We are incredibly excited to present the next installment of The Handsome Project. Each month weâ€™ll showcase an amazing young photographer who blows our minds, shoots our stuff and is all together fantastic.
Read on to see the rest of Shaelahâ€™s WAH photoshoot and interview!
How did you get to here? (Whatâ€™s your photographer history?)
I have always been pretty obsessed with imagery, but it wasnâ€™t until my dad bought a camera for a trip to NZ that I found my real passion. While I enjoy both viewing and creating with traditional mediums, I simply didnâ€™t have the patience to work with them in the long run, so when I picked up that camera something slipped into place. At first I think it was just that I could make art without taking 6 weeks to do it, but then it became something else, something a little more intangible. I started taking terrible out-of-focus pictures of oranges and shoes, somehow my art teacher saw something in me and told me to keep at it. So I did. Most of my life I was going to go to the Conservatorium to study music, but when I discovered in the mandatory guidance counsellor meeting that a degree in Photography actually existed, I made it my first preference on my QTAC application, and the next thing I knew Iâ€™d moved to Brisbane and was studying photography at QCA.
Are you a self-taught photographer or did you have a mentor/teacher that showed you the ropes?
Well, I taught myself basics (as in turning the camera on, and how to get things in focusâ€¦) but then I recognised I needed to be trained, so I went to uni and studied it for 3 yearsâ€¦ I did have some wonderful teachers there who drove me to be the best practitioner I can possibly be.
How did you come up with the concept behind your Handsome Project shoot?
The stylist and I were so inspired by the beautiful colours in the garments, and we really wanted to create something quite different, something â€˜in the momentâ€™ as opposed to something really constructed and posed, something emotional and a little bit darker. From there we created a narrative that would loosely frame our images and location, how she styled and how I photographed.
What keeps you enthused in the photography industry?
I heard an illustrator speaking at a conference once say that â€˜you have to have a real fire in your belly, or you wonâ€™t survive.â€™ And while he was talking about illustration, the same stands true for photographyâ€¦ this will sound a bit lame but to be honest, without real passion and drive within me, if I do this to please someone else, I donâ€™t feel right. Perhaps I could keep working, but I would be a sad, stagnant version of myself. I canâ€™t be doing this for fame, or money, or to impress people, thatâ€™s not enough to keep me interested and enthused about this industry. For me, it has to be genuine, inspired by the people I work with and the world around me, an expression of myself and my desire to reach and speak to people, to make them think, to create something beautiful.
Describe your approach in three words.
Depth, emotion, narrative.
Black & white or colour?
Both. But neither just for the sake of it, each choice should be carefully considered.
Do you prefer film or digital? Why?
I prefer film for my personal work. For the same reasons that everyone prefers it â€“ the look, the feel, the gravity that it has, it seems to speak of its own accord. But the reality is the requirements of working as a photographer today mean that digital is simply more practical. I like the ease of working in digital, but it still just doesnâ€™t match film for me.
This old ricoh film camera mum found in a second hand shop for 20 bucks that worked perfectly until the shutter broke, my mamiya medium format that I lent to a friend and it got stolen (yes I was and still am really sad about that) and I wish I could have a Hasselbladâ€¦ sometime in the future maybe!
Describe your photographic approach.
Itâ€™s really really important to me to have a back story, to scout a location that suits what we want to say and isnâ€™t just convenient, to work WITH my team and not just control them, because my favourite part of the shoot is when the unexpected happensâ€¦. And in my experience some of the best of the â€˜unexpectedâ€™ happen when you collaborate, not dictate. Consequently, the people I tend to work with a lot are the ones that are actually keen on ideas that branch out wider than a colour theme. I often describe what I do as fashion portraiture, because for my outcome, the personality and spirit of the character we create are as essential to the final image as the garments or the location.
There are many I love, but I really respect Georges Antoni; heâ€™s very talented. I have loved and been inspired by his work ever since I discovered him in my first year of uni. Even better, when I saw him speak at a conference he seemed really genuine, intelligent and grounded, and from what I could tell has not compromised his integrity for success. That to me is someone to look up to.
How do you decide on locations & subjects for your shoots?
It is all about the story.
Best advice youâ€™ve ever received.
Seek first to better yourself, rather than seek to be better than your peers.
What is the one quality you think is needed for a photographer to be great?
Seeing with your OWN eyes and not anyone elseâ€™s, while ensuring that you are not ignorant of what is going on around you and in the industry, and being informed about the context of art history that surrounds you.
Where to next?
Continuing to shoot creative collaborations and personal projects, developing my portfolio, getting inspired. Hopefully an agent and working as a photographer fulltime. I know itâ€™s not as easy as that, but thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m working towards!
We Are Handsome would like to thank Shaelah for this beautiful shoot. The location and models are stunning, loving that you took a little WAH into the forest with you!