INTERVIEW: Fiona Mullen, Photographer


Bringing it over to the East Coast with surf and lifestyle photographer Fiona Mullen. Watch and read along, and If you want to be a part of this series, or know of someone you think would be great we would love to hear from you. Send us a link at production@wesjones.co.


WES JONES: Hi Fiona! Wanted to first say how much I love your style mixing intimate portraits of people alongside strikingly bold lifestyle images. How about you give us a run down of who you are and what got you started in photography?

FIONA MULLEN: I'm 18 and from New Jersey. I have been shooting photos for a few years now, and it's something I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve always been drawn to the ocean and loved the water, so surf photography happened naturally for me. I started by taking a few photos of some family and friends surfing and eventually every time there was a good swell I went down to shoot. I grew up about an hour inland from the ocean so I never had it right there at my fingertips. I think being far from the water just made me appreciate it that much more.

WJ: I think the first images I saw of yours were for shot for Spy Optics with the surfer and chalk powder, which were incredible. How did that concept come around?

FM: I wan planning a shoot with Maddie Peterson and she has one of the most friendliest, and happiest vibes of anyone I've ever met so I wanted to portray this through images. I've seen images using powder paint and always wanted to mess around with it so I thought this would be a great opportunity to represent Maddie's "true colors". She was such a sport during the shoot and was open to any crazy ideas I had. Even though this powder paint got everywhere, we were both stoked on the images.

WJ: What were the logistics to shooting that?

FM: For this shoot I first had to find powder paint which I went to about ten stores to find but eventually just bought online. Maddie and I decided to shoot at this quiet beach which has some nice trees and sand dunes. Then we had to get the right mix of colors but I think the orange and yellow looked great with the backlit sun and her skin tone. Overall it was a super fun but messy shoot. 

WJ: Now you’re relatively young, but have already worked with some well respected brands. It’s certainly a challenge to have those people take a risk on you. What is your process like for pitching new engagements and assuring your clients that you’ll be able to deliver beyond their initial vision?

FM: I like to go into shoots with a plan. I usually do some research to find some inspiration for a shoot on Pinterest and other similar sites. For the few clients that I have worked with, I like to tell them my plan and show them inspiration images so they can get an idea of what I would be able to give them. I try to fit the vibe of the company as much as I can so I know they're happy with the outcome.

WJ: The North East is not necessarily a place that many would consider a region for surfing, however you are able to capture the landscape and people in ways that is more inline with those photographers in those major surfing meccas. How do you approach everyday shooting and really portraying these beaches and surf spots they way they should be?

FM: There are photos all over Instagram and Facebook of Jersey lineups and after a while it could get boring looking at the same shots. When I'm shooting surf I don't just consider the wave or the surfer, I try to consider everything in the photograph. I try to get a sense of where the photo is taken. For example if its a freezing winter day I try to get an expression on a surfers face to show how completely frozen they are. Or in the summer I could show the classic crowded Jersey beaches. Light is another huge factor in making a great surf photograph and I am always looking for the best natural light possible. 

WJ: You have a great range of what I would call ‘lifestyle portraits’, that make whoever is viewing the image feel like they are truly connecting with the subject. What’s your process for working with these people and how do you collaborate with them?

FM: Lifestyle photos are by far my favorite thing to shoot. I try to have my subject act as natural as possible in front of the lens so the photos portrays their true character. I like to have fun during shoots so its usually very casual and I just let the subject do their thing. It's been amazing shooting with passionate and creative people. I hope to keep meeting more amazing people to collaborate with!

WJ: You’re clearly off to a very promising start, so how are you looking to grow both your style and professionally? What sort of projects do you hope to be working on in the future?

FM: Now that I finally graduated high school, I am ready to dedicate my time to photography. I will be starting school at Monmouth University in the fall studying photography and business. I'm looking to use this summer and my time in college to grow my style and keep building up my portfolio. I know that it is only the start for me and I still have a lot to learn. I need to keep shooting and get confident with my work. I'm looking for mentors that are professional photographers so I can learn more about the industry.

WJ: Anything else you’d what people to know about you, or any advice for those looking to do what you do?

FM: If I were to give any advice to aspiring photographers I would say to stick with it and don't give up even if you think your work is not good enough. Everyone has to start somewhere so just keep shooting and eventually you will get to the point where you are happy with your work, it just takes time!

WJ: Awesome! Now where can people find you and follow your work?

FM: My portfolio is at FionaMullenPhotography.com and I post regularly on my Instagram @FionaKatePhoto!

WJ: Great chat!

FM: No problem!