London-based Scottish photographer Malcolm Menzies grew up in a family of artists on the idyllic island of Iona, so it’s perhaps no surprise he pursued a career in the visual arts. Here, he tells us how he found his foothold in photography and how to perfectly capture the essence of someone’s home.
I grew up on a small island on the west of Scotland called the Isle of Iona, surrounded by wonderful seascapes and lots of art as my father and grandmother are both artists. After secondary school, I went to Edinburgh College of Art where I luckily fell into photography – I had always taken lots of pictures through my schooling but never thought of it as a career.
After graduating with First Class Honours I moved to London thinking I wanted to be a fashion photographer but realised that that world is not for me. I then started assisting with lots of lovely people across different areas and learnt a lot about the industry (shout out to the lovely Polly Wreford!). I focused more on what I love, which is interiors, architecture, design, food and beverage, and hospitality. After finding my passion I have been happily shooting ever since.
Sometimes it’s graphic, composed, punchy, atmospheric; sometimes soft, sensitive and ethereal – depending on the subject.
Yes, I love Anders Schønnemann from Copenhagen. He shoots the most wonderful projects with such beautiful muted colours. I am also slightly obsessed with the dramatic works of Gregory Crewdson – such incredible scale, drama and emotion. I have been inspired since I first came across his work around 2003 and am fascinated by the artist. I’d love to photograph him in his American home, to get an insight into the man who has created such modern photographic masterpieces.
Yes, I am very honoured to be able to visit so many lovely places – every day is different, which makes the job so rewarding. Stand out jobs have to be the Maldives for One and Only Resorts. I also go to Germany annually to shoot a luxury dog and cat lifestyle brand, which I have done for about eight years in row. I travel all over in the UK, from fancy hotels like Claridge’s to incredible architect-designed houses which are featured in Elle Decoration Country and Modern Rustic magazines.
The architect that always comes to mind is Pierre Francis Koenig, who did the classic LA modernist house #22, but the architecture I am most drawn to is the strong, balanced Georgian buildings of our past.
In terms of composition there is no difference when people are involved, though I always love placing a person into an interior or architectural shot, as it gives meaning and a sense of place and scale to the building. There is a difference in camera settings as I need to shoot faster to capture the person. To capture the essence of someone’s home, I like to talk with the owners and find out how they use their space, and look for those cosy corners or areas that they like to be in.
We live in Beckenham, where we’ve run a photographic location house for the past seven years: 6ixteen House. The space evolves and changes with new panelling and colours every two to three years, which brings clients back to shoot again and again. Creating a location house has always been a dream for me, being able to get creative in a space, design it and then being able to share it with lots of clients – it’s a great business to be in and we get to meet many interesting people.
I studied it and then started assisting, which worked for me as it gave me some art history and let me experiment with different types of photography, learning it from the very start in the dark room. But if you are passionate and just want to get straight in, find good photographers that you can assist with and you will quickly learn the trade. Ask questions, be kind and if you have that hunger to succeed you will do well.