A Word With

Michelle Bobb-Parris

Your blog is called 'Who Is Bobb Parris'. Tell us, who IS Bobb Parris?

I've had to reflect on that several times myself over the years that I've had the blog. I suppose it's an ever-evolving collection of my creative pursuits and projects. Who Is Bobb Parris had started out as a street photography blog and a means of getting back into the habit of taking pictures - something that had to take a backseat when I started in law.

I came across a photographer's' message board where people would share ideas for personal projects and embarked on a "100 strangers" one for myself. It led to the site naturally shifting into documenting street style. Now, there's more of a mix of personal style-based projects, interviews, and general summations of causes and events I've found interesting.

You are now a photographer, among other things, but previously you were a lawyer. What was it like making the transition into a more creative profession?

It was scary! Most lawyers aren't natural risk-takers. We're the ones who've memorised the rulebook, not the ones playing on the field. So, leaping into the unfamiliar and unpredictable world of freelancing, and deciding to pursue something as subjective as photography in a commercial way, was daunting. That said, I've met so many former lawyers who are either photographers, or DJs, or working in some other creative capacity. The common thread has been that eventually it gets harder and harder to deny your creative leanings, so something has to give.

You have evolved your career very successfully! I imagine the idea of leaving your job to pursue your dream can be quite a challenge. Do you have any advice for anyone looking to make the move?

Ask yourself the honest reasons you want to make that step. Some people have asked me about getting into fashion or photography because it looks like fun, not realising that there's just as much hard and long hours as any in any other business. Definitely make a plan! Research, write down your goals, and make revisions along the way as you learn and gain experience. Try to find out as much as you can about the industry or space you want to enter, and look out for opportunities to get your foot in the door. Don't underestimate the value of staying engaged on social media platforms. A Twitter retweet led to my internship at Burberry's head office in the copywriting team and photography studio after I'd left law. (I felt like I needed to find my feet in the fashion space, so didn't mind starting from the bottom again.)

Whether offline or online, if you're not there, people can't find you, so start a blog to see your ideas in real life rather than just your imagination. Keep a look out for talks or meetups where you can connect with like-minded people. You'll need them on days you wonder what the heck you were thinking! And with so many blogs, podcasts, vlogs, and other online resources, someone somewhere has posted something to answer the questions you'll have, so get very familiar with your preferred search engine!

Tell us about your latest project - The Rhapsody.

It's a fun, new direction for me! The Rhapsody is a site centred on thoughtful, less intimidating music-focused content. I am such a fan of the many established online and print publications that cover music and the music industry so well, but I feel like the conversations around music we tend to encounter veer towards being very 'blokey'. The music industry itself is very much a boy's' club by any standard, and it's definitely harder to find women-led content.

I wanted to lend my perspective and editorial sensibilities to the music space in terms of both content and approach. And the more I spoke to people about The Rhapsody, the more I found out there were others who felt the same way. It's also led to me collecting a talented group of contributors who are diverse in terms of both gender and geography.

You had classical music training growing up, do you think that influenced your decision to enter the music arena?

It definitely did, along with many other experiences. My dad is a music aficionado and singer in an a capella quartet in his spare time, so childhood was drenched in weird and wonderful genre-defying sounds. From classical music filling the house on Sunday mornings, to experimental takes on Beatles classics, and gospel to classic rock and soul. His love of music is its own education. I think there's a comfort in circling back to such an important aspect of my life.

So, you are a lawyer, blogger, photographer, contributing editor at ELLE UK and are now the founder of a brand new website! What is the next challenge?

Right now, it's developing The Rhapsody into the platform I envision it will be, and developing and growing into my contributing role with ELLE. I'm really fortunate that both of these roles have placed me in the middle of some remarkable people and opportunities, so watch this space!

During the various phases of your career and study, you have lived in your native Toronto, Frankfurt, Bordeaux and London. What have you taken away from each of those places?

It's been fascinating to see different ways of living. Like, in Bordeaux I loved how much quality time and quality food are paramount, which translated into a life less rushed. Frankfurt was an education in actual work/life balance. All of us worked hard, but everyone from the partners on down valued time outside of work as much as in the office, and still got everything done. London pushes you to be and do more with your life, and to squeeze as much out of every day and every experience as humanly possible. Toronto is a global village where everyone feels like extended family, no matter one's background.

Toronto - where you can meet the world.

It's inspiring to see you are involved with so many projects. Do you have a quote or mantra that you turn to, to keep you going?

The man at the top of the mountain didn't fall there.

...by NFL great, Vince Lombardi. I think it beautifully illustrates the notion of hard work being unavoidable in the pursuit of something important to you.

Discover The Rhapsody and Who Is Bobb Parris.

Photography by Cindy Parthonnaud.

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