We are so pleased to be joined for our A Simple Path series by Julia Smith, creator of Humphrey & Grace and taker of stunning photographs over on Instagram as @humphreyandgrace. Julia has an eye for beautiful, natural wildscapes and sumptuous florals, all with a gentle aesthetic and underlying belief in cherishing the simple moments in life. She works with brands to create photographic content and on social media strategies, and is an all-round Instagram superstar, so we are very grateful to her for sharing her wisdom and thoughts here.
Julia has great advice for connecting with each other and disconnecting with our screens, on teaching children to be compassionate and measured about their online time, on how to manage Instagram, and on carving out time for simple pleasures amidst the hurly-burly of everyday life. Her website is a treasure trove of creative inspiration, practical photography and social media advice, and inspiring conversations.
Read on, this is a true treat.
1. Thanks so much for joining us Julia Smith, we are beyond excited to have you. Can you tell us what you do and how you came to be doing it?
I am a photographer and Instagrammer. For the most part I create content for social media both for myself and for brands, sometimes I share this content in my gallery and sometimes it is simply work for my clients. Either way it is a job I adore.
I have always loved photography, I had my first camera in my early teens and took a few film photography courses while at college and university before largely putting the camera down for several years. It wasn’t until I had my first digital camera, and the cost of developing film was less of a consideration, that I properly began to play around with photography.
What really turned it into a passion was Instagramming. Being inspired by some great photographers and pushing myself to try new things has become a huge part of my life. And there is always more to learn.
2. If you had one piece of advice or wisdom to pass on to your younger self, what would it be?
To be braver, to feel the fear that comes with stepping out of comfort zones – then do it anyway!
In the past I would hit a bump in the road and simply use it as an excuse to stop. Only fairly recently have I really learned to embrace the failures as part of the journey rather than an indication that I’m on the wrong track. There are things to be learned and changes to be made constantly, it’s all part of the process.
3. What is it about the simple life that you find appealing?
I would love to say I live a simple life, but the truth is I wear many hats and have very little free time. I deliberately carve out space to breathe and enjoy the simple pleasures whenever I can but it is usually only for a matter of minutes.
There us an immediacy about modern life which can be both brilliant and frustrating all at once. It is so easy to be connected all the time, not to mention the constant consumerism that surrounds us. It takes a deliberate effort to switch off from it. To live in the moment and not through a screen. To buy less but better.
I want to teach my children to look at the world and people in front of them, to experience life for themselves rather than online. From the flowers in the verges to the sound of birdsong outside the window, a picnic in the shade of a tree or a paddle in the sea. To genuinely listen to and care for other people. To see the value in experiences rather than things.
Of course it isn’t always easy as my teenagers connect with their friends online daily and I don’t want to exclude them from their social groups, but I do want them to be happy offline too.
Disconnect is something I advocate for all, to have at least a day or two each week offline. In my experience it is vital for a healthy relationship with social media to take time away from it regularly.
4. How can we counter the pulls of content-sharing and curating images of our lives with the need for being in the moment?
I think it is all about finding a balance that works for you.
For a long time I would view the world through my camera, always desperate for the next photo to share. Until I realised that almost all of the photos I took would never be used at all. I was taking hundreds of photos each month and sharing a tiny proportion of them.
So I became a little more savvy with my photo taking. A good half hour session can give me up to 4-5 useable photos to dot through my Instagram gallery. In my mind this is not lazy photography, it actually ties my gallery together over time and creates a theme of sorts. Currently it is all about the wild flowers and outdoors.
I would also advise others to bank photos when you can. If you are styling a photo for any reason, take that shot then tweak it. Change the angle you shoot from. Move the props. Have a couple of spare shots on your camera roll to use in the future when you need to fill a space. In my experience no one minds a few coordinating photographs!
Creating new content constantly for any period of time is hugely demanding and taking these few little steps can make the process far less overwhelming.
When I am out with my family I don’t often use the camera other than for family photos. Over time I have trained my eye to see the Instagram friendly shots and they take mere moments to shoot, so I can really enjoy being in the moment without seeing it through the lens.
Quite honestly, I think the shots missed are worth missing if it means you are creating memories with your people instead and sharing an edited version of my world is a deliberate move on my part. Instagram is escapism to me. And for very good reasons.
5. Who inspires you?
All kinds of people – folk who are chasing their creative dreams first and foremost. There is nothing more joyful than speaking with people about the things they are passionate about. And knowing that at times we all face creative block too.
I do often look away from social media for inspiration also (I am a fan of just getting outdoors as nature inspires me), at the very least I look to the work of others that is quite unlike mine.
On Instagram I follow potters, artists, florists, photographers, writers, candle makers, clothing makers – the list goes on and on. Immersing myself in a creative world means inspiration is everywhere.
6. What are your essential homeware items/ things you couldn’t do without?
Good question! I adore handmade items, ceramics are my favourites, though anything where you can see and feel the touch of hands. And then natural materials in any form are important to me too, be it wood, fabric or clay.
I can’t do without a really lovely set of bedlinen – preferably clean and fresh off the washing line – it has always been one of my favourite creature comforts.
Ooh and plants. I simply can’t imagine living in a space without plants.
7. What would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?
I don’t really plan so far ahead. I like to see where the path takes me and adapt myself to it. It would be impossible to plan any kind of work involving social media so far in advance as, by its very nature, the only constant is change.
I would like to think I will still be expressing myself creatively though who knows whether that will be through photography or in some other way. My first love is for fabric and textiles, so we will see.
One thing is for sure though, I plan to embrace the opportunities that feel right and keep on stepping out of my comfort zone.
8. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
I’m afraid wild is not really in my nature, a little bit rebellious and perhaps sometimes wayward, because where’s the fun if we can’t push a few boundaries?
I am myself at all times, I am not overly concerned by others’ opinions of me because at the end of the day I can honestly say I was true to myself rather than trying to be what people expect. And I genuinely believe that the right people will find you anyway!
As for wild, I plan to grow old disgracefully so we will see…
Thank you so much for your time, and sharing your thoughts with us!