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Laura Meek, Belhaven University Alumna, '12

When Laura Meek ‘12 is behind a camera, she sees endless possibilities, angles, lights, and colors that can capture the beauty of a moment or a person. Images are powerful communicators, and she is in the business of not using words, but pictures to conjure inspiration and beauty in the eye of many beholders. Her success as a photographer has blossomed from this love and passion.

Meek is a fashion and portrait photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has clients worldwide and has multi-disciplinary expertise, ranging from lifestyle, editorial, commercial, and fine art content. Meek has produced work for menswear brands Kestin Hare and P.R. Patterson, London perfumer Miller Harris and clothing stores Stewart Christie, North Skate, and Bundu and Bison.

Originally from Baton Rouge and a longtime resident of Jackson, Meek graduated and moved to Edinburgh, but was quick to point out, “I’ve left part of my heart in Jackson.” Recently, her work is spent between client commissions in Edinburgh and London. She frequently gets hired for are portrait sessions and campaigns for brands, specifically fashion and lifestyle. Many of her jobs consist of photo shoots that are used to launch and market new collections and products.

Meek's campaign for London Perfumer Miller Harris

Her photos have a wide appeal to the clothing, fashion market and an integral part of these brand’s marketing campaigns. When employed, the companies will develop and pitch a concept based largely on her photography. They will then suggest a series of shots that are eventually published online or in print, depending on the client and campaign. Much of her published work comes from photos she previously shot, sometimes intended for a different brand or client, and then picked up by a publication.

This year however, Meek has been busy working with London perfumer Miller Harris, shooting photos for a new marketing campaign. She considers this job one of her favorites. “I would have to say one of my favorite campaigns has been my recent collection shot for Miller Harris’ new perfume, ‘Brighton Rock,’” said Meek. “We worked with a model and a massive replica of a perfume bottle alongside Brighton Palace Pier. It was really fantastic, quirky, and just a lot of fun to explore an iconic English pier for a photo shoot.”

Meek's photo shoot for Miller Harris' new perfume, "Brighton Rock"

Belhaven University Professor of Art Gretchen Haien said, “As a student photographer and artist, Laura was not challenged by modern technology nor is she afraid of embracing changes in the medium. Her artistic accomplishments and professional success have been fueled by a strong foundational undergirding in traditional film photography. Even in this digital crazy contemporary world, Laura continues to shoot film as a professional. Her resulting imagery is rich with robust low-key earth tones and values—perfect for a romanticized male fashion industry.”

Meek’s profession is the farthest thing from a desk job. Some of her contract jobs require travel, and she has the opportunity to shoot photos in some of the most beautiful landscapes. One of her favorite photo shoots led her to a rural village in Glencoe, Scotland for tailor Stewart Christie. “The theme was a dashing gentleman donned in lush tweed photographed amongst the highlands of Scotland.”

Meek's shoot for Scotland's oldest tailoring company, Stewart Christie & Co in the Scottish Highlands

Meek’s road to success began early with a revelation. “I caught on early that networking is the lifeline of this business and how you can’t just magically acquire work out of the bubble of academia unless you’ve made connections along the way.”

She started her photography business in 2006–2007 and her work spread broadly across portraiture, local magazines advertising agency commissions, band promotions and whatever else she could get hired for.

A testament to her relentless work ethic, she still worked while studying at Belhaven. “It was a challenge, to me really, while at the University, but also an experiment of how much and how far I could get involved with the local industry, all while pulling the weight of my coursework.”

After she graduated, Meek’s work progressively expanded as her network grew. While she worked as gallery director for artist H.C. Porter, she supplemented that time with freelance photography. She was eventually hired full-time as the in-house photographer for local womenswear brand, Libby Story. She spent any and all free time taking on additional freelance assignments and got involved in collaborations with fellow working artists in the area.

Meek had several years of success as a photographer in Jackson, but felt the pull to work in Scotland. Her connection to Scotland runs deep; it’s where she grew up visiting her Mom’s family as a kid. “It’s my blood, my home, and feels incredible to be here doing what I love,” exclaimed Meek. “Coming to the United Kingdom permanently has been both amazing and challenging. I had to basically start from scratch with my career, especially network. I even spent the first six months on a personal residency to have a complete overhaul on my portfolio, direction, and vision for my work. Nearly five years later on this side of the pond, living in Edinburgh, and my work is flourishing like never before. I really couldn’t be happier with how things have transpired.”

