Fashion + Lifestyle Photographer / Prue AJA Photography
Talk about a Type A personality: Prue Steedman not only runs her own super successful fashion and lifestyle photography business, but she is also one of the most exceptional people that you will ever meet, I swear! If making an entrance is a prerequisite to life, Prue nails it each and every time. With her flaming red locks, blue as blue eyes and infectious personality, it’s no wonder that this babe has worked all over the world, snapping the world beautiful.
From humble beginnings growing up in Byron Bay, Prue has now secured herself as one of the most in-demand photographers for some of the country’s most exciting personalities and publications. Her eye for immaculate imagery coupled with a quirky albeit glamorous fashion style has led to many career trajectories, from her time interning at Cosmo Magazine, to assisting Fashion Doyenne Thelma McQuillan (Director at Harpers Bazaar) for two years.
In this #careerstory we take you through Prue’s career confusion, and why she wished she stuck with her gut, and selected photography (her heart), from the very beginning. This interview is one of triumphing against the odds of tradition, and bursting through the other side, shiny, happy and ready to take on the world.
After meeting Prue, one thing is for certain… we are hooked, and we are 99.99% certain that you will be as well. Enjoy!
Hey Prue, It’s so good to have you here. We have been massive fans forever! Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I spent my youth living by the ocean – I was born on the northern beaches of Sydney where I learned to surf, then moved to Byron Bay when I was 13 with my parents. It was in Byron Bay where I continued to enjoy the ocean and also began doing my own photoshoots.
Awesome! So, where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to Byron Bay High School, it was a great up bringing, great community, but maybe not the most educational. There wasn’t so much stereotyping as I found at my school in Sydney, and mostly everyone was friends and still are. I guess it was like the good old days where you would ride your bike everywhere, hang out in town, or at the beach till the sun went down then go home. I always had my camera in tow.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
Not at all – I found it very confusing to even know what different job roles involved while in High School. How do you know what PR and Marketing is and what is involved in that field when you’re 17? To be honest my university application went as follows: Industrial Design, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Architecture, Psychology. Fashion Designer, Photography. As you can see I was very confused and believe it or not, I left photography to very last as I believed it was too competitive, so went into fashion instead. After quickly becoming a stylist working internationally after 10 years, I finally went back to my roots and choose to become a photographer.
Ahhhh, such a great trajectory, thank you for sharing. Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
Growing up in a small town there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunities for young girls. There are plenty more opportunities now in Byron Bay. In saying that I did complete work experience at the local surf shop in retail. I then went on to get my first job at Kodak (see the pattern?).
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
As I didn’t get a high enough UAI to get into university, I choose to study fashion design and textiles at Gold Coast Tafe. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial so in my second year of fashion I took a night course in Cert IV in small business management and it was here that I wrote my first business plan. Being the youngest in the class by at least 10 years, I decided to work in other people’s business first and learn from them before starting my own. I then moved to Sydney and studied at FBI (Fashion Business Institute) while working part-time in a Fashion PR Agency, and complete work experience at Cosmo magazine. At this time I met the Fashion Editor for Cleo in the lift, we clicked and I became a casual stylist assistant. When I jumped over to being a photographer I researched the best photography school in Australia and RMIT Tafe won by leaps and bounds with all their awards. So I applied among 1000 other people, got selected for an interview out of 100. And was lucky enough to get in the top 40 chosen for that year. It was a total fluke, but looking back, I’m sure more experience as a stylist and working on set for so many years helped.
What great details, thank you for really diving in and explaining what life was like for you after high school. Now, to present day, can you tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
When I was working at Cleo I began to meet some of Sydney’s top creatives including photographer’s, makeup artists, hair stylists, and models. One day I bumped into one of the make-up artists and he referred me to Thelma McQuillan (Fashion Director of Harper’s Bazaar). I assisted Thelma for two years then began going out on my own picking up my own commercial clients. I then worked on a job with a photographer from the UK, we had a blast together and he enticed me to move to the UK. So I did. He hooked me up with a job at Conde Nast International Vogue, where I worked as a stylist/assistant. I only stayed for 6 months due to the workplace ethos and the way fashion was affecting our environment. The more I have educated myself on the fashion industry my values have changed to supporting, sustainable, ethical and or locally made products. Fashion is the 2nd biggest polluter in the world after oil.
How did you get the job that you are in now?
When I moved back to Australia and studied photography, I made the decision to stick with my values and work with sustainable fashion brands, and people who are making a positive impact on the world or in the lives of others. It has been hard work to clearly define my values in my business, but I have attracted like-minded people who share the same vision, which is great.
What is the hardest part of being a photographer?
I think putting myself out there – I love what I do, connecting with people designing shoots, and taking photos. I just don’t like the social media machine of constantly being out there. It’s something I am working on. Also finding a balance, working for yourself and being a single mum, can be tough at times. I have found that you are either too busy or too quiet, it is a constant roller coaster but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your business?
My day starts at 6 am – I’ve trained my body clock to wake up that early so I can get an hour to myself which involves a minimum 10 minutes yoga (sun salutations) 10 minutes meditation, and most days 10 minutes journaling. Writing is a weakness of mine to journaling is a way of not only sorting out my cluttered mind but becoming a better writer. I then do my emails and post something on Instagram – tick that box for the day. My daughter wakes up and we have breakfast together, and if I’m not shooting, we walk to school together. Then head to my beautiful studio looking over the Merri Creek and get stuck into work, or set up for a shoot that I am doing that day. If I’m working in the office, it can involve anything from finding inspo for a shoot, creating vision boards, location scouting, putting together a brief for clients, etc. Early afternoon I get back to my emails and finish off my to-do list before heading to boxing or going for a run.
So Prue, Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Straight up… My dad. We use to surf nearly every afternoon after school, my mum passed away when I was 13 so he did the best he could to raise a crazy teenager on his own. He was my best friend and I would call him for a chat nearly every day sharing everything. He passed away a month before my daughter was born in his sleep, he left behind a community of people who loved him and many beautiful memories.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
That’s easy, do what you love. I should have been a photographer straight out of school but was scared of competition. When I look back every element of my journey contributed to who I am today. It is not easy, and with so many opportunities available it can be very confusing knowing which path to take. whatever you do make sure you keep momentum and always do something. Don’t worry about the money it will come if your heart is in it. Some of my most memorable times were my poorest. Know your values and don’t do anything that doesn’t align with them. Listen to your intuition, your gut it is always right.
What are your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration?
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: Extraordinary Routine great for inspo
- Books: Spontaneous fulfillment of desire by Deepak Chopra – changed my life when I read it at 20!
- People: Oprah
- Others: Podcast Tim Ferriss and Girl Boss Radio