How BMA Models Started & How I Got Here By Lynn Campbell-Walter
I started modelling when I was 20 years old in 1976 and at present, I am the director of BMA MODELS. BMA MODELS is a large, successful talent agency well known and well respected throughout the industry. People often ask me how I got to where I am today, starting out as a model and ending up as the owner and director of a modelling agency. This is the story of how I landed where I am today.
Born and bred just outside Southampton, I was 19 years old and studying undergraduate economics in London with a focused intention to enter the world of business. Whilst studying economics, I developed an interest in photography. So I joined a photographic course in my spare time at Southampton College. In this course, there were many budding photographers with a keen interest in photographing people.
Several of the members of our group asked me if I had done any modelling previously. While my answer was a definite no each time, I was bemused by their question. Ultimately, one of them, John Fishlock, asked me to enter a competition with him. The competition was for ‘Photo Girl 1976’ in Practical Photography October edition. I agreed, although I was not at all eager to be the other side of the camera.
The photographs were taken in the famous New Forest just outside Southampton, and the weather was reasonable that day too, thankfully. We didn’t win and first prize went to Geoff Wooten, a known photographer with an experience of 15 years behind him. We were Runners up though and we were amateurs and beginners, so significantly pleased with ourselves on this achievement.
My interest in photography gradually grew and after 1 year, I decided to abandon my studies to work for a photographer in London. I landed a job with Bernard Phillips, who was a prominent still life London photographer. His studio was in Hanway St, just off Oxford Street, where he accomplished all kinds of prestigious advertising campaigns and worked for some of the biggest Ad Agencies in the UK.
The Ad Agencies he worked for were mainly situated all around his studio in Soho. I immersed myself in working for Bernard, picking up tips and learning how to develop films in the dark room. Working for him was a real pleasure.
Bernard suggested I try my hand at modelling, and as this had been repeated to me many times by various people I decided to give it a go. Bernard took my first professional photographs which I took to Top Models, situated in Percy St, just 5 minutes from Bernard’s Studio. I popped in to see them, they liked my photos and thereon began my modelling career.
I kept working for Bernard whilst I built my portfolio. I tested a lot with different photographers and building my portfolio took a lot of time, as any start up model knows. After a couple of months, I took the plunge and left Bernard to take up modelling full time. Top Models was a well-known and reputable agency.
I literally on a daily basis walked around London carrying my portfolio, knocking on photographers’ doors. Most of the prominent photographers had a studio and were in close proximity to central London. I always remained strictly professional in my conduct and some of the jobs I took were amazing. Photographers were booking me on regular basis for numerous advertising campaigns and I was picking up TV commercials and travelling a great deal, as many of the photoshoots were done in warmer climates.
The next stage of my modelling career fell in the hands of Laurie Kurt and Freddie Lawton, who ran the famous Freddie’s Agency (later to become FM). I joined Freddie’s in 1981 and travelled to many exotic locations for shoots. I was living an interesting and fulfilling life, and was very happy to work with some best photographers, Sanders Nicholson, Jean Claude Volpeliere , Bob Carlos Clarke and Julian Calder to name a few.
One of my trips took me the Middle East shooting a commercial for a drinks brand. I arrived in Beirut, titled the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, so a fun place and where fate had something else in store for me. My modelling journey came to a brief halt as I was swept off my feet, married and settled for the next decade.
After living in Beirut through the turbulent and incessant battles for Beirut from 1980’s to 1990’s, I decided to travel back to the UK with two children in tow. My kids needed a regular school and a stable, normal life, which was not possible in Beirut at this period. They had been flung around in and out of school during these troubled and often very dangerous times, living under shelling and continuous fear of being hit by shrapnel or bullets.
We arrived back in the UK completely shell shocked. My kids and I were homeless but fortunately my parents took us in. My kids resumed their education at my local school and I had to get a job to support them as I was penniless. At this time, modelling and advertising had changed and had become more accepting of all ages and ethnicities.
Adverts were using older people as well as people from all nationalities. I felt it was time for me to try my hand again and I am glad I did! I took the plunge and started my modelling career again, only this time, I was 38 years. I joined Bodyline. This was an out of town agency owned by David Charman. This agency encompassed the essence of the current trend in advertising in the 90’s.
My modelling career took off again, although obviously the shoots I did now were quite different, with a lot of corporate and advertising work, commercials and stills. With the all-important help from my parents I was able to provide for my children: I’m eternally grateful mum and dad! Without them, my children and I would have found ourselves in a very difficult situation. It was only through their unwavering support that I was able to achieve whatever I did. I scrimped and saved and managed to buy a car as well as a small house.
David Charman had a partner in the business who wanted to be bought out. He was looking for another partner. This was my opportunity at 40 years old and I launched myself at the offer of becoming partners in business. I sold anything I could lay my hands on and purchased half of Bodyline.
In the meantime, Beirut had settled down and my kids returned to finish their schooling there. I stayed in the UK and moved to where the agency was based and worked like crazy. Literally day and night. We changed the name from Bodyline to BMA Models, ushering the agency into a new era. I took my Directors seat in 1996 and have continued to work in the agency ever since. The agency has continued to grow, that BMA is now the most important commercial agency in the UK encompassing BMA MODELS and BMA ARTISTS set up in 2013 to represent actors.
We strive to be the friendly nature, healthy figures and striking looks of our models that have repeatedly attracted reputable industry professionals, fashion photographers, ad agencies, casting directors, you name it- to choose our girls and guys over many other London models.
Today, BMA proudly stands as one big, talented, happy family working in synergy with our models, staff, actors, influencers and clients. Throughout my life, I have learnt that hard work and talent will allow you to reach new heights of success as director, I have consistently instilled this philosophy into the work ethic at BMA. We continue to prosper with a promise of providing impeccable, efficient and personalized services to our clients, for all times to come!