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14th January 2017

The Z List: Q&A with Yeshen Venema and Annabel Lam

The Z List might have only recently appeared in your social media feeds, but we’ve been working on it for over a year. As with all projects, there are lots of hard-working humans, creative processes, long days and even longer nights behind it.
On set with Yeshen and Annabel
One of the most important things for any online brand or shop to focus on is eye-wateringly gorgeous imagery. In our case, that meant styling and photographing the wonderful items that are now for sale on The Z List. We called in the experts. Photographer (and friend to a huge number of designer makers in London) Yeshen Venema and stylist Annabel Lam are the talented people behind our images.

Having received such amazing feedback to the photographs we’ve been sharing online, we thought it only right to get Yeshen and Annabel to tell us about The Z List’s shoot in their own words. 
Elegance of Flight by Laxmi Hussain
How did you two meet and what why did you start working together?

Y: Through the wonderful Jo Robinson of HAM. Our first shoot with Jo was at Studio Four in Stoke
Newington where we had a huge space to play with. I was impressed by Annabel skills with gaffer
tape and paper folding.

A: We first met when I was assisting Jo (HAM) on a shoot with Yeshen. Jo and I created lots of
props and I had some freedom in art directing and styling the shoot. Later, Yeshen wanted an assistant to help with styling and someone who could spend time to prepare a shoot, like sourcing
and making props, so he got in touch! I never had any formal training as such, but have always
been inspired by styling and conceptual sets and thought it would be great to flex some creative

What was your first project together?

Y: A series of experimental studio shoots for jewellery designers One We Made Earlier and the embroidery artist Richard McVetis.

A: We started on Yeshen’s 100 Makers Project where we improvised and experimented with lights,
mirrors and various set-ups using One We Made Earlier necklaces.
Shape Sculpture by Saskia Pomeroy
Original COOPS by Coops London
Babylon Stapler by Samuel Wilkinson
How would you describe your on-set dynamic?

Y: Positive and relaxed. We just get on with it. Usually, it’s the first time Annabel or I have met the
client when they turn up with their products so it’s always an exciting moment seeing what comes
out of the boxes.

A: Very fluid and relaxed. Yeshen often just leaves me to it after a briefing so he can focus on the
technical camera stuff and there’s never any pressure from him, he’s got very zen vibes.

What are your favourite types of shoot/things to shoot and what gets you really excited onset?

Y: I love it when materials come together, ceramics & paper, wood & metal, wool & glass.

A: Unusual objects, or products which needs different props from the usual to play around with. Once I had to decorate a cake and got to pick from a variety of flowers, and from then on I thought
I wanted to be a cake decorator!
Mòltair Watch by Nomad Watches
Plant Hanger by Kia Utzon-Frank
Trump Cushion by Mr Bingo
What were your first thoughts when you heard about The Z list and were asked to shoot and
style it? Did any ideas spring to mind immediately?

Y: We shoot a lot of neutral greys and whites so it was a real pleasure to use colour. The immediate thought was to use the diagonal colour lines that feature in the branding/web layouts we saw print to the shoot.

A: We can use colooouurrr!

What are the principles/concepts/themes that shaped The Z list’s shoot?

Y: Picking two complementary colours for surface/background to each product and using my
trademark lighting style: bright, soft and directional.

A: The use of angles, complementary but bold colour combinations, bit of a graphic fashion editorial vibe to it, eye catching but clean and non fussy.
Gorse Candle by Laboratory Perfumes
Behind the scenes on set with Yeshen and Annabel
How do you go about capturing the stories of the very different individual products while
maintaining the Z list brand?

Y: We considering using props during the planning stages but decided to let the products shine by
themselves. For me it’s a lot about angle of view, the first image needs to get across the object in
one shot, while the additional images are good for alternate views or details. The key thing was to
ensure the colour choices were consistent when viewed as a grid on the shop page.

A: Consistency across all the images is key, whether it’s using similar colours or the same angle
composition. We loved the pink and lilac and it worked well for some products because it added
some interest and a different setting from what you normally see it in. But had to change it up for
other products and use something a bit more subtle but still have a visual impact. Not everything
will suit bold contrasts, which is fine! The Z list has such a variety of products, it makes sense to
convey the variety of tastes, because people don’t really just like one style or genre. It’s a very instinctual process.
Wooden bowls by Amy Isles Freeman
What was it like being on-set with Katie, Jodi and Sabine? Any favourite moments?

Y: Such a great team! It was a long, but very enjoyable shoot and these things rarely seem like
work. It was cool to hear the stories behind the products and the people who made them. I loved
watching The Z List team setting up their mobile office all over our studio.

A: Proper chilled and full of positive energy. They let us get on with it but regularly feeding back to
us, which is always helpful. Favourite moment was when Katie, Jodi and Sabine had to hold up the
prints high enough to shoot, because of my lack of height, I felt awful, but they were keen to help.

Are you working on any upcoming projects together that you can tell us about?

Y: Conran poached our stylist! I’m working on a way to keep Annabel involved.

A: Not currently, as I am now working with The Conran Shop, but I will not say it is the
On set with Yeshen and Annabel
You can see Yeshen and Annabel’s wonderful work on The Z List


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