“In my last semester of Middle Eastern Studies, I missed being creative and signed up for a photography,” photographer and creator of My Cottage Kitchen blog Marte Marie Forsberg tells Collective Hub. “The professor was a very handsome man… and we were together for the next three years. I just walked into the classroom and thought, ‘oh my goodness, this is going to be trouble!’”
“When I think back to my childhood, it’s all very visual. I remember the kitchen and noticed how the light come through the window and the dust coming through the door… I’ve always been a photographer, I think; I just didn’t have a camera.”
Now an internationally respected visual storyteller, Marie has recently worked with Food & Wine Magazine, Mat og Vin in Norway, US fashion brand Cuyana, as well as LandRover, Gap and Bose. She has also just handed in the completed copy for her first cookbook with Clarkson Potter. What is perhaps more incredible than her notable rise in the past three years, is that she doesn’t live in New York or London or Paris. She lives in a cottage in the countryside.
“I had been travelling around the world and living in so many different places that I was a little bit exhausted of the energetic city life,” she says of moving to Dorset, England. “By moving to the countryside, I could better hear my thoughts and see inspiration. It’s just a different tempo.”
With an Instagram following at over 269,000, Marte has more than managed to make her small-town situation work for her. So what advice would she give to someone who wants to continue their career while living regionally?
Embrace the journey.
“Without passion and self-motivation, it’s going to be very challenging to succeed as an entrepreneur or freelancer. We don’t always start out knowing where we are going, with the perfect set of tools to take us there and create what we desire – the road is for learning.”
Use online to its fullest advantage.
“Without Instagram, I don’t think I would have had the chance to move here,” Marie says decidedly.
“I remember downloading the app and taking a photo of the bathroom door and thinking, “oh yeah, that’s cool.” But I don’t think anyone knew what Instagram was. It evolved into my biggest marketing channel. All the big brands are there as well as editors and publishers and I get 99.9% of my work from there. That’s where they find me.”
Diversify your offerings.
“I get all these emails asking “how do you make a living just photographing your food?” and I wanted to share my experience and knowledge,” Marie says of the workshops she hosts around the world.“Of course, depending on how we plan it, it is a financial help, but it isn’t necessarily huge. It helps me create content definitely, but it keeps me on my toes because I’m quite the introvert and could just nestle up in my garden forever and not speak to anyone.”
On her Skillshare workshops, she says that she “wanted to reach out to people who couldn’t travel to Paris or Venice but were still interested in making photography a proper hobby or business.
“When you’re freelance, you never know exactly when you’ll be paid for your job. I try to create more and more legs to stand on, because who knows how long I can rely on Instagram? As a photographer my main sources of income vary quite a bit between larger photo projects – like my new upcoming cookbook – workshops, and ad work through working with brands on and off social media.”
Build a community – but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
“Some people are really good at networking and creating a community – but I’m a wee bit of a hermit, and quite the introvert, so I usually go very slow, gradually getting to know individuals that I truly connect with rather than mingling for the sake of mingling.”
Marie says it took six months for a local to start a conversation with her, rather than the other way around. “When you live in a small place, it takes time for an outsider to find their place, and I think this process of finding a community within that new place is never a quick process – it requires patience and trust. Whenever I saw a new florist pop up, or the cheesemonger needed some images for their new website, we’d trade flowers for images, build relationships, or work together on workshops – but this was a product of months of popping in, speaking about the weather, introducing myself… To me, that’s how I’d work any place, big or small. In the end, it’s about the quality of people and not quantity.”
Work, work, work.
“It’s helpful if you know who you are and what you want. Because when it’s November and it’s dark and rainy, you don’t know how to turn on the heating, and you haven’t spoken to anyone in three days, you need to be OK.
“When you start getting tired of what you create, you have to learn new things and see new people. You’ll come home refreshed and can create new things with a similar voice but better than yesterday.”