Meet Suzanne Plunkett, a Royal Family and an A-lister’s photographer who for years contributed to Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg. Suzanne joined Calumet Academy a while ago to share her extensive experience with our students teaching them how to shoot like a pro.
We’ve asked Suzanne some questions on how she became a photographer and what inspires her in her everyday work. Here’s what she said.
How did you get into photography and what sparked your passion?
When I was 12 my parents gave me a Polaroid SX-70. I used all my allowance buying films and flash bars for it. I remember being amazed that I could photograph my grandfather biting into an apple and see the Polaroid photo before he finished eating it.
Where did you train to be a photographer?
I graduated from Boston University in the US with a bachelor’s degree in Photojournalism and Art History. However, I learned the most while working for newspapers. Initially, the student paper in Boston, later the Lowell Sun, the Jersey Journal and the New York Times.
Where do you find inspiration?
There’s no substitute for hitting the streets. Even though I spent more than 20 years covering huge events all over the world for international news organisations, I got my start shooting for local newspapers. I loved being part of a smaller community and have recently started a project documenting my local high road in London (MyKilburnHighRoad on Instagram and @MyKilburn on twitter)
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I was born in the United States, but have lived in London for the past 12 years and feel like it’s home. If I left London — and it’s a big “if” — I would definitely stay in the UK, but might head north for some fresher air!
What equipment do you shoot with?
What is in your bag on a photo shoot?
It really depends on the shoot. Generally, I use the zooms for event work and the fixed lenses for corporate and personal work.
Depending on how mobile I need to be, I use the Profoto lights when I know I will be in one place and the speed lights and MagMods when I will need to move about. I don’t work with assistants, so my choices also depend on transport options! I couldn’t do it without my Think Tank wheelie bags!
How do you work with natural light?
American writer Bill Bryson isn’t far from the truth when he described Britain as rainswept and dull, “a land without shadows. It was like living inside Tupperware.”
I suppose the photographer’s version of this is like living in a huge softbox. I don’t fight natural light as it’s a treat when the sun shines. I use it to my advantage and if necessary enhance it with lights and modifiers.
Your work is amazing, what do you look for when taking a photo?
I have always looked for quirky moments, but with my background in photojournalism, I still always look for that one shot that will capture an event. Now that I ‘ve left the day to day demands of press photography, I’m enjoying being able to look for offbeat moments of everyday life without an editor shouting about getting “THE” shot.
Which photography genre is your favourite, the one you can easily say is your strength?
The photographer that first made a major impression on me was Robert Frank. I adored his point of view and how he expressed it in his street photography. While I love shooting in the street, I need a mix of different types of photography to challenge me and keep me interested. I’m a bit of a chameleon in this respect. I am equally comfortable on the side of a football pitch shooting a match, or searching for moments along Kilburn High Road.
Your work is very distinctive, what would be your dream assignment if you could do anything at all?
I would love to take “My Kilburn High Road” on the road and spend time shooting various high roads and the people that populate them around the world.
Have you ever been published and where?
I’ve worked as a staff photographer for the Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg, on countless high profile assignments, so it’s fair to say I’ve been published in every major news publication throughout the world.
Check out Suzanne’s workshops at Calumet Gallery here.