Kirsty Smith

Kirsty Smith is a Sportswear Photographer, DOP and Lecturer In Fashion Photography and Image Making.

Here are her first 5 jobs:

1. Dairy Farm Assistant
At twelve I remember wishing I owned a pair of British Knights. I wanted them so badly that I started asking around to find work. Living in Worsley, Salford there where the usual paper rounds and car wash adventures but I was young and ambitious and was on the look out for something more. It came in the form of an inner city diary farm. Ten minutes walk from my house was a small hold which had a heard of around 40 cows. I would arrive every weekday morning at 5:30am to bottle the milk and get it ready for delivery. I still remember to this day the smell of milk on my hands and the stench on my clothes as I would run home to get ready for school. I loved the job. It gave me financial freedom at a young age, made me aware of my ambitions and finally afforded me my long awaited British Knights.

2. Waitress: Nynex Arena
During my college years I was approached to work for Manchester’s premiere music arena. It was an incredibly exciting time in my life. From week to week there were international artists in concert and incredible sporting events. I was employed as a waitress in private boxes before being promoted to suite events manager, organising and looking after private parties held on the premises. I learnt more skills in this job than any since. Safe to say patience and decorum topped the list. Had mobile camera phones been around back then I would have the most incredible book of images today!

3. Sports / Sportswear Photographer
I met my now partner Leo Sharp at university. At the time Leo was a budding skateboard photographer and after we left university we moved to Manchester so that I could train to be a teacher. I took a job in Salford educating teenagers in the art of photography while Leo assisted in local studios. Any free time we had, evenings, weekends, holidays we would shoot like crazy. We travelled in and around the UK, flew out to Europe and spent all our spare cash on cheap places to stay. Leo would focus on the skateboarding while my passion was lifestyle, capturing behind the scenes. I literally fell into sportswear by accident when a few companies saw my work and asked for images to use as advertisements. Before long Leo and I were shooting for Nike SB, Adidas, Girl Skateboards with images appearing in magazines and online. I still love shooting sportswear and have even made skateboarding the focus of my recent research.

4. Head of Creative Practice Newent Arts College
Leo and I moved to Cheltenham after taking a year out to travel having spent four years working solidly to build our portfolios. Travelling allowed us to take stock of that journey and explore the next stage of our careers. I have always loved teaching so when we returned to the UK, I began working in an Arts College in Gloucestershire. Within a year I was acting head of the Art Department and six months later I was awarded the role. I was able to develop an A level course in photography, a vocational arts program and began working for the Specialist Schools Trust supporting vocational arts courses in the South West. These where some of my most exciting teaching years juggling roles, putting in long hours, watching my students grow into independent and innovative individuals. I left the role feeling very proud and very tired.

5. Lecturer in Fashion Photography
Leo and I left Cheltenham fully intending to emigrate to Australia, only to find out weeks before that I was pregnant. With absolute determination we boarded a plane and headed to the southern hemisphere. Things did not quite go to plan and I felt I needed to return to the UK to have our daughter. At this point I could have gone back into teaching but my gut was telling me to take stock and apply for my MA in photography. Falmouth University took a chance on me and I started a full time MA with a twelve-week-old baby. It made me aware of the precious time I had with her and the need to be super organised. On completing my MA I applied for a job in the Photography department and began working as a technician. Within a year I was working as a lecturer for Fashion Photography.

I work with incredibly talented students imparting my knowledge of the fashion and sportswear industry as well as my love of photography. I have time to continue developing my own projects in both sportswear and skateboarding and in the past year I have had the privilege of working alongside Ben Mallaby on a BAFTA nominated short shot in Cornwall.

I am always seeking the next challenge. At the moment it is seeing our first graduate cohort through their exhibition, then off to Washington DC to undertake a month long fellowship with the Smithsonian Institute. Challenge fuels my excitement and drives my passions.

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We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.