Ronan Mckenzie grew up in Walthamstow, a borough of north-east London that was, until recently, little-visited. From the age of 16 until 22, throughout her art foundation course and gradual break into the industry, she earned minimum wage working in retail jobs. Not all photographers would credit such an experience as key to their later prowess, yet for Mckenzie, the lowly work in retail was, she says, “a valuable education in small talk, at putting people at ease” – an education that has proved integral to her work as a fashion photographer.
While working the shop floor, Mckenzie applied for a degree at Central Saint Martins in London. She spent a week at the prestigious art school, and then dropped out. Following this, she interned at i-D, the Vice-owned fashion magazine – a well-trodden path for many young people hoping to go on to work in fashion editorial, but a job at the magazine didn’t materialise once her time interning was up. A while later, she was invited to one of the fashion magazine’s parties; that night, by chance, she met the Japanese photographer Piczo, a London College of Communication graduate and a regular presence in i-D’s pages. Mckenzie and Piczo hit it off, and a few months later she found herself styling one of his shoots.
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