INTERVIEW: Zoe Wetherall, Australian Photographer

I met Zoe on a tiny little site called Instagram. I have no recollection of how her images first caught my attention, but I found quickly that I was enchanted by the consistent quality of her simple, stark, yet warm capturings. Mostly architecture, but also some landscapes, urban subjects, and even people. All felt tied together by an exceptionally strong eye for composition and a light, deft approach to curating and editing. 

So I checked out her website, full of images she has shot professionally over the past several years. Some stunning still life and architectural, as well as selections from her travels to the U.S. and a new-found interest in aerial photography. 

I asked Zoe if I could ask her some questions about her creative process, and she has been very kind and willing to respond. Thanks for taking a look - and please check out her work and let her know what you especially enjoy. She represents the kind of artist I am interested in being around: someone who excels in their chosen discipline while also being a decent, kind human being. Thanks Zoe! Perhaps our paths will converge across the ocean someday.

How and when did you start learning photography? When did you really discover your passion for it?
I have been learning about photography for most of my life. When I was around 7 or 8 I had a class at school where we learnt to do photograms. I loved seeing the shapes suddenly appear on the page in the darkroom. Not long after that, I recall my Dad teaching me how to use his SLR camera while standing on the roof of our houseboat at Lake Eildon. It wasn't until high school that I became more serious about it and learnt more about the darkroom, and discovered Photoshop. I continued on with it ever since.

What genre does your work fall into? 
I don't like restricting myself to just one genre. I have always loved photographing the world around me. That has included travel photography, landscape, architecture, and more recently aerial photography. I also love being in the studio to do creative still life photography.

What is your creative process like? Describe a typical day.
Usually first thing after I get up I check my emails and social media and respond to anything if needed. After that I shower, dress and eat breakfast. From there my day can range from shooting all day, meeting with clients, running errands or sitting at the computer all day editing.

As far as my creative process, it can vary greatly depending on what I'm shooting. For studio photography I always have a picture visualized in my mind of how I want the shot to look before I begin. It's all about preparation. When I'm out photographing the world, I can't control every element like in a studio, so I plan what I can, and work out the rest as I go.

Where do you live, and how does your environment influence your work?
I live in Melbourne, Australia. It's the second largest city in Australia, but still tiny compared to something like New York City. The population is around 4 million. 

Being smaller has its advantages though. Within the photography industry in Melbourne it's easier to get to know people because even if you haven't met someone you have usually heard of them. The people here are laid back and friendly, with a good work ethic, which makes it a great place to work. Aside from that, Melbourne has some great modern architecture with new areas being developed all the time, so that makes for an interesting physical aspect to the city for photography.

What inspires you?
Many things inspire me. Travelling is a big one. I love being in new places and learning about everything while I'm there. It's a lot harder to be inspired when the same things surround you all the time. 

Other people inspire me. I try to go to exhibitions as often as I can. I also try to spend time looking at websites of photographers I love. Seeing great work will make me want to improve my own work.

I think inspiration comes from experiencing new things and getting excited about something. 

You have an exceptionally-strong eye for composition. How do you find an interesting point-of-view when you're shooting?
I'm not sure if I can put into words exactly how I choose to frame a shot. I usually try to look at the world differently to everyone else. I have a very graphic way of seeing things, which comes across in my images. That is something I feel has always come naturally to me, and I've just refined my skills over the years. I think sometimes it's a subconscious thing I do without always realizing it.

What shows, exhibitions and/or work have you been involved with?
My first exhibition of note was a group exhibition called Top Arts back in 2003. It's held every year to exhibit the best work from the previous year students studying art in their final 2 years of high school. It's held at the National Gallery of Victoria at Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne. It's very competitive, and my year had over 3000 applicants with only 92 students selected from across the state. I was only 18 at the time and had just finished school, so it was an amazing achievement for me.

Since then it's only been in the past 12 months that I have started to get involved with exhibitions more seriously again. I took some aerial shots in January 2012 in Albuquerque, NM and after showing a few of them to clients, I kept getting told I should have an exhibition. So, my first solo exhibition was in November 2012 at Edmund Pearce gallery in Melbourne, called Aerial Albuquerque. Since then those same images have featured in 3 other exhibitions, one of which was in Los Angeles. I'll also be holding the same exhibition later this year in Sydney. 

One body of work can go a long way.

How would you describe your work, in terms of ongoing themes and recurring elements?
I guess what most of my work has in common is that graphic aspect of composition. As far as content, I do have quite a lot of images taken in US. I've travelled there 5 times over the past 10 years. I am fascinated by the landscape there because much of it is so different to what I'm used to in Australia. It's an inspiring place for me and I'll be back again to photograph more before too long.

What role does equipment, technology, and social media play in your work? What equipment and software do you use?
It plays a big part in my work but doesn't define it. Technology is just a tool to help me do what I want to do. I currently use a Nikon D700 and D800E, with 5 lenses, a Macbook Pro, Bowens studio lighting, Nikon speedlights as well as various other things. The software I use most would be Capture One Pro and Photoshop.
As far as social media, I think that's a great platform to be able to easily share work with enormous amounts of people. I mostly use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as having a blog. I think Instagram is great in that it forces me to be creative in everyday life, while being restricted to only using an iPhone.

What have you learned about creativity?
Nothing kills creativity like stress. So I try not to worry about the small stuff, and things I can't control.

Also I've heard creativity be described as a muscle that needs to be constantly exercised. I agree with that. Even if I'm not busy shooting for clients, I'm always working on something. I'll never stop doing personal work.

How would you describe yourself, as a Photographer, in one sentence?
As was always written on my school reports: 

the quiet achiever.

BONUS QUESTION: coffee or tea?

I know there aren't many people who don't drink tea or coffee but I am one of those. If I had to pick a hot beverage it would be hot chocolate, but I mostly drink water.

So. Now you can go check out Zoe's work. A wonderful collection of images with unique perspective & beautiful composition.

Please take a look and let her know what you especially enjoy. Thanks!

Instagram | @zoewetherallphoto



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