Photography Feature: Fiona Clair

We are just in love with Durban and all the talent this underrated city has to offer. Every day we are blown away with all the great suppliers, creative minds and inspirational people we come across  One such inspiration is photographer and make-up artist Fiona Clair. Her work is magic to look at and her make-up skills are flawless. The only thing we're kicking ourselves about is that we didn't find about this uber-talent sooner! Read on to find out more about one of our new favourite Durban talents.
How did you get into photography? Was it a hobby that expanded into a business, or has it been a dream since you were young?
When I was very young, I remember thinking that I wanted to be a wedding photographer. However, I only purchased my first camera 3 years ago, and I'm now 27! Instead I graduated from Nottingham University in the UK with a business degree and worked in London and Sydney for three years in Entertainment Public Relations. I think if you are a creative person there is only so long that you can suppress the urge to make, play, design and be spontaneous.  Photography became my profession when local Durban girls started asking how much I charged for portfolio shoots. After a few small jobs the first wedding came along and it's been crazy ever since. I still pinch myself actually. Typically, I didn't give it much thought, I just went with the flow.

How long have you been shooting weddings? 
I have had my camera at my side for three years but I have only been shooting weddings for just under one. 
You are based in Durban. Do you ever shoot outside of Durban? 
I was born and raised in the UK but currently based in Durban and travelling is a big passion of mine. I am starting to market myself for the summer months in the UK / Europe at the moment as I travel home once a year anyway to see my friends and family. It would be ideal to cover both wedding seasons as I do miss the UK a lot. If someone wants me to travel - I will pack my bags and go!  I am hoping to shoot a few weddings in Europe in the coming years but I would also love to shoot in Cape Town.
You are also a make-up artist - tell us a little more about this aspect of your work? 
My cousin Robyn Bowles, a brilliant make-up artist in Durban, gave me the idea. Working in PR, I was often organising photo-shoots for campaigns with top London MUA'S (make-up artists) and photographers, secretly always wishing I was in that role.  Finally when I reached my PR limit, I decided to completely change career (and country!) and fly to Durban to study make-up artistry. I have always been a painter so for me make-up is like doing art on the skin - those who do it well are incredibly talented. I do as much make-up as I can because I absolutely love it.
Have you ever done the unthinkable (all that stress!) and done both the make up and photography for one wedding?  
It's funny because the amount of people who have asked if I can do both on their day is incredible. Not that I wouldn't love to but 4 to 5 hours of make-up followed by 10 hours of photography and potentially overlapping the two?! I think I would need to go to rehab after that! It's one thing I have learnt in this business; MUA's and photographers do charge high prices but they work seriously hard and deserve every cent. I think I had to sleep for two days after my first wedding - the stress, the anxiety, the's draining but also very worth it.

What inspires your photography?
People. I just LOVE taking pictures of people. 

Besides photography and make up, what are your other loves?
Beach, outdoors, food, weekends away, travelling, family, friends, Jon. Not in that order though!!
Besides wedding photography, do you shoot anything else? 
I shoot models, families, events, interiors - anything that can be captured, I shoot.  I would love to work on landscape photography too as I am always looking to enlarge some pics for my flat - I can't really enlarge the pics I like from other peoples weddings!! :) I always take my camera with me when I travel. My first outing with my camera was India three years ago. I had absolutely no idea how to use it but those are still some of my favourite pictures. Sometimes it's much easier when you shoot without thinking!  
If you had to choose a photographer to take your own wedding photos, who would it be? 
This is such a difficult question for me to answer!  Maybe ask me when I'm engaged so I don't jinx anything. I really love the styles of photographers such as WeLovePictures and I recently stumbled across Priscilla Valentina who's work is lovely. I also love Nikki Meyer, and a whole host of talented photographers that I find everyday on Style Me Pretty. At the end of the day I want someone who can capture those lasting images and not miss a moment. I often blog my more creative wedding pics but always make sure I capture the images that will last - I think my mum engrained this in me, but it is important as well as telling the story creatively.

What do you see in the future for yourself in the next few years?
Building up my client base, improving, buying new equipment, meeting more amazing new people in South Africa, organising charity events with other creatives to work for a good cause, learning to surf so I can watch the sunrise every morning from the ocean and hopefully I will be asked to venture across the globe to capture special moments for people. I really hope that people keep enjoying my work as ultimately that's what allows me to do what I love.

And what are your wedding/engagement shoot rates?
My weddings packages start from R 8000.

What are your makeup rates? 
I start at R350 per face.
Tell us about yourself in three words..
This was too hard to me to answer so I asked my friends and family and funnily enough the following three words came up: spontaneous, creative and outgoing.

How can people get hold of you?
Please mail me at or phone me on 0798652464.

I absolutely love to chat with each client either on the phone or face to face, so feel free to call if you just want to talk through ideas.

*Ruby Note* Fiona has a great website and blog, check them out! You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter
Please finish these sentences: 
If I could change one thing ... One thing?! Impossible as I am the most indecisive person in the world. But if I have to, can I be selfish and ask that myself, my friends and my family never ever grow old?

Photography ... The ultimate creative medium that brings everyone so much happiness and has the ability to make memories truly last a lifetime. 

Make Up is ...  An incredible art form that has the ability to improve, transform and bend reality. What I love about both photography and make-up is that it leads you to other creative minds and has introduced me to fun, interesting and often crazy people. I met some of my very good friends such as the amazing Laura Halgreen who is my right hand lady for Make-Up and Hair, Bron from Vanilla Photography and Christi from Pickle Photography. I have had such fun with each of these ladies at some point along the way and learnt so much from them, Laura for fashion shoots, Bron at Weddings and Christy in a photographic workshop in Namibia. When I was in London, I assisted the brilliant MUA Phillippe Milletto. He said something that has stuck with me since: each creative in a photo-shoot works as a team. You must trust each other and together create art. I like to try and apply this to wedding photography - I don't like to own the wedding and direct. Myself, the MUA's and hairstylists and the families and friends all work together to get great images.
People would say that I am ...hard working, friendly and approachable. Well hopefully!

The last thing I do before bedtime is ...Chat to Jon about travelling!

My worst habit is ... Stressing about the small things

In a year...I want to be in Durban still taking photos and doing more make up, but hopefully I would have had an incredible holiday with Jon in Europe and seen one my best friends get married under the stars in Croatia. I also hope to learn a language, improve on my guitar playing and paint more. There just isn't time at the moment!

One of my pet peeves would have to be ...People who complain but don't do anything about it

If I had a million Rand... Can I make that a million pounds instead (goes a lot further!).  I would buy a house for my parents in Durban so they could come out with my brother all the time.  I would also fly myself and Jon to Indonesia so he could surf and I could photograph everything......and sunbathe!

All photographs credited and copyrighted to Fiona Clair. Her permission has been given for these photographs to be used on Ruby & the Swallow Design Collective, but not for them to be replicated elsewhere.

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