This week we had the pleasure of chatting with Irish freelance photographer Hazel Coonagh, all about her impressive portfolio of work, how she got started in the industry, and her exciting plans for the future.
How did you first get into the industry?
I didn't study photography so when I left college (DIT Visual Communications) I set up as many photography based internships as I could. That's when I started to build up contacts and experience that helped push things forward.
Can you describe a typical work day?
More or less every day is different. Once I'm out the door in the morning it can be anything from a day in a studio to a day in a field.
What motivates you?
I worked at a few soul destroying jobs when I was younger. I'd say that alone pushed me to never go back to doing something that I didn't like.
How do you integrate social media into your career as a photographer?
Of course it's something that has to be done these days, but I enjoy it for the most part. Instagram is one I use every day, obviously it's great for photographers, it's also a good way to connect with other people and get work. I also have a wee Tumblr blog and I'm reluctantly on Twitter but that only really gets used to share the odd tune or Instagram picture.
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
I think being able to pay the bills doing what I love is the biggest achievement in itself. A few things that stick out as highlights… my first ever magazine cover shoot happened to be with my personal hero Damien Dempsey, I had an exhibition a few years back based around my father's final working days before retirement which went really well, and around that time I won a global photography competition which sent me to NYC as part of the prize. More recently I got to photograph many of the key players involved in the Yes Equality campaign for Irish Tatler which was personally really exciting to meet and work with so many inspiring women.
Have you any advice for people thinking of entering the industry?
Perseverance is most important. If it's something you really love then that will drive you to keep trying, just know that it won't all happen over night and that's completely normal.
Is there anyone that influenced you to take this career path?
Not exactly, I'm the only photographer in my family and I developed an interest in it as a kid which naturally evolved in to me pursuing it as a profession. Though there were people along the way who certainly helped and inspired me to continue.
I had a great art teacher called Mr Bunting who taught me how to use a manual film camera and he was the first person who really encouraged me in photography. He really helped me get in to my PLC course too which was the first step after school. I then discovered Rich Gilligan in college who I knew as a skate photographer initially but then saw him go on to do so many other amazing things, still very inspiring.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
All in all I hope to still be my doing what I'm doing but on a larger scale. I have a big list of goals and ideas I'd like to get through over the next few years. Setting up another exhibition and group exhibition, making a book, starting up a studio, more work abroad, more collaborations, buy a trans am, adopt a Pekingese. You know, the usual.
What is your pet peeve about working in the industry?
Working for yourself can keep you up at night, there's so many little things you've got to remember to do.
What do you do to relax and unwind after a long days work?
Eat all the food, play guitar & sing, video games, watch Ru Pauls Drag Race, documentaries or old Hollywood movies. I'm also a big fan of sleep.
To keep up with Hazel and her work, make sure to check out her website, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.