I get lost in Millie Benbow’s photography. To me, it’s got this spellbinding quality in the composition of being able to steal glimpses into other people’s lives from a secret vantage point. With her style, there’s no feeling of being staged or posed (even in the deliberate ones), and none of the original naturalness of the moment has been lost. You’re a privileged viewer of a personal and precious moment in time. The pictures also invite a curiosity as to what happened next, like reading a book where a single described instant or image fires the imagination to kind of run on from that point. It’s documentary-style, storytelling photography at its best.
I’ve picked a few of my favourite photos to show you today (and it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I had to stop at some point!), and I’ve asked Millie my questions so you can get to know the photographer behind the pictures
WOW: What’s your tip for getting great wedding pictures?
Millie: Recognise its importance, and give it the time and priority it deserves. It’s easy to see your photography as another tick on the never ending list of things to arrange for the day. It’s been said before, but fifty years down the line when you’re telling your grandkids about your wedding, you won’t be remembering the food, or the place holders or what flowers you had, it will be the photographs you’re showing and sharing and reminiscing about. It’s the photographs that hold all the memories and the faces that may no longer be around. Choose your photographer carefully, and give them the time they’ll need on the day to tell your story.
WOW: How should people go about choosing a photographer?
Millie: There will be photographers that your family and friends recommend, photographers at wedding fairs, and photographers advertising on wedding blogs and in magazines. Where on earth do you start? It is, of course, so important to like the photographer’s work, style and processing.
But my biggest tip is to choose someone you think could be your friend. You will spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than with anyone else, yes even the one you’re going to marry! She or he will see you in moments of stress, emotion and happiness. You want someone you trust to share these moments with you, and you want to enjoy their company.
So many of my couples have said they felt so much better and more relaxed having someone they thought of as a friend behind the camera. I have made some amazing friends in my couples, and have watched their little families grow and blossom. This is a huge part of my job to me. I always try to meet, Skype, or at least chat with my couples before their wedding, or, even better, do an engagement shoot with them, so I can get to know them and understand what they’re about to help us both get the best photographs possible when the big day comes.
WOW: What made you get into photography?
Millie: Like many photographers, it was a bit of a happy accident. My girlfriend Jo bought me my first DSLR for my 30th, and I was happy to mess around with that, learning the ropes shooting Jo, my friends’ kids, my cat Scamp, and whatever else caught my eye. A couple of years later, my friends Sarah and Rosie asked me to photograph their four-day wedding in Brighton. I said no! The prospect of being responsible for capturing one of the biggest days of their lives in photographs just terrified me. However, they persuaded me, and I’m so glad they did as it’s still one of my favourite weddings today. I totally loved every second, and that was it, I was hooked.
I was lucky to get quite a bit of exposure from that wedding, and it kind of took off from there. Photography has, frankly, blown my mind and changed my life. I have met some incredible, inspirational people on this journey, and for that I am truly grateful. There is a real honesty in photographs that I have totally fallen for.
WOW: What’s your favourite thing to shoot other than weddings?
Millie: I’ve taken some time over winter to do more couple shoots and portraits. I wanted to combine the stunning countryside I live in with equally gorgeous people. I have a bit of a thing for photographing red heads and I’m hoping to do a little ‘red head’ project real soon. So any red heads (male or female), get in touch!
WOW: Are you able to leave your camera behind, or do you always want to capture images?
Millie: I usually have my iPhone with me to capture any ‘must have’ images on the go, which often end up on my Instagram feed, but otherwise I like to leave my camera behind if I’m not on a shoot. I’m a big believer in ‘seeing’ things, rather than having to photograph everything in sight.
However, I have some pretty awesome photographers as friends, too, who I admire for so many different reasons. I can’t list them all here, but Emma and Pete (Emma Case Photography), Lisa Devlin (Devlin Photos) and James Melia (James Melia Photographer) have been hugely influential and supportive. One thing all these guys have in common is their openness and willingness to share their experiences to help others. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned and be able to influence others in the same way.
WOW: What words or inspirational phrases do you live by?
Millie: Until just a few weeks ago, I would have struggled to answer this question, however, recently my friend Pete Smyth of Emma Case Photography said these words at a workshop:
Be the artist, know why you are doing what you do, be generous, be giving, share your knowledge and it will come back to you in so many ways, be without ego, ignore the crowd, always be willing to learn, be without judgement, live in the moment, do something that makes you scared shitless when you wake up, so when you go to bed you feel like the baddest motherfucker alive! And that’s exactly it.. you feel ALIVE.
These words sum everything up for me from where my photography has come and where it is going to go.
WOW: If you could photograph anyone, who would that be?
Millie: Wow, that’s a tough question. To be honest, I love to photograph real people. I don’t care what they look like, where they’re from, what they believe in. My aim is to capture the character and spirit of the person. I recently did a little personal project, shooting my folks. It was incredible. I loved it, and I was so pleased with the results. I hadn’t seen them laughing and joking together like they did for years, and this is exactly how I will want to remember them. So I guess if I were to choose, I wish I had been able to photograph family and friends that are no longer with us. And for me, it just emphasises how important photographs are to making and keeping memories.
WOW: What books/magazines/websites/art inspire you?
Millie: I love all things clean, crisp and simple, and I’m slightly obsessed with typography. I love reading magazines like Kinfolk, which totally combines all of these things beautifully in its imagery and its writing. They’ve also released a cook book that I gave to Jo for Christmas (Jo is an incredible cook).
WOW: What music did you or would you choose for your own wedding? For the walk down the aisle, first dance, etc.
Millie: Jo and I are actually in the process of planning our wedding, but want to do things a little bit differently. We plan to elope, maybe in Iceland or similar, just the two of us, maybe a couple of close friends and an awesome photographer, so probably won’t have an aisle or a dance floor! I am crazy about music, though, and music is very much part of my photography. I love to discover new music and bands. When I’m working, I listen to BBC 6 Music, as well as bands like London Grammar, All the Luck in the World, Chvrches and Emiliana Torrini, to name but a few.