Dianna Snape introduced you to me as someone who has begun her photography career by studying architecture...
Yes, I studied architecture for 3 years and then I studied graphic design for 3 years.
Why the move from architecture to graphic design?
I was always interested in graphic design but somehow I ended up doing architecture first, which I really enjoyed and is how I met everyone at Sibling. But I found that I preferred things on a smaller scale, a bit more tangible and immediate, rather than the years that can be spent on a build.
And then from graphic design to photography, a medium that can deliver even faster?
I got into photography when I was on exchange in Sweden, while still studying graphic design. A lot of my friends there were photographers. Just before I went I bought a point and shoot camera, and took a heap of photos. From there it was a natural evolution. Which is how I met Dianna; I am interested in architectural photography and I got in touch to assist her. I am going along to a shoot next week to observe at first. I think she is trying to convince me to not do architectural photography...
The photographs you take appear quite detached from the traditional architectural genre, they are more informal, unposed snapshots
I like taking pictures of everyday life; activities or events, unstaged scenes or still life. I am really interested in how things are naturally, like people, nature and food! I feel that architecture often facilitates or creates the environment for these instances.
And you've begun taking on commissions?
Only really this year. I have completed a photo essay for Assemble Papers. I did a record cover for a friend of mine in Superstar, a local Melbourne band - we did a shoot at Hanging Rock. A photo essay for Architecture Australia. I did work on a PAM x Crumpler collaboration a few months ago, which was a lot of fun. But it has been people asking me if I was interested, instead of me deciding it was what I wanted to do. But I have really enjoyed it, so I think I have made the transition.
Has this year also seen the formation of Sibling?
Sibling has been around for years. Maybe 6, informally. There are 8 of us and we're all good friends. We're practically family. We all went to Melbourne Uni, except for one. We had a space in Mitchell House and were there all the time, working, eating and sometimes sleeping! We were learning together and from each other and I think this is when we really developed our shared sensibilities. We started by working on small projects together, just little gallery things like responses or installations. The last couple of years we have done more architectural projects, like fit-outs, and this year we decided to take it all more seriously and make it a business. It's mostly architecture based but there are also graphic design and research-based projects.
What kind of fit-outs have you done?
Recently we have worked on a cafe in Caulfield called Mr. Brightside. Nick was the architect and I was working on the identity and interior. The location was quite a corporate-looking building, it was an average shell to work with, but there was a park across the road. We decided to turn the space into something like a log cabin or a cave, looking outside, where the cafe can also supply blankets and picnic baskets so people can cross the road and enjoy the park. We also did a project for fashion label Pageant, good friends of ours, for a show called Melodies In The Air. They asked us to construct a chair, although the brief was pretty loose, so we made a throne. Their references were quite decadent yet tough, with images of Faberge eggs, giant ice-creams, crowns, babes and rubber tyres! We made more of a living structure, the kind of place a Pageant Guy could inhabit.
What was the process of building from those references?
I started by constructing a personality from the references and thinking about what type of activities this character would do to give context to what kind of chair he would use. I imagined him drinking champagne, listening to hip-hop, wearing obnoxious hats, eating cupcakes, posing, sleeping... The idea evolved into a day in the life of this character and pimping the chair out to facilitate his activities. The parts of the chair were designed to be rotated and reconfigured to accommodate different situations. The idea of a throne evolved from the idea of this Pageant Guy being king of his own universe.
As well as your photography and your role at Sibling, you also publish Condiment magazine.
Condiment was a project that I worked on with Chris Barton. It started out as a conversation between us and our friends about everyday life with food as the common theme.
Can you talk about the way you approach food in your photography work, in contrast to Condiment? Or perhaps, not in contrast at all?
Food is something I've always had a close relationship with. I love eating and talking about food but I also love the scenarios in which you eat food and the rituals involved in preparing, presenting and eating a meal. I also have numerous allergies and dietary restrictions which have made me super aware of the exact ingredients contained in any type of food. I feel this awareness has really developed my interest in food and not being able to eat certain things makes me appreciate what I can eat even more. In my photography I'm interested in the way we experience food in everyday life. Having a friend cook for you, setting a table, eating food in a park... these moments can be really intimate and beautiful and I find the details really interesting.
I guess Condiment approached food in a similar way; looking at intimate details of everyday life through food. The main difference would be that Condiment was a conversation between us and the contributors about their musings while my photography is a reflection of my personal perspective on the world.
Also evident in the project you did with ffiXXed.
Yeah, for sure. Condiment held the exhibition Tenderfoot at Mr Kitly. It was a collection of photographs that explored the experience of food in nature. We had photographers from Japan, Australia, US and Canada and the photographs were taken all over the world. We worked with Ryan from United Measures to frame the photographs so that the spline details in the frames were made from wood sourced from the region that each photograph was taken in. We didn't want the exhibition to be confined to the gallery walls so we worked with ffiXXed to bring the spirit of the exhibition into the space. We created a cork rug that had holders integrated into it which held native Australian plants and also camping snacks, like marshmallows, chocolate and pistachios. It was nice to have nature brought into the exhibition space and to have our friends viewing the exhibition while nibbling on snacks and drinking wine out of ceramic camping mugs.
Have you felt that your varied learning has affected each individual discipline you practice? How do they work together?
I feel my spatial projects have quite graphic elements to them, using pattern and colour. I feel a strong sense of space and architecture comes through in my photography. In graphic design projects I'm interested in how the outcomes exist in the real world and how people may interact with them. I think what underlies all of my practice is an interest in the social outcomes of design and bettering the experience of living with thoughtful, meaningful and beautiful outcomes.
What does 2013 look like for you?
Friends, food, buildings, books, nature and photos of how I see them.
Photographs property of Jessica Brent, except 10-13 and 27-31 by Double Days.