Photographer profile - Simon Mackney

Do you believe in fairies? by Simon Mackney

Do you believe in fairies? by Simon Mackney - Credit: Archant

Since setting up his studios at Darley Abbey Mills in 2012, award-winning photographer Simon Mackney has been taking some pretty amazing images...

Ballet dancer by Simon Mackney

Ballet dancer by Simon Mackney - Credit: Archant

Visitors to Derby Museum and Art Gallery’s ‘The Art of Industry’ exhibition this spring would have come across two incredible modern-day versions of Joseph Wright’s painting of Sir Richard Arkwright displayed on the walls.

These photographs – showing local business leaders Liz Fothergill and Robert Kirkland as the 18th century industrial tycoon Sir Richard Arkwright – are the work of local photographer Simon Mackney, who has built up his professional career in photography in the county for over 20 years.

Originally from Essex, Simon moved to Derbyshire with his family in 1987 aged just 10, when his father was offered a job with the chemical company Lubrizol. They have stayed here ever since.

Some of Simon’s earliest work was shooting images for Lubrizol and the industrial genre became a key style of Simon’s work. However, after three years of working there, Simon decided to start a photography company in his own right. ‘I applied for a grant from The Prince’s Trust and was lucky enough to receive it. With the grant and match funding from the bank, I was able to buy my first ‘proper’ camera, a Canon 10D – only 10 megapixels but plenty to work with – plus a set of studio lights and a travel pack for location lighting. As far as I was concerned back then, I was all set and ready to go,’ Simon describes. ‘I moved back to live with my parents and set up a bedroom office. I remember sitting by the phone waiting for work to come in, but it didn’t, and I soon realised that I had to get out there and show my portfolio, which I did. This way of working – introducing my work around the region – soon paid off and I ended up working for most of the design studios around the Midlands. After a few years I missed my portrait work, especially photographing people, so I started to set up a portrait business, hiring out village halls in the locality.’

Puppy love by Simon Mackney

Puppy love by Simon Mackney - Credit: Archant

The business took off and with the help of the Channel 4 flagship programme Location Location Location in 2007, Simon and his wife and business partner, Wendy, were filmed trying to find a house that they could convert into a home studio.

This scenario never materialised, but by 2012 Simon and Wendy had established one of the most stylish photographic studios in the region, based in the historic Darley Abbey Mills complex.

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Roll on another five years and in 2017 Simon and Wendy opened a second state-of-the-art photography studio, also located in the Darley Abbey Mills, which focuses on the commercial and digital editing side of the photography business, simply named ‘Mackney Creative’.

‘I am so proud of where we’ve got to in the past decade,’ declares Simon, who alongside Wendy heads up a 15-strong team of photography professionals. ‘The Simon of 15 years ago, just starting out with basic kit and loads of ideas, would be bowled over if he saw what we do today! I owe it to the great team we have working with us, as well as support and leadership from Wendy and the encouragement of my family.’

Award-winning sporting image by Simon Mackney

Award-winning sporting image by Simon Mackney - Credit: Archant

But hard work plays a huge factor, with Simon and Wendy both putting in regular 12 hour days to get jobs finished; trips across the region to do shoots, and attending many shows and events to get the Mackney brand out there.

A tour around either of the Mackney studios shows the high quality of these workspaces. They are the standard of a top London art studio located here in a village just outside Derby. The spaces are stylish and original, with areas offering various purpose-made sets including a fairy woodland scene, ‘winter’ as a backdrop, and a cosy space for newborn baby photos. Baby portraits form a huge part of the studio’s business, with babies as young as two days old coming for their first photos to be taken. There are rooms for make-up and costume changing, full catering facilities as well as a wood-burning stove which burns bright as clients relax on large leather sofas, sipping fresh coffee, herbal tea or a glass of wine while they discuss the images they are looking for.

‘We want to create a really relaxed space for people to enjoy their experience with us,’ explains Wendy, who worked as a successful fashion designer for over a decade in London, Hong Kong and New York before joining the business as a partner in 2012.

‘Many people are nervous before a photoshoot. We break down these barriers and allow people to get into the process. The results always come out better.’ Wendy brings an extra dimension to the business, not offered by regular photographic companies; advising and supporting clients for a makeover shoot or fashion-led portrait, creating images that are as much an art piece as a photograph.

Robert Kirkland as Arkwright

Robert Kirkland as Arkwright - Credit: Archant

Simon and Wendy continue to pick up national awards for the business as its success grows. Last year they won a national retail award for their Pop! cinematic portrait business and achieved gold at this year’s British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) awards.

The recent Joseph Wright project between Derby Museums and Mackney Photography saw Simon’s work in a major exhibition for the first time, something he hopes to continue and build on: ‘One day I would love to have an exhibition of all my work. The recent exhibition offered a superb opportunity to collaborate. It would be great to work on more projects with Derby Museums,’ Simon remarks.

‘Seeing my work on the walls of one of the most important cultural spaces in our county – and more importantly hearing the positive comments from people as they studied the pieces – is what all the hard work is for.’ u

Baby love by Simon Mackney

Baby love by Simon Mackney - Credit: Archant

To see more of Simon’s work view