As I’m in the car on the way to meet Mary for the first time, my 4-year daughter old pipes up “Mummy shall I sing Mary had a little lamb to her?” As I didn’t know her, I thought it was probably best that she didn’t. However, once I met Mary from ETT Photography, I realised that she would probably have loved it. She’s the sort of person, who puts you instantly at ease. The conversation just flowed, and we ended up having a really good laugh together, along with her dog, Rosie, who was the biggest softie ever. My 4-year-old wants to get into everything, and she was just the same. I miss having dogs around. She’s very therapeutic. Sorry I’ve digressed. Yes of course we were working very hard, but it didn’t really feel like work at all. The more we chatted, the more I discovered what an interesting life Mary has led. I’ve always been intrigued by other people’s stories, and it turns out we had a lot in common.
Nothing was too much trouble for her. I’d been really struggling for a while to take any decent photos of my gift boxes and had no idea about composition. Basically, I’ve been blagging it for a while as you can probably tell. Now now be kind! For example, did you know that photographing your products in a triangular shape is much more effective, than having your products all on one level, where they look rather flat. Just placing a few products on top of my gift box made an enormous difference, and add a bit of colour, and there you have that wow factor which I have been searching for, for a long time. You will soon see what I mean, once I post them as part of my rebranding. Watch this space! Here’s Mary at work with contemporary jewellery brand inspiring confidence One of a Kind Club. You can see the finished photos on One of a Kind’s website https://www.oneofakindclub.com/
But not only did I learn about that, but Mary even googled my android phone, and voila, there are actually a whole new load of settings that I didn’t even know existed. Don’t laugh at me, I’ll bet you don’t know everything about your phones either! It was brilliant. I felt like I was having a photography lesson with Mary, but without the test at the end. I’d heard the word aperture, but to be honest, I never really knew what it actually meant. I do now thanks to Mary. It was funny, but we both got really excited about doing a photo shoot capturing liquid pouring. I’ve always wanted to know how they do it, but alas we actually ran out of time to try it. It will definitely be at the top of my list for my next lesson.
Anyway, I thought I’d delve a bit further into Mary’s past and see where her inspiration came from, to turn her into this amazing photographer. It turns out her whole family were massively into photographs. As a child Mary used to rummage through heaps of black and white photos, which she found hilarious. Here’s a selection of some of them. I can see why Mary found them so funny. It’s amazing how times have changed, when you look at some of the clothes they had to wear, especially at the beach.
Top left – Mary’s beautiful grandmother Florence, on her mum’s side who sadly passed away from breast cancer when her mum was just 5 years old.
Top right – Mary’s great grandparents and the majority of their 11 children including her grandfather middle, second from right
Bottom left – Mary’s mum Molly (second left) and her siblings who are all within a year or so in age – photograph taken by Mary’s grandfather
Bottom right – Mary’s other great grandparents on her mum’s side (they look like they’re having a fab time!).
Her mother and siblings spent happy times holidaying in Waxham during the war, staying at the farm (now Waxham Barns) and playing on haystacks. (you’d probably get told off by the farmer if you did that now!) I had a look at Waxham Barns, which turns out is a fully restored, magnificent Elizabethan barn built in 1570 and set in North Norfolk’s area of outstanding beauty. You can now hire it out for a wedding venue just so you know, and it’s also the largest barn in all of Norfolk. It was Mary’s grandfather, George Whitlam, who was Managing Director of Wincarnis (https://www.edp24.co.uk/features/what-a-tonic-the-tale-of-how-wincarnis-energised-a-nation-1-5060028), who had a keen interest in photography, and took many of the photos of her mother Molly and her siblings. I guess we know now where Mother Molly got her passion from.
Not only did Mary get her passion for photography from her mother, but also from her mum’s cousin, Jack Roberts who had a great influence on Mary as a youngster. He worked at Coes Photography Studios in Norwich, and there has recently been an exhibition about him and his photographs of Norwich. Have a look for yourself, they are truly amazing.
