Working Mum: Egle Vasiliauskaite, Photographer

Raised in Lithuania, now living in Bristol with her three-year-old daughter Sequoia and two kittens – Egle, 32, works as a freelance photographer; capturing the innocence of childhood and the romance of weddings…

“I was born and grew up in Vilnius the capital of Lithuania. As far as I remember I had quite a happy childhood (with plenty of friends), my parents loved me and I had a lot of freedom and independence.

When I was born it was still USSR, everything was more controlled and you weren’t allowed to be different. Then the uprising started in my first year of school and I remember tanks and soldiers being around and going to demonstrations with my parents. I clearly remember (seeing on TV) civilians being shot and lots of pupils and teachers from my school dying while fighting for freedom. I’m not sure if that affected me in any way, as I was still very young at the time.

But after that I was just a normal kid spending time with my family, hanging out with my friends and going to school. I also used to spend quite a bit of time in the countryside where my grandma lived. I always loved rebelling, but probably every teenager does.

egle - child on own

I think I was about 17 or 18 when I developed an interest in photography. I found an old Zenit camera on my friend’s shelf and asked if I could use it for a bit. It was a fully manual, 35mm camera and at first I hardly knew how to use it, but just looking through the lens everything looked so beautiful and ‘arty’. So I started taking pictures of my friends and family and, for some reason, plants. I used to have boxes of negatives, I think they are still somewhere at mum’s house.

In 2006, I bought my first digital Canon and started taking a lot of self-portraits; portraits of my friends, my colleagues and anything and everything that I could think of.

I completed a short course at Vilnius Academy of Arts and then studied for a year at Vilnius College of Technologies and Design, doing photography technologies. I didn’t really enjoy the latter as it was a bit dry. Everything had to be technically perfect and we were kind of discouraged from being creative. So I didn’t go back for the second year and I came to explore Bristol instead. Then I decided that I wanted to stay and study here. I’d heard that they started a very good photography course in UWE Bower Ashton, so I applied for it and got in. I absolutely loved it, it was an amazing course and I had lots of fun there and have learned a lot as well.

Dani and Nina

Photographing people was always my favourite subject. I used to take very controlled pictures, where I’d arrange the environment and my subjects and then ‘clean’ them up even more in post-production. Since having a child I feel like I have lost a lot of control over my life and everything is way more spontaneous; I feel like I have to catch those special and important moments in my daily life. Although I am still in control, but at the same time I am not (if you know what I mean?).

So I think that reflects in my photography as well. Wedding and children photography is quite unpredictable; you can plan some things and work towards them. However, you can’t be in total control, so you just have to be quick at adapting and keep your eye open for a good moment.

If you choose to appreciate and concentrate on good things then you will feel happier and more satisfied with your life

I never thought I would enjoy this kind of photography, but I really do. I love the buzz and working with people, plus I feel that I can still express myself creatively. It’s amazing when I give pictures to my clients and they love them. It puts a smile on their faces and mine too. I work hard for it and in the end they will have their special moments preserved forever.

At the moment I hardly get time to photograph for pleasure. My head is exploding with ideas. I would like to experiment with portraits, but at the moment I am really struggling to find time between being a mum and working… I need people to take part in it, and then it becomes a problem finding suitable times for everybody.

I’m not giving up though, I write down all my favourite ideas and once I get a chance I will make it happen.

When taking a photo, the most important thing of all, is loving what you do and being passionate and excited about it! When photographing people, I think that capturing the mood is very important. It’s nice when you look at the picture and it makes you feel something. Also, being creative is vital.

Egle- child at busstop

A lot of things inspire me; it can be a random picture I saw somewhere, a piece of art, an advert or a scene from a movie that I’ve seen. Also light inspires me a lot. It probably sounds weird, but when I see an interesting lighting situation, i.e. it falling on an object or shining through something; or the way it falls on someone’s face or hair and reflects – it’s beautiful, and I just want to catch it.

My daughter, Sequoia, is the most important person in my world. Having her has massively changed the way I take photos and what I photograph. When I was at uni, I studied art photography and all my projects had a concept, but now I don’t have enough time to do as much research and spend so much time working on meaningful concepts. I just find myself enjoying a ‘simpler’ photography.

Also, I enjoy taking photos so much more now than when I was always looking for a concept. Now I take an image and see how it makes me feel instead of looking for a deep meaning, which used to kill half of the joy.

It is very challenging juggling work and childcare. I end up working most of my free time when Sequoia goes to preschool, so I have about six hours during the day to do all my stuff including work. Then after she goes to bed at 7pm I carry on with jobs I haven’t finished. I have no idea what I would do without childcare. Luckily Sequoia’s dad is very supportive and whenever I’m struggling with deadlines or need a day off, he tries to help me out as much as he can.

During the week, we have a 7am start so I make packed lunches and breakfast while Sequoia plays with her beloved cats and toys. As she goes to pre-school my work begins. This varies from day to day between doing photo-shoots and edits to interpreting (I work as a casual interpreter as well). But also includes doing my accounts and meeting clients. This is all prior to the usual household chores that have to be done before picking Sequoia up from nursery and taking her to the local park or city farm.

egle - rob and leni

Dinnertime is when the family gets together. Sequoia’s dad joins us after his work and we all make time to catch up. It’s a nice time also to play and read some books before getting Sequoia ready for bed at 7pm.

Once it’s all quiet, I go back to working… editing pictures, updating websites, designing flyers, responding to emails, researching, etc. Trying to get to bed by 12pm.

Since starting Monsterful Photo (my photography company) my social life has suffered a little bit, as I want to concentrate on my business and give it a good start. On the rare evenings I do get to go out, I usually go to gigs or the movies with friends. Bristol has a lively social scene that I would like to enjoy more as my business grows.

I haven’t got a motto as such, but I always try to stay calm and positive when times are hard. Things usually work themselves out, so I don’t really see any point in stressing out, panicking or being angry. I kind of believe that happiness is a choice. If you choose to appreciate and concentrate on good things then you will feel happier and more satisfied with your life. It has worked for me so far.”