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Michelle Chaplow has captured top destinations and world-class hotels with her camera. M. Chaplow
The Costa del Sol photographer carving a niche in historic and luxury hotel photography
In the frame

The Costa del Sol photographer carving a niche in historic and luxury hotel photography

The British photographer Michelle Chaplow has won numerous awards for her ability to capture the essence of world-class hotels

Tony Bryant

Friday, 14 June 2024, 13:06

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Carving a niche in a particular field on the coast is something that most entrepreneurs endeavour to achieve, although those that have succeeded are few and far between. However, there is an elite few that have made their mark, not only on the Costa, but all over the world, creating a reputation as a leader in their field. One of these is Estepona-based photographer Michelle Chaplow, a much sought-after hotel photographer who has spent more than 20 years photographing international travel destinations, along with some of the world's finest luxury and historic hotels. Michelle says that she loves to go beyond the "conventional viewpoint" to capture the very essence of the subject: one only has to view her stunning photographs to see what she means by this.

Born in Durham, Michelle, who has won numerous awards for her architectural photography, attended Manchester University, where she studied food science and technology. After working in the food industry, a job she enjoyed because she loves to "travel and stay in great hotels", Michelle, and her husband, Chris, decided to take a year out to backpack around Latin America. This was when she discovered her love for the camera.

Michelle and Chris came to Spain in 1991 and they set up andalucia.com, an award-winning website offering extensive information about the region.

"My love for travel took me to photography, and when I arrived in Andalucía and saw the light and colours, my passion for the camera really began," Michelle tells SUR in English.

Recognised by the Spanish ministry of commerce for promoting Spain, Michelle is known for her vivid images of Andalucía and its customs, and her photographs have adorned the pages of countless newspapers, magazines and books.

"My career has been divided into two. First the travel photography, and then the hotel work, which came much later. When I came to Spain, I kind of became an expert for travel magazines. I won a big contract for the Spanish tourist board, photographing the beaches from Alicante to Huelva," she says.

After spending an average of 125 nights per year in hotels, Michelle decided to start Hotel Essence Photography in 2010.

"At that time, the hotels had brochures, but they did not represent what I could see and feel in the hotel. I decided to not just photograph the hotel, but to capture the essence of the hotel, which is very important," she explains.

Prestigious hotel chains

Her work has since been commissioned and published by prestigious hotel chains such as Paradores de España, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and the Mandarin Oriental, among many others. She has also snapped numerous independently-owned hotels, the exteriors of Unesco-recognised buildings and Michelin-star restaurants.

Although based on the coast, Michelle works mainly outside of Spain, one aspect of her work that she really enjoys.

"Wherever I am is my home. I love to travel and I like to experience new places. I relish every moment and try to immerse myself. I love to people watch. The whole experience is my passion," she says.

However, Michelle's work involves a lot more than travelling to luxury hotels and enjoying the delights of the locations. She can spend anywhere up to six months planning the shoot, and approximately six weeks in post-production.

"It's not just myself working, I have a crew of between three and ten depending on the job. We have a 20-point checklist to make sure the room is impeccable for the shoot. There is housekeeping ready, and there is camera ready," she explains.

As well as hotel photography, Michelle also presents keynote speeches on the subject around the world, which is another appealing aspect of her work, because, as she points out, "I love sharing my experiences, because life has been very good to me, and it's good to share this knowledge."

"The number one thing, as in any profession, is that you must be totally passionate, because there are long days and a lot of hard work. If you don't have that passion, you can't see it through. Taking the photographs is only about ten per cent of my work," Michelle says.

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