It is easy to see, now that we’ve delved into Mary’s family background, where her spark came from. It could be all too easy for a spark to disappear as we get older, but not for Mary. Hers grew stronger, developing from a hobby as a teenager, to pure passion for something that she really fell in love with. How many of us can truly say that about our work? I asked Mary when this really happened for her, when she felt that spark? Basically she read a story about 2 teachers who went off to India with a travel company who organised transport for people around India so she contacted them and in 2000 booked her first ever trip to India, to go off with her camera. Just like that, oh to be that spontaneous now! This trip to India turned out to be not only Mary’s eureka moment for her photography, but also one of the most hilarious travel experiences I’ve ever heard about.
She spent some time in Varanasi, which I had to google. Did you know it’s a city which is also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi, and sits on the banks of the river Ganges in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh? There you go, a little geography lesson for you. Mary also spent time at the Pushkar Camel fair, known locally as Kartik Mela or Pushkar ka Mela. I had to google this as well by the way. Pushkar is a tiny desert town, which holds this annual trade & cultural fair for camel farmers from all over India. Thousands of camels congregate there in what is now a major tourist attraction, where you can feel that you’ve stepped back in time to about 2 centuries ago. I’m not jealous of Mary at all now by the way!
It’s quite amazing that Mary actually made it there at all, as not only did she get off an internal flight at the wrong stop, she then had to go back through customs again and get back on the same plane and sit next to the same person which must have been slightly embarrassing! That’s the sort of thing I’d do.
It’s a bit of a life changer, staying in a third world country and experiencing their way of life. I can relate to Mary’s awe of India, as I lived in Nepal for a year and a half when I was 10 and have amazing memories of the place. Mary has witnessed elephants going around roundabouts along with the rest of the traffic. Not the sort of thing you tend to see at Thickthorn roundabout here in Norfolk. She also got up close and personal with an elephant as it weed all over her shoes, walking down the road from the Amber Fort. I guess it really liked her!
She may have lost her appetite slightly watching an Indian body-building competition on a local TV station, with guys covered in oil and lots of flies, posing to the music ‘I’m a Barbie girl’. Who could get that image out of your head? But fret not, even if she did lose her appetite, I’m sure she found it again on one of her train rides in India where you get about 15 meals (one on average about every hour) on a typical trip, and treated like royalty. Here’s a snippet of some of Mary’s amazing photos from this trip. I can see now why it was Mary’s eureka moment.
Let’s jump a bit back to England, and see how Mary got into the wedding scene? If you look at some of her photos on ETT photography of weddings, it’s the facial expressions that Mary’s captured of these special days, which are just priceless. This is someone who clearly loves what they do. And that’s what happened. She offered to photograph a friend’s wedding years ago, and absolutely loved it. I’m not sure I would love it- trying to take photos of the wedding party on the quay, whilst bobbing up and down on a boat. I’d probably get seasick. Luckily Mary didn’t thank goodness and had a fantastic time. In her words “I loved being part of their day, chatting to the guests and capturing those small special moments of interaction between the couple and their guests”.
Mary carried on doing weddings in her spare time, but back then she really didn’t think it would be possible to make a living as a photographer. She went back to India in 2014 with her partner Kevin, and by this time Mary had gone digital, and managed to take thousands of photos, having the confidence this time to approach people for their portraits. Some of these travel images Mary sold to photography stock libraries. Have a look at them here.
Whilst continuing her photography as a hobby on the side, Mary worked for the NHS for 10 years, managing the Performance and Information Team at Norfolk Community Health and Care and supporting all the different community services. I’d like to say that during Mary’s last 2 years there she had a fantastic boss who really supported her and motivated her every day to love her job. I’d like to say that, but my mum taught me never to lie. Let’s just say that it was at this time, that Mary finally took the plunge and left her job to start her own photography business, with the support of an amazing mentor.
And what a business it is. Don’t take my word for it. Check out her work on the link below.
This is how Mary sums up her love of photography.
“Photography gives me the excuse to interact with complete strangers all over the world. I love using it to boost people’s confidence and show them all the good things other people see when maybe they don’t. It’s a solitary thing and a social thing depending on your mood. I love it hands down even though it’s my job and I wouldn’t ever be without my camera “.
Now that is true passion, from a truly amazing lady. Thanks for the pleasure of working with you Mary. We’ll definitely have to do it again 😊
Oh, by the way I’ve just seen that Mary has started doing Zoom 30-minute photography lessons for children. What a brilliant idea. Don’t miss out!