After graduating from TIS in 2012, I went to college in Los Angeles at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, studying Digital Media (a 2 year Associates Degree course covering photography, photo editing, video editing, sound design, storyboarding, filmmaking, and other digital realms.) After graduating in 2014, I returned to Macau to take a gap year as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, though I was still interested in photography and filmmaking. In the midst of the gap year, I came across the BA (Hons) Fashion Photography course at the University of Arts London. I applied and was accepted.
This July, I received my Bachelors (Hons) in Fashion Photography. The past 3 years has been a long journey of immense personal growth, not only through my photography, but learning more about my culture and being proud of who I am. I learnt to be confident in developing my artistic and theoretical concepts further.
As many students will agree, the competition in finding your desired internship in London is quite hard. Nonetheless, through the power of social media, I found an internship with a photographer, publisher and model agent, Campbell Addy who also graduated from UAL. I had no idea what an amazing adventure I was in for. I interned for eight months at Niijournal, a magazine owned by Campbell. I assisted him on photo shoots, researching printers, shoot locations and other administrative duties.
In August 2017, Campbell asked me to join his modelling agency full time as Head Model Booker. To be honest, I never thought I would work as a model booker, however this truly has given me so much happiness and excitement every day. The basis of Nii Agency is to create a greater and grander representation of diverse models from all walks of life, cultures, ages, and life stories. I manage the schedules for over 60 models, I organise their castings, fittings and travel plans, take new model digitals, and much more. A recent proud moment includes a brand new model who walked for a few shows at London Fashion Week, a week later he was requested to model for the world renowned GQ India. We have also had our models in an Apple App Store shoot, shot for Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty campaign, walked in a Balenciaga show during Paris Fashion Week and a shoot for Burberry, Benetton, and British Vogue.
It is a lot of hard work amongst the glitz and glam of booking these big jobs. To be up at 5am or staying up till 3am to make sure a model is awake for their shoot, battling with the time difference when I’m in Macau / Hong Kong working with the UK clients. That being said, I wouldn’t change it at all. It has taught me to have great patience with myself and others; that good things sometimes take a lot of time and energy. In the age of social media, when fellow peers can post essentially the highlights of their lives, one must not compare yourself to their success. We must have patience with the things that we do and to focus on our well-being, our own journeys and success.
Fashion photography was my other focus of study at university. Visibility of women of colour in my work is really important, seeing the correct representation is so important especially for young people. A very important piece of work that I’m extremely proud of is the dissertation I wrote at university, about how female artists have reinvented the representation of East Asian women in visuals, for which I received an A-. Personally, this was a monumental piece of work due to how much I learned about my culture and the misrepresentation of East Asian women throughout history, but more importantly, how female artists reappropriated those happenings, and took their agency back.
In the summer of 2018, I was chosen by the Tate Collective at the Tate Modern, London as one of a handful of their favourite photographers under 26 years of age. Tate Collective is aimed at creating better opportunities for young people to connect to art, culture, and media. I’ve attached a few examples of my photography and my website. http://www.mcbarnes.format.com/
Growing up, I took a stand with myself and decided never to let anyone dictate how I should express myself, or handle my body. In school, peer pressure can be a big factor that can negatively or positively mould one’s life. If I could give any tips to students, it would be not to let others have a hold on you. You are your own person, you have your own thoughts, beliefs, morals, and unique experiences, that makes you who you are! Never let anyone make you feel bad for that.