Siobhan Ferguson, aka @siobhaise, is an Irish mum to three boys living in London. Following a career in banking, her passion for photography led to her starting a few Instagram accounts, including @ThePrettyCities and @PrettyCityLondon. Since then, her accounts have each reached over 300K followers. Scroll through her beautifully curated feeds of pastel-coloured townhouses and painted storefronts and you’ll see why. We caught up with Siobhan to find out what makes London such a special city.
Hi Siobhan. What were your first impressions of London when you moved here?
I immediately fell in love with the capital but initially I loved it for its hectic, urban vibe and rich history. I loved to explore the busy tourist spots in my free time. However, after a while it was the local characteristics that drew me in. London has so many different neighbourhoods, all with a very distinctive character and aesthetic.
You started out as a banker, but now you manage your Instagram accounts full-time. What made you want to switch careers?
I never really intended to leave banking, I just wanted to take a short break to get my family settled in school and life in London. My husband also works in the industry and I found that the long hours weren’t compatible with our lifestyle so I decided to make my break more permanent.
Gifted with some free time whilst my boys were at school, I wanted to get out and see the city. Instagram launched at around this time and the app definitely encouraged me to get out and about and discover new parts of the city.
Did you have any photography training when you first started out?
None at all. Once I realised my passion for taking photos I did take a very short course, but I am mainly self-taught.
Can you share any tips for capturing beautiful shots of the city?
London is a photographer’s dream, not least because of the beautiful compositions we find all over the city, but the typical grey weather we so often get makes for stunning streetscapes.
I try and get out and shoot in the mornings when the city is just waking up, so you get enough people to add character to your images but it’s also not too crowded. If I have to shoot closer to midday I tend to take my indoor shots then.
I love to add one or two people to my images, in order to add a little more depth to them. If I’m in Notting Hill, I find a nice backdrop and wait for the right person to enter the frame. The character often epitomises the area. In Belgravia I’m most likely looking out for the dapper gentleman, in Shoreditch the hipster – and so on.
Why do you think your Instagram accounts have been so successful?
I’m not sure, though I do know that once I’ve found a subject matter and cohesive aesthetic on all three accounts that my followings increase. I guess the appeal of @PrettyCityLondon lies in the fact that its main subject matter is London and most people love the city. I try and share as much of the local side of the city, without too many of the clichés. I also like to share the side of the city that everyone can relate to. When I share an image of a luxury afternoon tea, I hope that it’s not ostentatious but aspirational.
What makes London so photogenic?
There are so many factors. London has beautiful architecture and a rich history, which makes it wonderful to capture. Also its wonderfully characterful residents and visitors make for amazing focal points. Unlike other cities, we’ve got floral shops on every corner. We’ve also got four distinct seasons and London is as beautiful to capture in the Spring as it is in the middle of Winter.
What are some of your favourite spots in London and why?
They change depending on the time of year. I love Mayfair at Christmas time, when the beautiful arcades are decorated for the festive period. I love Notting Hill in the Spring: fully-blossomed trees and pastel-coloured houses are a perfect combination. Hampstead and Richmond are beautiful in Autumn and Covent Garden is atmospheric all year round.
Describe your perfect weekend in the city…
I’d start by waking up in one of London’s Thames-side villages, like Chiswick or Richmond, and kick off my day in one of their local cafes. I love High Road House or Angie’s Little Food shop in Chiswick or Richmond Hill Bakery in Richmond followed by a nice walk by the river. You can’t beat weekend vibes along the Thames, you’ll spot rowers, runners and happy families.
I would then stop off in Notting Hill or Holland Park. Notting Hill has some great cafes and shops to explore and it’s also close to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I guess I wouldn’t leave this general area without a trip to South Kensington (London’s museum quarter). The Natural History Museum, Science and V&A are all within walking distance of each other. This area is also saturated with pretty mews and some wonderful cafes and boutiques.
Heading towards central London, I would visit Somerset House and then meander up to Covent Garden for some shopping after that. The newly developed King Street is one of my favourite shopping streets, home to Petersham Nurseries and brands like Aesop, Nars and Jo Malone.
I would then end my day in Soho with so many lovely restaurants and bars to choose from, like the newly reopened Kettner’s Townhouse or Cafe Boheme, to name a few.
Sunday would start with a trip to Columbia Road, braving the crowds early for a visit to the flower market and a mooch in the many artisan stores that line it. Afterwards, I like to go to Shoreditch: Redchurch Street, Brick Lane and Calvert Avenue are my favourite streets. I’d then most likely head back towards central London and finish my day with a browse around my favourite store in the capital, Liberty London.
You’ve got a book coming out soon, can you tell us a little bit more about it?
I’m very excited about it, it will be released in April. It’s an extension of the Instagram feed @PrettyCityLondon and adds dialogue to the images shared there on a daily basis. It’s structured by neighbourhood with some beautiful maps, photography tips and a bucket list of things to do in the capital.