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Photographer profile - Jo Rutherford

PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 August 2017

Sit boys  and they all did with the help of  a dab

Sit boys  and they all did with the help of a dab

Jo Rutherford

In our latest feature on people who have switched careers in mid-life, Jo Rutherford talks about aliens and dogs with honey on their noses. Roger Borrell reports

Sparks fly at a shoot in Sledmore Hall, North Yorkshire Sparks fly at a shoot in Sledmore Hall, North Yorkshire

If you ever stumble into Jo Rutherford’s studio don’t be surprise if you come face to face with Darth Vader. Or that slimy space monster from Alien. Or even a dog with a dollop of honey on its nose.

It’s all in a day’s work for Jo who probably wouldn’t argue if you accused her of being acquainted with a fascinating collection of slightly eccentric people. It’s a predilection that has done her no harm in her career as a photographer.

Her determination not to follow the crowd has brought her photographic awards in numbers that are thought to be unprecedented. During this year’s BIPP North West Photographer of the Year Awards she picked up no less than three golds, including the overall prize as photographer of the year, the third time she has won the coveted title in five years.

There is no sense of false modesty when she says: ‘I wasn’t at all confident going into the awards this year. There are so many more entrants and the standard just keep getting higher.’

Portrait photography is like cooking  we can all make dinner but if you want something really special you go out to a restaurant Portrait photography is like cooking  we can all make dinner but if you want something really special you go out to a restaurant

Jo’s success is all the more remarkable when you discover she has been a full-time photographer for little more than five years.

Before that she was part-time while working as a physiotherapist at Southport Hospital. She has also been a lecturer in health and social care at UCLan.

‘Photography had always been more of a hobby for me but I seemed to have a flair for it,’ says Jo, whose studio is in the West Lancashire village of Banks. ‘Friends started asking me to take portraits so when I was made redundant I took the leap. I’m very glad I did. There is still food on the table and a roof over my head!’

The growth of smart phones and selfies means that everyone considers themselves a photographer but Jo, who lives in Southport with husband Mike, detects a swing back to professional portraiture.

Jo loves taking dog portraits. Jo loves taking dog portraits.

‘People who take pictures on their phones never print them out and rarely feature in them because they are taking the shot.

‘Families, and particularly children, are now coming in for portraits. It is starting to pick up once again. Portrait photography is like cooking – we can all make dinner but if you want something really special you go out to a restaurant.’

Most of Jo’s work is taken up with studio work. It is mainly families, children and dogs. ‘Sometimes together – I’m not frightened to work with animals and children,’ she laughs.

And laughter is another essential ingredient of any conversation with Jo, who clearly enjoys what she does. This seems to rub off on clients young and old, two-legged and four-legged.

‘I spent a lot of time with dogs and treat them like I would boisterous children,’ says Jo, who has a son, Craig. ‘I give them time to settle down, sniff around the studio, give them treats and create a calm atmosphere. Then, when the moment comes, you have to be quick.’

And tricks of the trade? ‘I sometimes put a dab on honey on their nose. That makes them lick their noses because they like the taste. But I haven’t tried that with children yet!’

It’s not all about dogs and children. Jo has a growing reputation for photographing cosplayers. This is short for costume play when people dress up as a favourite character at conventions or as performance art.

‘That’s why people might have spotted Darth Vader or the monster from Alien in my studio. People come some considerable distances to have their pictures taken in costume. Word has got around.’

While studio photography is Jo’s bread and butter, she constantly stretches herself by creating personal projects. These have involved recent shoots at Norton Priory in Runcorn and Sledmere Hall in East Yorkshire – both striking backdrops to some outstanding photography of men and women in costume.

Another recent project was the result of a tweet she sent out looking for men with unusual or striking beards. ‘There’s was a lovely man called Dave, quite shy, a paramedic from Liverpool. He ended up with green Hobbycraft glitter in his beard and another had Christmas decorations hanging from his face.

‘I want people to get something different from my photography. I don’t do cheesy grins!’ That’s true but she does make people smile.

You can see more of Jo’s work at 
www.jorutherfordphotography.co.uk

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