Madeleine Penfold focuses on human emotion and making a positive change through the power of visual media and storytelling. Her aim is to capture authentic emotion and uncovering stories and ideas that connect people together. Her early work focused on music and cultural events. She now focuses on sports, lifestyle, culture and humanitarian projects. 


How did you get started as a photographer and what drew you to your specialisms?

I got started in photography through the interest of exploring things around me. I got into photography when I was quite young — when I was 14. And while my world was quite small then, I was capturing what was important to me then. I’ve always been drawn to things that excited me. In my early 20s, I was interested in music and culture. From my mid to late 20s, as I became more interested in my health and looking after myself, I became interested in sports and movement. 


Who/what inspires you or what keeps you inspired as a photographer?

Personal projects keep me inspired. Doing a variety of things inspires me — and trying to discover new and exciting things that are off the beaten track.


Please tell us about an exciting project or upcoming project. 

There is a girl in West Gambia, Ola. I went to visit her football team. I’m going to go back and see if there’s something I can do to help them get stronger. I’m not sure what it is yet but but I’m interested to see what happens.


What advice would you give you younger self? 

Believe your value.


Looking at your work the lighting is really striking, have you got any tips or kit that you can’t live without?

Lighting is key and good lighting will make or break or picture, but of course the definition of ‘good lighting’ is completely dependent on the individual, brief and situation. Natural light is always my favourite. The light in India is the nicest natural light I have ever witnessed. In terms of studio or on set lighting, I try to bounce or diffuse to keep things soft. Unless I’m working with a subject or situation that needs to be really punchy, then it hard flash (diffuser) and a punchy edit. 


Who or what helped you become the photographer you are today? 

Many people and many things! Perhaps too many to go into. Photographing everything I had an interest in and using photography as a tool for exploration has definitely defined my style. 


There seems to be less women working in the photography industry. Have you experienced this? What do you think could be done to support more women in the industry? 

There’s so many incredible women in the industry. Elaine Constantine and Annie Leibovitz are my heroes. Kate Abbey, Heidi Coppock Beard and Zoe Hitchen are all females working in photography that are just incredible in many ways. Hard working, talented, driven and trail blazers are words that spring to mind when I think about these girls. Female photographers in my experience add another dimension to a shoot and work in a different way, bringing a different energy to a job.  I can only speak of my experience with the men and women I work with. I don’t feel too comfortable generalising saying ‘men are like this’ and ‘women are like this’, because it’s always changing. I prefer to comment on a person rather than gender. Photography is incredibly demanding, physically, mentally, It doesn’t always make for good work life balance. But this isn’t a reason to not do it! In terms of what more can be done – equal representation of how many males and females are put forward for commissions, awards championing female photographers, awareness, conversations – all the things that are already happening but continued and multiplied! 


What’s an exciting project or commission you’ve worked on? 

Bury FC – I am currently working alongside curator Zoe Hitchen and Tom Beal from the BBC. The 3 of us are following the story of the impact the closure of a football club has on a community. It’s incredible, eye opening and raw. 


What’s next for you — any exciting upcoming projects or commissions?

Top secret. 


Have you ever had to make an insurance claim? 

Yes, I have experienced theft of phones, having insurance there adds peace of mind and it’s usually resolved in good time. 


Visit www.madeleinepenfold.com for more info.

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