Suffolk's sharp shooter
PUBLISHED: 12:25 14 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:57 20 February 2013
When Anna McCarthy acted on a friend's advice and bought a good camera on a trip of a lifetime to India, little could she have guessed the huge impact it would have on her life and career. Dave Gooderham reports
When Anna McCarthy acted on a friends advice and bought a good camera on a trip of a lifetime to India, little could she have guessed the huge impact it would have on her life and career. Dave Gooderham reports
Anna McCarthy readily admits that a two-month trip to India with her husband was meant to be nothing more than a much-needed holiday.
What transpired changed her life and pushed her into a completely different career at the age of 33.
Encouraged by a photographer friend to buy a decent camera for the break, and armed with his ten top tips to take a good picture, Anna unleashed her creative side and has never looked back.
She is now one of the best-loved photographers in the county, as happy to take family shots at Felixstowe Ferry, weddings at Blythburgh Church as she is to photograph the likes of celebrities Rick Stein and Michael Palin.
But up until the two-month visit to India in 2000, she had never seriously picked up a camera.
She explained: Most photographers start very young or take after a parent or grandparent. My family are all pretty creative and many have art-based careers. I was also creative but that visit to India was the catalyst that got me hooked on photography.
Tom Owen-Edmunds, a wonderful photographer and a great friend of mine, said I needed a good camera for the trip and he literally sat me down and told me how to take good pictures, even giving me his all-time top ten tips.
It was meant to be just a holiday but India is the most wonderful place to get into photography. I knew what I wanted to do when I came back to England.
After undertaking a number of photography courses, including a diploma at the London College of Printing, Anna started her own business in 2002 and hasnt looked back since.
Her love of Suffolk, which she uses for constant inspiration, and the freedom that photography brings seems a lifetime away from her previous London and office-based existence.
After studying English and art history at university, her desire to live in London eventually led to a ten-year career at the BBC as an editor and subsequently a commissioning editor.
She worked on books with the likes of broadcasters such as Palin and Stein, both of whom she now regards as friends, and also commissioned Terry Wogans official autobiography.
But as the years passed in the corporation, her creativity was yearning to get out.
Anna, 43, said: In the late 1990s, the BBC was going through a lot of changes and I was becoming very frustrated in my job. I was a creative person who was facilitating other peoples creativity and I didnt want to do it anymore I wanted to be out there doing the creative stuff.
It had been a great job and I met some wonderful people but I knew it was time to leave.
But one very good thing did come out of her career at the corporation she met her future husband John.
Less than ten years before that first chance meeting, their lives were very different. As John was being held hostage by Islamic Jihad terrorists in Lebanon, Anna admits she was cut off from the real world living the student life.
She revealed: John was a hostage for all the years I was a student and then some. I always joke to him that I was never part of any campaign to get him released. I was never a Friend because I was too busy leading the reprobate student life.
For me, the county is a slow burner but now I absolutely love it. Suffolk is such an inspiration for me photographically with its massive skies, lovely light and the coastal scenery.
Then my friend lent me (fellow hostage) Brian Keenans book and I just couldnt put it down. I was reading it through the night and even as I was walking down the road.
The next morning at work, my boss asked me by chance if I wanted to work on a book with John. It was only after finishing Island Race that we got together.
The couple were married in 1999 and now live in Woodbridge with their four-year-old daughter Lydia.
Anna praised the role her husband had in encouraging her to make such a life-changing career decision when she started Anna McCarthy Photography just three years after they were wed.
She said: It was a brave decision to leave a good job at the BBC but John was incredibly supportive.
I had changed my career quite dramatically and there was an incredible financial investment. I was earning nothing for a while. But at the time, I felt so blessed to be able to satisfy this creative side of me.
Having been raised in Sussex, Anna admitted she arrived in the county kicking and screaming, but Suffolk soon won her over.
For me, the county is a slow burner, whereas you can go to somewhere like the Lake District or Dorset and it is easier to fall immediately in love, she explained.
But I now absolutely love Suffolk and it is such an inspiration for me photographically with its massive skies, lovely light and the coastal scenery. I have a theory that you can never be unhappy when you are in Southwold, but I also love the likes of Shingle Street, Felixstowe Ferry and Pin Mill.
That said, as a photographer, I am not so drawn to the picturesque sides of the county. I am more attracted to the grittier v
v side of Suffolk although it does have the most incredible churches, which I particularly love to photograph when I shoot weddings.
But the wonderful Suffolk landscapes are not the only thing from which Anna draws inspiration. Just two years after she started her business, she had her first child, Lydia, who was born two months premature and weighed just under 4lbs before making a full and healthy recovery.
She admits juggling motherhood with a successful business has been challenging, but also that becoming a parent has helped her become a better social photographer.
She explained: Sometimes I feel like I am trying to do too much. Generally, there is a lot of pressure on women to do everything as well as be the perfect mum.
There are times I would like to see Lydia more but she is also a joy as well as photographic inspiration.
John and I have been on some
amazing journeys together and I think we work well because we respect each others lives and space.
They are of course the two most important people in my life and although marriage, parenthood and careers are a journey, with its challenges as well as delights, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have met such a special person as John and incredibly blessed to have had Lydia.
Anna was speaking on the same day John helped launched the BBC appeal for victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan.
Alongside her photography business and her role as wife and mother, Anna also somehow finds the time to help with a number of charities.
She started a photography studio at homeless charity, Crisis, and worked with juveniles at the Carlford Unit in Hollesley Bay prison.
She is also very proud of her work with the organisation Lapwing in Suffolk, which provides individual learning programmes for young people who have complex barriers to learning.
It is Annas incredible passion for people, life and photography that has made her such a success today.
It was a brave, and to some extent risky, decision to leave a good job at the BBC but you feel Anna was always convinced by her own creativity and sheer will to succeed.
She said: I made a conscious decision that I was never going to do another job which involved being in an office day-in, day-out, full of bureaucratic, high-powered meetings.
After I left the BBC, there was the immediate sense of what was I going to do next? I have always had a very strong work ethic and I didnt just want to be married with no role.
It is just about what you want from your day-to-day life and what you want when you wake up in the morning. I just had to follow my passion.
For more information on Anna McCarthy Photography please visit http://www.annamccarthy.com/