Mary Jane Criddell - Photographer

Interview by ForgottenBee June 2015 | Photographs by Mary Jane Criddell, Tim Brett-Day, Danielle Roberts Mah

Bruton-based photographer, Mary Jane Criddell has been a photographer since the mid 90’s. Her experience modelling for Synchro Modelling Agency followed by a career behind the camera has enabled her to develop a unique and intimate style of portrait photography. Mary Jane will be displaying a collection of her portrait work at Bruton Art Factory opening 24th June 2015.

How did you become a photographer?
I was hungry to learn something new, learn a new trade. Because of the modelling I had an understanding of that business and how it all works. I left 'Screaming Target' the band I was in, my marriage broke up, I became a single parent and needed a job that worked around my child. I needed to earn money and didn't want to tour as a backing vocalist anymore as I was leaving Cassie behind. I was in Europe a lot and she was in London.

Did you always want to be a portrait photographer?
Photographing and lighting people was what I knew, and I really enjoy photographing people, but I also do some still life photography too.

What was a defining moment in your career?
My first editorial job as a photographer for Cosmopolitan Magazine.

What are you trying to capture when you take a portrait.
A connection with that person and their personality. I would be given a brief and would have to go into an environment and capture an image that related to that brief. This taught me to work quickly and my pictures had to stand out. There were always other photographers hot on my heels and they would quickly use someone else if I didn't capture exactly what they were looking for.

Mary Jane Criddell Photographer - Rock and Roll portraits
Portraits by Mary Jane Criddell

What is your secret to getting your subjects to relax and be themselves?
Make them laugh and not take themselves too seriously. A lot of people I had to go and see didn't want their photograph taken, so using humour was the best way to get them to relax and create an honest image.

Who would you most like to photograph?
Frida Kahlo in colour, a young Elvis in black and white.

What's your favourite piece of photography kit?
A camera is handy! My favourite piece has to be my light metre. I do also miss film because it made photography more of a craft. A lot of people use Photoshop more than an honest image from their camera.

What can visitors expect to see at your opening at the Bruton Art Factory?
A lot of instruments!! I have spent a lot of time with musicians, it's something to do with my rock and roll band MJ and the Rocketeers a spin off. I was lucky enough to have photographed Mick Jones a few years ago and it was just adding to that through the years, it's still a 'work in progress'.

Another project close to my heart is my 'Up Close and Personal' portraits of women without using Photoshop. I would like to thank the many local women who have supported me in this by modelling for me. And yes they do have clothes on. I have been told by my subjects they have found this empowering.

Mary Jane Criddell model card shot - credit Tim Brett-Day
Mary Jane Criddell model card shot - credit Tim Brett-Day
Mary jane Criddell as a model counter
Mary Jane in front of the camera

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Frida Kahlo, through all her life pains, her accident, colour, majesty, and honest art. She kept it real.

What would you like to change about the world?
There are too many things to mention. People's greed and judgement, and the figure on my bank statement.

What are you listening to at the moment?
“Howlin Wolf” as one of the songs I sing with my band is “Evil”, take a listen - I love a bit of Patsy Cline.

How does Mary Jane relax and unwind?
I enjoy gardening and love walking. I love being here in Bruton and the West country. Music is my thing, and I'm learning the guitar and enjoy singing.

Do you have any regrets?

What's the future for Mary Jane photography?
I am still doing the 'Rock and Roll', 'Up Close and Personal', and embarking on a new project of adult 'Mother and Daughter' and their relationship captured within the portrait. Also my band MJ and Rocketeers will be studio bound to record some new tracks later this year.

You can find out more about Mary Jane Criddell at

Mary at work photographing Dom Jolly and his family (Photographed by Danielle Roberts Mah)