At Christmas time the Alt Girl botherer blog likes to bring its followers a special gift in keeping with the season of swapping merchandise. This year the present is an interview with a model/singer/songwriter named Zoe Sutherland. Zoe is a multitalented and multifaceted woman, with so many outlets for what is obviously an immense creative drive. I was first drawn to her work through her modelling for labels such as Honour Over Glory, as well as shoots with Gemma Edwards. I’ve been trying to set up this interview for a number of months now, but schedules and technical gremlins have gotten in the way somewhat. When I finally managed to begin discussing this piece with Zoe, Christmas was fast approaching, and I could think of no better way of ringing in the festive season. So without further ado, it’s my pleasure to wish everyone that reads, or has ever read this blog, a very Merry Christmas. I hope you’ll enjoy this article as my gift to all of you for a fantastic 2012.
Hello there Zoe. It’s fantastic to be able to welcome you to the Alt Girl botherer blog for this festive addition. How is your Christmas shaping up?
Hey! So great for you to have me! My Christmas is shaping up nicely now, I’ve almost finished all my Christmas shopping… just waiting for a few bits to arrive in the post! (I did all my shopping online this year, as I can’t stand walking around busy shops! Plus, you can find much better things online than you can on the high street!)
Would you say you’re a very “Christmassy” person? May I ask what a Zoe Sutherland Christmas involves? What will you be getting up to on and around the 25th?
I never used to be a Christmassy person; I used to be quite the scrooge… although this year I’ve been getting much more into the Christmas spirit. On Christmas day I’ll be spending it with my family, opening presents, eating good food and getting very drunk… plus we’ve just got a Lego Harry Potter board game so you can almost guarantee a game of that!
Christmas isn’t the only reason I’m excited about welcoming you to my blog. You also happen to be one of my favourite alternative models working today, with a vast and impressive portfolio already behind you. I know you’ve been asked this a lot, but do you mind sharing with us how you got into modelling?
It’s always very humbling when people tell me they enjoy my work, so thank you very much! To be honest I kind of fell into the modelling accidentally; I used to be in a girlband and we had a few promo photoshoots lined up, and from that the photographer scouted me and asked to work with me more as a model… and the rest is history I guess!
How did you find the modelling industry when you first started working in front of the camera? There are many misconceptions about the glamour of having your photo taken full or part time, what elements of the work do you think people regularly overlook?
Well I took to modelling really easily, and I enjoy it so much. That’s why I keep doing it, I guess for me I’d never see myself become a successful model superstar or anything but I enjoy it, so that’s why I do it. It’s all about just being confident in yourself, and being an individual.
Your work with Honour Over Glory is what first attracted me to your work Zoe. Some really cool labels seem to gravitate towards you in terms of fashion and clothing gigs. Do you enjoy that type of modelling? Is it a buzz to see your pictures in a catalogue for a line that you would wear yourself?
Yeah it’s amazing. When I see people wearing a t-shirt with me on, or open a magazine to see an advert with me in. It gives you such a buzz! I guess, when you’re younger and you see beautiful people in adverts etc, you think it’s amazing… and to be doing that now, it’s flippin’ awesome!!
I guess it’s an easy decision when certain brands come calling. I’ve talked to a few Honour Over Glory models in the past, but I’d love your impressions of what it’s like shooting for them. Your collaborations with the likes of Tom Joy and Rob Jamieson are sublime, do you take a lot away with you from those jobs (in terms of experience of course, not free merch)?
The best thing about working on big shoots with labels like Honour Over Glory is all the people you meet. It’s always inspiring meeting other creatives, and by the end of the week you feel like one big family! I’ve made some amazing friends from some of those shoots. It’s also great because you get to work with a variety of photographers, and you pick up on the different styles they shoot which give you a big variety in your portfolio.
You’ve got a definite style to your modelling Zoe, and every picture seems to be different, with an effortless cool thrown in for good measure. Is cultivating a style something you’ve dedicated much time to, or is what happens in front of camera just natural?
