Bio. Offer us a short, snappy (not-copied-from-your-website or any publication), fun biography. Who are you?
I am a photographer but also a writer and sometimes I work with motion and sound. Occasionally, I find myself on a team who makes 360 VR short films in a stills-assistant-director-type role. I live way down here in Melbourne, Australia, and aside from an ongoing project in Turkey, have worked mainly in the Asia-Pacific region on storytelling projects for NGOs; lately, though, I’ve been attempting to stay a little closer to home and work on independent projects in Australia.
Beginning. Do you remember the first time you picked up a camera? The first picture you took? Tell us a story about your beginning.
Two things come to mind.
I had a little Olympus point-and-shoot in my early teens and remember dropping off the film at the local pharmacy to get developed after a school trip to Australia’s lovely but little-known capital city, Canberra. The trip was a big deal at the time and I clearly remember the deflating feeling of having captured so many memories but with such underwhelming results when the film came back. Killer disappointment. Eventually I ended up working at the pharmacy putting hundreds of rolls of film through the same machine.
I first properly got into photography when I was 16. My family moved to Ontario, Canada, for a year on an exchange program and I went to a school that had a far more comprehensive arts program than the little school I went to in rural Australia. I’d love to tell a story of being naturally drawn to photography, but, in reality, the boy I had a crush on took the photography class, so obviously I signed up, too, along with two others who quickly became dear friends. For a year we learned how to use a SLR camera, roll and develop our own film, and make prints in the dark room. That’s when I got hooked— even then it took me ten or so years to consider photography as a career rather than a hobby.
Becoming. Can you identify when you first started calling yourself a photographer —when you felt comfortable naming yourself as such? How did you morph from someone who takes pictures to “photographer”?
I can remember sitting around a table with a bunch of close photographer friends in 2015, discussing this very question. We were in Calcutta participating in a wonderful and inspiring workshop with writer Aveek Sen at The Lighthouse. He asked us: what gets in the way of calling ourselves photographers or artists? There started a long discussion around fear, mostly, and the thought processes that derail us or hinder our journey in becoming who we want or need to be. For me, calling myself a photographer felt very inauthentic in those first years after graduating I felt riddled with insecurities about my skills and wasn’t certain I had the right to use the word. I remember writing on my notebook—BE the photographer, a reminder to myself to live this vision that I had, to embody the word in my daily thoughts and actions until it felt real. Eventually, it did. With recognition and client work, the term started to fit, like I'd worn it in and tested it out until it felt a part of me. Now it's a source of pride and accomplishment that I had the courage to make it happen.
Being. What are you working on now? Where? How? Why?
After graduating, most of my personal and client work was in places other than Australia. I guess I fell into the usual trap of wanting to photograph other places, other cultures, other people’s stories—everything else seemed more interesting. Over the past year or two, influenced by all of the important conversations happening in our industry around privilege and power and representation of others, I’ve started to photograph my own life and those around me for the first time in a really long time. It feels good and it’s hard. It’s more rewarding and more challenging, but I think it makes me a better photographer and it’s truly exciting to make work from home and to contribute something to the visual representation of the place I call home.
I started photographing my immediate family in the lead up to the arrival of my nephew, the first of the next generation in our family. I wanted to document us before he arrived, a record of a time. The act of photographing my own life almost reconnected me to photography in a way I hadn’t experienced before, and that feeling led to the project I am working on now, a conceptual documentary project that explores contemporary daily life amongst middle-class, non-Indigenous Australians in regional Victoria.
As a member of this group, I am interested in visualizing our activities and social gatherings at specific geographic locations where they intersect with the history and culture of the traditional owners of the land across history and in the present day. I’m exploring the idea of blind spots in our knowledge—intentional or otherwise—of the stories those places hold. So I’m diving deep into research and history, mining my family members' memories for stories, and planning to shoot consistently over the coming years.
Blown-away. Show us the last image that completely took your breath away (contemporary or historical—depending on where you’ve been looking). What do you love about it?
I saw this image by William Eggleston at a group exhibition here in Melbourne last year and stood for some time in front of it, caught in the beauty and the pain of it. I love the composition, the primary colours, the sense of loneliness that we can all relate to though we don’t know this man or his situation. I can almost smell the carpets and feel the sheets somehow.
Boundaries. Tell us about them. How are they established, maintained?
This is a work in progress for me. My default is to make things easy, to please others and say yes, to put myself and my needs last. Burn out personally and professionally towards the end of last year forced me to recalibrate and establish boundaries for myself. I’m still learning how to maintain them, but feel I’ve made progress! I know that clear communication and being unafraid to verbalize my needs and preferences is key, though I don’t always find it easy. I am thankful I have some wonderful peers and mentors around me to help me with that kind of mindset and negotiation through their experiences. And I have learned to take time to tap into how I am feeling before I respond, commit, and agree to things automatically.
Beauty. What are some of the joys of being a woman who photographs?
Opening myself up to such a variety of experiences, places, cultures, personalities through photography has helped me achieve a much-improved version of myself. I love that I have been shaped so much by simply being a person who photographs—a better listener, a more empathic and more open person, a careful observer of body language and non-verbal communication.
Better. How do you work towards continuous improvement, on honing your craft?
I take on jobs that feel like a stretch technically and force myself to learn on the job. Nothing like the fear of totally messing it up to motivate!
I also pay a coach/mentor to work with me on specific areas of my practice that need some attention—technically, conceptually, or psychologically. The brain is often the biggest battle and having others who you know and trust to speak with is essential for moving forward.
And workshops! Recently I did a workshop with Corinne Noordenbos in Sydney and it was such a wonderful gift to myself to allow that time to be inspired and, from there, gain new insights and motivation for my own work.
Best. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard? (It doesn’t need to have been given to you personally or be about photography specifically).
I don’t remember that exact advice, but think it was from David Lynch, something about focusing on the work and following your ideas and being so good at what you do and so dedicated to it that people will come to you rather than the other way around. I liked this reminder to disconnect from the noise and need to be seen or acknowledged virtually or in person—the reminder to focus on the thing that you love. Go deep on it. Get better at it. Improve and improve until the work is recognized for the work itself.
Best 2. What is the best advice you have to offer someone reading this?
Your intuition tells you most of the answers. Practice getting your brain out of the way and listening to it honestly, even if it’s telling you the thing you don’t want to hear.