The eye behind the camera for our ES shoot, Croydon-born-and-bred Quarcoo approaches her craft with a powerful delicacy and emotional sophistication that belies her years.
She has a way of connecting with her subjects that is clearly visible in her raw, honest portraits that make it to albums (Maverick Sabre) and magazines (i-D), while in her private work she aims to give her lens to mainstream media’s forgotten and unseen.
Who is the most stylish person who ever lived?
Prince. The fluidity, the bold expression. He had so many iconic outfits but was not rigid to one kind of look.
How could London better support you as a creative?
I think I’m lucky because I’ve experienced a lot of peer-to-peer learning. My generation talks a lot. If someone wants to engage with art, there’s a lot of funds out there but it’s hard to find them.
Describe your favourite item of clothing.
I have this Tibetan style bed throw I got in Camden market, which I wear as a massive scarf. I could be wearing a tracksuit or my pyjamas underneath and the scarf makes it look like this grand outfit.
How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in Croydon and lived there most of my life. I always interested in video games, funnily enough, and my interest in photography game later through media studies, where we had a few creative modules and I got to experiment with cameras. I was always the friend that took pictures of the other friends so it became habit. I studied photography at uni then started working jobs alongside freelancing. I worked at Toni & Guy in their video department and at the MET film school managing their kit room, which was an introduction to the more technical side of video.
Which area of your work speaks to you the loudest?
The conceptual element, though there isn’t always a heavy concept with every project. I’m most inspired by the people I shoot. A lot of the people I photograph aren’t conventional models but if I can sit and talk to them and find a way to connect we can always shoot something really beautiful. You get a vulnerability and the outcome is refreshing, whereas I find that if I’m working with models, l am doing lots of the same.
I always felt like an outsider, in terms of how I look, being quite tall and quite big, so working with people who I could connect with erased that. It’s not about photographing how they look. When I’m taking a picture of you, it’s another representation of someone who feels like they’re not seen.
What has been your pinch-me moment?
Being nominated for New Wave because I felt very unseen. Even though I was working and I’ve had a steady career, the industry can be very viral in the sense that there’s a pressure to be seen. I don’t feel very viral, so to be nominated was like, ‘oh ok someone has decided to say, “hi”’.
In a sense it was reassuring, just because you’re not viral doesn’t mean you still can’t make work and make changes and be seen
Where do you go out in London?
I’m not going to say I’m a granny, but I guess I am a granny. I love going to craft markets and car boot sales for quirky furniture, camera stuff and I’m really into jackets.
Which song would you take to the grave with you?
Anything by Alt J. Their music can touch your imagination like classical music, and they’ve got some amazing lyrics.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’m really inspired by musicians and creating some that is inspired by sound and their personality. I’d love to shoot with Andre 3000. He’s so stylish and he doesn’t age.
Did you ever second-guess photography as a career?
No. When I was coming up, if I wanted to shoot a project, I would save money from the job I was working in to put into my photography. I’d book studio time and organise models to come in, or pay or find make up artists who wanted to collaborate. I never sought someone else to pay for it, I had full control, but I was privileged because I was living at home. There are people who don’t have the privilege of being able to skim money off their job. It definitely helped me.