I guess this is where my background in acting comes in handy, I find whenever I walk onto a set of a shoot you become the person in the style you’re shooting. I did a shoot with Rob Jamieson of my lying on a piano with a bottle of JD in hand, I found with the clothes I was wearing and the hair and make-up I had, I actually felt like I was in a Western Saloon or something! I really like to get into the shoots I do, and take on a ‘character’ in the style of the shoot. However, when I’m just shooting normal portfolio images I just try to be myself and hope that my personality shows through in the photographs
I’m always interested to know where and how models feel they’ve learnt their trade. Are you someone who practices a lot away from shoots, or do you just learn from experience and looking back on shoots you’ve done previously?
I think I’ve just learnt from experience, you learn how to position your body in different ways and what facial expression suit yourself. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve realised over time is that you have to know what looks good on you. It’s easy to look at a photo of another person and think ‘I’m going to do that pose with that expression’ but it may not always suit your face and body shape.
You’re definitely a model who enjoys challenging herself, and that has created some magnificent visuals within your portfolio. What does a project have to be to peak your interest? Is it all about the theme and ideas behind the pictures, or is the photographer as important a lure for you?
I just love trying something different. There are definitely some inspiring photographers out there that I’d jump at the chance to work with. Yeah, it’s good to have some sort of idea as to theme of the photoshoot, so you can tailor wardrobe choices to that, but sometimes it’s good to just go with the flow and be spontaneous and see what happens!
Did you get into modelling with a particular genre in mind? You’ve worked a number of different style, from high fashion to more popular mainstream labels. Do you have a preference?
Not really, I model because I love being in front of the camera. Whatever genre that may be, I like to take on a challenge!
Is there a style or genre of modelling you’d like to explore more?
I don’t really know. I don’t really want to be confined to one style/genre. I take it as it comes, depending on the style that photographer shoots I feel it’s always a good addition to my growing portfolio.
Another trait within your modelling that always enchants me is how you connect with the camera and ergo the audience. Is that a conscious decision Zoe? What are you striving for when the camera is on you, and what’s on your mind when you look into that lens?
Like I said earlier, I like to try and show my personality in a photo, or tell a story depending what the theme is! It’s always good when you feel comfortable working with the photographer too, as confidence definitely shows in a photograph.
What is a Zoe Sutherland shoot like? How do you best like to work in terms of atmosphere on set and direction from a photographer?
As long as I have a cup of tea and it’s not too cold I’m a happy girl. I’m easy, whether the photographer wants to give lots of direction, or whether they’re happy snapping away whilst I do my own thing. As long as everybody’s happy and there are good vibes! :)
Your modelling work has brought you into the gaze of magazine audiences, firstly with esteemed title Elite, and more recently FRONT magazine. Is this an area of the industry you’d like to break into, or is it simply a vehicle to get your name and work out there?
It’s amazing being featured in magazines such as Elite and FRONT, however I don’t think glamour modelling is the route I want to take. As my main passion is my music, I wouldn’t want to jeopardize a future in that with topless modelling (plus my boobs are probably too small!). Although many of my close friends are topless models, and I’m super supportive of everybody that does! I’ve just used it as another platform to get my name out there I guess!
I mentioned FRONT magazine, and I have to comment on your recent involvement in the publication’s “DIY” section. What did it feel like to get the news you’d be featured?
It was pretty awesome to be featured a second month in row. It’s something people have always asked why I haven’t done it, and to be honest I didn’t ever think I would be published as I don’t to topless, so it was really cool to see that they wanted to feature me.
Shortly after your first “DIY” appearance, you were seen again in the following issue, something that is not usual in FRONT issues. How did it feel knowing fan reaction (as well as your stunning pictures of course) got you a repeat appearance?
