As 2019 arrived I decided I was going to try to broaden the conversation here on the blog and on millergrey in general. I can’t lie, it’s taken a little while to get off the ground. This year hasn’t been the best for my blogging mojo that’s for sure. (I too hate that I used the word ‘mojo’ in a sentence, but it arrives solely due to the fact I can think of no better word, so let’s allow it.)
I thought I’d start by explaining a little more about why the blog is ever here in the first place and who I am. I don’t know if this is a little odd, but it feels like something I’d like to do, to clear up a few things about me and answer some of the questions that I receive. It feels a little self-indulgent but I assure you it isn’t meant to be. I’m not one of those who is particularly ‘present’ in the content I produce, so I appreciate that for the most part it might appear like a series of detached images. Maybe this helps and if it doesn’t? Feel free to pass entirely on this one.
1. You likely won’t ever see me talking to the camera.
All advice I have ever received about ‘growth’ on Instagram has been that I’ll need to be physically present in my content in some capacity. That a personality and face helps sell content and create a brand people wish to be a part of. I get that, faceless content can likely only resonate so far. I admire those who have the self-confidence to do it and especially admire those like Lisa Dawson who are so sure and confident in who they are that it’s become second nature to turn the camera around and have a conversation. I admire it immensely, however it will never be me.
I despise seeing photos of myself and and you can read into that what you will! Every now and then a photo makes it to my Stories, usually with immense trepidation and immense regret seconds later. I’ve tried to push myself to do it a little more lately, but it’s a real effort. On my Instagram feed I’ve made two appearances in as many years and on both occasions I was mostly hidden. There are no plans to make any further appearances, which is one why makes a reappearance here. I have Instagram and my blog because I love to take pictures and style scenes, that’s what my content is and likely always will be. If it curbs how far I’m going to be able to take this amazing opportunity, then that’s something I’ll have to accept.
2. I do indeed have a full time job.
Whilst it would be great to say millergrey was where I could devote all of my time and energy, it’s not my day job. I work for a Digital Marketing Agency five days a week and for the most part spend my weekends producing content and working on the blog. It’s an entirely different role to what I’ve done before but it’s one that works perfectly in harmony with what I try to do here.
3. All I ever wanted to do was work in Fashion.
For the best part of eight years I lived in London and worked in the fashion industry, having studied Fashion Design up here in Newcastle. I graduated in the middle of the recession (2009) and to say it wasn’t an easy time to be a graduate then would be an understatement. I was incredibly lucky to land a job before I had even graduated and in the space of a few months moved from my life in Newcastle to living in a flat with complete strangers in West London and working in the design team at Karen Millen.
Design turned out not to be for me, which was a pretty tough thing to come to terms with. For as long as I can remember I had wanted to be a designer. I’d made tin foil outfits for my toys as a kid, I’d sketched out designs in my text books when I should be doing multiplication; it was what I had always wanted to do. Working in design at Karen Millen taught me an awful lot but ultimately it wasn’t my taste and designing something that isn’t your taste and doing it well is a true talent. To remove yourself enough from the situation that you’re still giving someone else exactly what they want genuinely is a talent I admire. It’s sadly just not one I had.
After six months I moved into the brand’s PR and Marketing teams and began a rather muddled job of working in the press office but also styling the photography for the website and various other projects like lookbooks and campaigns. As well as design I had also always been obsessed with magazines, something that continues to this day. You’ll be more than aware of this if you’ve studied any images on my feed and seen the mountains of them that fill my flat. Moving in the world of photography and styling felt like a much better fit and my aim was to try and get into an editorial team of a magazine ultimately.
After Karen Millen I moved on to a company who couldn’t be more different if it tried. In the four years I spent at Sahara London I was able to visit and style shoots in Lake Como, Ibiza and Tuscany. I have amazingly fond memories of my time there and it was the place I felt like my creativity was best put to use.
4. I left London and came home.
One night in early September, having stayed later at work than normal, I was walking home from the overground station when someone attacked and stabbed me. I am incredibly lucky that two men saw what was happening and ran to help, chasing the guy away and waiting with me till the ambulance came. I’ve no idea who the men were, they declined to be questioned by the police, but I’m incredibly grateful to them. I stayed in London for almost a year after it happened but life wasn’t never quite the same. I stopped going out after dark and began to politely decline invitations to do things, I stopped running in the park after work, I wouldn’t put my headphones in if I was outside the house; I stopped living like I should have been living. So, I decided to move back home to Newcastle. Newcastle isn’t my technical ‘home’ I should point out, I’m originally from Middlesbrough. I moved to Newcastle when I was eighteen for University and knew straight away I would be back here someday. It has always felt like home to me.
