Shirley has been a photographer with HSP for close to the last 10 years and helps with packaging shots, website photoshoots and everything in between. We caught up with her recently to get to know a bit more about this Scotland to New York transplant who helps us show off all that Hollander has to offer.
How did you get into photography and how long has it been your career?
Well I always had a camera in my hand. Then I moved to New York and started shooting every aspect of the city. I studied at New York University and then interned with an Italian based company. They focused on commercial shots and capturing people. I’ve been in this business for close to 30 years.
What’s your favorite lens?
I really enjoy working with a 24 or 70 mm lens. It has the zoom and wide angle without being a fish eye. For bedding we use a lot of 50 mm.
Who has been most influential on your photography? Do you have a favorite photographer, why?
Richard Avedon is probably my favorite photographer. He’s 20th century portrait and fashion. He put black and white photography on the map. Henri Cartier Bresson is also someone I greatly admire. He was old school, used a 50 mm lens, did a lot of black and white. He showed how black and white could change your perspective. Back when they used film, you had to have so much patience. It’s not like digital where you can take 100 shots and easily pick and choose. It was a sit and wait method, just be there till you get that shot and it made it very magical.
What makes a picture to you?
Truth, beauty and lighting, the subject: whether it be still life or a model. It’s amazing to see how the light just makes it jump out at you.
What does photography mean to you?
Realizing that I can do something I love as a career, turning a near dream into a reality. That’s huge. When your passion pays, there’s just nothing better. I get to travel the world and live that dream every day. When I was at NYU, we went to Africa and that was just something else. We went to a very remote village and showed people what they looked like. They didn’t really have mirrors and we showed them their face. It was incredible. We changed how they saw themselves. I think that’s an amazing thing to be able to do as a person. I watched their faces light up in recognition that the person we were showing them was them! Can you imagine? It was a fundamental change for them, to recognize that person as themselves. There is such a difference in access to even the smallest, most taken for granted thing here versus there.
What is your greatest lesson to share after being a photographer for the last 30 years?
Just patience. Everyone around you has a story and you need to be the best storyteller you can be. You need to be accurate and integral. This person is trusting you to show them in a certain light and to do it accurately, really to do it right. It’s an absolute privilege that I never take for granted because you’re only as good as your last shot.
What is your favorite part of doing photography for Hollander Sleep Products?
There’s just such a team effort with this group. Us all coming together to the creative table to get the best possible shot. And going from there to getting the approved shot. It can take a couple tries, but it’s always worth it and it’s great to see people enjoying the process and learning from it.
*Author note: I can 100% speak to this having been on a recent HSP photoshoot. A lot more goes into bedding photography than you’d think. Those corners on the end of the comforter, you have to get them just right!
Do you have a favorite bedding product to shoot?
I love to photograph full comforters. It’s a bit of a challenge, especially if there are particular details or a pattern. But if they’re full they just look so lush. Like when you’re finished shooting you want to jump right on in, totally squishy soft.
Who is your favorite person or product to photograph?
A favorite person…hmm. I don’t think I have a favorite person per say. I love shooting kids and of course, Rocky. Smokey the cat, nice gray fellow, is always a challenge to get a shot I’m happy with, but it’s a lot of fun too.
Your dog, Rocky, is quite photogenic. What’s his secret? Does he have a favorite pillow?
Oh Rocky. Well, he gets lots of treats for his good behavior. But more than that, he likes to be a star. That’s why his Instagram is Rocky.Rockstarr. He does it for his followers. He just loves people, loves making them happy, and being with the models.
He is definitely a fancy boy and loves the down pillows. The fancier the better, that’s his style. He also likes the hypoallergenic products and the Cameron tartans compliment him very nicely. You can’t force it though. Bribe him with treats and be patient, then he’ll give you a great shot!