Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
G’day! I’m Sahala, often better known as Halo or under the pseudonym “EarlGreyHot”, which is a frankly ridiculous name I chose because of my love for Jean Luc Picard and science fiction. I am rapidly approaching 30, am an inhabitant of Nottinghamshire, and am a general “jack of all trades”.
What does your creative career involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
My creative career is trifold, I suppose, but often overlapping. I am a model, photographer and musician. Usually, that would mean being photographed by or photographing others in various locations, situations, fashions and whatnot but with the pandemic, this has morphed into self-shooting in order to keep in line with restrictions. I was fortunate enough to have a basic home studio set up prior to the lockdown and a fairly vast wardrobe and selection of wigs and the like. This has enabled me to essentially become different models for some UK brands that have required photographs of new garments they are selling. My typical day involves lots of dressing up, changing myself into someone new, setting up my sets and lighting and shooting, editing or creating props or sets for another look. It is great fun but also exhausting as I’m essentially doing 3 or 4 peoples jobs at once. However, wow is it rewarding!
What does being a model/photographer mean to you?
I started modelling when I was about 17 and had grand dreams of becoming a famous model and working with all my favourite couture designers but quickly realised that the commercial world is quite rigid. I also fell foul to photography gatekeeping and was deterred from pursuing it until my mid-20s as I truly believed I didn’t have enough money! I loved every aspect of shooting – the pace and constant changes and challenges – so I set about creating a space as a photographer where I could do all of those cool shoots I’d obsessed over, but without the rigid commercial standards. I wanted to open it up to more people, more diversity and make people feel awesome. For me, modelling is a way of expressing myself and channelling all of the different aspects of myself but photography, whilst still about those things, I also largely think about changing the way people look at themselves. We all deserve to have that moment where we think “maybe I am a bit awesome?!”
What’s great about your job?
I love what I do because it’s always changing. It always presents new challenges but within perimeters that are familiar enough for you to still enjoy it and it not feel stressful. This job keeps me on my toes as a creative and allows me to meet a range of people.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
Sometimes things don’t go to plan or come together as you hoped they would and that’s always disheartening. I also struggle with sitting and editing for long periods of time as someone who is on the autism spectrum, so I have had to learn ways of managing that for myself. As with any job, there will be days or briefs that you don’t enjoy as much though!
Do you think t here are any misconceptions about your job?
When it comes to modelling – LOADS. I think there is still a lot of misconception surrounding this and the work that goes into it. The long hours and physical exertion. One of the strange questions I often get asked when I say I model is “who do you model for?” which is quite a big question. I don’t know if there's some kind of preconceived notion that models get one gig and stick with that same thing but for most, commercial or otherwise, it’s whoever is paying. That might be designers or modelling for tutors teaching classes, for online promotions, brands or hobbyist photographers. Generally, models find themselves bouncing from place to place a lot.
As a photographer, I think one of the main misconceptions I get is that we all shoot maternity, families and weddings when it really depends on what you choose to shoot!
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Photographing merch for Download festival and modelling for Alchemy Gothic – both of which made my young, alt kid self very proud. I am also very proud of how my self-shooting ability has grown in the space of a year – as I feel like I’ve grown hugely as a creative during this process and that’s invaluable.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
I was a bartender prior to this, I always kept a foot in the door modelling a little on the side but I just decided to finally start photography and put myself out there online more. In my first year of photography, I worked with almost 100 different models, some more than once and did the vast majority of that as unpaid tests because I wanted to prove that I could deliver before asking for payment. I built up a good reputation and figured out how to use certain social media platforms to market and as word of mouth got around, I found myself with more opportunities. I think if you really dedicate yourself to something and people see that drive and passion, it often pays off. I’ve just been letting it naturally grow that way really, taking each opportunity as it comes!
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
Lockdown has been one of my biggest challenges, to be honest, the other has been my confidence and self-esteem. Lockdown was a case of adaptation and learning new skills but the latter is a constant case of reminding myself that I deserve to be proud. Society can be very damaging sometimes and there is this idea that by 30 you will be financially secure, settled and in a certain type of job. That’s not always the case and we all decide on what we want to do at different times of our lives, based on our different experiences. As an unconventional looking model as well, I remind myself often that that isn’t a detriment. It’s what makes me interesting. We are all our biggest critics and when your job involves putting yourself out there a lot, that can be a challenge but I try to remember to treat myself as I would treat my best friend – with support, kindness, patience and understanding.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
I have! I have noticed more diversity and representation which is amazing. There is still a long way to go but that makes me so happy. I have also noticed a shift in the tides with some darker aspects of the model/photography world when it comes to predators etc as more feel emboldened to use their voices on social media and speak up, educating others.
I guess another misconception is that all modelling is cut-throat and not friendly but almost all of my friends are fellow models and photographers.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
I would say, hey kid – you’ve got some tough stuff ahead of you but remember not to listen to what insecure and controlling, negative people have to say. If you enjoy doing something, that’s a good enough reason. You don’t have to be perfect at something to justify it either. Being different isn’t a bad thing and please start using sunscreen.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Sure! Don’t worry if you haven’t got much money for equipment or outfits – it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with it. There are a million and one ways to DIY things and that doesn’t make any of them less valid. Don’t write yourself out for this or that reason and let your passion shine.
Life is too short to worry about perfection – authenticity is always captivating. Always check references, make some model/photographer friends who are more experienced than you and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t ignore red flags but most of all – it’s art – express yourself and have fun!