Find Out Why Sarah Toon is a Rarity!

August 22, 2019

Sarah Toon is a rarity!  She has focused her photography career around her love for buildings, construction and architecture. 

Her work has been awarded and published across both industries, and in June this year Sarah achieved her associate with The Society of International Commercial and Industry.  She also holds a Licentiate with the Royal Photographic Society and is a member of The British Institute of Professional Photography.

Sarah is a photographer who is always on the go and loves working on building sites, getting her hands dirty, and on occasion wading through mud!

We talk to Sarah to find out what it is about mud and construction she loves so much!

RISE: An obvious question to kick us off Sarah, but what inspired you to be an architectural photographer?  

I have always loved buildings! When I was younger I thought I might actually be an Architect. I always wanted to build things, but my life took a different course and I worked as a PA for a few years at chartered accountant firm.

After marring and having children I went back to my creative roots.  I have always drawn and painted, but found my love for photography photographing the children.  I very quickly knew I wanted to take this more seriously, so joined several camera clubs and learnt all there was to photography.

RISE: How hard was it for you to break into architectural photography?

On the day the build was complete, I was so overwhelmed by how much I loved the experience, I knew instantly that this was the photographer I wanted to be.   

I actually had a lucky break.  A construction company called me out of the blue, asking if I would photograph their building project from start to finish.  It was a non paying commission, but I took it because the experience out weighed the monetary value of the job, which clearly was none!

On the day the build was complete, I was so overwhelmed by how much I loved the experience, I knew instantly that this was the photographer I wanted to be.   

The environment is challenging, it is sometimes so muddy, I remember photographing up to my calves in mud and loved it!  The people are great, as is the camaraderie. Just everything about it is great fun and of course I am photographing something I love – buildings.

RISE: How do you find it working in an all male environment?  How to your colleagues perceive you?

On the odd occasion I get ‘’Here’s my favourite girl – put the kettle on love!’’

I actually find everyone really pleasant to work with.  Everyone I have worked with to date have been really polite and helpful.  

On the odd occasion I get ‘’Here’s my favourite girl – put the kettle on love!’’

But it is really easy to bat that back and say…

‘…not likely mate, if you want a cuppa great, make it yourself, and by the way, I have mine with milk and no sugar’’

(Laughter)

RISE Totally get that.  It’s great to have banter, but it has to be water off a ducks back right!?

Totally.  I am there to do a job and my professionalism is really important to me.  So I keep it friendly, have a great time and everyone is there to help me, from moving heavy equipment to helping me on the scaffolding. 

RISE:  It is great that you work well in such a challenging environment, which leads us to ask, what is your biggest challenge?

Getting the work.  Because of the nature of construction, a building is completed in stages.  One project can last 18 months, so it is important to have several jobs on the go.  Also the industry really slows over winter and early spring, which brings a little downtime.

RISE: How do you fill those months?

In the past, I worked on my qualifications.  To really hone my skills and challenge me. I love being pushed outside of my comfort zone.

RISE:  Qualifications do that to you.  Best way to learn and improve our skill and craft.  Do your clients recognise that you have professional qualifications and what does it mean to your business?

My clients aren’t really bothered about my qualifications, although they do celebrate my success with me, which is lovely.  They do see me as qualified, but my qualifications are really for me. To build my confidence, to be more recognised within our industry and to give me more of an edge.

RISE:  I guess when you are working towards qualifications, this allows you a little more creative scope?  

It depends on the architecture really, but lines, patterns and perspective is really important.  As is the light, as the reflections in the glass can cause problems. This is a problem with my day to day work too.

It absolutely does!  

RISE:  What do you look for when you are photographing a building?

It depends on the architecture really, but lines, patterns and perspective is really important.  As is the light, as the reflections in the glass can cause problems. This is a problem with my day to day work too.

RISE: How do you get around that?

If the reflections are too strong, I tend to leave that aspect of the building, and wait for the sun to move.  It may mean photographing another part of the building for 20 minutes or so, then I return to the windows once the sun has gone.

RISE: Well, we love your work Sarah, it is refreshing to see a female working in this environment and very inspiring!

Thank you!

RISE:  Before we say goodbye Sarah, what advice would you give our readers, if they were looking to break into architectural photography.

Always look up!  That is where you find the details.

RISE:  And thank you for giving us your time.  We really are pleased to be able to support you and write about your photography.

We look forward to following your successes.

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