10 Questions: Clare Barker Wells

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Clare Barker Wells travelled and lived in 2 different countries before calling Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia home. Originally from Ross-on-Wye, UK, Clare started learning to photograph 4 years ago – who would have thought? Clare’s family and newborn work not only captures key moments but also the in-betweens artistically. And despite being a busy Mum to 1 kid (with another on its way), Clare finds time to embark on a personal projects, as seen on “whereverIamwithyou”, where along with other like-minded photographers, she documents her own existence in moments spent with her family. With a nomadic lifestyle, Clare hopes she’ll still be photographing with passion in 10 years’ time.

1. What is life to you? What it should be?

Life is sunshine with the occasional shower. It’s about adventure and new challenges, and yet at the same time, it’s about home, it’s about routine. I am nothing if not a contradiction.

Life is good, for me. I’m lucky; I realise that. I live a wonderful life, in an exotic place, work at something I love, and a surrounded by a family of friends. I can’t ask for more. (Except for this morning sickness to just STOP already.)

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2. Where did you grow up and how did that play a part in your photography?

I grew up in a small town in the UK. It was rural, and probably pretty uninteresting to the outsider, but we made our own entertainment and had plenty of fun. It was a great upbringing, full of horses and mud and Wellington boots.

I don’t know that it had a huge part to play in my photography, since I didn’t actually pick up a camera until I was 29, and already living in a different town, in a different country, in a different continent. I have mentioned this in the past, but I always felt that I was creative, but had no outlet for it (I was notoriously bad at ‘Art’ – which at our school meant drawing and painting), so I went down the academic, sensible-job route, and that was that. It wasn’t until (and what a cliche I am for this), my first child was born,  and I picked up a DSLR, that I realised that whilst I perhaps couldn’t create beauty, I could certainly capture it. I was hooked.

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3. Where do you call home?

There is a quote that floats about the internet that goes something along the lines of:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price that you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”

That just about sums it up, for me. We’ve lived in three different countries so far, and will likely live in more. I have friends now in countries all over the world, which is great for holidays, but not always so great for keeping in touch.

I think my feeling on my home can be summed up by the fact that I say I’m ‘flying home’ when we fly back to the UK for a visit, but whilst I’m there, I talk about ‘flying home’ in terms of flying back to Malaysia. It’s a wonderful, yet confusing life!

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4. Do you have a “second profession” or passion?

My past life was in the corporate/sales world, which I have little desire to get back into. I have always loved reading and literature though, so I guess that’s my kind of back-up hobby!?

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5. What do you like to eat?

At currently 5 months pregnant, can I just say ‘anything and everything’?! I love flavoursome food – the more flavours and tastes the better – bland food is kind of pointless to me. Because of that predilection for flavours, I’m all about Thai food (most Asian food actually, which is lucky because I live here), Italian food, and (slightly randomly) ANYTHING that is salt and vinegar flavoured – the stronger the better. That taste that makes you pull a face that looks like you’ve bitten a wasp? That flavour. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Ok…must. stop. talking. about. food.

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6. Is/Are there any project(s) you wish you could do – or might do?

I started a 365 last year which did no end of good for pushing me out of slumps, and to always be thinking creatively. Unfortunately, when I found out I was  pregnant in September I became so ill that I didn’t pick up my camera for the last three months of the year. I’m keen to see if I can actually complete one, but my past history with projects is that they generally do go unfinished!

Work-wise I am a huge believer in supporting other people in the industry – the more great photographers there are, the more people will see and therefore demand good photography. It can only be a benefit to all of us. I’d love to start a mentoring programme of some sort, with the aim of working with newer photographers and helping them reach their goals.

I’ve also spent the last year ‘getting in the frame’ with my kids as part of a collaboration with a group of incredibly talented women. As the default ‘chief photographer’ of the house, it’s made me realise how important it is to actually get in the picture to prove that I was there too. I hope to continue this as long as the group will have me! You can see the whole project at www.whereveriamwithyou.com

From whereveriamwithyou project.

7. Do you shoot with your left or right eye?

I can’t be the only one who had to pick up my camera and hold it against my face to check that?!

Left…which is weird, because it’s the eye that needs strongest help with glasses etc. Although I am left handed, so perhaps that’s part of it?

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8. What movie did you love recently?

I’m not a big movie person, I just don’t have the concentration levels for them! I love TV dramas though – they are basically epic movies in bite size chunks. I’m a big fan of a good detective series; particularly those that are beautifully filmed. It makes my heart happy to see the light and composition executed so perfectly, as well as giving me so much inspiration. A lot of the Swedish crime dramas seem to be like that – Wallander is one of my favourites. Hinterland (set in deep dark North Wales) is also filmed in a similar way and I love it.

If I had to choose a movie though, I did watch Grand Budapest Hotel last year and was mesmerised by it the whole way through…seriously, Wes Anderson is a talent to behold.

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9. If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Why?

I actually am very happy with where I am in life right now, so I can’t say that I wish I’d done things differently. That being said, part of me definitely wishes I had picked up a camera about 15 years earlier. I hear of so many people who studied photography in high-school, and am envious, and slightly confused – that was certainly never on our curriculum in my school! Like I said above, I always desperately wanted to be a ‘creative’ but forced myself to fit the mold of an academic/corporate career girl, and didn’t really think too much of it. Now I realise that although I had a great time, that was never REALLY ‘me’. I’m thoroughly enjoying the release of gradually letting myself be who I always wanted to be, living slightly off to the left of centre.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 year’s time?

Our life is slightly nomadic, and very dependent on my husband’s company, and so I literally don’t even know what continent we’ll be living on in 10 years time, and where we’ll have been in the meantime. That makes it hard for me to have an idea in my head of what my life will be like – you can’t really have long-term goals when you don’t know what language, climate, or country you’ll be immersed in at the end of this year let alone in ten years. My aim is just to keep up this love for shooting, keep living this wonderful expat life, and keep surrounding myself with like-minded people.

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Bonus Q: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?

I’m sure it does. I shoot differently with each camera I have – I feel like I shoot much more freely with my X100t than I do with my DSLR – I’m much more of a perfectionist and expect far more from myself when I shoot with the DSLR. And then film is a whole different way of shooting altogether – I’d love to take some of the lessons that I’ve learnt from film on slowing down and transfer them to my digital work, but so far that doesn’t seem to have happened. like everything, it’s a work in progress.

Gear list:

  • D750

  • D600

  • F100

  • X100t (my love – it goes to more places with me than my child does)

  • 35mm 1.4 Sigma Art

  • 50mm 1.4 Sigma Art

  • 85mm 1.4 Nikkor

  • 105 2.8 macro Nikkor


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