Fuelling innovation through the camera lens: Elaine Pringle-Schwitter

“Expat life can be very hard and it can throw you 360 degrees. It can make you doubt yourself, doubt every move you make. Faced with a situation that is unfamiliar, away from almost everything I knew and loved , I had to find an outlet to cope with the uprooting process and my only escape was art; art felt like home.” Elaine Pringle-Schwitter

Elaine Pringle-Schwitter, renowned photojournalist based in Switzerland is the official Photographer for Sovereign Magazine- Swiss Edition.

Elaine’s work has been published in broadsheet newspapers (CH and UK), travel hubs and print and online magazines. Her PR photography has now positioned Elaine as one of the 9 photographers that are a permanent fixture at the ATP world tours. She was recently nominated for the Royal Photographic Society 2018 100 Global Heroines for her extraordinary photography project ‘Taten Statt Worte’ .

Seen as the go-to person for marketing and commercial event shoot coverage, the official photographer for many of the Swiss well known events to include the Expat Expo, Elaine is listed in the top 5% Instagram Influencer in the Photography community according to Klear – the leading Influencer Marketing Platform.

But, this didn’t happen just by magic. It certainly wasn’t always like this and Elaine had a very, very different life.

 Born and breed in the UK from Caribbean parents, Elaine excelled at Mathematics and at the same time she developed her creativity and become a passionate artist with a fascination for all “things relating to art and the art world”. Elaine was equally very good in Mathematics and art and, influenced by her father, ex-British army, mechanical engineering who would teach her and her siblings mathematics at home, she had a head start over other children her age. She enjoyed both subjects in school and was always earning top marks in exams and competitions.

“I knew growing up, I would take the direction of one and build my life around that. Parental intervention made me think long and hard about which one would yield the best income to sustain a good life. Mathematics won. After graduation from computer science, I entered the corporate world and worked for two of the top five audit companies back to back. I was a typical workaholic corporate woman and extremely ambitious; gaining promotion from one grade to another, year on year. I was an analytical thinker in my job and never forgot my hardcore computer programming skills, despite moving into the world of management consulting and being a contractor negotiator. I enjoyed troubleshooting, financial risk calculation, generating ideas and developing solutions to complex problems presented by my clients. I was even seconded, for a short period, to a think-tank that advised the then David Cameron’s government. On reflection, this was a trait that would definitely sit comfortably in a country that is known for its efficiency and preciseness.”

While Elaine’s passion for mathematics dominated her life during this period, she would escape into her artistic genius between work and client assignments.  “I would paint oil and acrylic works on a free weekend and it was blissfully cathartic. Perfect to get me ready for another sometimes grueling and demanding week ahead.  Many of my colleagues knew about my love for art. I displayed my artistic works all over my flat and one colleague even commissioned me to create an art piece, as a wedding gift. That was the first time when my two worlds, mathematics and art, joined together ……and it was Wonderful!

Life happens when you are busy doing other things. I met and married a wonderful Swiss man. We had a daughter together and we, like any other working couple, continued with life as such thinking and doing the best for our family and home. After a period, my Swiss husband asked what do I think about moving and living in Switzerland? He wanted our daughter to have the same childhood he had and believed a move to Switzerland would be best all round.  On the surface of it all, I was swept away with the idea of a new life in a beautiful safe country. I thought the same work-life would be created, but with better natural views and a little bit more outdoor lifestyle. After all, I have been back and forth to Switzerland many many times beforehand and was familiar with the country landscape and my husband’s family and circle of friends.  I should have realised that a visit, however many, was very different to an indefinite move to a country. Emotions overtook the idea of moving to Switzerland but the practical, analytical me was dormant at the time.

What was waiting for me? As I was moving to Switzerland without a job, I was now facing a new status quo, and a new tag: the ‘trailing spouse’. Preparing myself to start a new life, in a new country, with a different language, a different culture and a completely different lifestyle – not to mention leaving a very cosmopolitan, multicultural, multi-ethnic city such as London to settle into a city that was not on a par in terms of size or demographics. So cynically I say…..’not much was asked of me, then’. But, hey, I’m very stubborn and I like a challenge. How hard can it possibly be?… Our number one priority was to ensure our daughter had settled into the new life, new school/kindergarten and made friends. Secondly, I had to sort out our home and all that entails. Finally, I could sort out me.

