A shift of focus

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Photographers Sarah Mason and Suzi Garlick have created a picture perfect home in Hebden Bridge. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Tony Johnson.

It’s not surprising that Sarah Mason and Suzi Garlick “just clicked”. Rarely seen without a camera slung round their necks ready to capture a moment, they bonded over their shared love of photography while living and working in London. Now rooted in Hebden Bridge, they run their own photography business and share a characterful terrace house that is full of their work.

The easy chair is upholstered in Paper Meadow fabric by Hannah Nunn. It matches the wallpaper in the alcoves

The easy chair is upholstered in Paper Meadow fabric by Hannah Nunn. It matches the wallpaper in the alcoves

There are photos of family and friends, the local landscape and trips further afield. “We refer to what we do as taking pictures of life, love and connections,” says Suzi.

The images are natural, beautiful and perfectly composed in a relaxed style that has become their trademark but is difficult to achieve.

Best known for their artistic portraits, the couple go to great lengths to get the most natural looking pictures that are a world away from the now ubiquitous, over-posed studio shots.

“Often we’ll get a family to take us on their favourite walk and we’ll just happen to be there with cameras, taking pictures as we go. The familiarity puts them at ease and we capture the essence of the moment and get those real connections, like a mother picking up her child. We also do ‘day in a life’ films for people when we film them doing the things they enjoy, like a favourite walk, making things and reading with their children,” says Sarah, who caught the bug as a child. Her grandfather was a photographer, as were Suzi’s dad and granddad, so they were both schooled in the technical aspects of taking pictures from an early age.

The kitchen is small but Sarah and Suzi have made the most of the space available with clever storage solutions

The kitchen is small but Sarah and Suzi have made the most of the space available with clever storage solutions

They seem to agree on almost everything in business and in life and that included where to live and how to decorate their home. They were unilateral in the decision to move to Hebden Bridge after falling in love with the vibrant, bohemian town.

“Sarah has family here and I fell in love with it when we were up visiting, so we decided we needed to move here,” says Suzi, who later discovered that she had a connection with a well-known Hebden resident, the artist Kate Lycett. They were at school together in their native Suffolk. Tealight lanterns, decorated with Kate’s prints, feature in the terrace house that Sarah and Suzi bought in 2010.

“When we came to view it we got a real sense of home, plus it had a wood burner and I love a real fire,” says Sarah.

The property had four bedrooms but the couple decided to sacrifice one of them to make the tiny, windowless bathroom much bigger and lighter. It is now home to work from Hawksbys in Haworth, one of their favourite gallery/shops, and a photograph of Tooting Bec lido – the first of Sarah’s pictures to be used in a magazine.

Photography helped bring Sarah and Suzi together and is now their full-time job

Photography helped bring Sarah and Suzi together and is now their full-time job

The rest of the house revamp was mainly cosmetic, though a lot of effort went into creating storage solutions in the tiny kitchen.

“We are saving up for a handmade kitchen from Wood & Wire in Hebden Bridge but until then we are making do,” says Sarah.

Most of the walls have been repainted in soft neutrals, apart from the stairway and bedroom, which have been treated to a coat of deep blue. New carpets have been laid and some new pieces of furniture bought, including a sofa and side tables from Made.com. Lighting was a key consideration and much of it is from Hebden Bridge shop Radiance, which is dedicated to lamps, pendants and shades by designer makers.

Its owner, Hannah Nunn, is a friend and made them a personalised paper-cut lamp for their wedding. The wallpaper in the sitting room, the cushions and the upholstered easy chair are in Hannah’s Paper Meadow fabric. The shade on the standard lamp is by Jennifer Collier, who uses bonding, waxing and stitching to produce unusual paper “fabrics”.

The paper camera is by Jennifer Collier, the lamp by Hannah Nunn and the driftwood cottage by Kirsty Elson

The paper camera is by Jennifer Collier, the lamp by Hannah Nunn and the driftwood cottage by Kirsty Elson

The couple’s next project is some shelves for the alcove so they can display more “bits and bobs”. They love to buy work from artists and makers and there is an abundance of them in the Hebden Bridge area.

Treasured items include the paper camera, made by Jennifer Collier, pictures by Angela Smyth, etched glass by Andy Poplar and a driftwood cottage by Kirsty Elson, along with precious wedding gifts, such as a print of lyrics from one of their favourite songs, Power of Two, by folk rock duo Indigo Girls, and their bouquet made by Sue Leslie.

Among their collection of vintage items is a glass carboy, originally from a Bradford mill and later used in Sarah’s parents’ garden. It is filled with twisted hazel, which complements fresh flowers brought by Sarah Statham, who runs Simply by Arrangement floral design workshops.

The boundary between home life and work is blurred 
as they often talk shop, though they do have a separate studio close by, which they share with Hannah Nunn and artist Julia Ogden. Sarah is chief photographer, while Suzi is picture editor and studio manager.

“I don’t think we’ll ever tire of what we do,” says Sarah. “We are always coming up with new ideas and we feel very lucky to be doing something that we both love so much.”

* Sarah Mason Photography, fine art and family portrait photographers and photography workshops, sarahmasonphotography.co.uk

Suzi and Sarah extended the tiny bathroom into a small bedroom to give them a bigger space

Suzi and Sarah extended the tiny bathroom into a small bedroom to give them a bigger space

Radiance Lighting, Hebden Bridge, radiancelighting.co.uk

Hannah Nunn, wallpapers, fabrics and lighting, hannahnunn.co.uk

Simply by Arrangement, flowers and workshops, simplybyarrangement.co.uk

Julia Ogden, artist, juliaogden.com

Angela Smyth, artist and illustrator, angelasmythart.co.uk

Hawksbys gallery, Haworth, hawksbys.co.uk

The etched Hebden Spirit  bottle as made by Andy Poplar, aka Vinegar and Brown Paper

The etched Hebden Spirit bottle as made by Andy Poplar, aka Vinegar and Brown Paper

Suzi, right, and Sarah outside their characterful Hebden Bridge home

Suzi, right, and Sarah outside their characterful Hebden Bridge home

The bedroom looks cosier thanks to a feature wall in deep blue

The bedroom looks cosier thanks to a feature wall in deep blue