Christine Hanscomb: Photographer and First Option founder

Christine Hanscomb: Photographer and First Option founder

An Interview with Photographer and First Option Founder

It is such a wonderful thing to be able to share our fantastic space with so many talented people!

Since First Option Studio opened its doors as a hire location circa 2001, we’ve been fortunate to have been
able to welcome a diverse array of creative enterprises. From film and TV to photography and events,
and more recently as a result of our powerful secure high speed connectivity fibre ring, live web feeds and broadcasts.
Watching the space get transformed and used in a multiplicity of ways is always a joy.

The studio had been well warmed up by Christine Hanscomb, a professional food and still-life photographer and commercial
director. Christine brought this blank factory space in a then remote area almost 30 years ago and
personally renovated and designed the space to suit the needs of her profession.
As one of the first people to come to Perseverance Works, Christine had the pick of the bunch from the great spaces on site.
The place we hire out today was her first option, proving years later what a great sense of judgement and intuition she had.
I was interested to hear more from the woman herself and we hope you are too, see the results of our conversation below…

You were already an established photographer and director with a background in art directing so you obviously knew what you
were looking for, and have a good eye for the potential of things.
What were the main attributes that attracted you to this studio in particular?

I liked the fact that it was in the centre of the courtyard and had a wonderful view of Shoreditch Church
This gave a very open and spacious feeling to the studio.
There was also the opportunity to purchase 2 units side by side and we were able to open this up to
create the main studio in one section leading through to a large kitchen.
I had worked in so many studios where the home economist/stylist was shoved in a
corner – but this scenario enabled the home economist or chef to have a wonderful large open space to work in.
Food was my main specialist area so it made sense to have a very large kitchen.

– Was the location of the studio Important to you?

Yes – it had to be accessible from central London because most of the agency art directors
were located in Soho and central London. This was in the days before Canary Wharf took off.
So now with the expansion into East London and beyond we have almost become Central London.

– In what ways did you adapt it to suit your photography, directing and filming needs?

We installed black out blinds allowing us complete control over the lighting.
Fitting 3-phase power was also necessary for all the equipment.
We designed and installed the very workable large kitchen with a central island and two sinks.
Later we even added another kitchen – which nowadays has become invaluable for large food shoots.
The studio continues to adapt whilst maintaining its originality.
Most recently we added a balcony leading out from the main kitchen. Not only does this really open
up the kitchen but it also allows you to light from outside without the need for a cherry picker! 

– Has this changed much since the onset of digital photography?


Christine Hanscomb – Chillies

No the requirements are the same. The main difference is that all the equipment has become a lot smaller!
But this is not because of digital – its just technology.
A big change is the speed at which things happen these days.
Before digital and fast internet speeds, communication was much much slower and the art director and clients had to
come to the studio to see the tests and give approval before the final shot was taken.
Nowadays images can be taken and sent immediately across the world, giving the photographer a response within minutes.

– Food photography is a specialized area. You’ve seen it changing and evolving over the years.
What similarities and differences do you note when you observe the professional approach today?

Many things that we had to labour over for hours and hours can now be done in post-production.
When we had to for example do a shot which required a giant strawberry next to a small strawberry
I had to shoot it in one, on a full frame camera marking the 1st image
on the glass at the rear before moving across to take the second shot of the smaller strawberry.

This took precision, calculations and a lot of time and patience!

– How has it felt to open up your studio as a location, and how did you reconcile the space with this situation?

My equipment has become much smaller and portable as I concentrate more on location. -So I was able to consolidate
my cameras and lights into a much smaller space and make the studio a ‘blank canvas’.

– What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer wanting to set up their own hire studio?   

If you are sharing your space in any way whatsoever – you have to put yourself in others shoes to imagine what it
is like when you are in a strange space. So things need to be readily and obviously available.
I have worked in many other studios all over the world and some belonged to photographers. I found it
quite inspiring working in different studios. From a clients point of view you can enjoy and use the space without all
the responsibility – knowing that at the end of the day- you can hand it back to its owner!

Many thanks