BYO: How did you start out as a photographer?
THEA: I took a lot of photographs, both digital and film, in high school, and then kind of stopped for a few years until I moved from Brisbane to Sydney. In Brisbane I had studied Image Media and Fashion Styling and through that, had scored an internship with a fashion agency in Sydney. I actually started out taking photographs of what I was wearing, doing flat-lays, and basically taking photos of scenes that would fit my Instagram feed aesthetic. After I realised that fashion styling and Instagram-curation wasn’t what I wanted to invest my creative energy into, I took photographs on a pretty average little point-and-shoot. Mainly of my friends at parties when we were all cooked, and I found something really beautiful and vulnerable in the portraits I would take (and not just because they were in compromising positions a lot of the time ha ha). From there, my enthusiasm grew and I researched better cameras and lenses to use to capture close up, “serious” portraits.
BYO: What elements are important to you when capturing an image?
THEA: I want to capture a person’s vulnerability, even just for a second, so that I can allow my viewer to tell a story to themselves about the person in the picture. Whilst doing this, I also want to create an image with interesting composition. Sometimes this might be done with a very subtle juxtaposition between background and subject, or between what a subject is wearing and what poses I ask them to try or that they experiment with. However, most of the time the most important element of taking a photograph for me is using the right lens for the right shot. From there, things tend to flow a lot more seamlessly.
BYO: Tell us what you love most about your work?
THEA: I love getting to know the person I am taking photographs of. I’m a big softie, and a total sentimentalist, so I love the connection that’s gained between the person/s being photographed, and the person taking the photograph. I think the word professionalism gets tossed around a lot as a huge cop-out for just not understanding how to interact empathetically with the person you are working with - I believe professionalism is about being warm and making the person in front of you comfortable. Learning how to interact with different people, and allowing them to know a bit about me as I ask them questions about themselves, whilst taking their photograph, is what I love most about my work.
BYO: Who or what inspires you?
THEA: If we are talking photographers, the main ones for me are Nan Goldin, Bruce Davidson, Molly Steele, and Teju Cole. I’m inspired by both my mates, and my family’s lived experiences with heartbreak, body image, desire, depression, creativity, and joy. If there is someone who has lived through something that I have not, then my curiosity about that experience inspires me. I’m also inspired by music. Every time I listen to my favourite tracks by Metronomy, Arlo Parks, Angel Olsen, Future Islands, Kurt Vile, Otis Redding, Nick Drake, Nina Simone, Friends … (the list goes on!) my mind races with imagined scenarios of what the artist was going through when writing their music (and whether they would ever let me photograph them in the space that feels like home to them).
BYO: How would you describe your style / aesthetic?
THEA: I’ve struggled with this. But recently, I’ve realised that I take intimate portraits of creatives. So my aesthetic is pretty raw and unedited.
BYO: Are there any key themes or elements that appear in your work and/ or have developed over time?
THEA: I’ve noticed that I have started really focusing on the framing of my subjects, and how to get my photographs to portray who the person in front of my lens really is through the right choice of exposure, film, and lens. I think recently, I’ve tried to make sure that there is kind of a narrative behind my pictures because I want my photographs to tell a story to the viewer. I guess you could say that over the last year or so I have really developed my sense of how to give my subjects a voice through my photographs.
BYO: If you could capture anything with your camera what would it be and why?
THEA: If I could capture within someones face that feeling you get at the exact moment your gut instinct or intuition knows that your heart is about to be shattered into a million pieces, I’d be content with my practice and never take another photo again. But this is what I constantly strive to capture. Heartbreak, whether due to a great loss, a romantic disillusionment, a heavy realisation about someone you love, or comprehending yourself as a fallible being, is such a hard thing to capture without falling into the trap of cliches, or tackiness. I’d also LOVE to photograph Julia Jacklin, Aldous Harding, or Angel Olsen because they are all amazing storytellers and I would relish in the opportunity to capture the vulnerability you hear in their lyrics, in a portrait series.
BYO: Throughout your journey as a photographer what have been some of your favourite moments?
THEA: Ahhhh there’s so many! … The entirety of my photography-cum-interview series ‘Women as People (Not Objects)’ was incredibly eye opening and cathartic to participate in. The first shoot for that was with Marisa Mu. She is such a badass, and stripped down to nothing in the middle of the Botanic Gardens - we had to keep ducking and hiding from the rangers. This is one of my favourite moments because I made a beautiful friend in the creative process, and also just giggled for like, 3 hours straight! More recently, at a house party I was hosting, my friends from Queensland came down, and we did a VERY cheeky photoshoot throughout my entire house. I took photos of them, they took photos of me - it was a very reciprocal process and the resulting pictures were amazing because they captured the youthful rascal inside all of us on the night. I also really love the moment when you go back though old work and realise that you never even noticed what the best shot actually was. Photographs have such a magical way of taking on a new meaning when you look at them at different points in your life.