Harleymoon is an ex-celebrity portrait photographer turned an executive producer of her own agency and an image maker of commercial fashion campaigns. Known to some as being the sister of Capital FM’s Roman Kemp and a daughter of famous singers, Martin and Shirlie Kemp, she is now releasing her own music.
At just the age of 21, Harleymoon’s work adorned Carnaby Street shop windows for Liam Gallagher’s clothing line Pretty Green starring Paul Weller. She has photographed famous faces such as George Michael, Jared Leto, Paloma Faith and even HRH The Queen.
Here Harleymoon speaks to The Edit Man London.
At just 21 you photographed some incredibly famous faces. How did it happen and what was the experience photographing the Queen?
Yes! It was the most bizarre shoot I’ve ever done. I was asked by a fashion client, clothing brand John Smedley, if I would also shoot a ‘celebrity appearance’ at their beautiful old factory in the midlands. It wasn’t the usual type of work I did so found it a little strange. When I asked, they told me I had to attend a rehearsal day to know where I would be positioned and how long I would have in what location. In my years of having shot celebrities I had never been asked to rehearse the timings, I knew it was something special. The next morning I arrived onsite there were police cars lining the driveway and crowds of locals.
Shortly after the Queen arrived, dressed in a gorgeous coat and tiny little size 4 patented Victorian shoes (for some reason I couldn’t get over her tiny little Queen shoes), escorted by a barricade of men carrying swords and badges and to be honest, I didn’t realise how overwhelming it would be! I took her photos in the different rooms of the factory… and that was... pure magic!
George Michael was a legend in his own right but also your godfather, what can you tell us about him.
George was my mum’s best friend from school and just loved my parents, there was always love and laughter when he came around the house. As I get older I realise how important those long standing friendships are. He actually set my parents up and was so lovely to me and Roman but aside from that.. to write music that plays on radio all over the world for over 30 years is just a testament to his exceptional talent and creativity.
You were 24 when you founded your own production company and went onto working on some high-profile campaigns. What brands did you work with and where were you published?
I must have no sense of fear. Once my photography career started picking up and I had a few editorial celeb shoots in my book I thought I was ready to approach big highstreet brands.. oh boy was I naive! There weren’t that many young female photographers at the time but I was up for kicking down doors.
One brand I approached was Triumph lingerie, they said I could photograph their fashion week event. It wasn’t what I wanted to do at all but I took it. I worked really hard and they asked me back. Then once I was in the door with the client, I pitched for their campaign and won it! It was brilliant and the campaign was a success! From there it was a steady upwards push onto the next brand. Before I knew it I had built a team of producers - we shot Ghost, Hawes and Curtis, John Smedley and had work featured in Vogue, GQ, Tatler…
When working with such high profile brands, how much creative license do you have and how are you managing those shoots?
It’s an interesting psychology managing clients and their vision. Something I think you definitely need to understand as a photographer is how to get people to love your idea! You need to fill their minds with your passion, the confidence that you will deliver something wonderful (that will ultimately make X marketing person look bloody great at their job!)
Managing creative control with commercial clients is a real mixed bag, some brand guidelines are really strict, for example you can only hold a bag in a certain hand with a certain nail colour! Where as others give you more freedom to play on set and trust in your work. At the end of the day you are being commissioned to shoot for a brand and they expect you to deliver with their handwriting, so it’s give or take. Creative freedom for me comes with shooting editorials, we just shot for Elle China with no client on set - we were just left to play!
Bringing us to the present day - you co-founded Sticker Studios in 2018 - a creative production studio servicing film and fashion.
Sticker Studios was the next level up in my career that I was looking for, I was craving stability. I ran into my friend, now business partner, Luke who was a film director and an ex-ad agency creative. He was producing amazing online ads for clients like Uber and Vodaphone which opened the door to a whole new world of advertising. Together we had a really rounded skillset, we were writing our own scripts and producing campaign ideas, we were boldly just pitching marketing ideas (totally cold) to brand marketing teams… The planets just aligned for us and it was a total success (we did also put in our 10,000 hours and again.. kicked the doors down!!) From there the agency filled out and we now have an amazing team of full-time producers, creatives and editors. We have shot five TV commercials over two years, won two awards for best online content and serviced about 22 campaigns for clients like Tangle Teezer, GHD, Sure Deodorant, Primark..
We know you are also about to release your own music. Can you tell us anything about that?
Songwriting has always been a huge passion of mine. I was lucky enough to get some great breaks with a couple of DJs which were in the top 10 in Eastern Europe and have a few big UK DJ’s lining up tracks for next year. I also had a viral song on TikTok this year reaching 1 BILLION VIEWS.. nuts!!
However my heart lyes in country music, I’d written in Nashville and had a bank of songs that hadn’t been released. I listened to them again with fresh ears and realised how much I loved them so I am going to start to release them (as myself) from 1st July. Very excited.
Your parents are formally of Wham! and Spandau Ballet. What was it like growing up with famous parents? Did they inspire you to get into the music world yourself?
I grew up in a very musical household, we sing and play together all the time. My parents are also very creative people, we are always laughing or doing comedy sketches or coming up with ideas for things. I think they would have liked to see me do music as a career but I did always have an uncomfortable underlying feeling about being ‘the daughter of’ and not being taken for the music I had written, so it put me off. Then my photography career took flight and I ran with that instead.
You are an avid fan of country music. Who are your biggest influences when writing?
I love Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris. I think it's because I love storytelling, lyrically the music is so entertaining to me. You could write a song about anything.. the dining room table / a bird that flew past a window… there's no boundaries like there are in pop music.. just 3 chords and the truth!
Talking of music, your brother Roman Kemp is the face of Capital FM – what’s it like having a Radio DJ as a brother? And out of the two of you, who is the biggest prankster?
Roman was always going to be a success, he is one of those kids that life will fall in his lap. He’s funny, smart, confident and got his head screwed on the right way. He works unbelievably hard and we are extremely proud of him. He is a prankster but luckily he uses the pranks mostly for his shows!!
What was the biggest prank you both played when you were kids?
Once he tricked my dad into eating a doughnut that was injected with Ghost Chili..
Lets talk fashion, how would you describe your style and do you have any particular brands you tend to follow?
My personal style is completely split in two seasons. All Missoni boho for summer and all black, smart suit jacket and cowboy boots for winter.
Are you a Nike or an Adidas girl and why?
I wear Adidas trainers but I actually think it's because they used to sponsor me. Once you get the groove of your brand you tend to stick, right?
If we gave you £700 to spend, what items would you buy from theeditmanlondon.com?
Louis Vuitton roadster travel bag (can I have £850 please.)
You came to The Edit Man London London Fashion Week party, what was your coolest memory of the evening?
The crowd, everyone had a very London/ New York vibe. The artwork was amazing although the party was so packed out I had to shimmy round the room to see it!!
You have achieved so much at just 30 years old. What’s next for Harleymoon?
Ha, I still don’t think I have achieved anything, feels like I am still at the beginning, there is always a new goal! I am excited to work on more global ad campaigns this year and really push the creative work. I am releasing a podcast to promote women in business and have the next adventure of my music career. That’s the short term but will keep me busy for now ;)