Emma Lee is an incredibly talented food, still life and interior photographer. With a background in Fine Art, Emma brings identifiable artistry to her colourful compositions. Her creative aptitude spills over into life beyond work and can be seen in the stunning and ethereal Forest House, the second home to London based Emma and her family.
Forest House is also a photo shoot location and an incredibly popular one. One of our favourite locations, it’s situated in the middle of a forest and is entirely clad in stunning cedarwood. Clients adore it too with its abundance of interior flexibility and the fact they have the house to themselves for shoots.
We caught up with Emma to talk about her photography and to wax lyrical about Forest House.
How has your Fine Art background influenced your photography?
I think that it has had a huge effect on my photography. I have always been driven to take a photograph based on composition, and atmosphere, rather than any real want to understand the technical aspects.
Food, still life or interior photography – can you pick a favourite?
Every day is different, and I truly like it all. The variation between location and studio is a joy.
People love your photography, particularly your 70.4k Instagram followers. That’s an impressive audience! If and how has social media changed your work as a photographer.
Instagram doesn’t directly change my work but being able to enjoy the visual treat of other people’s images who you admire, seeing these more often probably does have an influence. This is especially true with work from other countries, where often the light is more generous.
In your opinion, what makes Forest House such a dream location for photographers and stylists.
Apart from the free exercise, you receive when going up and down the front steps when unloading the vans, the location works so well. I think firstly that you are on one level and secondly, it feels very private, away from your normal world, and that can be really creative when putting together your shots. As a photographer, you can light from outside through the windows, as there’s a deck that wraps around the house. I love lighting like this. The house is kept simple, as I know this helps if you want to use the space completely without any of the existing furniture. And there’s enough there to help you along if you just need something extra for your shot.
As a photographer, you regularly work with hugely talented stylists. What makes a dream team stylist and photographer combination?
Mainly humour! Stylists and their wonderful assistants work so hard on the day, they’ve put so much prep into making the shoot happen, so for me, it’s about bringing fresh energy to the day and trying to create something even more than what’s expected. Most of our relationships are like friendships. I feel very lucky to work with these people.
‘Warm and soft’, ‘sophisticated vintage’ – 2 phrases we’ve seen used to describe Forest House. How would you summarise its style and appeal?
The Forest House has a unique appeal as it’s so embraced in its setting. Being surrounded by this incredible forest where both the gates go straight out into the forest gives the feeling of complete peace. The garden itself is planted so that the grasses shelter the house, and they provide a lot of movement. Inside, by contrast, it’s very still with muted colour and is quite empty.
People often comment on the interesting and stylish objects you have dotted around at Forest House. How have you sourced some of your favourite pieces?
The things dotted around the Forest House have generally been there since we first gutted the house. They are objects that I have found on my travels or different antique markets. They tend not to have much monetary value, just memory value.
Forest House is your second home – what occasions take you there and away from the hustle and bustle of London life?
We have always travelled to the Forest House every weekend and have missed very few for ten years. Which is hard sometimes as often we don’t go to invites, children’s parties etc. But, it does mean people come to us, and that’s fantastic as it’s such a special space to share.
We know you deliberated for some time about fully cladding the house in dark cedar boards (which we adore by the way). Take us through the various considerations that went into the decision-making process?
Well, it’s always got to be practical. The forest gets damp, but also the house receives a lot of direct sunshine. When we bought it, an old breeze block bungalow stood there looking sad, with hardly any insulation, the cladding allowed us to add this in quite a simple way. The paint we used has a special flexible breathing capacity and extra UV protection. We still don’t need to repaint it, and that’s after 11 years.
To us, Forest House feels like being in the middle of a fairy tale Forest. How does it feel to spend time in the enchanted Hundred Acre Wood, made famous in A.A Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh-stories?
It really does feel special. On a warm long summers night with the fire pit cooking our dinner, I’m not going to lie, there is nowhere I’d rather be.
Emma Lee is represented by Pearson Lyle