PHOTOGRAPHER Missy Swift studied her craft at Rotherham College before going on to complete a degree in moving image, media and photography. But it is only since launching herself as Happy Alien Photography that the 23-year-old feels she is taking her skills to the next level. She told us about what fires her imagination, her use of technology and her plans for 2021.
Q: When did you realise you had a passion for photography? Have you always been creative?
A: I think I've always been creative since I was little, whether that was painting or drawing. but photographs were my focus.
I think it started when I used to scrapbook paparazzi photos of celebrities or photoshoots from magazines. That has influenced me to focus on the reality and imagination of people or their surroundings. The fact I can produce an image and bring a uniqueness to it in a way that will make someone go ‘Wow!’and inspires me to keep on creating.
I always express my creativity in my mood and how I feel in that moment as well as exploring the reality of the world and see it in a different light.
That goes for human beauty, too - I want to keep exploring it and get better at showing the world this is what beauty is.
Q: Can you tell us about how your interest developed through school, college and further training?
A: I spent six years studying photography but feel I learnt so little during this period as I was still figuring out my style and approach to photography.
I have always been shy and not confident enough in showing my work to other people but since finishing my studies and having some time to explore my artform, I have created Happy Alien as my platform.
I have gained more confidence in showing my unique side where I can gladly say: “I come in peace to tell you that I am a very happy freelance photographer to be trading as Happy Alien.”.
It means I can continue developing my interest in photography in my own time without being told to do something for an assignment.
Q: What is your preferred medium of photography? Do you have a favourite piece or pieces you have produced?
A: My ideal photography is all digital based, where I can explore so many genres. I do find my black and white shots to be my all-time favourites as I find black and white imagery always shows a true sense of reality and captures interesting moods.
I would love to get into 35mm film one day and explore more of that medium for more creative expression.
Q: Much of your artwork makes use of extreme close-ups. Is this something you're especially interested in, and how do you manage to make the shorts so sharply-focused?
A: I find with macro shots you can have so much fun with them, especially in the editing process. You don't want to find yourself with boring photography - everyone seems to go for flowers when they first get into photography. I want to be so much different from others. I am always interested in the beauty of nature and how it surrounds us 24/7 but my main focus of 2021 will be portraiture, so that will be a fun subject to further develop in.
Q: Do you make use of digital technology and software to explore your talent and ability?
A: Everything I do is on a digital camera. I'm not one to use a new fancy camera - I have myself a Canon 600D and it gets me by, with the help of Photoshop and Lightroom to make my photos have that extra “wow” factor to them.Hopefully, in the near future, I can explore a surreal aspect to my photographs.
Q: Are there any pictures, photographers or styles that have particularly inspired your work?
A: I look at so many photographers on social media - some are from Rotherham. But films and documentaries inspire me so much with my photography, too, and Pinterest is also a fantastic platform to gain inspiration from.
Q: You were recently the featured creative in Rotherham Creative Network's showcasing of local talent - what have been the highlights of your involvement with other art and culture figures in Rotherham, and what challenges have you faced in developing and finding an audience for your work?
A: I was quite excited when Rotherham Creative Network got in touch, I would have never thought they would have come to me for a spotlight. It was fantastic to see my story and journey as a Happy Alien on their platform - I think they are such an amazing group that finds and helps others get noticed and take inspiration and show that Rotherham has great creative people within it.
One of the challenges I have to face on a day-to-day basis is competition from other local Rotherham photographers - you have to somewhat be better, in a sense, to get the attention from an audience. I can feel others get more attention than me and don't put any effort in their photos. And there's me, who has to have that perfect shot or my confidence just fails me and I almost want to give up, but then I think I will get to that level one day.
Q: Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the cultural sector, as on all areas of our lives. What impact has it had on your own working and personal life - and what ways of living and working differently have you explored?
A: Coronavirus has been difficult for everyone and it's been the hard for me, especially with my anxiety. I found my photography has been my safe haven. Although I can't travel places for newer projects in a way like I had planned, I always find a way with nature and capture some beautiful shots. During the first lockdown in March 2020, I sent a photograph to the Capturing Rotherham photography competition and was one of the three winners so that was some positivity to my 2020.
Q: Can anyone be a photographer? What would you say to those who might think they have no talent?
A: In my opinion, I don't think you can, but you can develop into one with a great mind set, and with the passion to create a story with your photographs. I hate when people take crappy photos and tell others they’re a photographer where I stress on a daily basis, thinking about whether my photo was taken perfectly.
Everyone has a talent for something and if they want to take on photography then go for it but just don't go for basic boring shots - nobody wants that any more.
You have to go bigger or go back home to Mars, as Happy Alien would say.