How a stroke of luck kick-started this woman’s career in photography

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Kate Samuelson
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Rebecca Swift talks us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights out. 

Rebecca Swift, 49, is global creative director at photo library Getty Images. She lives in Surrey with her husband, daughter and Yorkshire terrier, Sally.  

My alarm goes off…

At 6.30am. I go to the gym; I’m a big spinning fan and I love CrossFit so I’ll do both. I have porridge for breakfast 365 days of the year – even when I’m away for work I’ll take my porridge and a travel kettle with me.

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I’m responsible for…

Ensuring that Getty Images is creating the right content. We represent 200,000 contributors, including photographers, illustrators and filmmakers, and we produce around 65,000 photos a day. Part of my role involves guiding the content we produce and thinking about what we’ll create in future. This often means researching and forecasting visual trends.

I got my job…

After I moved to London with a degree in English literature and saw an advert for a job managing clients for a photo agency. I had no idea what it was but thought I’d give it a go, and ended up getting the role. I’ve pretty much been there my whole career, so it was a very fortuitous moment. 

Making sure the library is representative is a major part of Rebecca’s job

My typical day…

Starts with an hour-long train journey from Surrey to my office in Camden. I always listen to podcasts on the way. Lunch is normally something from Pret or Pure, and I’ll often do a 5km walk around Regent’s Park with a colleague.

Meetings tend to start at around 2pm, when New York begins its day. I’m normally in meetings all afternoon. I try to work from home one or two days a week – I get too distracted by other people in the office, so being at home helps me focus. I listen to a classical music playlist as it helps my brain settle.

I travel a lot for work, whether that’s to speak at a conference, attend a shoot or an education summit, or for recruitment. This week I’m flying to Taipei and I’ve already been to Miami, New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Germany this year.

My most memorable work moment…

Is my ongoing work on a collection of images we collaborated with 15 different disability organisations on. We took the images to Washington and showed them to the National Disability Leadership Alliance. Hearing people talk about how the photos made them feel was very moving and motivating for me.

Another memorable moment is a Dove campaign we’ve been working on with young, emerging, female photographers. I’m now the oldest, most experienced and highest-ranking female creative at work and I feel there’s responsibility that comes with that: to bring more female photographers into a very male-dominated industry. 

Every aspect of life can be found on the library

The worst part of my job…

Is having to choose what I need to focus on, because everything that comes through the door is exciting and new and fascinating – and I can’t do everything. I wish I could.

The best part of my job…

Is that it never stands still. We think we’ve solved all the problems in the world and then something else comes round the corner and we’ve got a new thing to work out.

After work…

I change out of my work clothes as soon as I get home. Sometimes my husband and I go to the gym, but it’s usually a Netflix extravaganza. I have to go to bed by 11.15pm – my brain just shuts down at that time. I fall asleep really quickly, which annoys my husband.

My Plan B: Judo instructor

My husband and I both play and teach judo (that’s how we met), although I don’t have much time to teach it at the moment. So I think my Plan B would be to work as a full-time judo instructor or something else sport-related.

Photography: Holly McGlynn

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