Ella came into my life in the summer of 2018.
I was in a local convenience store when I saw a tall, slim teenager ... alone. I would not approach someone so obviously under 18 on her own anywhere. And then, thankfully, mum walked up.
In this world you never get a second chance, so I spoke to mum, told her I felt Ella had potential as a fashion model, and gave mum my card. I didn't take their names nor contact details. I promised I would never ever approach Ella if I saw her alone while I knew she was under 18, but I asked them to have a chat and call me me if they had any questions ... and a day later that's exactly what mum did.
I answered all the questions and left them to think on, not knowing if I would ever hear from them again. A couple of days later I saw Ella and a friend whilst walking my dogs ... and I kept my promise ... and walked past at a distance.
Two days later mum phoned again and arranged a short test session at the studio. Timid, nervous, and a little unsure of herself, Ella did not realise that she just sparkled, but whilst I chatted to mum now and then over the next few weeks nothing more happened, until I had the opportunity to invite them to the studio a couple of months later and watch an experienced model with whom I had worked over several years...
... and then, for a few minutes, I put them together.
Since then Ella has started building a serious portfolio with the help of several of my photographer friends and
she has recently undertaken her first paid jobs. Shortly after her fifteenth birthday the boss of a major fashion catwalk and editorial model agency in Holland described her as "gorgeous", but said that, because of Brexit, he is not currently recruiting from the UK. Another agency boss in Sweden said, "yes ...", but only
Images by Barney Douglas, Andy Owen, Graham Sapsford, Jason Ingold and Lizzie Stanbury
if she and mum move to Stockholm, and that, for now,
is not practical. She is still just too young for most major UK-based agencies, but there are now top-end photographers and designers taking a very close look at her ... and, like Clare Mulholland, now retired, who took that same journey, and for whom I helped build the bulk of her initial portfolio in 1986, over thirty years ago, it's only a matter of time ...
If you think you might be the next "Ella" ... or Clare ... then please ask your mum or dad to contact me if you are under 18. And if you are over 18 you can contact me directly, but do still remember that the best advice you'll ever get ... is almost certainly from your parents!