Friday, September 12, 2008

Interview - Narelle Sheean

Narelle Sheean documents a Sudanese beauty pageant in suburban Melbourne

I met photographer Narelle Sheean on the last TV series I worked on. We came across each other on set in between takes - I'd be carting some furniture around or tidying up a set, and she'd be lurking behind the camera, poised for the perfect shot of the actors or crew in action. Can't remember exactly how it came about, but at lunch one day we got chatting and I mentioned the blog... so it was only a matter of time before Narelle made an appearance here!

Narelle's folio is fantastically diverse - as with many emerging photographers, her spectrum of work is extremely broad, covering film stills to travel shots and wedding photography. She's been to more weddings than anyone I know(!), but this part of the job doesn't faze her - she welcomes each new challenge enthusiastically, and says wedding photography has taught her so much about photographing people and emotion, and about the importance of always being ready!

I think my favourite shots (although its so hard to choose!) are the series she took earlier this year documenting a Sudanese beauty pageant in suburban Melbourne (images above).

Thanks so much for your time and for sharing your beautiful work with us Narelle!

film still

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I grew up watching my brothers draw, paint, make little movies and stop animations.
They influenced me a lot to keep myself amused by being creative.

After doing photography at high school, I did work experience with HWT, Australian Geographic, JWT, photography studios and design agencies. I found it really interesting to have insight on what it is like to have a creative job.

I studied Media at Deakin Uni, which included Photography and Film. At the same time I started doing stills for my brother’s short films and loved being on set watching the DOP’s.

film still

Your work is really varied – from wedding photography to travel photography and film stills. Do you enjoy this variety, or would you prefer to focus on one particular area of expertise?

The most attractive thing about photography for me is its diversity. I really enjoy the variety. This year I have photographed Jewellery, Sudanese beauty pageants, Dating game shows and funerals...You just don’t know what’s next.

I’ve learnt so much from shooting weddings. The lighting conditions and emotions are going up and down and you just have to be ready.

I’d definitely like to do more commercial work, film stills and travel pics.

candid wedding shots

Working for yourself can be really difficult for creative people. What are the challenges you have faced working for yourself – do you struggle with the business side of things, for motivation to get started on a project, or marketing yourself? Do you collaborate with other creatives?

I guess I’m pretty lucky; I do work by myself a lot but have a really great network of other photographers. Mainly people I have assisted on other shoots. They pass on jobs that they can’t do and I try to do the same for them.

I struggle with keeping receipts, tax etc the book work is really boring. I’d like to more collaborative work for sure. Unfortunately it tends to get pushed aside when paid work comes up.

Which photographers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

Gregory Crewdson, Loretta Lux, Lee Dongwook, Erwin Olaf.

film still

Where else do you find inspiration (books, particular magazines, the net, everyday life?)

The net, magazines and everyday life.

Just keeping a look out for things that catch you eye and then think - why am I looking? Why is that interesting?

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Battery charge and gear check the day before. Well it’s always a bit different… I may set up a backdrop and lights or be in a studio.

Come home to download Raws and start the culling process.

travel photography

What's the best thing about your job?

Being my own boss.

And the worst?

Invoicing and waiting to be paid.

What would be your dream project?

Making a film set for a stills project.

film still

What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?

Buying my own place with a little studio.

Melbourne Questions –

Where is the best gallery in Melbourne to see the work of emerging Australian photographers?

CCP in Fitzroy.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Kilim Turkish Restaurant on Victoria Street, Richmond.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?




  1. hi, i just found your blog via Craft City.

    I am in love, it is a fresh blast from the North. . . you are making me want to move to the big smoke pronto!!

    Needless to say, I am going to be in town for a day next week, so will have to check out some of the haunts you have listed..

  2. Little snoring, Thanks so much for your kind words! I hope your trip to Melbourne is lovely... we've been having beautiful spring weather so I hope it holds up for you!

    If you only have a day I suggest some shopping and lunch or dinner in Gertrude st Fitzroy! (check out my shopping guide if you haven't been before... x)