Moving back to Newcastle came with a lot of sacrifices – mostly being all of my friends were there and my career was there. I’m still very close with some of the friends I had down there since moving back, others sadly haven’t stood the test of distance quite so well. Career wise I tried to hold out for something that felt right and settled on an online menswear retailer based in the city. I accepted a copywriting job there, said my goodbye to London and moved back.
I have never regretted the decision to return to Newcastle. I am far happier here than I ever was in London.
5. I started the blog to save my sanity.
I went from a job that celebrated and indulged my creativity to create images and content to a job that had me chained to a desk for long hours in, to be perfectly frank, a rather awful company. I hated it.
I hated it, but it gave me the blog and it gave me Instagram because I hated it. I was determined to do something that used what I was good at and what I liked to do. I would go to work, do my job, leave, come home and get on with styling and taking pictures. After eighteen months I had well and truly had enough of the day job however and decided to look for something else. By this point I was starting to get through the first pieces of sponsored work for my Instagram feed and launched the blog. I moved on to the job I’m still in now, two years later.
6. I say no to a lot.
There’s a widely acknowledged fact in this industry that posts that are sponsored or labelled as an ‘ad’ are much less successful with audiences. Engagement is lower and as a result so is the reach. I imagine that’s due to many different factors to be honest, but it’s always a little sad. Whenever I produce a piece of paid content I can assure you more time and effort has gone into it than those regular posts that fill my feed and blog. There’s a client involved and you’re trying to deliver a brief whilst still producing something you feel happy with and are hopefully proud to be posting. There are a lot of things that land in my inbox and for the most part I say no. Over the years of doing this I’ve learnt what content I want to produce and what product or brands fit within that little white world.
At the start I played around with a number of paid campaigns I wouldn’t accept now, mostly to gain experience. I don’t regret them in any way as they taught me a lot, but I certainly wouldn’t accept a campaign for a vodka brand now. (It happened once, the bottle was all white and I got to make a fancy cocktail. It was fun, but it wouldn’t appear now!)
Those campaigns I do accept I do so because I’m looking forward to creating the imagery. Sometimes it’s a total challenge and vaguely scary, which is when it can be the most fun.
7. I have absolutely no training in photography.
I’ve spent a lot of my career with photographers, art directing and styling, but actually photographing things? Not so much. I’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t over the years but I’ve no training as yet. I’m sure some people will be able to spot that a mile off and my hope is in 2019 to take a course to get a little better at it all! Auto Mode can only carry you so far.
8. I rent.
The flat that fills both my blog and my Instagram feed is rented. When I first moved in the flat was painted magnolia and a little bit shabby but I saw past that and said I’d take it immediately. Three years and a lot of white paint later and it’s been a lovely home to have been a part of. My lease is up in November and I’ve made the decision that I’ll be moving on. I fancy a change of scenery but also will likely need to find somewhere a little cheaper if I’m ever to have a deposit saved to buy somewhere myself. Being Victorian and really not well insulated, the flat comes with some very high energy bills come winter!
9. You never see my bathroom or my kitchen.
Neither are worthy of being photographed and are the flat’s real downside. The kitchen has green tiles, black work tops and fake beech cupboards. It also doesn’t contain a single drawer, which if you ask me, it’s insanity. Where does your cutlery go?! (Artfully styled in an empty Diptyque candle vessel in this case.)
The bathroom, whilst being white, is truly bizarre. The shower is back to front: hot is cold, cold is hot, on if off, off is on), the bath takes around 2 hours to fill and the tiles are sketchy to say the least. You’ll never see them arrive on Instagram and I think it’s probably the thing I get asked about the most!
10. ‘Insta-reality’ isn’t really for me.
There’s a real trend at the moment for people showing you how their homes really look and the mess they can be. That’s likely also not going to be something I’ll be doing any time soon. I like to fill my feed with images I’ve spent time creating, ’cause that’s what brings me joy. I don’t want to see a messy living room any more than you do and whilst I appreciate the idea of not showcasing unachievable lifestyles, I just take it that everyone who follows me has the common sense to know that sometimes things are a little less tidy.
And that’s all really, that’s me.