This transition, while seamless for my husband and daughter, was challenging for me. I needed something familiar to return to while I sort ‘me’ out.  Expat life can be very hard and it can throw you 360 degrees. It can make you doubt yourself, doubt every move you make. Faced with a situation that is unfamiliar, away from almost everything I knew and loved , I had to find an outlet to cope with the uprooting process and my only escape was art; art felt like home. This time my calling manifested in the form of photography. It was easier and quicker to capture the wonderful sites I would see on my travels around Switzerland with the aid of camera rather than my faithful paint and brushes. I was eager to share what was in front on me. Photography is an art form. It was now my chosen medium of art expression. I was drawn into photography to a level never seen before. I gain the necessary qualifications because my mathematical side of me wanted to be comfortable with ALL the technical aspects of making an image. I had to embark on a soul-searching journey and in parallel started to learn the German language, I must add with not the best results, but I’m still learning.

Imagine, the amount of questions that were rattling around in my head. Not only moving to another country but my two worlds, mathematics and art were now shifting my identity as a result. Since my move to Switzerland, art had dominated and freed me at the same time. At this point, changing my new found freedom wasn’t negotiable!”

Before moving to Switzerland, Elaine was a problem solver, a troubleshooter, someone who would calculate and get a good deal, a contract for her clients. She would pull all parties and stakeholders together to ensure the best outcome for her clients. “I enjoyed the challenge and got a buzz out of it. You may think there is not a lot of problem solving involved in photography, but you’d be surprised. I am constantly solving problems for my clients, private individuals or multinational corporations, from turning their vision into reality and the way forward. Taking pictures is more than often, about the bigger picture and strategically delivering an unique message, enhancing the offerings to others.

I had developed a solid fan base with my photography work on Instagram. My landscape and portraiture images had even won quite a few professional awards.”

Elaine creates a new paradigm for holistic success. Uprooting herself it felt like she was wearing somebody else’s glasses, with the wrong ‘prescription’. Replacing them with camera lens allowed her see with her heart and a different reality started to unveil, a reality that you can’t see with the naked eye. Taking her inspiration from people who have a passion and commitment for justice and social progress , Elaine’s contribution to the celebrations of 100 years of the suffragette movement was showing her appreciation of the achievements of women in politics, law, business and the arts. “The event was an auction of my photography works, images recreating the suffragette movement. All proceeds donated to 4 female-based charities. The suffragette’s motto was ‘Deeds not Words’. That was MY deed. The event managed to raise a 5-figure sum for the charities and the guests and speakers included Elizabeth Kopp – the first female Bundesrat for Switzerland. This is the highest executive position that can be achieved in Swiss politics. Other highbrow guests included Kaspar M. Fleischmann, who is one of the most renowned photo gallery owners and photography collectors in the world today, Frau Regierungsrätin Jacqueline Fehr, leading Swiss Politician and Rachel Braunschweig, from the internationally successful and Oscar nominated film “The Divine Order” in 2017; and Maria Flames, founder of Zurichsee Connections to name a few. I’ve been asked about making this an annual event. With my current workload, let’s see.

 Can I really make photography financially viable? Was that the right question to ask myself? No. The right question was “How can I merge my talents who grew with me since childhood,Mathematics and Art?” Could photography and management consulting create a sustainable business in a very competitive world and have the freedom to be a full time mother for my child? Is it really possible to convert my passion into profit?! Oil and water, or so, I thought. Surely, they cannot mix?

I came to realise that the true power of your camera lens are you heart and mind. Planning on how or what this business could look like, it was a matter of when, not if, and when could be a better time? This is how Elaine Pringle Photography and Event Consultancy were born!  Naturally, you look at your target customers, client base, their needs, what you can do and how to package your services. While I had the art and creative side of me to deliver images that viewers would like, I needed the corporate side of me to develop this (whatever this was) into a viable business. One of my clients even joked that I differ to a lot of the photographers they have worked with in the past, in that I’m very organised, thorough and have business-like approach rather than the, and this is their words ‘the pie in the sky, away with the fairies, off on a tangent approach and we never get the results we want”.

As I was reflecting on what is possible, I realized that my two passions, Mathematics and Art, complete each other and came full circle, a harmonious partnership to help me move forward with my passion and earning a living. What more can girl ask for?

In the end, I had to self govern, manufacture a role for myself and use every skill set, passion and willpower I had. What a SOVEREIGN outcome!

About Elaine Pringle-Schwitter

A dual British/Swiss citizen, Elaine Pringle-Schwitter works predominantly between her two home countries. After two decades in the corporate world in London, Elaine changed paths and is now an award winning photographer who has had photographs published in several major publications.

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Elaine Pringle Schwitter
Elaine Pringle Schwitter

A dual British/Swiss citizen, Elaine is an award winning photojournalist and a cinematographer whose photographs have been published in numerous major newspapers and magazines. She has spent two decades in the corporate world at senior management level and now works with MTN Press on collaborations in the Swiss Region.

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