East London Food & Culture

Ich Bin: Maxine Lister, wildlife photographer

How one woman loves travelling the world - yet wants to keep her roots in E11
Maxine Lister: ''
Maxine Lister: ‘I love that people want to set up small businesses here now’ Photo: ML

A Leytonstone resident for the last 15 years, Maxine Lister works for the BBC as well as being a wildlife photographer with her own business online. Her particular focus is on conservation issues around the globe. “The world is such an inspirational place”, she says, “that I hope in a small way I can help people appreciate the natural world, and want to save it.” She has an exhibition at the Wild Goose Bakery throughout June.

When were you happiest?
When I am travelling, meeting new people, having new adventures.

Where would you like to live?
Every time I step off a plane in Africa I feel like I’ve arrived home, so I would have to say there, but where I have no idea. I have still lots of countries to explore.

How has Leytonstone changed in the last 15 years?
When I moved here in 2000, the East End wasn’t somewhere that people wanted to live, and as such there was very little investment. Then the Olympics came and that was amazing, the investment was incredible and really started to turn the area around. At that time it was so much fun to live here, the buzz of it all happening – I could see the opening and closing fireworks by stepping out of my front door. What I have always loved is the different cultures around here – and that continues to grow, which I think is fantastic.


What is your favourite sound or smell?
Fresh cut grass; it reminds me of my grandparents’ garden in the summer.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Spending just over a year travelling around the world working with animal conservation NGOs for my own self-funded photography project. Five years in the making – and worth every single moment.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Go for it! You sometimes have to take a leap of faith and if you do and listen to your gut you will be OK.

What is your earliest memory?
Sitting with my grandfather watching animal documentaries.

What makes you unhappy?
Cruelty to humans or animals in any shape or form.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
At the moment more sleep, or an extra day in the week. I am juggling work with the BBC, my own photography business, getting ready for a local exhibition in June at the Wild Goose Bakery, producing products based on my photography to sell, helping with the volunteer programme for Ape Action Africa in Cameroon and working on the Wildeye Festival in 2016.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Control freak; can be annoying I know. Sorry all my friends out there.

Haunting: an image from Maxine's new show at Wild Goose. Photo: Maxine Lister
Innocent: an image from Maxine’s new show at Wild Goose. Photo: Maxine Lister

What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching the US show Biggest Loser whilst drinking wine and eating chocolate biscuits. Wrong I know.

Where do you hang out?
At the moment if I do have any spare time I am either at Marmelo or hoping that my friend Esme will invite me round for dinner. I am not a cook.

Who or what do you hate and why?
Hating takes up too much negative energy – although I am not happy at the Conservatives getting back in.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
The fact that since I have come back from travelling and now sit at a desk, I can feel the lost pounds creeping back on. I need to start running.

'Hating takes up too much energy.'
‘Hating takes up too much energy.’ Photo: ML

What has your career taught you?
That you can do whatever you put your mind to. I left school at 16 with not the greatest grades and no idea what I wanted to do. Now I’m at the BBC, I have my own business, and firmly believe you can do whatever you want as long as you are wiling to work at it.

What is your favourite dish and why?
I’m a big fan of chocolate, I have a very sweet tooth. Oh and whisky sours if they are made right.

What are you working on right now?
Getting ready for my exhibition in E11 and thinking about images for a calendar that I want to produce for this Christmas.

Describe yourself as an animal.
Big cat. I can be quite soft and mellow one day, then another day roaring.

Finally, what do you like most now about the area?
That people want to live and set up small businesses here. Other than Marmelo, Albert and Francis on Francis Road, Wild Goose Bakery, The Northcote, The Red Lion, and the Luna Lounge – all these amazing places on my doorstep. And with the London School of Fashion opening up on the Olympic Park the area will continue to regenerate.

Any downside?
The house prices, of course. I’m trying to buy at the moment and would hate to leave the area, but am potentially being priced out of it due to the amount of people moving east.

Find Maxine’s show from June 1 at Wild Goose Bakery next month. Do you want to feature in this column? Email us: info@leytonstoner.london

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