Meek has created a highly successful and sustainable business, and believes that creativity can still flourish in the midst of earning a living through art. “I’m constantly connecting dots between creativity and sustainability,” said Meek. “I continually and relentlessly pursue what I genuinely want to shoot and create. I think it’s extremely important as a working artist to figure out the fine line of appeasing clients, but also not losing sight of your own identity.”

Jon Micah Tyson, Belhaven’s Interim Chair and Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, agrees with Meek and adds, “The bottom-line is that you cannot forget who you are in this world of creativity while pairing that commercially for earning a living.”

Tyson continues, "Art processes are a lot like cooking. It's good to be really great at making a particular food! You know the recipe, you execute it at a really high level, and people enjoy eating it. A lot of artists feel trapped by this. They feel trapped by markets, or culture, or fear, and they only make that one thing people tell them they're good at because they're afraid of failure. They forget how they became so good at making that thing in the first place. The challenge is to stay in the kitchen. Grow, experiment, fail, and break your own rules. Art is about life and life is always out there happening. The goal is to filter that life and experience through the unique lens that God has given each of us, and when an artist does that, that's when we say the things that matter most."

Two exhibitions, one in Edinburgh and one in London, have been the direct result of Meek’s connecting the dots between creativity and sustainability. Her first exhibition in Edinburgh was titled “Reverence,” and was a retrospective of landscapes she shot in various territories in Scotland and the Pacific Northwest. “These are all quiet moments caught amidst the breathtaking scenes of the Scottish Highlands and my response and connection to the land in a reverent expression. This was shot over a course of three years and is on display in two locations in Edinburgh.”

Meek’s second exhibition is her Brighton Rock series which was commissioned and shot alongside her campaign for perfume brand Miller Harris. “They have an art gallery store and rotate exhibitions on a bi-annual basis,” said Meek. “The timing was perfect to propose the idea of shooting an atmospheric series of Brighton Palace Pier, capturing the beauty in the ordinary on an instinctive response while in Brighton on the job.”

Meek's work on display in Miller Harris' exhibition and art gallery store in London

She ended up spending an additional few days added onto the backend of some London work trips to work on the series and get a solid collection of imagery that would work together in the curation for exhibition launch. The Brighton Rock exhibition was on display in Canary Wharf in London, December 2019.

Meek believes every student coming out of the Belhaven’s Visual Art program has the potential, knowledge and tools to succeed. “One of the best parts to the art and photography program is the sound discipline that is directed in whatever you are wanting to pursue,” observed Meek. “Learning your tools like the back of your hand and applying that to your creative spirit and vision is essential, and we learned that from square-one in our freshmen year.”

She highlighted the high standard of teaching from the art faculty and that they approach each student’s talent and skill with a desire to shape and mold them into great artists. Meek said, “On top of all of this, the level of expertise, knowledge, and taste found within the faculty is unfathomable.” She points out that students graduate from the program “chiseled” and in many ways defined as artists and ready to take their next steps in their careers. Meek adds, “It is a truly unique program and anyone who is lucky enough to experience it will forever be grateful. I know I am.”

  • Become as fiercely prolific in your own work as much as possible.
  • Get involved with the local industry before graduating.
  • Go and meet with others at art shows, concerts, and social events. These are the places you will be meeting most of the people who are going to be involved in the industry.
  • Develop relationships with fellow creatives in your area. See how you can collaborate and learn from each other. I found that through this sort of lifestyle, I not only made an amazing set of friendships, but found some very unique work opportunities that I never would have dreamt of nor could have found simply on LinkedIn or Craig’s List, etc. people want to hire other people whom they like and get on with.
  • Make some goals, but don’t restrict yourself to them.
  • Be open-minded with a keen eye and quick draw. I think we are capable of far more than what we give ourselves credit for, developing a solid community and support system is really beneficial for building confidence and challenging skills.
  • Be kind. Don’t forget about manners, because your creative integrity relies on good reputation and solid work.
  • Cast your net pretty far and wide, and hope that eventually it will come back around.
  • Good impressions and hard work pay-off, and word of mouth will get you far. You just have to be persistent and open-minded to what is expected and even more importantly: unexpected, as well as seeing the big picture amidst the little seeds in conversations and collaborations.
  • You have to bear a fair amount of courage to muster up a pitch to bigger and bigger clients and just stand with confidence in your work and ideas.

http://laurameek.com