Words by Sasha Bannister
*all images featured belong to Shingi unless stated otherwise*
In today’s interview, I had the privilege of speaking with the London based photographer, Shingi Rice. Better known as Blue, (@bluespit), the 25 year old fashion and portrait photographer’s artistry has been acknowledged by brands like Puma. We speak about her start in photography, balancing university and a budding career, and much more!
Before we begin, would you like to introduce yourself?
A: Hello, my name is Shingi. I am 25 years old and I am currently in East London (though I did grow up in Spain from ages 10-21). I’m a fashion and portrait photographer & recently finished university in the summer of 2018! I am from Zimbabwe too *laughs* I always forget to add that!
Growing up, did you have aspirations to be a photographer or would you consider it more of a hobby that developed into something more? Did you think (when you first started) that it would lead you to your profession?
A: I didn’t… *laughs* I mean, I’ve always loved photography. It’s always been the main one, illustration as well, but I’ve been into photography since my early teens and it’s something that I’ve just worked hard on, without knowing that it would eventually become my career. In Spain, I moved quite a lot, I went to art college (at 18) and that was around the time I got into photography A LOT more. Before then, it was more for the MySpace/Tumblr vibe you know, like taking pictures of random things and not really knowing what you were doing … but when I went to college, it was different. I knew what I wanted my subjects to be and I would just do shoots with friends, playing around. Yeah! I just never thought I would end up making money out of it!
I know that you spent a lot of your time between England and Spain; do you think the change of scenery is what influenced/inspired you to begin taking pictures?
A: Spain surprised me a lot; there’s so much you can work with. London doesn’t inspire me at all. If anything, it makes me want to go back to Spain *laughs*. It inspires me in terms of photography because I come up with so many things. I wasn’t really influenced by moving there, I wasn’t influenced by moving back to London either … but I must say that Spain has inspired the most.
On your website, you explain that one of your driving forces in photography stems from being surrounded by “everything that was non-identifiable” to your own culture. How do you think Eurocentric beauty standards and the lack of diversity (personally) effected you growing up?
A: Before moving to Spain, I lived in a very white, posh area in South London with my parents. I feel like being surrounded by people you’ve got nothing in common with can make you question yourself like, “why don’t I like this, why am I treated like this, why am I -” it’s so many why’s and how’s. Being in Spain, it was also a situation of having to question a lot of everything, but not as much from what I remember. In terms of Eurocentric beauty standards, I think that it didn’t affect me as much because of my mom. Having been with a woman that is so strong, I didn’t have moments where I would feel the need to change my nose, or relax my hair. I’m lucky in that way because it could’ve gone either way to be honest.
Over the last few years, I’ve noticed the rise in appreciation that creators (of colour) have been receiving. Although we still have a lot further to go, the gradual increase I’ve witnessed is refreshing; how do you feel the pace of inclusivity in the art world has been as of late? Are there any creators you’ve noticed, or would like to collaborate with)?
A: Yeah, I do feel like the industry is becoming more aware of creators of colour. I feel that it could be better, I mean it’s 2019 so it could be much better. There are so many jobs – why creatives of colour aren’t being hired, I don’t understand. I think it’s more a case of who you know over what you know. Photographers I’ve noticed are Campbell Addy & Nadine Ijwere, they both went to my uni, and they’re doing amazing things right now. There’s also Jenn Nkiru, a film director who’s also doing amazing things and I would LOVE to collaborate with her.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot more on my end than through the actual university itself”.
You recently got your degree in fashion photography. By the time you graduated (I’m assuming), you had already gotten a reputation for your work. Was it important for you to receive that? Are there certain things that (you feel) you could’ve only learned through school?
A: Yeah, I got a reputation for my work both during uni and after. Like I said before, I think it’s more who you know over what you know so I just… literally worked my ass off for the past four years being slightly anti-social. I feel like that’s gotten me the jobs I’ve wanted and so many other opportunities. Other people who are also from London, who have been in the photography scene for as many years as I have, have hustled as hard as I have.
In terms of school, it was very important for me to receive a degree because it is hard to be recognized in the photography industry if you don’t know a few people, or unless you’ve done an amazing campaign for some brand you know? But yeah, there are a few things I learned at university. I’m a self taught photographer, but in terms of the technical side of things, I learned how things work at a studio, how to work with software and create illustrations, and I had to collaborate with other people. I mean, there’s so many things, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot more on my end than through the actual university itself.
There are a lot of creatives who juggle school and their profession. How was your experience dealing with both? (Eg. Managing your time, etc.)
A: I worked in waitressing, then retail, and then waitressing for another year. I ended up quitting in November 2017 because it was all getting me stressed, dealing with both university and work . I don’t look at it as a negative thing, I think it’s something we could all learn from. It’s a time when I think you learn to understand stress, like real life stress, because during those times is when real shit happens.
As a woman in the industry, it’s almost expected that the work has to be 10x as good to get half the recognition; as you approach your 8th year as a photographer, I’m curious as to what has kept you going? What advice would you offer aspiring creators?
A: Consistency… there’s times when I don’t feel inspired at all and I just want to give up… which is me right now. I haven’t had any inspiration. I guess coming from Christmas, where I just had a break and then coming back to the UK… January tends to be a bit dry anyway, luckily opportunities are coming in. But yeah, I feel like consistency has kept me going… I had heart surgery 5 years ago, and that’s something that really inspired to get into photography more seriously.
So what has kept me going is consistency and not letting uninspired thoughts get the best of me cause *laughs* … so yes, just be consistent, you may even surprise yourself with the results…
You’ve collaborated with brands like Puma and been a part of exhibitions around the United Kingdom & the States. Are there any career highlights that stand out to you/hold a special place in your heart?
A: This past year, I held my first exhibition outside of the UK, one in Los Angeles and one in Denmark! I also got flown out to the States last summer with the U.S Embassy for three weeks on a tour and that was probably one of the top things to happen. Obviously working with brands like Puma was great but not everyone can say they were flown out by the U.S Embassy so that was exciting.
With everything that you’ve accomplished thus far, are there any goals you are hoping to reach within the year?
A: I want to get signed to a major agency and be able to travel for shoots with them. I want to be able to get shoots outside of the UK… the UK is very boring to me sometimes *laughs* … most of the time.
Before we end the interview, is there anything you would like to say to upcoming creatives and/or your supporters?
A: Stay consistent, don’t ever compare yourself… social media is the key ingredient for that. (When starting off) try and assist people, you can always learn from those who have had a few more years in the industry. Send out all those emails! Because they are very needed… and most importantly don’t be scared because on the other side of fear, there are always great things!
See what Shingi is up to @bluespit