with the clients to ensure they look and feel their best.
It’s something that Andrea has strived to do since she first took up photography at high school in her hometown of Stuttgart in Germany, despite her love affair with the art form being discovered almost accidentally.
“I went to an after-school club and the options were either the school newspaper or photography. I chose photography as I wasn’t much of a writer, and have been a photographer ever since,” Andrea explains.
“When I finished high school I went to college to study photography, so I have studied it and lived it for most of my life.”
After college, Andrea moved to the bright lights of Munich to work for a high-end portrait photography company. It was here that she truly learned to stand in the clients’ shoes to ensure they got the best of the experience; after all, you can be an amazing photographer but if your subject isn’t at ease and comfortable, you’ll never get the perfect shot.
“What’s really important is that many people say that having their photo taken is a bad experience for them - they feel awkward and self-conscious and don’t know how to pose or stand in front of the camera. It’s important to remember that no one is unphotogenic – it’s down to the photographer to find the right angle and the right light to make them look their best.
“Sometimes I ask other people to take my portrait as I think it’s important that I don’t forget how it feels. So many photographers just hide behind their camera, but to get a good portrait it is much more of a collaborative process for me. I can try my hardest, but if I don’t have the trust of the person I’m taking pictures of, nothing I can do will make the perfect picture. Technically it might be faultless, but that means nothing to the person buying the photograph. They want to l ook at it and say ‘yeah, I look good in that’. It’s not just showing teeth – it’s a real connection. That’s of upmost importance for me.”
So what brought Andrea to Somerset?
“I met my husband, who is from Taunton, while I was living in Munich. After a few years I agreed to move to England with him and fell in love with Taunton and the rest of Somerset. The pace of life is much slower, meaning I can appreciate everything more,” she explains.
Andrea landed a job at Taunton-based printing firm Debenhams Print working on beauty campaign photographs for the likes of Chanel, Dior and Burberry. While it wasn’t a photography job as such, Andrea’s role was to colour perfect – it was her job to ensure Nicole Kidman’s lips were the exact shade of red of the lipstick the photograph was advertising and had a high end quality, as during the printing process this can often be distorted somewhat.
Ten years later and Andrea is still working and living in Taunton, but has set up her own photography business, allowing her to work across several different styles of photography, tying in her vast experience in both Germany and England.
“I do a mixed range of photography now. I do a lot of business portraits, which is something that is really changing and becoming more important. If you go on a website, it’s like an extended shop window – you judge the business instantly on how the website looks, so it’s important the photography is right,” she explains.
“I like to tease the personality out of the person – it doesn’t just have to be a mugshot in front of a white background! Of course, if it’s a lawyer or solicitor it has to be more formal, whereas if you take a portrait of a florist you can be a bit more lively, and people relate to that.”
But for Andrea the ‘icing on the cake’ is her wedding photography. While the days are long and are both mentally and physically exhausting, she loves every moment of being a part of a couple’s special day.
“It’s a pleasure and a complete privilege to join that couple and capture the emotion of the day,” she says. “It’s not just about taking a photo of cutting the cake, of the vows – I mean, if you just want that, that’s fine, I’ll do that, but for me it is about capturing emotion. That’s what will trigger memories and will be beautiful keepsakes.”
For now, Andrea isn’t sure what exciting future her photography holds, but one thing is for sure: she will continue photographing the beautiful people and places of Somerset for as long as she can.