Yeah, it’s mental really! Especially because my first feature was so tiny, you’d think people would just skip past it. But to see that they wanted me back for a second month, I guess that’s quite a big deal? I’m not sure! Maybe they were hoping my next set would be topless, in that case I’m sorry to disappoint! Haha :)
I’ve said it many times, but I find it incredible that you haven’t featured in FRONT more prominently already. With this quick double display in the mag, the signs are great that you’ll get a full feature. Have you had any further contact about that yet Zoe?
No, I haven’t really heard from them since. But like I say, it’s a topless magazine so the guys probably want to see topless models as the main features. Who knows!! If they want me back, then great!
If you were to feature in the Alt Girl section proper, you’d in all likelihood get to work with a photographer whose work I adore; that being the sensational Gemma Edwards. You’ve worked with her a few times in the past, and your collaborations always produce brilliance. What’s it like working with Gemma?
Gemma is AWESOME. She’s definitely one of my favourite photographers to work with! She’s so lovely and easy to get on with, and I think it helps with her being a girl, she knows what looks hot and what doesn’t. She has an amazing eye for photography, and I know she’s going to go really far!
Speaking for photography Zoe, I wanted to touch on your own work behind the camera. I’ve seen a few examples and was very impressed. What came first, an interest in photography or an interest in modelling?
The interest in photography came across recently. I have so many beautiful friends, and I’ve been enjoying playing around and creating beautiful photos! It’s just another hobby of mine (to add to a long list).
Have the two disciplines of modelling and photography inspired one another in your portfolio? Does your modelling help your photography and vice versa?
Yeah, I definitely think they help one another! I found the photography came quite easily, as you pick up on things other photographers tell you and you learn different styles from working with different photographers. And the modelling helps when you’re giving direction as a photographer.
Again, I enjoy the connection you achieve between your models and the audience, there’s an intimacy there also. Do you have a favourite subject matter to capture?
At the moment, when I’m photographing I am mainly capturing what the model/client has asked for. It’s good because in my first few jobs I have worked with a variety of models from men to women, and glamour to fashion. But as I practice more I’d like to develop my own style, something a bit different and quirky!
Do you have any inspirations in your photography work, or artists who inspired you growing up?
I get asked a lot who my inspirations are, and every time I can’t think of anybody. I guess as a person you should be your own inspiration. I always find a lot of inspiring images on tumblr which I tend to reblog though!
Singing is also a passion of yours Zoe, and a side of your creativity that I was unaware of until recently. Where does your love for singing stem from do you think? Did you grown up in a musical household?
I don’t know where my love for singing stemmed from, it seems to be something I’ve always loved for as long as I can remember. It’s surprising, because I’m not from a musical background, but my mum told me that when I was a child I used to sing more than I spoke! I always knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a singer, and not much has changed now.
I’ve listened to your soundcloud content a lot in researching this piece, and I’m very taken with your rendition of “I’m not letting go.” Could you tell us a little about the song, and what it’s like to perform?
I wrote “I’m Not Letting Go” whilst going through a rough time with an ex-boyfriend, he had a lot of confidence issues (even though he was really amazing at what he did) and it used to pull my confidence down with him. When I wrote this song I was feeling particularly positive and confident about the situation, and it was kind of a boost, and a reminder to not give up. I’m yet to perform this song live, but I knew as soon as I sung it in the studio that it gives of a good vibe!
The singer songwriter side of Zoe Sutherland might not be as well-known as your stellar modelling work. Have you got targets for your music at the moment, or are you just enjoying the journey?
I’d like to get my music to the level that my modelling work is at the moment, but I know it’s going to be a longer and more difficult journey! I’m just going to keep writing new material and just enjoy what the future has to offer, be big or small!
You’ve got so many different avenues of creativity to follow, what with music, modelling, dance etc. Is there a particular route you’d like to pursue or focus on solely in the future?
I’m going to focus more on my music now. Music has always been my drive with anything I’ve done; it’s what I love more than anything else (even though all the other things I do are hella fun!!)
