Capturing the essence of fashion and portraiture through her lens, London-based film photographer Phoebe Cowley creates a visual narrative that invites viewers to dive into the stories behind her subjects. With an artistic background, Cowley’s passion for photography blossomed from an early age, as she was drawn to capturing the world around her.
It was during her gap year, while traveling from Los Angeles to New York, that Cowley’s love for photography truly ignited. Upon her return to London, she began shooting portraits of men at her local homeless shelter and her friends, eventually hosting a small exhibition in Battersea. The success of this event spurred her to consider photography as a career, leading her to work with modeling agencies and shoot for magazines. Remarkably, she landed her first cover just a year into her journey.
When asked about her current aesthetic, the photographer says, “I always aim to create a natural, organic, and fun work environment on every shoot I do, so I guess I would want people to describe my photography aesthetic as that—fun and organic!” Her adoration for film, particularly after acquiring a Mamiya RZ, has become a cornerstone of her creative expression. The unique beauty and anticipation that film photography provides give Cowley an unparalleled “adrenaline rush” each time she receives her developed photos.
Cowley’s experience as a model has also shaped her perspective on photography. She emphasizes the distinct challenges that come with being in front of the camera, and the contrast between directing others and being directed.
Above all, the photographer aspires to evoke an emotional connection with her audience through the stories embedded in her work. “I always aim to capture a story in my work and that’s why I love taking portraits of people so much,” she shares. “It makes me so happy when people say my photography speaks to them, or they can see how comfortable the subject looks because this has always been my main goal.”
To gain a deeper understanding of Phoebe Cowley’s creative process and learn about her favorite photographs, be sure to read our interview where she shares her insights and inspiration behind her captivating work.
This photo is from my first beauty shoot for a magazine and I think it has to be one of my favorite’s to this day. I had never done a beauty editorial or shoot before so I was quite nervous, but the energy on set was amazing!
It was a new lighting set up for me too, which can always be quite terrifying for a photographer who normally solely uses natural sunlight, however, I have since used this setup in a further 4 shoots as it just worked so well! Tabitha, the model was an absolute gem and listened to all my silly directions, not questioning them in the slightest, which made my job a whole lot easier.
This is taken from a test shoot I did with one of my friends, Leo, who styled and creatively directed the shoot. We shot it in my flat in east london on a very hot day, with the lovely Via modelling. It was her first test as a model, so naturally I was quite apprehensive as to how she would follow directions, but she was amazing and we took some very intimate and natural shots.
I think there’s something incredible about getting to work with your friends on shoots and sharing ideas, because I would never have thought to put Via in this position on the floor, but Leo did and it made the photo so much more interesting.
I honestly love this photo. It’s not my normal style at all but that’s what I love about it. This was shot, again in my flat with just one amazon softbox and an orange gel. I wanted to work with my friend Aimee who is an incredible MUA on a personal project with Bar (the model) for such a long time and we finally got together and created one of my favorited shoots.
This is character 2 of 4 and we called her ‘The Madonna’, I think for obvious reasons! What is also special about this photo is it’s probably one of the only digital photos I have posted on my Instagram and website (shhh!) but I loved it too much to not let the world see it and one of the only times I thought the digital pics were better than film!
This was when I was in my ‘testing era’ I like to call it. I messaged Jonas on insta and we met up to shoot in this amazing old house in Chelsea that is owned by one of my parents’ friends. I believe this was the first photo we took on the day, Jonas was just having a cig in the back garden and I thought the light on his face was great so I grabbed my camera. Capturing those little moments in between shots is very special to me as I sometimes have got my best photographs from them, when the subject is just being themselves.
I wanted to add in one of my first self-portraits I did as I still love this photo, 3 years on. I remember dressing up, doing my own hair and makeup and then lugging my soft boxes down 3 flights of stairs into the living room and setting this up. I had my best friend helping me and my mum behind the camera making sure everything was in focus.
It was a lovely few hours as we all had such a laugh and naturally out of this energy, created something that I still use in my portfolio to this day. Being able to have creative freedom and authority when creating a photo has always been so important to me and I think that’s why self-portraits and me go so well together!
I took this picture of my boyfriend in Rome on his 30th bday trip, the sun was setting and we literally ran up to the roof to capture the golden hour with the last of my 35mm film and about 5 mins to spare. This has no editing, it’s literally the amazing Italian light and Kodak Gold. It also has a lot of sentimental value to me that I just had to include it!