Naomi's story: moving from London to Devon

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Naomi Stolow first caught OP’s attention when she won the Wildlife Insight category in the 2015 Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition. For the last 30 years she's lived and worked in London, but a few months ago had a complete change and moved to a remote village on the south coast of Devon. We catch up with her to find out how her decision has benefitted her photography.

OP: You recently moved from London to Devon, where you’re also renovating some milking sheds into your new home, how has this change influenced your creativity? 

NS: Although I’m very busy with the renovation, I’ve been making time to go out with my camera most days, inspired by the beautiful light. I live a five-minute stroll from the sea and near the mouth of two large rivers so the light is reflected almost everywhere .

At the moment, with it being spring, it’s beautifully fresh and bright – even when it’s raining the countryside looks vibrant! I’ve been experimenting with photographing flowers in the rain (something I’d never have done before). Although my old life in London enabled me to travel to some amazing places and have some extraordinary wildlife encounters, I never really felt like myself in an office environment. I feel my photography is changing, it’s becoming more subtle and refined, and I’m looking forward to seeing what my creativity is capable of over the next few years.

Here I have the luxury of waiting to see what Mother Nature throws my way. By moving to the countryside what I’m really doing is buying myself more ‘me time’. Apart from my five years at art school in the 80s, I’ve never really had an extended time to take pictures. Now I have the luxury of waiting and watching, observing and thinking about what I want to achieve. I’m also experimenting more as I have time to have some real fun with the camera. Of course there are elements of living here that are really tough, but I’m up for the challenge.

Plants © Naomi Stolow

OP: What do you find exciting about photographing in your garden and how do you think this has benefited your photography? 

NS: First of all, the red earth in Devon is wonderful and rich, things grow easily and it’s full of life, so I find lots of interesting things to photograph. Worms and snails fascinate me, plus the insects and butterflies are starting to appear now, which I also find intriguing. I’m fascinated by how birds feed; when we’ve dug up some of the garden I like to watch them take the rich pickings of worms and spiders. Watching nature here in it’s tiniest forms is inspiring and I’m sure this fascination is helping me creatively.

OP: How important is change for photographers?

NS: In my London life I craved to be somewhere else all the time, but now I’m experiencing such a big change I can feel my photography moving to new places that I didn’t think was possible before. I’ve gone on lots of trips to places like Africa and India and my experiences there would wake me up, I’d see life afresh. So the short answer to this question is, for now, yes, I do think change is vital. We all need to experience new things, meet new people, experience different cultures, see different wildlife, different weather, all of which enable us to discover fresh and new ideas, motivations and goals that help to keep us going. We can't all travel but we should do what we can.

Clematis © Naomi Stolow 

OP: How have the decisions you made to take full control of what your future holds fed into your photography? 

NS: At the moment I’ve been so busy I’ve not had time to consider this question much, but when I do think about it I feel good because it’s about me giving myself some real chances in life and to produce new work that I can be really proud of. What I’m doing is presenting myself with the gift of time – to waste this opportunity would be unthinkable. I don’t know what I’m going to achieve yet, but I know I'm motivated and will put a lot of hard work into it while having a lot of fun along the way. I’ve taken the plunge and I’m finally busy making new photography in the great outdoors, just the way I like it. What more could you want?

See more of Naomi's work here.

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