Polly Alexandre is a name known for great style, images infused with light and being wise in the world of business. Although Polly’s time behind the camera has grown into much more, she continues to create beauty in magical places, including her homes in Ibiza and London, and destination weddings around the world. Exploring film and logging hours in the dark room began for her in college, but sticking with film through the digital trend helped her images stand out and establish a brand and consistency worthy of a Martha Stewart Weddings cover image and many more honors. We’re delighted for Polly to share the week with us on Instagram. It’s likely you’ll be just as inspired by the life she’s created for herself as an artist.
IFL: How did photography become a part of your life?
PA: When studying art at school, I learned photography in the darkroom, devoting my own film, and printing my own images. I fell in love with the magic of the process. I won the first photography competition I ever entered – for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and my image was featured in their annual calendar.
At university where I read psychology, I shot for the newspapers in the evenings shooting bands. I’d get a press pass to the shoot from the pit for the first 3 songs only (strictly no flash, so this was all about pushing the B&W film). After a drink backstage with the band if I was lucky, I headed to the darkroom to develop my own film and print up the image for the paper the next day.
At this time I got my first regular commission shooting the club scene, and my very first image in print!
I continued to enjoy photography as a hobby, until I got to the age of 28, and realised it was now or never, and leapt off the corporate ladder to pursue my creative dreams. It was terrifying at the time, but I haven’t looked back & it’s worked out better than my wildest dreams!
After having an intense apprenticeship in a studio, and going back to uni to study photography, I fell in love with weddings by accident, and realised I could earn good money doing what I loved. How little I knew back then! Sometimes naivety is a good thing!
IFL: What/who/where gets you inspired?
PA: In terms of photographers the ones that captured my heart early on were the first colour street photographers—Stephen Shore, William Eggleston & Josh Sternfeld. I saw an incredible exhibition at the Tate Modern in London—their first big photography show and it below me away with what was possible with the medium. Hearing Joel Sternfeld speak at the gallery left a huge impression on me.
This eventually led on to a career change, and I took an MA in Fine Art Photography, which I didn’t actually finish because my wedding photography business took off at the same time and I found it so fulfilling and engaging I decided to focus on the weddings instead. It has given me an incredible life and wonderful opportunities, and I am very grateful for it. I’ve slowed down the weddings lately as my coaching business took off, and I’m excited to focus more on personal projects.
As well as those classic colour documentary photographers, I love the work of Paolo Roversi, Nadiv Kander, and Sally Mann.
I get inspired by golden hour light, the landscape, epic sea views, beauty and silence, modern art and minimalism. I love space in images and art.
IFL: Why film?
PA: When I started there was no digital!
I spent my 20’s working in advertising, then I had a career change in my last 20’s to pursue my love of photography. Now I learned to colour hand print too which I loved!
When it came to starting my wedding photography business, it was right around the very first digital cameras were coming in, but with my long held love of analogue it was a no-brainer to shoot film. Over the next few years digital came to completely take over, but my continuation to offer film became my point of difference. My images looked different to the rest of the work out there in the UK, and so I picked up some amazing clients, including film directors, artists, and other photographers. I was able to change a premium for my work because it stood out, and I got approached by magazines who wanted to feature my work.
IFL: If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?
PA: I am also a business and success coach for creative entrepreneurs and I mentor creatives all over the world to create amazing visions for their lives and businesses, make more money and attract more ideal clients. The power of the coaching work blows me away and right now that’s my main focus in terms of business. I run a group coaching programme called Passionate Prosperity and have a full roster of private clients including photographers, designers, coaches, videographers, wedding planners, and other creatives. I love supporting creative business owners to create their big visions and make more money, create the lifestyle of their dreams AND have creative fulfillment. You don’t have to choose between them!
I’m also super excited about the new lifestyle blog for creative entrepreneurs that I just launched, showcasing all the things that inspire me, my archive of personal photographic work, and sharing what I have learned along my journey. You can see it here: livingbeautifully.com
IFL: Do you have a favorite geographical place to shoot?
PA: Ibiza & Italy for the magical landscape and light, and Paris/London for the chic interiors.
IFL: What’s your favorite film stock?
PA: Neopan 400 & 1600. Yes, I still have stashes! For colour work, Fuji 400H.
IFL: What other art forms or artists are you drawn to?
PA: I really love painting, especially modern abstract expressionism. I studied art and actually apprenticed with a painter in London for 2 years before moving to Ibiza. I create works that mix photography with painting.
Art galleries are my happy place.
IFL: Any challenges you find in being a film photographer? Or supporting yourself as an artist?
PA: The most powerful thing I have done for myself is this area is to invest in coaching and shift my money mindset. Many artists & creatives have a low wealth consciousness and hold lots of negative beliefs about money and what’s possible for them. Transforming your money story is incredibly important is being able to charge your worth.
Getting supported massively cuts the timeline that it takes to get to where you want to be. A mentor makes the journey faster and easier. Don’t be scared to invest in yourself, you’ll make it back many times over.
The other area I see most photographers missing out on is building a team. They stay a one man band and don’t invest in enough support, so they can’t grow their business.
IFL: Favorite moment/or one of favorites you’ve ever captured
PA: Personal work—it has to be the very first time I picked up a medium format camera. I borrowed a beast from college,the Mamiya RB, and headed to a British seaside town for the weekend. I literally loaded my first ever roll of medium format film and went out shooting on the street. That project got published in the British Journal of Photography, and shortlisted for their Best Newcomer annual award. I was so thrilled!
Here’s one of those first shots:
I also love the projects I have shot in India over the years.
For client work, my grainy black and white documentary shots are my absolute favorite.
IFL: Any gear secrets you’re up for sharing?
PA: Honestly I am not at all techy. I believe images come from your soul, and being present in the moment & connecting to subjects from your heart. What I create is a reflection of how I see the world & what I am feeling.
My 50mm 1.2 is my fave 35mm lens, the Contax my favourite wedding camera, and I also love cheap disposables, the Diana, and the Holga, for their unpredictable effects.
IFL: Do you travel often for work? What does your everyday look like when not traveling?
PA: When I moved to Ibiza 6 years ago, I was constantly on planes – sometimes every week. Almost every wedding became a destination wedding, and I was constantly on the road.
One of the reasons I started my coaching business was to travel less. Now when I am at home in Ibiza, I have a pretty structured day that allows me to allocate time to run all 3 lanes of my business. I start the day with a wellbeing ritual of meditation, affirmations, journalling & visualisation, and then 3 days a week I work out with my trainer. I start coaching at 9am and run through to 6pm, with blocks of time in the week allocated to specific projects like photography production, writing & creating content. Friday afternoons tend to finish up in my favourite cafe, and I love having more weekends off now I am shooting less weddings.
What makes you feel awesome?
Dancing outdoors in the sunshine to great music. Laughter and love, blowdries and bulldogs, seeing my clients create their biggest dreams, and crystal healing.
Favorite thing about your current home/town:
The natural beauty of the landscape. The epic light and dramatic skies.
Food you love:
Raw desserts, sushi and a sneaky burger every now and again.
What makes you dance? Do you dance?
Ibiza makes me dance. There’s no better place in the world to party, and music permeates the island everywhere you go.
Can you handle skinny jeans?
I sure can! I don’t work out at 7:45am with my trainer for nothing, haha!
Dance/house & chill out music. I think that’s what you guys call EDM. I grew up in the era of illegal raves, when the rave scene started in the UK, so electronic dance music will forever be a part of my heritage. And yes, I have pictures! All shot on black and white 35mm film. Not many though…..I was too busy partying and having a good time to shoot!