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Relatively Speaking: we chat to couple Phil and Jean

We ask personalities about the special family relationships in their lives

Photographer Phil Smyth has taken pictures of some of the world's most famous figures, but set his sights on happiness for real when he met and married his wife Jean Wylie, who owns a PR and marketing company in Belfast. They live in the city with their daughters Polly (7) and Bonnie (5).

Photography has been my business for 24 years. After I left university in 1991, I travelled the world for two years, taking pictures along the way. I used them as a portfolio to start my business when I returned home. Over the years, I have photographed everyone, from the Queen and the Dalai Lama, to Bruce Springsteen and Richard Gere. When photographing celebrities, you are under a tremendous amount of pressure because you only have a few seconds to get the shot right.

I love what I do. It can be long, lonely hours at times, and I never work nine-to-five. But I love meeting and working with new people all the time. One of the highlights of my career included covering the Olympics in 2012.

Life in the Smyth household is always busy and revolves around our two daughters. They always have something going on that keeps us busy.

As I don't work normal hours or get weekends off, we have to make special time for family and fit it in around our schedules. Family means everything to me, so getting holiday time to relax and unwind with the girls is particularly important.

I met Jean at Downtown Radio's 20th anniversary party at Ross's Auctions in Belfast. I was working, and she was there with a crowd from her work. We got chatting and really hit it off. We had a real laugh together. After that, we kept bumping into each other every few weeks for about six months until I finally asked her out.

We went out for a drink and had a great night. Nine years later, I asked her to marry me, and we have been married 10 years this year.

I really admire Jean's tenacity to get things done. She has a sense of calm about her, even in a crisis, which the kids love as well. There is no fuss or drama, she just gets on with things.

Jean is very loyal to her friends and family. We are very different characters, but I think that is part of our strength.

Part of the success of our relationship is that regardless of how busy we are or what is going on, we always make time for each other. As my office is in the house, sometimes I have difficulty switching off, and the lines can get blurred, but I always make time for Jean and the girls.

My only gripe would be that Jean always makes me cut the grass and walk the dog. They are my jobs, it seems!

Name: Phil Smyth

Age: 50

Occupation: Photographer

Relationship to Jean Wylie: Husband

I did my degree in design and media management in London, and then I studied journalism in Belfast. My aim was to come back home for a year or so, work and then head away again, but then I met Phil and fate had other plans.

I remember the night we met at the Downtown Radio party because we had a real laugh, but it took him months after that to ask me out. On the night of the date, he was late because a job had run over. I suppose I then got a glimpse into what life with Phil would be like. He was offered another job that night, and I think for the only time up to then - and since then - he actually turned it down to take me out.

Phil is the only person I know who is genuinely happy all the time. He is constantly upbeat and sees the positive in every situation, which is a blessing.

He has a passion for people and really cares about them, which helps with what he does. It puts people at their ease and helps them relax. He has friends everywhere he goes, and since his parents passed away, these pals are very important to us in both our lives.

Phil has a real gentleness about him and he makes everything around him seem easy. It's not easy at all, he just works incredibly hard to make it look that way. He's very creative and has played in various bands over the years. He now plays in a guitar orchestra.

He always makes sure the girls experience as much culture as possible and he is amazingly supportive of all they do.

At home, Phil controls the kitchen. He is a wonderful cook and that is his domain. No matter what time of the day, he comes home, throws the cameras down and goes into the kitchen to cook us something to eat. That is when we catch up with each other and hear what sort of day the other one has had.

We wed in style with a wedding in La Virginia, in southern Spain. We got married with 50 of our close friends and family there late one Saturday evening in September. It was fantastic - the setting was amazing and the weather glorious, so it was perfect. As Phil has photographed weddings all over the world, we wanted ours to be different and memorable. We partied for about a week with dinners and barbecues around the big day.

Phil and I complement each other because we are different. He is more social and I am more of an introvert, but we work well off each other.

Name: Jean Wylie

Age: 44

Occupation: Owner of Wilde PR and Marketing

Relationship to Phil Smyth: Wife

Life through a lens...

  • Phil Smyth is one of the most unique and original photographers in Ireland. He started out his career in the early Nineties after returning from a two year round the world trip, covering Australia, the Americas and Asia. With a beaten-up Canon camera and a tea chest full of films, he began developing his negatives and set up his photographic business base in Belfast
  •  His working travels and his early career as a Press and PR photographer helped him cultivate his unique documentary style and build a very successful commercial photography business
  • He has also worked on some of Ireland’s most glamorous society weddings as well as shooting weddings across Europe.
  • For details, visit his website www.philsmyth.com or tel 028 9066 4071

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