Photographer Sarah Burton outside her Hackney, London local – Well Street Kitchen
Who said Kiwis were a flightless bird? Pffft. I love hearing about New Zealanders making a name for themselves in the creative industries overseas – and love sharing these stories with you. So let me introduce you to Sarah Burton, professional photographer, and New Zealander living and working in London.
As well as shooting commercially for fashion and product campaigns, and having a wedding photography business, Sarah works on a lot of personal projects (photography and writing – she’s a beautiful writer) inspired often by travel adventures with her partner (and fellow NZer), filmmaker Ryan Fielding.
Recent commercial work
Various favourites plucked from Sarah’s atmospheric collection of images
Tell us about what you do?
I work at Wolf & Badger Studios in Shoreditch (East London) art directing and shooting content for independent fashion, beauty and homewares brands.
I also freelance, shooting portraits for musicians, artists, travel features etc, and sometimes write too. Then I have my weddings brand, shooting both in UK/Europe and back in NZ. Any chance to get back to NZ for a good chunk of time over the kiwi summer!
At the studio I work with a lovely tight-knit team and through freelancing often collaborate with my filmmaker boyfriend, Ryan.
I love it when I am able to discover or create something new in well trodden territory. Anytime I have a good team, subject, the light is just perfect and my vision is being realised beyond my expectations it is a pretty amazing feeling.
Why London? How did you end up here?
It’s hard to escape the pull of the myth and legend of London, however grimy it may be. The career opportunities, palpable history, abundant art and culture. Plus we had a good base of friends already here.
One of the recent weddings Sarah has shot – the East London nuptials of two expat Kiwis
Where do live and who do you live with?
I live in Clapton, Hackney, East London. In a Victorian town house with my boyfriend Ryan and friend Celia. When we first moved to London Ryan and I lived in a modern apartment and I’m so glad we live here now as it is so quintessentially London. Tall sash windows, ornate tiled fireplace and floorboards with gaps between them big enough to drop a pencil through. I like to watch the family of squirrels scampering around the trees and the occasional fox in the backyard.
Tell us about your lifestyle there – how do you spend your weekends/downtime?
Heading to different areas of London to check them out, so many uniquely different boroughs and still many I haven’t been to.
Visiting art galleries. Vintage shopping. Food markets. In the summer, drinking in parks with friends… in the winter, drinking in cosy pubs with friends. I do pottery at a ramshackle drop in pottery ‘class’ at Hackney City Farm (I use class loosely as you are pretty much left to your own devices.) At the end of last year, I joined a really fun choir called Some Voices Sing, we performed the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet just before Christmas in a grand old art deco theatre which was a culmination of many of my favourite things.
“ornate tiled fireplace and floorboards with gaps… big enough to drop a pencil through”
“Dining room table that folds up, as London homes are very small and need space saving techniques!
Looking down to the kitchen. This is where I sit if I’m working from home.”
A corner of Sarah’s bedroom, with pottery she’s made herself at Hackney City Farm
I’m in your borough: where should I go – that maybe isn’t on the typical tourist trail?
Hackney has become like a village amongst the daunting sprawl of London. I live and work in this borough. I like walking along Regent’s canal, gawking at all the weird and wonderful houseboats.
Places to go: Broadway Market is lovely, I especially like sitting upstairs at The Cat & Mutton pub which was established in 1729. Campania just off Colombia Road – authentic fresh Italian food in a slightly crumbling brick dairy that used to house cows. Plus they leave a chunk of parmesan and grater on the table which is my idea of heaven. Chatsworth Road has lots of independent homewares stores and good cafes, and there’s an unpretentious street food market there on Sundays. Well Street Kitchen, the first cafe I ever went to in London so will always have my heart. I order the £1 mug of builders tea and the smashed chilli avo. Our local Mexican joint Del 74 Tacos on Lower Clapton Road is great for its good playlists, fresh tacos and ice cold Micheladas which are a cross between a beer and a Bloody Mary. London Fields on a hot summer’s day for sun soaked merry making, smoky disposable grills and scantily clad Brits. Cycling through the Hackney marshes. Long grass, wildflowers and blackberry brambles.
London Fields – summer shenanigans with friends
Regent’s Canal, Hackney
One of Sarah’s personal projects – her local neighbourhood, captured through an honest, analogue lens
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Personally I am working on a project shooting on analogue cameras that casts a poetic eye over Hackney. Moments that capture me as I walk around. I usually do this when I move to a new place as everything feels so fresh and vivid.
Professionally I am working on a photo and film campaign to launch a luxury vegan leather jacket brand, and have just completed a series of still life’s showcasing the organic beauty products at Wolf & Badger.
BTS – Sarah shooting on location recently
Sarah and her partner Ryan shooting a destination wedding together in Portugal
What’s great about being away from NZ for your career/work?
I think it’s great to experience a different style of doing things and being able to collaborate with a far larger pool of creatives. I fully appreciate both places – for completely different reasons – they balance each other out.
Can you share the schedule of a typical day in your work life?
I usually have porridge and tea for breakfast which I eat while reading either my current novel or an article online. Take coffee to Ryan in bed (he lives by artist’s hours) and chat about the day ahead. 15-minute cycle to the studio, I try and get there just before 10am. Then I could be shooting, editing, planning a shoot, or a combination of all three.
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you work-wise over the past year?
Trip to Porto with Ryan where we created a film and stills for a bespoke furniture business run by three generations of woman from the same family. The workshop was full of characters straight out of a Fellini film and we got to see another side of Porto far from the tourist trail.
Romantic scenes from Sorrento, Italy
Magic in remote Cappadocia. See (and read) more from Sarah’s journey to this historical destination, here.
What are your fave things about living in London, in the context of career/creatively?
There are just so many opportunities here. Of course there are more people vying for them but at least they are here. The crush of cultural diversity is invigorating and important. Relatively easy to travel to many exciting locations.
What do New Zealanders take for granted?
Really good, fresh produce grown locally. Innate sense of safety. Horizons.
Imagery captured on one of Sarah’s trips home to New Zealand
What’s coming next for you?
Keep working on my long term personal documentary photography projects which will culminate in an exhibition and hopefully a zine or simple self-published book. I also want to make a short film this year.
Career-wise, hopefully keep going in this trajectory – London is brutal for many at the beginning but has been easier and more rewarding every year.