I have to mention your ink in this interview as well Zoe. You’ve got some exquisite pieces on your skin that you must get asked about all the time. Would you mind talking us through your designs one more time please?
I currently only have 3 tattoos. My first was a peace sign on my wrist, as it was my first tattoo I didn’t want anything too big and I know it’s simple, but I’ve always wanted a peace sign as I know I’m a hippy at heart… although I did get it done spur of the moment on holiday as everybody else was getting their tongues pierced! My second is a small colourful anchor on my ankle, I’ve always been inspired by the Sailor Jerry style tattoos, and my Grandad was a sailor so I wanted something nautical and colourful, I also decided to have it on my ankle to keep me ‘grounded’. My most recent tattoo is a big Alice in Wonderland inspired thigh piece. I love the story of Alice in Wonderland, and sometimes in life I like to see myself as Alice, going on lots of adventures, sometimes getting lost but meeting fantastic different people along the way. I drew out the rough design for this myself, then gave the idea to my tattooist who transformed it into the wonderful piece it is today. Both my anchor and thigh piece were done by my best friend Lauren Fernandez (who tattoos at BJ’s tattoo in Southampton).
Have you got any plans for future additions?
Yeah I’ve got a few ideas I’ve drawn up, it’s just about finding the time and money to fit them in at the moment!
I hate to tear myself away from talking about your work Zoe, but as this is my Christmas special I thought we better get festive. Have you got anything on your Christmas list you’re hoping for?
Well I’m mainly getting money from people this year as I there wasn’t anything I could think of that I really wanted or needed; I’m not really a material person so I always find it really hard when people ask me what I’d like for Christmas. I do, however, really want a new guitar so I’m going to treat myself and go guitar shopping on Christmas eve!
Do you like a British Christmas, or would you prefer to be somewhere warm this time of year?
To be honest, I’d rather be on a beach somewhere hot right now with a pina colada in hand rather than a mulled wine… Ahhh I’ll keep dreaming. Thing is, I’ve never spent a Christmas away from home, so I bet the first year I do I’ll miss it!
With 2012 winding down, how have the past twelve months treated you? What will you remember (if anything in particular) about this year?
This year has definitely been the best I’ve had so far. I’ve met some amazing new people, been to some wicked festivals, done some awesome shoots, had some awesome publications, and written and recorded some of my best songs to date. When I actually step back and look at what I’ve achieved this year, I’m pretty happy with myself. Bring on 2013 I say!!
Are you looking forward to 2013? What projects/shoots/recording sessions have you got planned for the near future?
I’m going to plan to shoot a lot more next year, hopefully work with some photographers I haven’t worked with before. I’ve been writing lots of new songs, so I hope to get them recorded in the new year and get to get gigging! I also want to get a lot more creative with my photography and set up some cool shoots… and maybe have a holiday!
Lastly, would you do me the honour of answering Bernard Pivot’s questionnaire before you leave?
What is your favourite word? Summer
What is your least favourite word? Winter
What turns you on? Good smells
What turns you off? Bad smells
What sound or noise do you love? The ocean
What sound or noise do you hate? Crying babies
What is your favourite curse word? Fuck (it can be used in so many different ways!)
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Spaceman
What profession would you not like to do? Office worker
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “I am Santa”
I’m so happy Zoe was able to spare some time to get involved with my blog, and featuring her in an interview is a goal I set myself a long time ago. It’s been a treat getting to know her work more intimately through the research process of the piece, and the introduction to her singing is something I’m very grateful for. I, like many, shall be following Zoe’s exploits in 2013 and look forward to what she has in store very much. For more about Zoe’s modelling and singing, visit the sites below:
All images were taken from Zoe’s internet spaces, and used with her permission. They are the products of Zoe’s collaboration with: Gemma Edwards photography, Ant Crowshaw photography, Belle-Louise photography, GR photography, Rob Jamieson photography, Innis McAllister.